Say Yes to Storynexus

Let me begin by saying that I am very much pro- Storynexus. I’ve built two worlds with this interactive fiction system, both of them parts of larger universes. I would recommend cobbling something together to any writer. Please find my reasoning below.

All the worlds should do this.

Seriously. The tool is easy to use, allows for as much complexity as you want, and lets people interact with little stories or epic arcs in-world in a casual gaming fashion. Somebody get on the horn with Norton Juster and tell him to spend a few weeks rocking some interactive Phantom Tollbooth action.

Using The Phantom Tollbooth as an example, the writer can let the reader grind around in Dictionopolis running missions for King Azaz or playing spy for Digitopolis and planning a coup. That damned Awful Dynne shows up at random intervals unless you find the secret to beating him, and Alec Bings needs your help to keep his head from driving into the ground.

Let me emphasize that grinding thing. You can let the players set the pace of the story. Somebody wants to kick it with Chroma the Great, trying out all of the results of the related cards? No problem. They can move on with the big plot whenever they want.

Put some on meat them bones.

In writing The Annwn Simulation 1985,  I got to play with some of the stuff which would have been useless in the novel. Magic punk bards on tour? What would have been indulgent padding in the prose piece made for one of the most fun game stories.

I built this world when I was stuck on my latest novel. The characters had started getting into the real meat of the story, and I just couldn’t seem to push through it. I was bogged down in world-building problems (aka plotholes). How did the fairies get to our world, exactly? And why can’t they go back? And is this simulation, like, housed somewhere or what?

It just so happened that Failbetter opened the Storynexus tool to the general populace around the same time. I took some time off from straight prose writing and spent the next month or so writing quests and cards. This forced me to operate in the world without having to worry about whether or not the MC’s beliefs and failings were coming through.

Give ’em what they want.

Letting the player run around making the choices — choices with actual consequences — as they try to solve the game’s overarching mystery is a very different challenge from novel-writing, but requires a very similar problem-solving ability. Sure, my MC chose her path. But what would her life have been like if she chose another one? What choices can I provide which will let the player feel like an actual participant in their fate? And you get to explore the paths the MC shunned, which is just rad.

A bit at a time.

You can out as much text on the cards as you want, but for the most part it’s better to keep things short. This means I could crank out a card during a break at work without having to worry about getting back into the scene or chapter or section or whatever. When you spend a year writing a novel, being able to get something actually accomplished and usable in less than half an hour is a really good feeling.

Build as you go.

So, you build up a few locations, some fun little quests, and a large story. You want to add more later, well you can go right ahead. The bones are there, so adding episodic content is just a matter of writing a few new cards.


My experience with the community has been very positive, and the players who have reached out to me have all been cool. My vote — get building.

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