Great openers for interactive novels

There are a few threads about “what stops you having fun in a game”, etc, and I’m interested to hear the flip side. When you start playing a choice game, what grabs your attention? An action packed scene, a character-driven exchange, an intriguing or strange description?

Which games got under your skin straightaway, and what about their opener had that effect? And, for those who write, what techniques do you like to use for making a compelling start to your game?

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When I play an IF game, the author’s writing either immediately draws me into the story or turns me off.

It can be anything from an action packed scene to intriguing dialogue or even captivating world-building. Whatever the author does to open their game, if they execute their writing, I will play a complete session if I can.

There are too many positive experiences to single out any particular authors … I’m just glad I keep discovering new titles and new authors that succeed in drawing me in.

In writing IF choice script stories, I am attempting to follow the CoG suggestions to begin with an action sequence. My contest game started with the MC getting kidnapped at the Munich International airport as an example of the type of writing devise I use.

Recently, I have received compliments from a few people who I look up to and often feel writer’s impostor syndrome from, so I must be doing something right in getting my audience engaged.

Since I’ve seen so many good openers, I am always encouraged to try new ways of executing my own.

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I would think Tin Star, Zombie Exodus , Broadway 1849 and Heart of the House manage to get under my skin straightaway due to their writing style … Tin Star, Zombie Exodus and Broadway 1849 immediately put MC to the heart of the story , as the “clear purpose” of the MC’s role in the story had been reveal , and potential outcome already forming in my head since the beginning … Tin Star immediately enroll MC as a Marshal with the duty which is expected ahead, Zombie Exodus ( both original and Safe Haven) immediately put MC in the heart of zombie apocalypse while Broadway start with MC’s making multiple decision on managing a show … these games made clear sense of purpose what i am getting into with great expectation for me to imagine…

Heart of the House start with a very unique sense of mystical and mysterious sense of world building which lure me into the paranormal world immediately , and the introduction of Oriana had intensify my curiosity on what type of character she is ? whether she is friend or foe …

Of course other good Cog/HG also did a good job overall, but the pace they got me hook up is slower … but once i finish all of them , i will realise they are all great Titles as well :slight_smile:

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I personally find that a story draws me in whenever it starts in the middle of something. Preferably a fight scene, a flashback/dream sequence, a conversation, or an incident that the plot revolves around (or which would at least have major effect later in the story).

As examples, Tin Star begins with the MC about to be hanged (iirc). Wayhaven Chronicles begins with the antagonist doing something that would set the plot off, while also establishing his character and the general ambience. Fallen Hero starts in the middle of a fight, manages to let the MC establish some of their traits, while also showcasing their abilities and (somewhat) preset personality and introducing two important characters. Werewolves: Haven Rising begins in the middle of an adventure gone wrong, putting the reader in a risky situation where a bad decision could possibly mean getting shot and endangering their friends. Keeper of the Sun and Moon begins much the same way, with the player put in a life or death situation (though, granted, there isn’t much player agency involved).

There are definitely more (these are just off the top of my mind). All of the above stories immediately drew me in.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that whenever a story starts with something intriguing happening, or by putting me in a difficult situation, it catches my attention more readily (even more so if I love the writing/narration); as opposed to, say, ‘You wake up. You put on your clothes and walk to the bathroom. You look in the mirror – what’s the colour of your eyes?’ and so on (as a very simple example).

This is not to say that the latter kind of beginnings wouldn’t appeal to me, it definitely could, given I like the plot and the way the author writes. It’s just that it wouldn’t happen as immediately.

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Here’s a opener to grab attention:

So, do you want to go ahead and destroy the world now?

#Yes
#No
#Why stop at just one world?

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For me, my enjoyment of a game at any point is all about who I get to be. So the games that do a good job of putting me into my character, and letting me feel/shape her personality right away are the ones that grab my attention.

I swear I’m not a suck up, but the best example I can think of for this is @HannahPS 's current work in progress. I had such a clear idea of who my character was that when I got to a little section of character customization I made a note to tell her I’d found a bug, because I was sure that I had already done that.

It would be helpful if I could figure out and describe exactly how an author can do this, but the truth is, I have no idea. I just love it when it happens.

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I personally prefer slow opens. Introduce me to your colorful world, through interactions with NPCs or a dream sequence, before putting me right in the heat of the action.

There are exceptions to this (Tin Star, Heart of House), but for the most part, I find this to be a good rule for drawing me in.

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I agree with the consensus that the scenario matters but the writing matters more. For me, I loved Cannonfire Concerto’s beautiful and dramatic narrative of the performance and escape at the start.

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I’d say an opener sets up the tone of the rest (most) of the story. So, a great opener needs to be consistent with the story (or is it the opposite?).

As such, certain scenarios benefit more if used in a story of certain genre, I think.

Dream = Mystery
Exposition = Fantasy
Prophecy = Fantasy
Character Convo = SoL
Full-blast action = you guess it, action
Weird funny skit = Comedy


Of course, not a fast rule. You might have a story that took place on medieval-fan but you want to emphasize the lighthearted tone, so skew the expectations with some skits.

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