The Flower of Fairmont (epistolary WIP)

The Flower of Fairmont is an epistolary game in which the bulk of the plot will be told through letters that the MC writes and receives. The setting is loosely based on Victorian-era England, although it draws a lot of inspiration from the genre of Regency romance. Unlike Turncoat Chronicle, this game doesn’t take place in a setting that’s neutral with regards to gender and sexuality.

Our protagonist is a young woman of the landed gentry, the only daughter of Mr Kalman Wyndale, owner of the estate Windy Way, and the late Ms Thistle Fairmont. Depending on her age, the MC will be a student in a girls’ college, a debutante in rural society, or the mistress of the estate. In terms of situation and temperament, I refer to these three archetypes as “the Marianne”, “the Lizzy”, and “the Emma”.

Our setting is the small, idyllic mountain town of Fairmont, the birthplace of the MC’s mother, Thistle. Fairmont resides in the beautiful mountains of Axillian and is much more rural and wild than the tamed countryside of Rosewood, the town where the MC was raised. Local folklore is rich with ghost stories and fairy stories, which hold much more credibility here in the mountains than in Rosewood.

The game’s timeframe begins in early spring and stretches over most of the summer, to early autumn.

Our plot begins with your arrival in Fairmont, at the house of your great-aunt, where your father has sent you following an irreconcilable argument regarding proper behavior. The morning after you arrive, your aunt hands you a packet of letters from four of the people closest to you, and from then on it’s up to you to decide which letters you’ll read, which you’ll answer, and how.

During your time in Fairmont, you will get to know some of the local people, and you may find yourself drawn into their struggles and personal dramas. You may overhear things that surprise you, or learn unexpected facts from books and old newspapers. With time and persistence, you might uncover long-kept secrets, or even solve local mysteries. Alternatively, you may choose to take advantage of your stay in Fairmont to learn more about your mother, from the people who knew her in her youth.

Our cast:

Summary
  • Kalman Wyndale, a gentleman whose income comes from the estate he inherited. Mr Wyndale was once a professor at a women’s college, which is where he met his late wife. He’s very protective of his only daughter.

  • Audeline Fairmont, a gentlewoman of limited means. Aunt Audeline is the MC’s loving (but not very familiar) great-aunt on her mother’s side. She takes charge of the MC’s education and respectability when her father sends her to Fairmont.

  • Jessa Pawlie, a country socialite of Rosewood. Jessa is the MC’s neighbor and childhood friend. Her parents are very strict with her and don’t approve of the friendship. They believe the MC is a corrupting influence on Jessa, while Kalman believes the exact opposite.

  • Delmyn Arlick, a gentleman of means residing in Rosewood. Mr Arlick has for some time expressed his interest in courting the MC, though her father does not seem to approve.

  • Yan-Ithah “Yanni” Wyndale, an archeologist’s assistant and former army nurse. Yanni is the MC’s bold, adventurous paternal cousin, friend, and often mentor. Kalman would have apoplexy if the MC got into one-tenth of the danger that Yanni considers routine.

  • Noelissa “Noe” Tulian, a doctor’s daughter and noted eccentric. Noe’s parents wish very much for the MC to befriend her. She’s known for her encyclopedic knowledge of Fairmont’s local flora and fauna.

  • Maritte Varavis, Aunt Audeline’s good friend and housekeeper. A cheerful and welcoming soul.

  • Beyville Varavis, Maritte’s son, whom Audeline lodges and keeps as a gardener. His military service has left him with a permanent injury. A quiet and thoughtful young man.

  • Kyro Asten, like the MC, a stranger to Fairmont. He has come to Fairmont seeking the town’s local records, while on some unspecified errand for a friend.

  • Thistle Fairmont, the MC’s mother. Born and raised in the town of Fairmont, she left as a young woman to pursue her schooling and never returned. Her past is inextricably intertwined in the town’s particular history.

Questions and answers:

Summary
  • “Is the game gender-locked?” Yes. The MC is female.

  • “What are the romances in the game?” There are four romance options, two male and two female.

  • “How old is the MC?” You can choose the MC’s age based on the background you chose. Choosing “I should be at school” sets her age to eighteen. Choosing “I should be out in society” sets her age to twenty-two. Choosing “I should be home” sets her age to thirty.

  • “Can I reject Delmyn’s romantic courtship?” Yes. If you reject him in a letter, he will never make another romantic advance and will consider the MC a friend. If you simply don’t reply to his letters, he will likewise consider this a rejection.

