1. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Interesting choices

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by w176, Mar 14, 2011.

    (To long, Didn't read: w176 is wondering if when the characters make choice and chose a path, that hinting the path not taken might also made an awesome story, makes the overall story more awesome?)

    In interactive storytelling media (computer games, reality gaming, roleplaying games, larps etc) there is this things about choices and the need to keep them meaningful and interesting.

    In all storytelling media where you can make a choice, it is really important that both (all) the alternatives is interesting and the development following both choices are interesting.
    It is also important that the player making the choice can anticipate that both the story lines will be interesting and meaningful.
    If you are aware that both storylines is going to be fun in meaningful; the choice itself (just not the result of the choice) feels fun and interesting.

    Well made choice situations and storylines like this is what make us replay games like Fallout, Dragon Age and KotOR over and over again exploring the choices and storylines. Or why during reality gaming or larps people is drawn into emotionally intense scenes or debates on what action to take.

    A choice between right or a wrong answer (either you answer the genies riddle correctly or you don't) can be interesting from a tactical point of view but isn't emotionally involving, unless it got two interesting fallout possibilities.
    A random choice where a character can turn left or right and there no possibility to even anticipate results, lack weight.
    A choice between a boring alternative and an interesting alternative is just plain uninteresting.
    It got to be a choice between two interesting alternatives.

    In writing fiction for books we have the luxery that we don't have to provide all the forks the story might stuble into. Our character just choses one path, and there no replaying the book.

    But I wounder if the books that hint that the choice the character don't take would have been just as interesting as the path the character do take would have been interesting can capture the readers imagination even more then the books that just provide an alternative that seems boring compaired to the path the characters take.

    For example:
    No ones imagination is triggered by the pill choice Nemo makes in "The Matrix". No one ever wounder "I wounder how the story would have played out if Nemo continued his boring life at the office?" Because that is an boring choice. There is no intersting "What if?" game to be played in the readers imagination.

    The Dark Knight on the other hand offer an interesting choice situation. Save his love, or save the man that might become the savior of Gothan city. (Lets for a second ignore the trick Joker played with this choice.) Here we have a compelling "What if?" game no matter what Batman choices. Either we get to see Batman acting for the good of the city giving up the love of his life, or he can act selfishly and possibly drive the city into deeper chaos.

    My theory is that when the character makes a significant choice in the story, the choice will have a lot more of dramatical impact if both the possible outcomes seems interesting, no matter what the character choses.

    ...

    Well. Rant over.

    Any toughs?
     
  2. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    I was about to respond by saying that I can't stand things like that in books, because I want to go back and explore what would have happened, and you can't do that in a book, so I end up wondering about it and imaging all kinds of other scenarios.

    Then I realized that, as long as it doesn't distract the reader, this is exactly the reaction you're talking about -- it stimulates the reader's imagination.

    After all, we already frustrate our readers in a manner of speaking when we end chapters with cliffhangers (especially when the next scene jumps to a different storyline), and when we foreshadow things and tempt ans tease them to make their imaginations run wild.

    This is a very good point, and if games have been able to do this so readily, why can't we? I'm sure I'll be thinking about this next time my characters have that kind of decision to make.
     
  3. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks. :)

    Providing the readers with an interesting choice has it drawbacks as well. Some readers will be of the opinion that the characters/the writer made the wrong choice.

    Just look at the Twilight fans "Edward or Jacob" hysteria. Yet, providing that choices has gotten the readers really emotionally invested.
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I really enjoy the choose your own adventure books which is a similar idea I guess.

    My books often have a choice made but isn't completely made until the end. My characters come back to it and bounce it around - the readers knows what choice has been made but the downsides are explored and the person who made it has opportunities to go back on it ... Also my third book is about the butterfly wing effect how one insignificant person (mild mannered accountant from Southampton) can change the universe.
     
  5. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    In my work (which admittedly isn't fantasy and isn't particularly plot-driven), I tend to leave these choices before the character (and the reader). Most of my stories tend to deal with characters in a kind of stasis, on the verge of some kind of transition or choice that will influence how their lives play out, but for me, the moments before the choice are where the real drama is, the moments leading up to the big climax. I really have no interest in the climax itself (narrative be damned), only in the build-up to that point.
     
  6. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I just read Elizabeth Moons "The speed of dark" ethical/philosophical SF which plot is a buildup to a choice: Should the autistic main character should risk taking the cure for autism or not? Plain and simple setup but loaded with questions of human value, the pressure to adapt, identity etc.

    And I think just this sort of "build up to a choice fiction" is more sensitive for both possible choices being interesting and have interesting fallout (no matter if we get to see that fallout or not).

    So because of it being essential in this kind of fiction we rarely see the choices between interesting and uninteresting outcomes.
     
  7. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    This is part of the appeal in certain fanfiction setups. The source material went one way, the fanfic writer decides to change a scene and takes off on that tangent.
     

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