What are your favorite types of 'hooks' when you start reading an IF?

Alternatively, it could be titled What are your favorite types of prologues? when you read an IF.

Do you being put right into an action sequence like in Choice of Broadsides? Do you like being intrigued by a prologue that’s actually a snippet from the climax like in Choice of Deathless? Or do you like to see other NPCs interacting with the world before your character is introduced like in WayHaven Book One? Or maybe you like when a story doesn’t have a lengthy prologue and instead lets you jump straight into the action like in Scratch?

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Action all the way. It seems so…fitting when I’m dropped directly into the action without going into a lengthy exposition in an IF in which I know I’m going to see some heavy action. Give me my info dump later, at first let me see some actions! First impression and all that stuff :grin:

Although slow builds can be really good too, if it’s done well. Hell, I would even argue that any kind of prologue would work if the author can just make it click.

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I like to see the story from different perspectives and I feel that writing a prologue from the perspective of a potential major character or minor character like in Wayhaven can help flesh out the characters and general setting and other helpful information, without acting as a form of “exposition dump” for the reader later in the story. I like the story to build up to something exciting rather than just jump into it right away as it often ends up seeming anticlimactic and the story might need to overcompensate later to make up for it, but if said scene jumps into some action from the perspective of another character it feels different, it feels like stuff is happening outside the immediate vicinity of the MC and makes me want to find out what’s going on and interact with that story to a deeper extent.

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@moonfungus What are your favorite/go-to examples of IFs that do this really well?

@Autumn19 In the case where the action is from another character’s perspective, do you like to see this character make a reappearance and if so, how?

I think Choice of Robots did a great job on this. It was short, and I was immediately intrigued by it.

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(No particular order, just listing them off from top of my head)

  1. 180 Files

  2. Werewolves : Haven Rising

  3. Champion of the Gods

  4. Breach

5. Samurai of Hyuga

  1. Does Fallen Hero count? Since we start the story in the middle of a fight, even though we can choose to get some exposition.

These are the ones I really liked.

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@AChubbyBlackCat
It depends on how important the character is I’d say, if they are a major character then you’d think they’d make a reappearance a short while after the prologue or later in the book, as for how, they could make an unexpected appearance if the prologue is left on a cliffhanger from their perspective, that’s an idea I’ve seen done before that I’m fond of, they show up to help the MC at a key moment. If they are a minor character they could make a reappearance at some point to simply further the plot through some important piece of info for example or just as a passing character, though they could also be used as “fodder” I guess for lack of a better word, they could be used to help set up a narrative then they could be disposed of, maybe in a literal sense if the story fits it.

@moonfungus Yeah, it counts.

@Autumn19 Thanks for elaborating.

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My unconditional interest for a story usually last only the first page before I start evaluating if I’m losing my time - or even worse, money - reading a book.

So if you don’t lay out right in the beginning some stakes then it’s already over.

It doesn’t have to be an action packed start, if you are writing a murder mystery you can begin from the discovery of the victim or in case of a romance with bumping into your crush rolling in bed with your best friend. The keyword for me is “stakes”.

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Which IFs have successfully hooked you in with their stakes? Afterwards did the author deliver on those stakes from the prologue?

Personally I’m on the fence about hooks that are in media res or dump me into an action sequence, especially if the action sequence doesn’t really matter in the scope of the game and just serves as a hook (“but it was all just a dream…”), because that doesn’t actually give me a lot of information about your world or my character’s current purpose.

Some IF do very well dumping you in the action- Fallen Hero comes to mind. If I’m dumped into the action, I immediately look for a little bit of setting and purpose that connects to the plot. Why am I here? What’s my goal? I think 180 Files and maybe Tin Star are also good examples. If I’m in an action sequence that doesn’t carry its momentum because I’m plopped back into reality, then what comes next has to find some way to keep me interested.

I think I prefer hooks that either give me something intriguing or plot relevant at the start, like Choice of Robots, Choice of the Deathless, the Soul Stone War, or the games mentioned above. But ultimately my favorites are a compelling exposition woven with player choice. I don’t always need a punchy action sequence to draw me in. Tell me more about the world, what I’m doing here, how I’m special, so I can get excited for the things to come. Choice of Rebels is excellent and right there at number one, for me. Similar types of prologues might be Heart of the House or Heroes of Myth.

This is definitely an interesting topic so I’m curious to see what others have to say. @AChubbyBlackCat what do you look for in an intro?

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I like to be hooked with lore delivered through character interaction, so basically I’m a “just start the story” person. Creme de la Creme and Tally Ho start this way. Another way I tend to like, often for fantasy stories, is a story-relevant flashback. Think Heart of the House style.

