So many branches

It turns out that visual novels are insanely complicated, ridiculously difficult to track and an impossible amount of work. Who would have thought? After getting all excited I did some research and had a go at planning one. The problem was that every choice became a new branch and potentially a new story. The spreadsheet containing my first attempt quickly got completely out of control, branching and branching until I had more sticks than story.

So, after abandoning that attempt I discovered Twine – an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories. Twine allows you to create a more compact branching spreadsheet by building in ‘if this, then that’ constructions. Not only that, it allows you to assign values to each choice. This means that you can manage the size of the spreadsheet much better. It also gives you much more interesting branches that are based on, for example, how much other characters like your reader character according to the cumulative effect of their decisions.

It’s still really difficult. I haven’t even started anything like actual writing yet. I’m just trying to carve out the major events and choices in each of my story paths. After the initial spreadsheet jungle, I’m limiting myself to 6 or 7 possible paths–which still seems like quite a lot. But, because this is me, I’m complicating things further by having each of the paths interact with the others.

On the positive side, my rational, control-freak self loves keeping track of everything and creating the logic expressions so that the reader’s choices progress sensibly. And my creative, artistic self loves coming up with new and exciting ways to complicate things.  Hopefully, between them, I’ll end up with an interesting visual novel that actually works. In the mean time, I’m having so much fun!

 

Also, did anyone else spot the connection between the ‘into the forest’ theme of this blog and suddenly having to deal with the branches of visual novels? It feels like some kind of sign. Spooky…

image

Novelties

Well, it’s happened again. Work on my storm chasing novel started to slow. I’m still in the planning and development stage. I’m spending longer planning this one than any of my earlier work because I really want to create strong, realistic characters. But I was enjoying it, plodding along. Then work happened. And a few social things. And then the biggest calamity…

Turkey strike_tonemapped

Yes, the Portentous Turkey struck again.

I was walking to the train station to go meet a writer friend (Matthew Karabache) for drinks, looked up and there was the Turkey in the middle of the road. At the time I just thought, ‘Hey! That’s hilarious!’, whipped out my phone and took a photo.

I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN SOMETHING WAS GOING TO HAPPEN!

Because while drinking and talking, Matt happened to mention visual novels. I’d never heard of them before but a visual novel is sort of a cross between a computer game and those old Choose Your Own Adventure novels. The reader becomes the main character and as they read, they make choices that influence the story. They can choose to build relationships with some characters and ignore others and generally make the story as they go. All against artwork featuring the settings and characters. Each time you read one, you can make it come out differently. And, unlike the Choose Your Own Adventure books, they can and should have detailed plots and complex characters.

Isn’t that just the most exciting thing ever?! I can combine my fiction and photography into ONE EPIC MEDIUM!

DAMN YOU, PORTENTOUS TURKEY SPIRIT GUIDE!

It’s impossible for me to resist a new idea like this!

So the storm chasing novel is on hold while I explore this new medium and attempt to adapt an earlier novel idea into a visual novel.