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Adding support for Interactive Stories

Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

I was asked to support interactive stories for as long as I had storiesonline. I never took it seriously for many technical reasons.

However, after an author posted 5 'standalone' stories on the site and they were obviously different parts of one interactive story, I decided to add the support.

As of today, we have partial support for interactive stories.

So far we have one story to check out:

https://storiesonline.net/s/19418/my-wifes-first-teaching

There is another story that has chapter jumps embedded in the text itself that I created manually years ago, but for the life of me I can't remember it, so if you've seen it, let me know.

Authors can now choose 'interactive' in the submission wizard when submitting a new story. You can only upload the starting point chapter when submitting such a story and then you can add additional parts/chapters once the previous part has been processed and posted on the site. The system is not designed for small one paragraph branches, so such stories won't be accepted.

Each part can have unlimited number of branches. Each branch can have a link with a custom title and description. Authors can edit the title and the description of each part directly through the Manage Stories facilities.

Left to do: Zip archives and ebooks. Zip archives are doable (not soon though), but I'm not sure how to go about cross linking different chapters in EPUB or Kindle files to create the story flow tree. For now, in Zip archives and ebooks and text files, all chapters are listed in a linear fashion in the order they are submitted.

Replies:   Switch Blayde  REP
Switch Blayde

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

Just so I understand…

Is this a story where, at the end of a chapter, the reader can choose to take the story different ways?

Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

@Switch Blayde

They can choose which of the options that you give him/her to read. They can't add to it.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

They can choose which of the options that you give him/her to read.


That's what I meant. So at the end of Chapter 1, there's a link to two chapters the author wrote and posted. Let's say chapters 2A and 2B. "2A" might be choosing a happy ending while "2B" might be a not happy ending. The reader chooses one of them to click on.

Is there a chapter naming convention to be used, like "2A" and "2B"? Or is it Chapter 2 and Chapter 3, but only one is actually read (unless the reader reads the story twice).

And what happens if you post Chapter 1 before writing the two alternative chapters? Do you post it without the links and then repost Chapter 1 with the links when you post those two chapters?

Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

@Switch Blayde

Is there a chapter naming convention to be used, like "2A" and "2B"? Or is it Chapter 2 and Chapter 3, but only one is actually read (unless the reader reads the story twice).


Chapter naming is up to the author. When you submit a chapter for an interactive story, you'll have to pick the chapter it's linked from and the title for the link and an optional description.

And what happens if you post Chapter 1 before writing the two alternative chapters? Do you post it without the links and then repost Chapter 1 with the links when you post those two chapters?


The links are handled by the system like in other serials. When you post a chapter its link appears.

Replies:   Lapi  Switch Blayde
Lapi

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

Gratz Laz. It seems a bit of work for you but I think it is a useful add. I know I have 2 stories I would have considered using this feature.

You really work hard on this site.

Wayne

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Lapi

You really work hard on this site.

Maybe its because the stories are sexy. Or maybe that is a different kind of hard.

Switch Blayde

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

Kind of a strange question, but what if you have two alternative chapters with different story codes? Or what if the two alternative story directions have different levels of sex?

Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

@Switch Blayde

The story coding should reflect the whole story.

However, you can also include more info in the description field for each link. You're allowed 48 characters for the link anchor text and 240 characters for description.

Darian Wolfe

Thank you,

This sounds like a lot of fun. I don't know if I'll ever use it. I'd drive myself battier than I already am. Lol. But a lot of authors will love it.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Darian Wolfe

But a lot of authors will love it.


And therein lies the rub. I know of a few authors who have experimented with it in the past, but it never caught on with readers :(

AJ

Replies:   John Demille
John Demille

@awnlee jawking

But a lot of authors will love it.


And therein lies the rub. I know of a few authors who have experimented with it in the past, but it never caught on with readers :(


Maybe when an author has the plot going every way possible, they don't develop any single path/track as well as they would had it been one direction. So interactive stories feel way flimsier than meaty single track serials.

REP

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

Authors can now choose 'interactive' in the submission wizard when submitting a new story.


Personally, I'm not interested in reading interactive stories and do not want to start reading one if the story is not described or coded as interactive.

Is 'interactive' a category that could be excluded on the Category Exclusion page. If so could you add that selection to the page. Thanks.

Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

@REP

Is 'interactive' a category that could be excluded on the Category Exclusion page. If so could you add that selection to the page. Thanks.


Until there is more than 1% of stories that need exclusion, it's not an issue that needs addressing. So far it's 1 out of 43425 stories on the site. Just scroll past it.

Uther_Pendragon

I may want to use this for my currently-beginning universe. Just to be clear:
Can I put: "To see this from Martha's viewpoint"?
Can I edit aan already posted story to add such a link.

Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

@Uther_Pendragon

I may want to use this for my currently-beginning universe. Just to be clear:
Can I put: "To see this from Martha's viewpoint"?
Can I edit aan already posted story to add such a link.


I can switch a story to interactive, but if it has multiple parts on the site, it's a little involved.

Is it simply one option to view one chapter from another character's point of view?

Replies:   Uther_Pendragon
joyR

So if I understand correctly.

Chapter One is posted as normal, except that 'Interactive' is selected.

When Chapter 2a is posted, a short description is allowed, (240 characters) the link from Chapter One is automatically created as usual and the description included.

Then Chapter 2b is posted, again with a short description, the difference is that a link is again created from Chapter One complete with description.

So at the end of Chapter One the reader can chose to follow on to Chapter 2a or 2b and the two short descriptions aid in their choice.

Also whilst I used "Chapter One" and "Chapter 2a" etc in fact the system allows a chapter to be named as the author chooses, with a limit of 48 characters per title.

So, imagining a simple flow chart, the story could split once, several times or even repeatedly, 1 - 2a - 3b - 4a

Presumably it could be used to allow the reader to skip past scenes that they don't want to read, M/M for instance..?

Personally I look forward to a story where the reader can follow a thread driven by the choices the MC makes and thus read of the consequences of that choice and only the further choices available due to those consequences.

Or a simple tale of truth or dare...

Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

@joyR

Presumably it could be used to allow the reader to skip past scenes that they don't want to read, M/M for instance..?


That would require the breaking of text to small chunks, perhaps too small.

Although, it would allow the author to write the story two different characters. One track where the main character is straight and an alternative track where the main character is gay.

Replies:   joyR  Not_a_ID
Keet
Updated:

@joyR

Presumably it could be used to allow the reader to skip past scenes that they don't want to read, M/M for instance..?

Now THAT is a very good way for stories with M/M to get more readers if it allows to select the chapters without the M/M parts.

ETA Lazeez described it better: the choice between a straight track and a gay track.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
joyR
Updated:

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)


That would require the breaking of text to small chunks, perhaps too small.


I had in mind skipping a complete chapter in which certain actions played out, not just a paragraph or two.

Also, whilst the straight/gay option would work, it could as easily work for straight/bi which is what I had in mind. Mostly because it so often appears in the forums as a major squick to many readers who would otherwise enjoy the authors work.

ETA

I've never noticed any restriction on how short a single chapter in a multi part story can be.

Perhaps it is worth setting a minimum chapter size now, so authors know what the limits are instead of finding out after submitting them..??

Switch Blayde

@Keet

Now THAT is a very good way for stories with M/M to get more readers if it allows to select the chapters without the M/M parts.


That goes back to my question about story codes. Lazeez said all story codes should be included. But the codes could be different depending on which path is taken. How would the reader know which codes apply to their chosen path? If people are averse to MM, when they see the MM code they'll avoid the story.

Replies:   joyR  Keet
joyR

@Switch Blayde

That goes back to my question about story codes. Lazeez said all story codes should be included. But the codes could be different depending on which path is taken. How would the reader know which codes apply to their chosen path? If people are averse to MM, when they see the MM code they'll avoid the story.


There is a precedent, the rache code...

Why not simply not include the M/M code in the story but use it within the appropriate chapter description.?

Doing so both avoids the instant rejection of the reader upon seeing the code, but gives fair warning before the reader begins to read the relevant chapter.

Replies:   AmigaClone
AmigaClone

@joyR

A note in the story description along the lines of

"While the MM relationship is part of the story the reader will have the opportunity to skip the explicit MM sex scenes."

Replies:   joyR
joyR

@AmigaClone

Would work, but for those who skip the story description, each chapter allows a description, so place it there instead/as well ??

Authors have a number of options open to them.

AmigaClone

@joyR

Actually I suspect that authors could place a note on the description of each branch AND on the beginning of the chapter where the scene in question is located and there still would be some that would complain.

Ernest Bywater

@joyR

each chapter allows a description, so place it there instead/as well ??


Whenever I come across a story that doesn't include all of the codes at the start or has a mention in the description and something comes up later that I don't like the author is automatically added to be rectum author list and earns and instant 1 for not being honest at the start. So consider well before skipping codes and the description section.

Replies:   joyR  awnlee jawking  Keet
joyR
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


So consider well before skipping codes and the description section.


A fair point, especially when combined with

not being honest at the start.


Firstly I doubt I have the skill necessary to create an interactive story worth posting. That said it should be clear that we are discussing options, not ways to deceive readers.

There are a number of excellent stories that state quite clearly at the beginning that not all codes have been included for whatever reason, though usually due to plot spoilers of some kind. That is a clear warning in itself and usually the warning appears again at the beginning of the chapter that includes whatever isn't coded. Again, honest and upfront.