Being dumped into the middle of an action sequence is probably my least favorite opener. The climax and most action packed scenes of a story typically only interest me because of the value they have for the story and characters I am invested in.

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@Aerin I don’t mind prologues that are in media res as long as they tie back in the same book such as in Choice of Deathless. It doesn’t work as well if the in media res is for an epilogue/climax in a later book such as in Community College Hero.

It’s interesting seeing the prologue from another character’s perspective and how they played a part in the later plot too like Highlands Deep Waters since we can see the actions in that same book, versus say Dragon Racer where we don’t see all the implications of the prologue come to light in the first book. Action sequences are either a swing or a miss for me for similar reasons.

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So for me, its less about liking a specific type of beginning compared to others, but instead about whether the beginning correctly establishes the tone of the rest of the story. The beginning has a lot of work to do in terms of helping people quickly get up to speed with the tone, world, and characters, as well as weeding out players who won’t jive with your story, and hooking those who will. It is one of the most important parts of the story, and one of the most difficult. People will forgive a rocky middle, but often put down a rough beginning.

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Oh God, I feel that would require too long of an explanation to truly answer your question.

Btw, writing is no exact science. You can follow the manual and still fail to hook your target reader. But nonetheless you should still follow the manual, especially if you are a first time writer.

Story planning is always a big mess. Good ideas are scarce and execution a Calvary.
Imagine receiving a subject for a script reciting “A killer, maybe a robot, maybe from the future is trying to kill a woman” how much work would require to transform that idea in Cameron’s Terminator?

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I’d say action, but I think that for the most part elicits an image of combat, and I’m not really one for combat unless it has significant flavor (as in, any fight scene from Thor: Ragnarok). I think what really grabs me is the tone. I’ll read anything if it has a sense of humor about itself or if it introduces your character in a creative way. One of my favorites for this is The Passenger.

Combat/action scenes certainly aren’t an immediate no for me- both Keepers of Sun & Moon and A Study in Steampunk start with action scenes and are two of my favorite games. I particularly like ASIS because the action also introduces a key character conflict (whether or not your character wants to use powers he could get in trouble for) early on in the game.

If not combat, then by action I mostly mean I want to be involved in the story immediately. Let me do stuff off the bat. I don’t mean stuff like immediately choosing my name or pronouns- just let me decide to hold a door open for an NPC (or let it slam in their face). I’m just here to click buttons.

That said, having ADHD, I can’t make it through big chunks of lore in the first chapter or so. I prefer worldbuilding to be spread throughout the narrative in small doses, which I know can be a pain and a half to write- it took me a long time to get the hang of it, and I’m still no expert. Your world could have the most interesting lore of anything ever, but if it’s embedded in a paragraph as long as my arm, my eyes are going to glaze over and I’m going to feel the intense urge to go play Sims instead.

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Ah almost forgot!

A good “hook” apart the stakes should focus on creating empathy towards your MC and other characters as well.
Of course when the MC is “you” as in a IF thinghs are somehow easier, but any author should still pay a lot of attention.

I think what works for each IF story will depend on what vibe the author is trying to establish. I do appreciate when the ‘vibe’ is clear from the start (even if there will be lots of plot twists ahead), so that I can tell whether or not a story will be my jam.

I’ll admit that I find some beginnings rather dry/dull/slow; my personal preference is for some action, some snappy dialogue, something risque, something to get.my.attention in the first couple of pages. I’m well aware that other folks prefer a slower, cozier, introduction, and all preferences are valid, as well being somewhat genre/setting specific. But if I’m being asked about eye color on page 2, yeah I generally check out.

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  1. Title; this is the first thing that will make me notice a story. Is the title intriguing? Does it make me want to know more?

  2. Genre/setting; the blurb should give me a pretty good idea of the setting/timeline/genre of the story. If everything is vague, I won’t bother to continue.

  3. The free chapters; Can I follow the storyline? Does the setting make sense? Do I enjoy playing as the MC? If the answers to those questions are no, then I won’t continue.

I’m quite a visual person. When I read something, images of the scenes come to my mind. For me to proceed with the story (and eventually make the purchase), I should be able to imagine the setting.

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I prefer the slower starts that allow me to orient myself with the character and their place in the world first. So even stories where a character just wakes up and begins their everyday routine is preferable to me—so long as it’s written well and engagingly—rather than being dropped into an action sequence where I have to start making choices right away. I tend to dislike those hooks because I often lack the context to make the choices I want: I’ll be more stuck on wondering who these people are, where we are, and what we’re doing and why rather than enjoying that kind of fast-paced opening. I think the exception to this was Choice of the Deathless.

Anyway, I actually enjoy hooks where I get a feel of the character’s everyday life and situation first, even if that’s considered slow!

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