5 Tips on Writing: With Interactive Fiction Writer Salvador Bas-Folch

Hello! My name is Salvador. I’m an interactive fiction writer and a game writer from Spain. I graduated in English Literature and Lingustics in Barcelona, while my passions have always been creative writing and video games.

In 2019, while I was in London, I had the opportunity to break into the industry as a game writer full-time. At the beginning, I had no idea that writing games was the thing for me.

But considering the amount of thought I always gave to this industry, it now fits me like a glove. So, I’ve kept chasing games narrative.

Salvador's best tip for hooking players

For me, the secret is that player and player character are not the same entity.  Obviously, one lives in a really complex world and the other one lives in a box.

You have to find out the connection between the player and their character. Is the character someone with a name, established background? Are they silent? Or are they customizable by the player? And what can you do to get the player close to them?

You want to get to a point where the player character’s mishaps will spill on the player’s emotional state. And often the player will want to do something else than the character.

The sooner you realise this, the better you can plan for it. Once you have established a connection, the player will be more inclined to follow the story to the end. You can use a similar strategy for major NPCs.

interactive fiction writer Salvador

How to Create Amazing Plots as an Interactive Fiction Writer

Structure is unavoidable in games. You have a team to follow-up and everyone wants to work fluently, efficiently; it’s on to you to provide a solid narrative framework.

You have to be able to summarize ideas to minimal mechanics and plot points. When developing plots, I normally start with a draft with beginning, middle and end.

From there, design and writing figure out the details. You have to plan with flexibility in mind. Design, art and other areas will make demands to you, often mid-project. So even if the story is perfect, it will change in unexpected ways, many times during development – you have to be ready.

In this regard, don’t be a perfectionist. Plan ahead, be clear, and be flexible.

World Building in Game Writing

One of the top skills in a world-builder is the ability to depart from ideas, ugly ideas even, and make them shine.

Make weird things make sense. Make weird mechanics make sense thanks to narrative. World-building is the solution to a problem.

Divide the world between what is similar to our world, and what is new. Try to explain what is new in simple ways.

Create dramatic elements and put characters behind them – in general, people like to fight physical enemies, not elusive, unfocused threats.

That doesn’t mean you cannot create deep philosophical stories; simply when you are able, exploit the power of character. And again, then be ready for design to play with everything.

A Great Exercise for Interactive Fiction Writers

If you are an interactive fiction writer, try this exercise: Players judge characters by their visuals, so I invite you to do the same.

Start from a silhouette or an image that makes you interested. You can find inspiration online or from your art team. Then, ask it questions.

Why do you find this character cool? Can you explain their expression, their clothing, their pose? What story does the image tell? Does it make sense?

And further: How could they fit in your game? What is their name? What do they do? Why do they look so dramatic? What kind of family they have? Who are their friends?

Branch out and associate different images. Write your thoughts in a character outline. Then forget the visuals, and see how your choices stand on your own.

The visuals you used don’t have to fit with your final character. Bonus: Make your character round. Ask yourself how will they change after experiencing their own story.

Creating Choices in Interactive Fiction

Think of the scope of your task. For example, in a side quest, it might be unwise to add 6+ branch-out choices.

Also consider the beginning and end state of your piece. Make sure it fits what comes before and what comes after.

Then, to avoid over-branching or straying from your story’s purpose as an interactive fiction writer, mind that paths go to Rome: branches should eventually follow the middle path. Finally, think of what things you cannot do; such as killing off a character that is important later.

With your constraints established, go as far as you can with the consequences of your choices. Players enjoy the thrill of a risky decision.

Games Salvador has been working on

I have written the most in procedural open worlds, particularly characters and dialogue in different scenarios. My most significant project is Nimoyd, by German studio Nudge Nudge Games. You can check Nimoyd on Steam.

I also designed stories and levels for platforming and strategy games. On my own some experiments as an interactive fiction writer and prose writer.

Strengths as an Interactive Fiction Writer

I excel at world-building; I can turn simple ideas into worlds with different degrees of complexity. For example, I can make story sense of raw mechanics.

Then, I can populate worlds with characters that represent what matters in the world-building. Finally, I love writing the characters that accompany the player, bringing a bit of familiarity to otherwise lonely, dramatic adventures.

My favourite genres as an interactive fiction writer are science fiction and fantasy.

Salvador's Favorite Story

Perhaps Va-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action, by Sukeban Games. It’s one of my comfort games.

While typically I don’t incline towards visual novels, I admire that the team managed to set the simple life story of an overworked bartender in a hostile cyberpunk setting.

Characters live ordinary lives, but they are conflicted in the ultra-modern, yet oppressive city. Gameplay is also interesting for any interactive fiction writer: your choices depend on a drink mixing mini-game.

Each drink has a set of traits that appeal to characters, such as alcohol level. Different drinks will create different reactions from the characters, and often unlock mini story paths. Very smart.

Which Game Would Make for a Great Interactive Audio Story?

Space seems to be on trend again, so something space. An adventure on a ship where you experience amazing planets and unique alien species.

A story heavy on world-building, with a good reason for you travelling: be it personal motivation or intergalactic stakes (perhaps both). I am thinking on the lines of Mass Effect.

If You are Looking for your Next Great Interactive Fiction Writer...

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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