  • “Do I have to write home to Papa/Jessa/Delmyn/Yanni?” You don’t have to write to any specific NPC you don’t want to. They will send you a letter in which they ask you why you haven’t written, and if you don’t reply to that, they won’t write again. It’s not currently possible to progress the game without writing to at least one of your potential correspondents, even if your main form of documentation is the journal.

  • “Do I have to be honest in my letters, or can I lie?” There are two types of letters that you write: the main letter (or journal entry) that fully describes the events of each week and the replies to your (other) correspondents. The replies are not full accounts of your week and can be considered unreliable. However, the main letter that starts each week is the “canon” of that week’s events. If you don’t think your MC should/would be that honest with any of her confidantes, you can choose the journal option for the main letter. Lying in your private journal would be, well, a little weird.

  • “How many endings will the game have?” I’m currently planning about nine or ten different variations, although some of the details are not set in stone.

  • “Will the romances be explicit?” Due to the tone, the setting, and the epistolary nature of the game, the romances will be fairly chaste. However, it’s worth remembering that there are gaps in the MC’s account of her life. What happens in those gaps is purely up to the reader. But no, at no point will the MC be writing Jessa an account of her sexual exploits with her hot new man, or anything of that sort.

  • “What do the characters look like?” I include physical descriptions where I find them appropriate. There are no descriptions of Kalman or Thistle, so your MC can look however you want her to, but she probably won’t be describing herself in her letters or journal.

  • “Why does Kalman send his only daughter away?” He was raised and has lived all his life in a society that has very strict ideas about propriety, especially for unmarried women, and especially in the countryside. He’s acting as he believes a responsible, loving father would, in what he believes is the MC’s best interest. He dislikes being separated from her, but he won’t apologize for making decisions on her behalf.

Play the demo!

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I always enjoy your writing, @Hazel.

Thank you for sharing this project. I have no feedback at the time of this posting, except to say:

The splash descriptor and the graphic brought my mind directly to Emily Dickinson’s doorstep.

It might be awhile for me to get directly to feedback, but this holds a place on my list of projects to keep an eye on.

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WoW…

Very Jane Austen. Which is good I love her writing. Other people go for cheeky romance I go for Jane Austen.
But you have to keep an eye on the reactions to the letters. For someone who does not read literature from that time it may be a bit foreign and it could take away from the feeling of interaction a bit. I am very interested where you are going with this. I hope we get some character interactions where I don’t only feel as a spectator. Like the library scene. It felt more like reading a classic book but it is enough for now. I am looking forward to more :slight_smile:

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I’m really happy we can be gay. I was worried, too often writers decide to use historical settings as an excuse to not allow it as though everyone before 1960 was straight.

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That was really interesting. I’ve not really come across epistolary before - I wonder if this has been tried much in a choice style game before?

There was something immediately appealing about the pseudo retroactive choices. I would not be able to explain what about it that appealed, it just did. Having said that, I feel (and this is just a feeling) that it might be tricky to carry off the entire plot in this manner without some active play from the player. I suppose certain sequences (action and romance come to mind) perhaps work better with more minute to minute decision making rather than broad brush outcomes.

You’ve lain an interesting opening narrative, I’m intrigued to see how it all pans out.

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I love this! It’s the sort of game I could have never been smart of to think of and so want in the first place, but now that it’s here, it’s obviously sort of game I’d love to play. I absolutely love (how many times have I used this word??) the letters from Yanni and Jessa; they’re probably my favorite. I’m also very intrigued by Mr. Varavis!

One small thing – I noticed one paragraph of a letter we wrote was in italics while the rest was not. I don’t know if that was intentional. If it wasn’t, I’ll try to find it again once I get a moment to replay the game.

I really enjoyed the game! It has this relaxing effect that not so many WIPS have tbh. Looking forward for the next update! <3

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This looks interesting! I don’t think I’ve ever come across an interactive fiction in epistolary form. Definitely following.

One thing I noticed—when I tried to write to Jessa on the second day and confide all my thoughts to her, the game skipped to MC writing the same kind of letter to Yanni instead? I’m not sure why that happened.

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I absolutely loved this - very original and cozy. Very excited to read more.

I’m loving the style and prose of your WIP so far, @Hazel! Fantastic job, you’ve totally captured the tone of the Regency romance genre, and I find the epistolary structure of the game fascinating! I can’t wait to play more!

