For those unaware, NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month–takes place in November every year, and is a full month devoted to writing an entire novel. No easy feat. Considering your average short novel is about 40,000 – 50,000 words, over 30 days, that’s at least 1,300 – 1,700 words per day. With every 250 words being equivalent to a full page of your average novel, that’s about 5 pages every day, perhaps more.
Now, writing a novel is one thing, but writing an interactive novel–otherwise known as a Choose Your Own Adventure game or a multiple-choice text game–is another thing entirely. Once attributed solely to a series of books with this unique mechanic, CYOAs are now a genre of their own. With the ability to make choices that create branching paths in the story, a CYOA might have multiple endings based on the choices you can make throughout your read. I’ll be going over the processes I went through making my own such game over the course of November 2023, including the various choices, mechanics, variables, and such.
The game itself was created using a relatively simple, free-to-use Interactive Fiction program known as Twine, whose logo features in the thumbnail for this article. This program not only allows you to keep track of the various pages of your story and how they link together, but also lets you use variables to keep track of your players’ stats. The game I wrote over the course of NaNoWriMo was a supernatural political thriller; a story in which you, the main character, discover your boss, a US senator, is in fact a werewolf.
One such variable I added to the story was a little tracker designated “secret” in the code, which would keep track of when the main character learned this secret–i.e. whether they learned it early on or were surprised by it later. Another variable, “name,” simply allowed the game to track the customized name of the main character, as chosen by the players, so that characters in the game could refer to them properly.
I don’t want to spoil the game itself, but there were a few important and impactful choices that determined the story’s progression, one being how the main character chooses to interact with the fact that they’ve just discovered an entire supernatural world beneath their own. As the player, you can choose to have your character lose a few nights of sleep over this eye-opening notion, choose to have them embrace the supernatural, or elect to have your carefully customized player character completely freak out and be unable to trust anyone, sacrificing all opportunities for friendships. However you want to play it.
Other choices revolve around the main character performing in their job, i.e. keeping the werewolf senator they work for under control so that they don’t, you know, turn into a werewolf on public television and cause global panic; an important thing to do. Beyond this, you’ll also have to manage this senator’s impulsive, aggressive, and sometimes reckless behavior.
I hadn’t expected this to be such a large part of the game at the start, but caffeine intake actually ended up being a big part of a game about werewolves. Due to the fact that as a game designer and writer, I can’t ever predict the massive variety of choices my players will make, I like to keep certain things ambiguous and let players fill in the blanks or read between the lines, so to speak. The choice of caffeinated beverage selected by the main character (or lack thereof) is one of these, but I hadn’t anticipated just how relevant it would end up being in this game.
In conclusion, a writing text game is a challenging but fascinating endeavor. Keeping track of the numerous variables, choices, and the coffee, was a headache at times. By the end, I was definitely proud of what I’d created, totalling 65,000 words.
The game itself is available for $1 USD over on https://monkeybrains12.itch.io/werewolf-in-the-senate