Saturday, December 13, 2008

Story Writing, Last Remarks: Where to Go from Here

This is the fourth and final chapter of my three-part series on story writing. (If that sounds confusing, let’s just say that I should have planned my blog posts better.) The content herein does not list all the techniques that I use when creating interactive stories. Nevertheless, there is enough material in this series to set aspiring writers on the path.

Everything that I’ve written in this series of blog posts counts as suggestions. If my techniques don’t work for you, ditch them and try something else. Those who are serious about writing may want to buy books on how to craft fiction. Although most books on this topic deal with writing non-interactive fiction such as novels and screenplays, much of the material therein is applicable to interactive fiction as well.

It helps to read a lot of fiction with an eye toward studying what the authors did that makes their work effective. Even if you aspire to write exclusively in the science fiction or fantasy genre, include a lot of mainstream fiction in your diet of books. My favorite novels include Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, Life of Pi by Yann Martel, Shella by Andrew Vachss, The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt (not to be confused with the movie of the same name), and Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (a surprisingly brutal novel from a 19th century country girl). In the fantasy and science fiction genre, my favorite books include Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Doubtless, you’ll have your own list of favorite books. One can learn much by studying the works of the writers you admire.

Reading will not get aspiring writers anywhere unless they set themselves working on their own fiction. Don’t worry if your first stories are amateurish. Even the masters started with baby steps on their path to greatness. They got better with practice, and you can too. So dust off your favorite game toolset and start making the interactive stories that you’ve been wanting to write.


vendalus said...

There's some great stuff in these four posts. I posted a resource page pointing to these over at Thanks!

Starwars said...

Yeah, some great pointers here.

However, I think it's also missing perhaps the most important bit. How to apply all this to an interactive medium like a RPG?

One of my problems with many recent RPGs (Biowares are good examples) is that the stories feel written in a way that they're sort of forced unto the player. Now, if you want a really involving story, there is likely going to be a lot of narrative, but there is the danger of "choking" the player. Not giving the player enough input. Forcing the player into long periods of non-interactivity, or giving choices that doesn't matter.
As a game designer, I think it's an easy trap to fall into.

But yep, these are great pointers for anyone writing up a story. Very nice!

Frank Perez said...


Thanks for posting the links at I like the brief excerpts that you included with each link. Way cool. :)

Even cooler are all the other resources that you have linked here. I'll be sure to spend a lot of time at your website to take in all this stuff.


Glad you like the pointers I wrote. I admit that I hadn't really shown how they apply to interactive media. I guess that calls for another blog post. :D

vendalus said...

Of course and thanks! It's not the most organized or comprehensive information ever assembled, but I tried. :)

loubank said...

Hi, Frank! Andrew Vachss's next novel--the eighteenth and *last* Burke novel--is shipping the end of this month, and I'm trying to get word out to all those folks who were around for the beginning, and might want to see how it all ends. I see from your blog that SHELLA is one of your favorite books, so ... maybe you'll want to check out ANOTHER LIFE. Thanks!

Frank Perez said...

Thanks for the heads up, Lou. I didn't know that Mr. Vachss is going to end his Burke series.

Nobody writes crime fiction like Andrew Vachss. Burke makes all other hardboiled detectives look softboiled. That said, Shella was the best book that Mr. Vachss has written, IMO. The Burke novels are great, but Shella is excellent.