Word Length Importance?

I was looking through the requirements of publishing a hosted game and found that the required amount of words is 30k including code. So theoretically, after 30k you can publish. The thing is I see a lot of WIPs that sadly don’t get completed, while at the same time see the terrifying sea of words and prose from a list of published games.

My question is what should I aim for?

I’ve seen some pretty good long stories. I’ve however also played stories that go on for so long that I just lose interest in playing them. However, there are two works that are very short that I can’t really enjoy too much of because they were too short to really develop an attachment to the characters e.i. Choice of Zombie. What should I do? What is a good guideline or idea?

I want to tell a pretty good story. One that is long enough for proper character and plot development and short enough to keep attention and interest. I don’t want my story to become a WIP I never finish.


I think worrying about word count can threaten to diminish the quality of your story. :thinking: Generally I would say it’s better to just set out telling the story you want to tell–from the beginning you want to the end you want–and then evaluating where you are once that’s done. If it falls short of 30k (or whatever), then you can add to it and expand in areas that need expanding. If you find yourself losing energy as you try to write to the end, then something is going on in the middle that is making you bored, and changing it accordingly to keep your interest up will help (or you’re getting burned out, in which case a break is necessary). In my personal opinion, deliberately shooting for a certain amount of words never seems to work out too well. It’s more about telling the story you want to tell, and whatever that ends up being is just what it is. :slight_smile:


The reality unfortunately is that longer stories draw you in better simply because of their length. The more time you spend with the characters the easier it is to get invested in their stories. That’s the reason that people overwhelmingly prefer novels to short stories.


yeah…can’t really tell you . In my own experience , when I try to plan on a short story…it end up a freaking saga longer then a hit list !!! and when I try to do a long one…I run out of steam mid way and get stuck…:sweat_smile:

So don’t plan , just go with your story…your world , your characters . When they are good…and suck you in…they be the one to decide when it’s over . And remember , that you can always make it a serie…add a sequel later on…if you get more ideas mid way .


not always , I mean look at Hitchcock present . It was short and sweet…and I for one loved those better than Hitchcock Hours .

I was just gonna say that! :upside_down_face:

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Short answer?

Write as long as the story requires.


Let’s see if I can waste a thousand words repeating what @MeltingPenguins said so beautifully in nine.

The scope of your story will determine how many words you need for it to satisfy your readers.

An epic adventure about “saving the world” is going to require an awful lot of words to convince readers the world is actually in danger, and a quite terrifying number of additional words to keep it satisfying as “the world” is extricated from that danger. The Harry Potter series needed seven books and well over a million words between them, all to make readers believe a schoolboy could defeat an evil wizard. Just shy of 1,100,000 for the whole series, according to the counts I’ve found. The Lord of the Rings trilogy wasn’t much better, needing between 450,000 and 500,000 to make readers believe a short adult could throw a ring in a fire.

A much tighter, more intimate drama needs far fewer words, however. Twelve Angry Men, while not directly comparable because it’s a play rather than a novel or short story, only needed a touch over 11,000 words to tell readers about a jury reaching a “not guilty” verdict. Of Mice and Men took around 30,000 to tell readers about the fatal mistakes made by a pair of poor migrant farmhands.

How close a focus does your concept allow?

Twelve Angry Men is almost 100% character development. There’s virtually no plot or description. We never learn about the place those characters live in, the people they know, or how their lives progress. The plot is “they argue in a room, and some change their minds.” That’s it. Literally the whole thing. That’s why so much could be cut out, and why it can be satisfying despite being so very short. 11,000 words of pure character drama, give or take a handful.

Harry Potter has a vast and complex plot that simply doesn’t allow such drastic cutting. We need to have a grasp of how the setting’s characters use their magic. We need a grasp of their daily lives and their relationships. Defeating an evil wizard is a complex process, with many interdependent steps, and we need to see most of them. It’s time consuming, too, and we need to see time pass. But more than all the other things, we need to see the designated hero grow. We need to see Harry Potter (the character) grow in strength of arm, strength of spell, and ultimately strength of character. We’d never believe he could be the one to defeat the evil wizard otherwise! That’s why it’s nearly 100 times longer than Twelve Angry Men. It simply can’t be shorter by any significant amount.

So keep the scope tight.

Writing super-powered vigilantes? Who wear capes? Don’t bother with villains who want to destroy the whole city, or even the whole holiday parade. Find a villain who’s limited to destroying the judge’s box at said holiday parade. For a goal of 30,000 words, making an alternative to Christopher Nolan’s entire Batman film trilogy is an exercise in futility. But making an alternative to a single episode of Batman: the Animated Series? Oh yeah. That’ll do.

@rinari is 100% right about the process, though. Once you’ve gotten started, give the story what it needs. What it wants from you. Don’t worry about your word count until you’ve reached the end. Don’t even think about it until that point! Then you can go back and trim some fat (if your story’s long) or add some meat (if your story’s short).


That might be a little too kind to JK Rowling. :slight_smile: She’s a good case for having an editor who keeps your story from sprawling too far. (As is George Martin, whose last two books have been tremendously weakened by bringing in things that almost certainly didn’t need to be there.)

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I’d argue that HP suffers from plotbloating.
Thats what you get when something happens that should not have happened, given what the rules of the setting and the knowledge and skills etc of the character are.

Rowling still struggles to satisfyingly explain just why no one used a timeturner after book 4 (and oh boy are people pissed at what she did in that play in response (lbr that was her idea, it is so her style)) or why exactly EVERYONE has to go to London to get onto a train just so there can be scenes on said train.


A like from me for your a thousand words.

And echoing @Minnow, you can split your story into books/series, just saying.

CoG/HG IF bloated so much simply because you’ve got to count for the code and the branching. I’d argue that the average length of their stories are about the third of total wordcount. Maybe even less, who knows.

I honestly, never really thought word count was a good way of measuring the story length for Cogs. It’s incredibly misleading, since it’s usually counting a total across other routes, and a story with numerous branches won’t be nearly as long in length but could still total out to around 100,000 words or so.

Where a game with less branching but fewer options, would have longer individual routes. And focus on more on the content and quality of the branches than the number.

That is not to say either system is bad and both have plenty of examples of people who done it well and people who did it in a way that was just okay.

Course, if you don’t focus on just meeting the quota and just focus on writing out the story, you will probably blow past that minimum without even realizing it.

I tend to buy the longer games and passing up on the shorter ones unless the shorter ones have a really interesting summary or it’s from an author whose writing style I already know and like.
My reason for this is bc many times I got disappointed with the shorter ones: it feelt like the author had a good idea for the story, but the game ended up short bc the author rushed it. They wanted to include too many things, things which could have worked out well if they would have spent more time on it instead of wrapping it up quickly and moving on to the next scene, either that or the story doesn’t feels like it has a real ending to it.


Whatever it takes to finish your story.

I don’t try to write 300k or 400k words when I lay out my story outlines. In fact, I usually exceed my expected wordcounts by absurd margins. This has less to do with trying to inflate word count as it has to do with the fact that I am a wordy writer. I like extended dialogue and incidental reactivity. If I wrote less like say, David Weber and more like Brandon Sanderson, Guns of Infinity would probably about a third its 400k words.

Ultimately, 30k words is a pretty trivial requirement for a full story arc with the minimal level of reactivity expected from a ChoiceScript game. I’m pretty sure it’s only there to ensure that HG isn’t flooded with 5k word short stories or the like.