- How is the plotline paced? Is the exposition to fast, too slow, or just right?
Overall really excellent quality of writing and great pacing. There’s a certain je ne sais quoi to how certain writers can pull it off and others struggle; seems that your instincts are working well for you.
- How are the segways between the flashbacks and the cave?
A bit jarring at the beginning! The temptation to include all of the supernatural worldbuilding stuff at the outset is, I can imagine, quite strong, but in the end the relationship between the MC and Caroline was the most compelling. It’s not a bad choice to use a framing device, just one that requires work.
I’d say the biggest stumbling block for me was having to really slow down to take in the description of where we are in the beginning. It’s well written and vivid, just abstract. Starting off alien and uncomfortable is, again, not a bad choice but one that requires more work than starting off at the true beginning of the story, when the MC is taken into the foster home.
- Do you feel that your MC is customizable enough? Are there any customizability options you’d prefer— for example, adding new options to characterize MC’s interest, style, personality, adding background options, or options regarding MC’s physical appearance?
I’d like fewer cosmetic options (I cannot understand how anyone gives a shit about eye colour ha ha) but that’s my preference. I think there’s a missed opportunity for more
*fake_choices where there currently are
*page_breaks to allow the player to roleplay a bit.
- How do some of the characters we’ve met come across— interesting, bland, or so-so?
I'm a thorough person! Spoilers below.
Although the MC is pretty customisable, there are a few things we know for certain about them:
- They’ve grown up in the foster care system.
- They’re a disaster magnet. Bad things happen around them, often their fault.
- They’re fixated on the painful inevitability of aging out of the system.
- They’ve formed a lasting, meaningful connection with Caroline.
I reckon even more could be fleshed out about them. My main character was a sullen, antisocial teenage boy who slowly but surely opened up due to his outgoing female friend, like a protagonist from a John Green novel. In my head he had a big crush on Caroline, and recategorising that crush into a strong, genuine friendship was a positive thing for his personal development. He was fully willing to fight to the last breath for her at the end of the demo, all out of nothing but the goodness of his heart. It was a chance to do good, something nobody had given him the chance to do before. None of this was explicit in the text, but I think you wrote it in such a way that this emergent character development felt natural and true.
Obviously the most developed character. She seems, I think, a little too much like a John Green female lead, or like the girl from Bridge to Terebithia, or – though I hate to say it – a manic pixie dream girl. I guess a manic goth dream girl. It was an excellent choice NOT to make her a romantic option to help with this a little.
I liked her, and she was a fun character with a lot of depth. I particularly liked the interaction she and the MC had about the foster care system and staying with the same family for many years, where it’s clear that her world view is based on her own experiences and she actually has to reconsider what she’s said when the MC offers their own experience in contrast. Little things like that go a long way in making a character feel real – that they’ve lived a life and aren’t just in the story to fulfill a role.
That said, her flaws are the kinds of things that people put on a dating profile to avoid listing any actual flaws: she’s “clumsy”, she “has no filter”, she likes having “too much fun”, she’s secretly the heiress to an underwater society of eldritch abomination worshippers …
It’s worth mentioning I’ve written basically the exact same character in my current project so I’m a bit biased when I say I love her. She’s my favourite character.
It’s actually a bit weird how similar Isabella is to my character Gabrielle. They have similar names, the same mannerisms and stilted manner of speaking, the sense of being an outsider, the way she commands the room with her voice, the propensity for organising parties, and even the little creepy hints peppered throughout that something is just off.
I liked those hints a lot. Getting the chance to hunt through her phone was hilarious.
Didn’t get as much of Mila as the Big Three above, but what little was there was nice. Strong character. The tagalong crush could very easily be perfunctory, but I loved that you made the effort for her to interact with the MC (even if it’s just glances and expressions) independent of Caroline, and for her to take an active role in the climax of the demo, with or without you. I’d love to see her and the MC working together in later chapters.
Weirdly enough, it again reminds me a lot of characters from John Green books. In both Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns, an otherwise perfunctory crush becomes a major character later on in the story.
Seeing Mike’s texts did a lot in characterising a character I didn’t quite “get” until then. I didn’t like Mike at all as a person but he was entertaining as a character.
His friend – can’t recall the name – with the border collie had two personality traits: friend of Mike, and owns a border collie. The collie had more characterisation than him. Cute dog but WEIRD detail. Who brings a dog to a Halloween party in an abandoned asylum? Only really skeevy people, the kind you get a pit in your stomach being around. I feel the dog thing was just not addressed as much as it needed to be! It’s so weird and so specific I imagine it must come from personal experience.
Blondie and my MC never exchanged a single word.
V… Velma? Vesper? Already forgotten her name. She got really drunk and then disappeared, and we know next to nothing else about her aside from that.
If there was anyone else at the party, they didn’t make an impression.
- How are all of the elements of the story (memories, flash-forwards, and flashbacks) integrated? Are they confusing, too quickly covered, or just right? :3
One thing that stuck out to me was, while listening to the story of Ms. Szasz, we were two layers deep into the framing device. I think you should either go more full on – make it its own little chapter where you get to make decisions – or go a little lighter, with fewer interruptions and less detailed of a diversion. I don’t know the full significance of the Szasz story just yet, though, so I don’t know how much is needed and how much is just you being a naturally compelling writer with your divergences!
- This chapter is almost 36k words with multiple branches! It may not all be easily digestible early on— I’ve played through it multiple times myself, but please don’t be afraid to tell me if something is poorly paced, described, or coded!
I found that this was the chapter where you really started to find a voice. The story moved from what felt like dreams and memories into a strong sense of immediacy, place, and location, which is where I think you’re most comfortable. You took off with the story here, and I found myself thinking that this chapter, a spooky Halloween party in an asylum, would work really well as a standalone piece. You seemed to enjoy writing it; it came through in your writing.
I had assumed this story would be like the Gregor the Overlander series: MC falls face-first into an underground fantasy society and must face a deadly threat while also navigating the complex political structure of this society, all the while being a total fish out of water. This chapter was a big divergence from that, going full teen horror adventure like Stranger Things or the video game Until Dawn.
In fact I’d recommend checking out the game We Know the Devil, a quick little visual novel with a similar vibe to what you’ve got going.
Logic Issue (Spoilers)
“How does she know that?” Well, she would know because she has my phone. We swapped earlier.
That about summarises my thoughts!