By definition, an interactive story gives the reader choices. Depending on how byzantine the authors mind is, that could easily require a plethora of codes, something that has been discussed before, the result was clearly in favour of keeping the number of codes down to a reasonable number, rather than the scatter-gun approach of using every single one that might possibly apply.

It seems that for a successful interactive story there has to be a certain level of trust between author and reader.

The author trusts that the reader actually reads the descriptions etc.

The reader trusts the author to include appropriate warnings, codes etc so they can choose the 'branch' that suits them.

There will always be a few who complain, it's just human nature.

A 240 character limit should be sufficient to allow both a description and any additional codes that apply to that specific chapter.

awnlee jawking

@Ernest Bywater

Whenever I come across a story that doesn't include all of the codes at the start or has a mention in the description and something comes up later that I don't like the author is automatically added to be rectum author list and earns and instant 1 for not being honest at the start.


Me!

I would advise you not to touch 'Shoe Girl' with a barge pole. But I doubt you'd look at it anyway since it's incomplete.

AJ

awnlee jawking

@joyR

byzantine


I spell it with a small 'b' too when it means labyrinthine, despite the authorities saying it should always start with a capital. Truly a meeting of minds ;)

AJ

Switch Blayde

@joyR

stories that state quite clearly at the beginning that not all codes have been included for whatever reason, though usually due to plot spoilers


I did that and got burned. I even used the "caution" code as an extra precaution. That story is no longer on SOL.

Keet

@Switch Blayde

That goes back to my question about story codes. Lazeez said all story codes should be included. But the codes could be different depending on which path is taken. How would the reader know which codes apply to their chosen path? If people are averse to MM, when they see the MM code they'll avoid the story.

I agree that's a problem. It would require two sets of codes, one for each story line. That would look really confusing. And that is if there are really two story lines, not just a few chapters too choose from.
I have no idea how to solve that.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Keet

@Ernest Bywater

Whenever I come across a story that doesn't include all of the codes at the start or has a mention in the description and something comes up later that I don't like the author is automatically added to be rectum author list and earns and instant 1 for not being honest at the start. So consider well before skipping codes and the description section.

You are right that all necessary codes should be listed. For the given situation with interactive stories this presents a problem.
Take the example of two story lines, one straight, and one gay M/M.
If you list the M/M code a lot of readers will miss the story because their filter removes stories with the M/M tag while they could read a perfectly straight story.
If you don't list the M/M code they end on the sh*t list.
For now I would say place a line in the description stating: "M/M in alternative story line". Not perfect, but it's workable.

Ernest Bywater

@Keet

For now I would say place a line in the description stating: "M/M in alternative story line". Not perfect, but it's workable.


Agreed, as that is right where anyone would see it at the start. Missing the info or putting it at the chapter start would be misleading.

Ernest Bywater

@Keet

Take the example of two story lines, one straight, and one gay M/M.


Mind you, if what you have is basically two stories of one with heterosexual activity and one with only homosexual activity why not just write them as 2 stories with similar or the same names and different codes?

Replies:   Keet
Switch Blayde

@Keet

I have no idea how to solve that.


Either do I. I just brought it up as a problem.

Not_a_ID

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

Although, it would allow the author to write the story two different characters. One track where the main character is straight and an alternative track where the main character is gay.


Or a highly descriptive and/or "triggered" version as well as a less descriptive and/or less "trigger happy" version.

Of course, in the context of what they're talking about, that isn't really an "interactive story" as it is more of a parallel story option. Particularly when talking about a 2nd/3rd PoV.

Of course, I've seen interactive go a number of different ways. Mostly I consider "interactive" to be a bit more "Choose your own adventure" in nature, but then that's part of the problem with the effort. Everybody attempts to do it a slightly different way.

The more annoying ones, IMO turn out kind of like a cheap RPG where your "choices" don't really change anything and you basically get the same story regardless of what is chosen, the only thing that might change are minor details that don't mean anything in the bigger picture. And that's most of the ones I've seen. The ones that try to diverge end up being pretty short. (As they become hard to manage)

Typically the stories never truly branch apart from each other. As they keep linking back together again. Which is understandable from an Author standpoint, as it simplifies trying to manage and extend the story as there is only "one true story" being told.

Otherwise, after so many choices "that matter" you would in fact be managing several different and divergent story lines concurrently that are involving essentially the same characters. Trying to keep that straight would get painful quick.

Keet

@Ernest Bywater

Mind you, if what you have is basically two stories of one with heterosexual activity and one with only homosexual activity why not just write them as 2 stories with similar or the same names and different codes?

