5 Tips on Writing: With Geoffrey Golden

Hi, I’m Geoffrey Golden! I’m a narrative designer, game creator, and interactive fiction writer based in Los Angeles, California.

Past clients include Ubisoft, Disney, Gearbox, and indie studios around the world. My games have been featured at events like IndieCade, Narrascope, WordHack NYC, and the Hand Eye Society’s Super FESTival.

This month, I started Equip Story,, a weekly newsletter about how to make game development more fun and fulfilling.

I’m learning to focus my creative energy on independent projects that will make me happy to develop, as opposed to products I’m anxious to sell. It’s a journey! Capitalism is a hard drug to kick.

How to Hook Your Players Best

Begin your story in the middle, where there’s exciting action or a tough decision to be made.

For example, in an alien invasion story, instead of beginning at the start of the invasion, where there’s a lot of exposition, try opening in the middle after the aliens have already invaded.

Jump right into the big choices, like how to survive! You can always flashback later to fill the player in on crucial lore

Develop Your Plot First

Write a full outline of your story’s beginning, middle, and especially the end before drafting. You’ll likely deviate from the outline some, but having a sense of where you’re going will help prevent a block that can occur when you get deep in the draft and you can’t decide where the story goes next.

Build Worlds with a Glossary

Think about the words and terms unique to your world. Write a glossary. Language tells us a lot about the kind of people who inhabit a place and their values. For example, consider the harsh sounds of Klingon from Star Trek or the deceptive doublespeak in 1984.

Creating Characters with Anecdotes

When I’m developing a character bio, I think of adjectives that describe the character’s personality, then I write anecdotes from the character’s past to support those traits. I prefer character bios that tell me what the character is like as a person and why, as opposed to, say, a list of their past achievements.

The importance of Meaningful Choices

Meaningful choices don’t need to branch heavily, and in fact, sometimes great choices create only a minor branch.

The key to a great choice, in my opinion, is how well it lets the player express themselves and see their values and ideas reflected back to them.

“Do you want to turn left or right?” isn’t as interesting a choice to me as, “Do you want to turn left to visit your dying grandmother and hear her tell stories from her life or turn right to leave the creepy nursing home and vape with your friends?”

Games Geoffrey has Worked on

Some of my favorite past games I’ve written and designed on include the upcoming Borderlands EchoVision, Fallen Legion Revenants, Murder in the Alps, Sandship, and the educational toy Cue the Cleverbot. 

Last year, I wrote a web-based visual novel called Fix Your Mother’s Printer, which was featured in Edge Magazine. It’s a comedic slice-of-life story where the player helps their elder mom with an “emergency” printer problem, but it’s really a simulator where your choices help decide what kind of relationship you want to have with your mother.

Geoffreys Strengths in Narrative Design

I have an active imagination, a good ear for dialogue, and a love for branching plots. But probably my most important skill is actively listening to my fellow game devs on the team and collaborating with them to deliver a story we can all be proud of, which ties together all our individual contributions.

Geoffrey's Favorite Story

OmegaMart is an immersive interactive art experience in Las Vegas with a multi-layered, yet character based story that’s strange, satirical, and unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

You are an employee of a fictional supermarket with a sci-fi secret that’s warping all their products… and hastening the end of the world as we know it. I highly recommend going and getting the “Boop” pass to experience the story.

If Geoffrey Could Wish for an Interactive Audio Story...

I’m a lifelong Mega Man fan. In Japan, the main characters are named after musical terms (Rockman and Roll, Blues), but I’ve never seen that deeply explored in the games. I think an interactive musical audio game where the player helps Mega Man fight Dr. Wily’s evil new Master Robots based on music genres would be pretty rad! Punk Man, Techno Man, Noise Man… Ska Man! Yup, I want to fight Ska Man and get his skanking abilities right now.

Would you like more tips on narrative design?

About the Author
Chris Mahnke
Chris Mahnke

Christian Mahnke is the author of the most successful interactive audiobooks “Iron Falcon” and “The Magic Forrest”. He has also written branded interactive fiction stories for companies such as Disney and Audible. Currently he is stuck in the tutorial of The Witcher 2.

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