Confession: I’ve never written anything longform in second-person before starting my current project. First, yes; third, yes–but nothing where the narrative primarily uses “you” and “your” pronouns.
Thus, I’m finding small peculiar difficulties. Or maybe discomforts?
Preface: I only want to get better, not be offensive, and am grateful for all perspectives.
Player reactions. Obviously, sticking w/ “show, don’t tell,” but physical reactions, for example, make character determinations about the PC. If in narrative, you describe the PC having physical symptoms of fear, you’re determining their emotional response to be fear. Rather than, say, boredom, arousal, anger . . . to the same stimulus, say, an advancing army. Much of character is in these reactions. How do authors deal with this? Or how do players experience this?
Invisible Narrator versus Narrator as Character. Because writing with “you” is relaying information w/words a first-hand experience wouldn’t require, there seems to be some extra challenge. For instance, “Choice of the Dragon” overtly uses the narrator as a fumbling servile character afraid of the PC dragon, breaking the fourth wall for comedy much like “Deadpool.” Most everything else I’ve read CoG/HoG aims for invisible narrator with varying success. Thoughts about technique and/or reading recommendations that are strong examples of either? Preferences?
Immersion-breaking choice prompts. Especially when overtly asking a player’s decision. I’m trying to write so that decision and consequence come as a natural consequence of choice in an organic way. But I also realize you need to forecast consequences and skill-roll failure-success outcomes. Am I placing a higher value on this than most players would? Is there any work that makes choice organic in an exemplary way which I can reference?
Game-book balance. Perhaps this is just my feeling, but having read 12 or so CoG/HoG pieces, now, I sense that some of the stronger writing has poorer game design (illusion of choice, inconsequential stats, little variable outcome). Maybe these things, in tradeoff, allow for a stronger central narrative? Or maybe good writers aren’t always good coders (which may come to include me)? For example (just my opinion), from a literary standpoint, “Heart of the House” is the best I’ve read to date. As a writer, it doesn’t do anything mechanically that makes me cringe: passive voice, overuse of infinitive verbs (is, are, was), daisy chains of adjectives, overwrought description, monotonous pacing . . . But it had one of the simplest standard stat sheets of any game I’ve played (which is not necessarily a flaw either). On the other hand, I’ve played things with great concepts and choice design which are poorly written. Is there a stellar example that does both (book-game) excellently?
Diluting character identity for the sake of player agency. I’d always been taught to begin w/a strong central protagonist, “a troubled person in trouble” who is “struggling to achieve a strongly held desire.” Because we need to allow that a PC may travel multiple different paths, it seems like the MC needs to begin somewhere close to neutral, like a 90s JRPG silent protagonist, to believably be able to walk opposed paths. How do authors handle this? I’m sensing much of the weight of strong set opinion falls to the inner circle of NPCs. Like, maybe Persona 5 handles this well?
Thanks again. Cheers! -D