Interactive Storytelling in 2020: Quick Beginner's Guide
Learn the basics of interactive stories; what differentiates them, how can you write one, and how they can deliver immersive experiences to your audience.
4 min read
Introduction to Interactive Storytelling
We grow up and live with stories, they help us make sense of things in and around us. We mostly understand stories in a linear sense–one with a fixed structure; with a beginning, middle, and an end. This structure unfolds completely indifferent to the viewer’s expectations. A book runs from cover to cover and doesn’t modify itself as per the readers’ experiences, a film or TV show doesn’t change its ending to please the viewers or give out details to fill the gaps in their knowledge. The way traditional storytelling works is by relaying a fixed narrative to its audience, it gives them something but doesn’t take anything from them to modify itself.
Interactive storytelling, on the other hand, turns over a certain degree of control to the user, by introducing choices that often affect both the storyline and the users’ experience of the story. It engages in true dialogue with its audience and thus becomes a better alternative to represent our complex reality. Accounting the user interactions, such stories follow a branching narrative that offers multiple versions of the same story, each one engaging to different audience groups and members. Such branching narratives don’t have to adhere to a straight forward structure and thus draws the user in by empowering them to shapeshift the story structure as they progress through it. They are not as powerful as an author, but it helps to give them that feeling.
A Brief Guide to Writing Interactive Stories
Kevin Spacey in his lecture at Edinburgh Television Festival in 2013 said: “People want the control. They want freedom. […] Give them what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price.” Giving them the illusion of freedom while still driving your message is where the art of interactive storytelling lies.
Below we give you a list of pointers that’ll help you craft an interactive story and develop a relationship of empathy with your audience. This relationship lies at the core of the branching interactive narratives since as an author you should be able to anticipate the audience’s motivations and reactions when put in front of a choice.
- Pick a setting: A setting dictates everything else about your story. Feel free to set them anywhere, deep sea to deep space. Past, present or future. Realistic or fantastical. Select a setting that has the ability to encapsulate different elements of your brand/product messaging.
- Create a main character: A user should be able to put themselves in the main character’s shoes. This pulls them into the story and gives them control over where the story goes. Give a goal to your character so that it is motivated to act and take the story forward.
- Create obstacles, not villains: While it might be difficult to go head-to-head with a single villain in interactive stories, having a series of obstacles is a must. Create unexpected situations where something stops your main character dead in their tracks and presents them with alternatives to choose from. These obstacles can be anything: natural elements, random monsters, or just equipment failures.
- Plant treasures/clues: Include helping items, scatter them and let your main character find them as your story unfolds. These goodies can help the hero on their quest or just add an element of fun. The clues you give them can also be hints about which branches of the story are the best ones to follow.
- Use narration and dialogues: You can employ a narrator that instructs the user through the story and acts as a guide who presents various choices to them. A narrator can be any character or element in the story with human-like sentiments. Such a narrator needs to be conversational and present your instructions in the form of a dialogue, making the flow more natural and driving the story forward.
- Limit characters: Interactive stories work well with a single main character as mutable viewpoints can confuse the viewer. If you must add a secondary character, make them a helper or mascot. This could be another human, maybe love interest or a handy robot who fixes things.
- Establish several endings: Depending upon the user inputs and the different choices they make during the story, you’ll have to establish several endings with various degrees of success or failure. Different branches can have different scenarios that can be used to highlight different use-cases or messages of your brand/product. If you are going to reward the user for correct choices, you also need to imagine the bad outcomes to clarify the significance of their choices.
- Technologists are your fellow authors: Inputs from game designers and developers can improve your chances to create something innovative in both form and content. You’ll be better able to engage the user by understanding the breadth and depth of technology that’ll be employed to develop your story.
Why Interactive Storytelling?
- 1. Interactive stories create better user engagement by requiring active user participation as they involve multiple senses that are used to give inputs. As a result, this approach to storytelling becomes the ideal form of presentation for delivering immersive experiences to an audience.
- Immersive experiences rely on our senses; sight, sound, and touch, to transfer us to a non-physical world and suspend the physical reality around us. By giving users control over the flow of a narrative and requiring them to be more engaged, one can design a world where the person experiencing it can suspend reality and completely transport to a place where they are not. With advancements in immersive techs like virtual and augmented reality authors are now closer to recreating surrounding sensory feelings giving the audience more immersive experiences.
- 2. Linear storytelling fits better for the purposes of demonstration or for the chronological depiction of time. It proves to be limited to reproduce the complex scenarios of our world contingent on individuals, dynamic conversations, and circumstances forming it.
- 3. Engaging in dynamic conversations with the user gives brands better insight into consumer behaviour.
- 4. Interactive storytelling is becoming a novel way to not only get the user’s attention but also to use that attention to educate them about the product, entertain them and make them create new experiences and memories.
Interactive Storytelling with Immersive Technology
Our experience of working with immersive technologies like Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality has enabled us in utilizing the power of interactive storytelling to help businesses and brands solve their problems and achieve ROIs they couldn't expect in the past.
Time and again our interactive solutions have surpassed industry benchmarks to not only educate and entertain the customers but to also position businesses as tech savvy and customer centric brands. Our team of interactive storytellers, graphic designers and programmers work in tandem with each other to understand our client's current problems and propose step-by-step solutions that enabling them surpass their objectives and delight their customers.
With years of experience in working with diverse clients ranging from agri-science to automobiles, from consulting firms to media and production houses; WOWSOME's suite of immersive tech solutions have helped create lasting impact for businesses and cherishable memories for customers.