Ten ways to tell an interactive story with very restricted choices

This post is a response to an interactive fiction jam - a showcase / competition hosted on itch.io. The premise of the jam is that your story is only going to allow one choice to the reader. There can be many options within that choice - but there will only be one occasion where the reader will decide which way the story unfolds. You can read more (and sign up to enter!) on the jam's official page.

These ideas are free-to-a-good-home. I might be working on a story submission myself, but if you use all of the ideas below, I still won't mind at all :)

  1. Downplay the choice until later on: Introduce one character, going through their routine day. Introduce one small choice, whose consequences are known only after day is through (but maybe hinted at earlier).
  2. You get one shot: One immense, overwhelming mechanism/process, one (time-limited?) chance to interact with it from a small unassuming character, followed by one equally overwhelming chain of consequences.
  3. Emphasize indifference: Sometimes, nothing we try to do matters. In this story, your attempt is small, irrelevant, and the narrative carries on ignoring it completely.
  4. Emphasize momentum: A flipside to the story above! One of these fantastic moments in people's lives. The narrative is powerful and empowering, and the choice is in tune with the positive energy, enhancing it and making it even better.
  5. Emphasize uncertainty: devise a situation in which locked-down parties exchange information (or lack thereof), and pool their data into one decision in the hope to find a way out of the bind.
  6. Your character is the only one who knows that they made a choice at all: a big, official story, which a character interacts with in an imperceptible, personal way - and this affects their version of a big, collective memory.
  7. Deciphering / making sense: present a sequence of signals / events, in a strange / alien format. A human interpretation is the choice - although the source material remains obscure. A choice is made. A sequence of events follows. Will you know you made the right call? (cf "Solaris" by Stanislaw Lem)
  8. Let the choice impact several later inflection points: a single decision whose effect plays out across 2-3 places, or in 2-3 different moments later.
  9. Cling to the past, or let go? With a tiny time machine, you can either keep rewinding a last-of-its-kind memory (looping the story over and over again), or let the story progress - towards loss. Which will it be?
  10. Magnify one little moment: slow down and zoom in on one mundane, split-second decision. Make it interesting by showing, in slow-motion and up close, how the run-up, the decision, and the fall-out unfolds.

You'll only receive email when they publish something new.

More from Vic Work: notes on learning, technology and play
All posts