So here I am, with the automagical Clockwork Book machine posting its pages while I’ve got my back turned – through June, anyway: I’d be in trouble if I didn’t get back to it on schedule – and at last I’m back at work on Part Two of The Toaster With TWO BRAINS. It’s a nice feeling, even though I still obsess about promotional tasks for The Lair of the Clockwork Book.
I was paying pretty close attention to Part One as it shaped up (well, naturally!) and I’ve continued to think about it since. There are such differences between what can work well in the web version and what can work well in print… more so than you might expect. That means that some things that made perfect sense to me about the script for Part One didn’t turn out to be as perfectly sensible as I’d like.
It’s not the story itself. It’s more about its fundamental structure. In a lot of ways Part One emulates a graphical adventure game. I think that shows up most clearly in the conversation trees that eat up a lot of pages. They seemed perfectly okay because they were essentially free pages in the web version; but the pages are the opposite of free in the print version, so adding a lot of nearly identical story nodes was a bad idea. The reader gets to page through a conversation in any order at all – but so what? Very little is really added for the reader, and the additional pages cut down on how many unique things can take place in the story because of the cost of the printed pages.
I made a virtue of that by often doing alternate illustrations for similar story nodes. But that still didn’t make it a good idea.
So this time I’m approaching things a little differently. One thing I really enjoy about Epicsplosion is that its story branches take off in completely different directions. There aren’t all that many options on most pages, but when you do select one, the two story branches are very, very different. I’m not doing the same thing, really: my story’s a multi-part one, and my branches each have to leave you in a very similar place at the end of the volume. So the story can’t transmogrify into something completely different. What I can do, though, is to take a very different route to get to that same eventual spot.
One of the things that I think worked very well in Part One was the way you can follow more than one character in the story. I’m doing even more with that in Part Two (in fact that’s pretty fundamental, as are some tricks that make you wonder what happened in the other branch, once they come back together).
So in Part Two I’m concentrating on the several point of view characters. An individual page may not have as many options, but I’m trying to do more with the options you get. More of these options "expire" if you haven’t used them (you don’t often get the same choice on two consecutive pages). So the result should be a story whose branches are thinner, but longer: a tree rather than a bush.
I think it’s going to make for a better experience. Maybe even for me – I just realized that there are fewer flow charts in my future :).
So far, let me see… the first draft is about 25% along. My next stop is a chess tournament that’s celebrated pretty much like a basketball game, or maybe like a NASCAR event. I’ve got three different characters headed there and only one of them knows what’s really going on. Good times!