Writing the "canon" route as a first draft?

I’m normally a pantser, but since that has yet to give me a finished story, I’ve been trying to fully outline my game this time around. However, I find it impossible to plan potential choices/plot deviations right off the bat – it seems too difficult to anticipate different MCs during the outlining process. Thus, I’ve started writing the “canon” route of my game, and it’s been going well so far! Once I’m done with the canon, I plan on going back and tweaking things so there can be different MC personalities, relationships, missions, endgames, et cetera.

My question is if anyone else plans their games/stories this way? On the surface, it seems like most people on the forum can address choices and plot deviations immediately in the writing process.


I suppose my one caution would be to try to ensure that the canon route does not feel like the canon route, such that you have one favored path through, and the other routes and choices like, as you say, “tweaking” of things. It can often be quite noticeable to a reader when the author has a main route in mind–whether it is a certain energy of prose, or time spent, or something totally un-point-to-able. And that is not always the best feeling for a reader.

You may find, if you do some work in alternate paths as you write, that what you thought was a favored path might strike you as potentially less interesting than another path. That is, what you think is the canon may well shift as you write, if you are open to that sort of crafting. Since you’re a pantser, you know that already, though!

But I do encourage you to anticipate different MCs as you think about this. Make up, say four or five different very broad protagonists styles and try to imagine how they might respond. Are they going to have stuff to do and say?


I’d say the best approach to writing might be being a plantser:
Write the ‘canon’ path and see where ideas strike anew.

Just be warned: you might end up with more ROs than anticipated.


I think it’s inevitable that a CYOA writer will find easier to write a path instead of another, your “canon route”, especially if they are recicling the plot of a former traditional novel.
Just remeber no reader like favouritism.
So try to not:

  1. Showoff your canon route;

  2. write only your canon route with just some alternate scenes/dialogues


The canon route might be canon as in your - the author’s - intended ending to the story, or it might be simply what you’d play if you were the MC for your own story - depending on what you mean by “canon”, the way you approach writing that path plus the rest of the paths in the game will probably differ. I’d like to suggest that for each main event in the story, it might do some good to come up with at least two possible outcomes that are NOT necessarily success and/or failure, just to ensure that you don’t write the same story for every action an MC takes. Beware of tiring of the story or closing up every diverging path while you DO write the first one through, though, or you’ll end up with a novel, not a CYOA book! Best of luck. :slight_smile:

Edit: Reordered sentences since they were just… disconnected phrases the first time around.


If I understood you right, this sounds a lot like what I’m doing to design the core plot(s) in my story. (I’m practically writing all the major plotlines as a novel-esque way, and adding to that I write in random order… it’s taking forever to get an actual wip out there. But I digress.)

The way I do it, I’m writing a version that (I don’t call it ”canon version”, I call it ”the version that’s easiest to pull out of thin air”) I use to plot/structure the story, and - and this is important in my workflow - I mark down, as I write, notes like ”this happens only if X, Y and Z” (which reminds me to give options for X, Y and Z to not happen), and points where MC can choose differently (actions, responses etc.) even if I don’t at that moment think what they could choose instead or where that leads.

Of course, the most important thing is to know yourself well enough to know how you can achieve the wanted result. (And also that the wip you provide doesn’t need to be the first version you write.) Me, I’m a pantser. I also love flowcharts and spreadsheets.


After reading everyone’s replies, I think I misused the word “canon” lol. I meant canon to me, if I were the one playing the game, just like someone else’s playthrough would be their canon. Hopefully that makes sense? But I totally see what you’re saying – I’ll make sure to devote adequate time to other MC personalities and their differing goals.

Thank you for the suggestions! I’ll definitely incorporate this into my outlining process.


How about hiding the canon route in a achievement

When I’m planning, I write an outline of the major converging scenes - scenes that are going to show up no matter what (for instance, in Tin Star, there is always the opening scene, the flood, the bear fight, the train chase, etc.).

So, for example:

I. Opening

  1. Character creation
    1a. Name
    1b. Gender
  2. Introduce best friend

II. Fight at work!!

  1. Best friend comes to comfort
  2. Boss reprimands

And so on. This allows for a loose plot structure - one that is going to be the same in all routes, no matter what, while also giving me the freedom to create alternate paths, have little side scenes, etc.

It is important to keep in mind that it is impossible to create a completely sandbox RPG through pre-written, text based means, because it would require trillions of words, and you would still have readers/players saying they would have rather done x, y, or z. This means that it is totally okay to have some “railroaded” aspects of the story. In Vampire, by Jason, you always wake up in a fire, go to Memphis, and experience specific historical events, and that game offers some very wildly differing paths.

So I would say…yes, in a sense, it is okay to pre-plan Canon events, but keep it loose and vague. Don’t try to plan every single scene, because you’ll drive yourself batty, and don’t overly explain the scenes you do plan, because you’ll make it clear that those are the “most important”.