Average stretch in between interactions?

Mark Marino and Rob Wittig 3 years ago in Storytelling Pointers • updated by Emily Benet 3 years ago 13

Hey, all, what's the typical number (or average) of messages you go between each player interaction/choice?

How do you mean exactly?

On average, how many lines of dialogue/message bubbles do you put between times the player will give some input (such as making a choice). I'm thinking about the user expectations across the whole system. If they get used to choosing frequently, stories that go longer without giving a choice or next might be at a disadvantage. I know we're pioneering this form as we go, but I wanted to see what other folks were doing.

I guess I've been going around 10-15 lines average, although if there's more media or time gaps, that can go up towards 30 lines, and I've got some more quick-fire choices that are 4 lines.

Yeah, that's pretty much my average too: it sometimes looks a bit longer if dialogue snippets are cut up on different lines.

Yeah, I'm realizing pacing is going to be key.

Great question, Mark! I'm going very interactive-- rarely more than 6 messages before a moment of user engagement, to keep it feeling like a real "chat" with the character-- although the branches are very small, really just for banter rather than having the player/reader control narrative outcomes. My main thinking is that if there are too many character messages in a row, the player might lose the thread of the story or conversation if they look away from their phone and too much content comes in while they're distracted... I'm hoping that by having such frequent check-ins the story won't get "ahead" of the reader. Of course, it might also be my impulse to write this way because I'm a playwright, so my default style is writing two-character dialogue, lol ;) It'll be interesting to see how different tactics feel when published!

Right now I'm writing a "cooking show" so I go awhile without user input. Although I do try to break it up every 10 to 15 entries so that it does feel like there is more user participation. The first story I wrote was a crime story, so I tried not to go more than 4 or 5 entries without user input.

I think it really depends on how you are telling your story.

I come from a tragic history of Japanese visual novels, so I've got a lot of lines of dialogue between user inputs. I hope it's not too few, considering what everyone else is doing! :O

Hmm, a cursory glance suggests I have about three "bubbles" between player choices (although often I don't actually give the player a choice, or it's just a choice of tone...mainly more or less sarcastic :) ), with one or two being "long" bubbles of maybe 4 sentences. There's a lot of banter happening, since it's basically all SMSes between friends. I'm not at all sure if this is good or bad. Maybe we should wait and see which styles are more popular, or maybe different channels will just have to have a different rhythm to them.

I've got the player as one particular character so they can choose most of her lines, but the lines don't influence in the outcomes, it's more tone. Now I'm wondering if player should be more than one character.... oh this forum is dangerous. I don't have much time to change my mind! Eek.

Under review

Just as a singular data point:

In my (& Karrie Hyatt's) police procedural story "Probable Cause," I initially had the thesis that I didn't want my reader to wait around too long in-between major story beats, so I picked a rather arbitrary time delay of 2-hours for an "overnight" delay. My "in-story" delays were also artificially short (just seconds). I thought, "who wants to wait around for a whole 5 minutes" while I "drive" from the warehouse to the nightclub. Not terribly logical, but expedient.

So I went through and did another editing pass for timing this weekend. (Isn't it always interesting what you see after you've left your story simmering away on it's own for a bit?!)

Anyhow, I ended up being quite a bit more "aggressive" and putting in much more "realistic" delays for "travel" time and during suspect interviews. I ended up using the knowledge that anything over 20-seconds would display the app's Countdown Timer, so I was OK with having much longer dramatic pauses (as the reader would plainly see the wait time.)

When "driving" from place to place, I now used 30-50 minutes. (Who can get anywhere in LA in just 30-45 minutes these days. Unless you're visiting next door.)

I extended my "overnight" wait times from 2-hours to 10-14 hours.

I also am trying out a tempo thing, where if I have a longish delay (say, after driving to a new location) I give the reader a bunch of dialogue to read at a fairly quick pace. I might slow it down a tad here and there, but I avoid putting in one long delay right after another one. Seems only fair, right?

Also, I'm thinking that a long delay is a perfect time for a mini cliff-hanger. Brutal, yet effective.

Cheezburger cat black and white art & design kitten

What do you think?

Brutal is right! And I like it. If we're going to use timing at all, it's better to commit to the realism and truly torture people.

Maybe. A bit. (I'm losing my nerve so quickly! What a wimp!)

Although 10-15 hours... yikes. I think I'll go 8-10 hours or so overnight, as a way of clearly saying to the reader, "Go to bed. See you tomorrow."

And I definitely put delays in with any youtube video links. It's like saying: yes, you really DO have to watch this (even when it's Taylor Swift... that's brutal, right?)

Really interested to read this! I think brutal sounds good too... although I'm such an impatient reader not sure how I'd cope! My first episode is over one day only so I can't leave real time breaks but do need to stretch over a few days soooo... I'll wait to hear feedback :)