I’m very curious as to who the 2 male romance options are: I thought Arlick was the obvious choice, but seeing as how he’s stuck in Rosewood and the narrator can only communicate to him via letters, I’m wondering if the two male suitors actually in Fairmont are actually it! Keeping my fingers crossed for Beyville! :eyes:

One thing that I noticed was that the letters seemed to go back and forth in terms of being italicized. At first I thought just the salutation was italicized, to indicate that the rest was a letter, but then the “second page” of the letter (I think the first one from Kalman was this way) was all in italics. Just something to watch out for if it wasn’t intentional!

I’m also interested if there will be more active “real-time” choice-making rather than retrospective accounting of choices, but either way I’m very much enjoying the story, and the amount of branching and the mechanics of the letter-writing are incredibly impressive! Thank you for sharing, and I look forward to watching this story unfold!

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Yes, I’ve received a few reports of this type of bug, which eluded my testing so far. I’m going to diversify the testing scenarios that I run, and hopefully, I’ll be able to upload a fix in a day or two. So I’d like to thank you for reporting it, and also everyone else who noticed this particular error.

I started out writing all the letters in italics because I was taught that this is the convention for letters in fiction. However, some helpful people on Discord pointed out that reading big blocks of italics is pretty inaccessible. Since the first chapter mixes narration and letter-writing, I continued italicizing the letters in chapter 1. Starting with chapter 2, the letters are only supposed to be italicized in blocks that mix letter-writing and narration, such as when the narrator addresses you when you’re choosing how to sign your letter.

I’m continually looking for errors in italicization, so it’s possible that a few escaped me. I’ll keep an eye open. You’re welcome to screenshot any block that looks wrong to you and post it here, or PM it directly to me, and I’ll look into it.

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@Hazel have just had a quick nose around your code, after reading that you struggled to find the bug in the letter writing - hope you don’t mind!. So as not to distract from the discussions and in case you prefer to figure it out yourself, I’ve hidden my answer.

Summary

I only unpicked the bug whereby it mixes up the order of writing letters.

The player picks a letter to read, setting the ‘unread’ flag to false (e.g Papa’s)
The game them let’s you pick the confidant, and will have you writer the documentation letter to them first. (e.g. Jessa)
If the confidant is different to the person whose letter you read, the flags get out of sync.

You are then returned to the letter menu
You can no longer read Papa’s letter, as his unread flag is false
You can read Jessa’s (and Mr Arlick’s and Yanni’s) as their flags are still true
We then read Jessa’s letter
Following this our options are to ‘write to papa’ and not ‘write to Jessa’
This is because the flag for writing to Jessa is now true (from before) whilst your father is unwritten to

One option is to move the confidant selection to before reading letters and make it clear the player is ‘documenting’ first (whether in journal or as a letter). Then whoever they pick as confidant, they read and reply from there. Then you go to your letter menu with one correspodent handled already. Presumably you have to write to the confidant first every time any way?

Alternatively, you just reset your flags when the player goes down the ‘set confidant’ route - so that they re-enter the letter menu fresh.

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This is delightful! It did very much have an Austen sort of feel. It put me a bit in mind of Northanger Abbey, where a curious heroine is determined to find secrets (where they may or may not actually exist) – though perhaps that came partly from the choices I made. It does feel like you have some scope to determine Miss Wyndale’s personality, which is nice.

The epistolary format was quite enjoyable to read, and I liked the variation of her descriptions to the various recipients.

I will definitely keep this on my radar, and look forward to someday playing the entire story!

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Love the game! Can’t wait for new updates cause I’m already hooked with the story! The only problem I’ve faced is in chapter 2 tho, its when I’m about to read and reply to letters but something pops on my screen (it said 2-town line 124) and stays like that. It resulted in me restarting the game many times, but I receive the same problem and stops me from continuing the story. Besides that, I’m having a fun experience!

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I really loved it! There’s a nice energy to it, like we really are out in the countryside, and I love the epistolary element–it’s very unique!

Error messages

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I loved this.

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Thank you for replying! Luckily, that’s exactly the information that I need to fix this quickly and easily. Thanks to your help, the fix for this bug is already uploaded, and you should be able to play the demo to the end.

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I have just finished the demo and so far, I really love this! I have always loved your writing, and so I am really excited to read another WIP from you! Though I can’t say I know much about regency romance, I think you nailed it pretty well! Definitely looking forward to more! <3

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There is one bug I found, where during reading the second set of letters, while reading Yanni’s letter, you are told to reply to Jesse’s letter and vice-versa.