Is there a point when you’ve gone too long without giving the reader a choice to make? I mean the needs of each work are of course different. But in general, is there a rule of thumb for when you should give the reader a choice.
I try to give my readers a choice roughly every 1k words, though I will occasionally go down to 0.5k or go up to 1.5k, depending on the circumstances. Some authors give choices more frequently and others have wider gaps, but I think this is a happy medium.
CoG’s advice is 200ish words, and avoiding more than 400 - giving choices even just asking what the player feels about things, or fake_choices, to break up larger text.
I very occasionally went to about 800-1000 words, but as the exception.
Interesting seeing how different our approached are @Samuel_H_Young!
Because of my verbose writing style and all the conditional text flourishes I add, it’s really hard to apply the rule by word count. My first WIP is often detracted for having too few choices, mainly because of the verbosity. For my next WIP, my rule of thumb is not to go more than two or three in-game pages without at least a personality-driven choice. Time will tell whether I can stick to that.
363 words. No more, no less. One choice every 363 words. That is the secret to true power.
I wish I could say I had advice for this lol. I’m chaotic. You’ll either get three choices within 500 words or a single choice after 2,000 words.
@adrao and I were discussing this in a small group at NarraScope–it’s hard to know. 250 words is more or less what fits on a phone screen without scrolling. Well, we used to say that but now phones are much bigger! I personally don’t like more than two *page_breaks without a choice to follow.
I once read someone’s (@Lglasser?) guideline not to use more than one
*page_break in a row. That seems like a pretty good rule of thumb to me. My HG definitely broke that rule too often; I went back and reduced some of their numbers in its latest update, but a real fix would require some significant restructuring in certain areas. It’s at least a good target to aim for.
Part of the problem is if you have a very dynamic story, with a lot of descriptions and mini-scenes that may or may not appear in a given playthrough depending on past events, party members, etc., it can be difficult to determine exactly which text will appear before or after other text. If you’re not careful, you can end up with a bad text clash that either reads as a factual contradiction or a bizarre mood shift that ruins the feel of the scene. I believe Emily Short has written about this as a pitfall of dynamic text generation in general. So these are rough edges you need to watch out for that you can smooth over in playtesting, either by adjusting the text in certain cases or (more often) adding some transitional text to glue disparate pieces together. The best situation I’ve found to warrant the use of a
*page_break is to cover the passage of some length of time.
At a minimum, I’d say if you’re going to have a long narrative sequence with no choices, you should break it up with some “How do you feel about that?”
*fake_choice s that set the player character’s personality stats. But it’s also worth asking yourself whether you need such a long unbroken sequence in the first place, and whether it might be more satisfying for the player if you cut out most of it and either dole out smaller fact morsels at a slower rate over the course of the plot unfolding, or elide some of those facts entirely and only imply them through the story action.
Generally I try not to go more than 6 full MS Word pages per passage before a choice. (However many words that is, I never bother to check until I’m done with the story) I usually do 4 to 6, but I’ve been known to go up to 7 or 8.
The bigger issue is when you have several pages of “1 choice” back to back which is just essentially a “continue the story.” I’d rather see someone write a long passage with a couple meaningful choices rather than breaking it up into fake choices or worse 6 pages of linear “continue links.”
There are fake choices and there are “fake choices.” The former, yeah, are just there to mark time and don’t do anything, even give interestingly customized text. “Fake choices” (or as we call them here, End, *fake_choices) modify stats in cool ways and can give customized text–they just all lead to the same place.
As Mary Duffy said, I think, at Narrascope, if you get presented with a list of choices and only one of them is clickable by you because of previous choices, that’s probably a good sign that Something Has Gone Wrong. One choice is no choice, and, yeah, that’s just “continue the story.”
I would say (and this is a bit of a cop-out) that the correct amount of words between choices is however many you are comfortable with as a writer. The reader’s perspective is valuable, sure, but at the end of the day you know what will work best for your own story.
More than two page breaks without a choice tends to get tedious; the actual length of those pages matters less to me.
Glad I stumbled across this thread. It’s certainly something I’ve been having some issues with as I adapt to choicescript.
Great to know there are actual numbers being used, even better to know that just about everybody finds those numbers negotiable.
I don’t tend to have any firm rules as some of the earlier ones I’ve done I’ve tried to put in more choices but with the one I’m working on now I’m going longer between choices as there’s more information I need to put in to set up the situation and explain but I’m trying to put in a few more now that the major set up is finished.