Dyriel Postmortem

Two weeks ago I posted the Dyriel story (parts one, two, three, and four). Dyriel was an experiment. I thought it would be fun to do a story where you, the readers, got to decide what happened next. Interesting for you, challenging for me, a good time all around.

The result, I think, was a little weak.

A couple reasons for this. The biggest reason is that it’s very hard to structure a story so it has meaningful decision points every 500 words or so. That kind of structure tends toward an over-emphasis on plot, on the mechanics of moving the story forward, with less focus on the characters themselves.

Another reason. There seem to be two main writing styles: the free-flow, see-where-the-story-takes-you style, and the plan-it-all-out-beforehand style. (You’ll sometimes hear these two kinds of writers called “pantsers” and “plotters,” but I’ve made my feelings clear about those names.) The point is that the choose-your-own-adventure format wrecks both these styles. It’s tough to follow the natural flow of the story when you’re working under external constraints, and it’s tough to plan out a story in advance when you don’t know what your hero will do.

I’ve said before that writing under constraints can actually make the story better, and I still believe that. But certain kinds of constraints are more helpful than others, and it may be that write-by-democracy is among the less helpful ones. That, or I just didn’t do it effectively. But either way, I don’t feel compelled to try it again anytime soon.

There were some positives. For one thing, I avoided the two main things I personally hate about choose-your-own-adventure stories. The first thing I hate is that certain choices end up being “wrong” for ridiculous reasons you could never have predicted. With Dyriel, I decided from the beginning that there would be no wrong paths, just different ways to get to the ending. The second thing I hate is that, to get the full experience of the book, you have to keep flipping back and trying all the different paths to see what you missed. Using online polls to choose the path meant that no other paths existed. Less annoying for the OCD types among you, and less work for me.

So that’s me. What were your thoughts on the Dyriel experiment?

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2 responses to “Dyriel Postmortem

  1. “Captain, we’re receiving two hundred and eighty-five thousand hails”

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