If every chapter has a gay alternative I would agree that you could just as well create 2 separate stories. The advantage for the interactive way comes up when it's just a few chapters with the M/M content. Maybe not exactly two story lines but close enough.

Replies:   joyR
joyR
Updated:

@Keet

How about getting away from the M/M to explore other situations..??

For example, a 'Truth of Dare' story.

Chapter 1 Sets the scene, etc at the end, our MC has a choice, T or D ??

Each choice would lead the M/C down a different path, so, how to code ALL of the possible permutations given it's a novel length story?

Either you include ALL the relevant codes, which is likely to trigger the filters for a great many readers, and annoy those who dislike laundry list codes.

OR

You code as you go, effectively code each chapter for it's content.

Since Lazeez has added the description option for each chapter, could not a code box also be added..??

That would at least make codes stand out and keep the honesty rating up.

Thoughts anyone?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@joyR

When I make a decision to read a story it's based on the information available as to the codes and the description. If the description indicates that not all codes are applied then I skip the story - no ifs, no buts, no read it at all. If I start to read the story and later find a chapter note about new codes not provided at the start I drop the story, rate based on them not being totally honest at the start, and never read that author again. It's the author's choice how they do this, but they need to know there are many readers who will have the same reactions to such late notices as I do.

Replies:   Not_a_ID
Not_a_ID
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


When I make a decision to read a story it's based on the information available as to the codes and the description.


Interactive stories are perhaps a slightly different animal in some respects. If certain codes only apply to certain "branches" and those branches are clearly marked and avoidable, then you will only experience those codes if you deliberately choose to do so.

It isn't "a surprise," it isn't mandatory or even relevant material for "your version" of the story. So long as you stay clear of the story options that do have the content you don't want.

Now if they have truly diverging story lines and they introduce particular branches that will only have (insert code here) content going forward, even if the code doesn't apply to the next X number of segments, then yes, the code should be invoked rather than leading you to a "Dead end" with "going through a trigger" as the only way to proceed.

But I'm inclined to think a simple "two track" story that gives you an initial option for a version with MM content and one without MM Content doesn't necessarily require it to be MM Coded in the description content. So long as the relevant branches are properly coded.

Of course, the current standing SoL solution for that is the two versions get posted as two different stories. In which case full coding in the description does apply.

Switch Blayde

I wonder if the majority of people will read both alternatives to see how the story differs.

Replies:   joyR  Not_a_ID
joyR

@Switch Blayde

I wonder if the majority of people will read both alternatives to see how the story differs.


I wonder if anyone will bother to write one that does not stay well within clearly defined 'popular' limits... Given the responses to coding etc

Not_a_ID

@Switch Blayde

I wonder if the majority of people will read both alternatives to see how the story differs.


If they're like I've been with some of them, they'll stick to the version(s) which most appeal to them and not bother much with the others. Of course, I'm one of the people who has also gone back to explore many of the alternate paths as well just to see what was there.

That said, if you have a serious squick for a certain code, and you decide to go down a branch which had warnings about that squick being present, you don't have much of a leg to stand on when it comes to complaining about the squick being there.

Now if you can demonstrate reasons why you think the version with your squick was the better version, that may be a slightly different reason to complain. But talk about going out of your way to complain.

"I thought the heterosexual version should get a 9.0, but because I also read through the gay-sex version, which is a major squick for me BTW, and found it to be the better version, I'm giving the whole thing 1.0" would be pretty freaking bizarre as far as commentary goes.

Uther_Pendragon

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

I think, on reconsideration, that you're solving another problem than the one I have.

What I want is branching, but not to alternative actions. John and Mary interact, and they each have a perspective on what happened; George and Martha are supporting characters in John-&-Mary's story, but they have a story of their own. It gets even more complicated.

Replies:   Not_a_ID
Not_a_ID

@Uther_Pendragon

What I want is branching, but not to alternative actions. John and Mary interact, and they each have a perspective on what happened; George and Martha are supporting characters in John-&-Mary's story, but they have a story of their own. It gets even more complicated.


You want alternate POV, not so much branching. Although the alternate POV can develop "branches" which have little or nothing to do with the main story line in any kind of direct way.

Generally speaking, for an interactive story, "a branch" means the story just diverged and it will impact what follows. But that gets back to a common practice in interactive stories where "all roads lead to Rome" so while they diverge, just like you might have 3 ways to get to a particular store, the various paths eventually converge on each other once again... and no consequences result.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Not_a_ID

the various paths eventually converge on each other once again... and no consequences result.


I was thinking more in terms of different endings to a story.

Do you want a happy ending or a sad ending? The MC dying at the end can be a powerful ending, but some people only like happy endings.

Or the MC may choose Girl 1 over Girl 2, but the reader might want to know what would have happened if he had chosen Girl 2.

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