Over the past year, I’ve been approached more and more about writing for ‘branching narrative’ games.
Usually it’s for an established property, with the producer or team leader keen to have a fresh take on the material — which tends to translate as ‘Characters and dialogue with more edge, please.‘
Hmmm…I think I can do that 😉
So, in the spirit of full-Monty’ing, here’s a sample from a recent spec writing piece for a surprisingly high-profile mobile storytelling juggernaut.
It’s a quick enough read — 10min at most — but I’d still love to hear your thoughts!
MEET THE ‘BAD BOY’ (Client Brief)
The following scene depicts KATIE — a woman in her mid-twenties who’s joined a summer cruise with her family at the request of her late grandmother. Katie has just learned that her grandmother was very wealthy, and that she’s set to inherit millions of dollars under one condition: she must be married by the end of the summer! To fulfill this task, Katie meets and goes on dates with various suitors in the hopes of finding true love.
The scene has Katie on an excursion to the ACROPOLIS in Athens, and she has just run into a mysterious bad boy named LEO who convinces her to come with him for a day on the town.
((PRODUCER’S NOTE — Please continue writing this scene where it leaves off. Create two (2) choices with two or three options — each option should see you writing several lines of dialogue in each path. You don’t have to finish the date, but a good scene will highlight Katie and Leo bantering, and showcase Leo’s bad boy personality.))
Event: You head back to the tour bus, carefully stepping along the craggy rocks along the Acropolis…
Event: Suddenly, a little kid runs by, knocking you off-balance!
You [SURPRISED]: Hey!
Event: You trip on a rocky outcrop and stumble toward the ground… when a handsome stranger steps in to catch you!
WRITING THE SCENE
You [HAPPY]: My hero….
Leo [SMILING]: I’ve certainly been called worse.
Event: Leo lifts You to standing. The shadows of tourists pass by the both of you. It feels like time has slowed down (in the best possible way).
You: Thanks! I could’ve ended up part of the ‘history’. It’s easy to get distracted here.
Leo: Athens is beautiful, but there are dangers, too. Scams. Pickpockets. Heartbreakers.
You: I bet you’d know <i>all</i> about that, Mr…?
Event: Leo grabs your hand and slowly raises it to his lips, careful not to break your gaze. The man is slick.
Leo: Leo…just Leo.
You [HAPPY]: Short for ‘lion’. Meow. I’m Katie.
Leo [HAPPY]: Well Katie, fair warning…I’ve been known to <i>roar</i> .
You: And I’ve been known to pull thorns from paws. When necessary.
Event: You pull your hand away and continue walking down the zig-zagging Acropolis path. Leo grins and follows, unafraid to take the bait.
You: So, tell me, Mr Lion…
- OPTION 1: How long are you visiting for?
- OPTION 2: How do you know so much about Athens?
- OPTION 3: Do you always ‘hunt’ around monuments?
IF YOU CHOSE OPTION 1:
Leo [HAPPY]: I stay in Greece every summer. It’s a great place for inspiration.
You [SURPRISED]: <i>Lucky!</i> Trust fund, or self-made millionaire?
Leo [SAD]: Starving artist with a lot of air miles. Sorry to disappoint.
You: The jury’s still out. I haven’t even seen your work yet…
Leo: [HAPPY] The day is still young.
IF YOU CHOSE OPTION 2:
Leo [HAPPY]: I’ve been coming here for years. I have a painting studio near the harbor.
You [SURPRISED]: Chivalrous, well-travelled <i>and</i> artistic. Too good to be true – someone get me a background check!
Leo: If love’s a crime, then I’ve done the time. Guilty as charged.
You: So, would you say you’re a <i>hardened</i> criminal..?
Leo [HAPPY] Not <i>yet</i>. But I’m sure we can work on it…
IF YOU CHOSE OPTION 3:
Leo [HAPPY]: Only for the clumsy ones! They stumble, so much easier to catch…
You: Case in point. But you already <i>know</i> the city. Why do the tourist thing?
Leo: Greek girls are boring. They’re either married or <i>looking</i> to get married! And that’s not happening, unless…
You [SURPRISED]: <i>Unless</i> ..?
Leo [HAPPY]: Unless I fall, and someone catches <i>me</i> for a change!
Event: Tourists and hawkers bustle in a charming, sun-bleached square. The Acropolis looms in the background. Leo enters the scene with a pair of frozen yogurt cones.
You [SURPRISED] Greek style ‘fro-yo’? You’re <i>killing</i> me!
Leo: It’s pretty good, but the <i>best</i> stuff is in the ethnic quarter. Greek, Turkish, Lebanese — the food there would blow your mind.
You: So is that what this is? A tease of things to come?
Leo: Consider it ‘food foreplay’…
You: [HAPPY]…before the ‘mind-blowing’.
Event: You smile and eat some yogurt. Leo does the same, and you both revel in the sudden crackle in the air.
Leo: So tell me, Katie. What do you have planned for the rest of the day?
You: You mean <i>besides</i> eating another one of these..?
Leo: [HAPPY] A woman who goes back for seconds! This gets better and better…
You: You can <i>never</i> have too much of a good thing, right? As for today, I was thinking…
- OPTION 1: …of hopping on the metro and touring the museum.
- OPTION 2: …of going home for a nap. Gotta rest up for party-time!
- OPTION 3: …of joining you for lunch, and then seeing your work!
IF YOU CHOSE OPTION 1:
Leo [HAPPY]: You could…OR you could leave the tourist traps behind and join me.
You: I’m here for the culture and history, Leo. You know, statues and stuff!
Leo [SAD]: Those statues were based on fiction, or on people who’ve been dead for centuries. Wouldn’t you prefer the <i>real</i> thing?
You: Are you trying to say you’ve got abs like Michelangelo’s David..??
Leo [HAPPY]: Maybe. But don’t worry — that’s the <i>only</i> thing ‘David’ and I have in common.
You [SURPRISED]: Wow…you are too much!
IF YOU CHOSE OPTION 2:
Leo [SAD]: A party girl? And you think that <i>I’m</i> the one to worry about!
You [HAPPY]: It’s my last days in Athens, and I still have five kinds of ouzo to try!
Leo: At least you’re <i>thorough</i>. How about this —we tour the distillery near my place, do a tasting, and then you could crash on my couch. Until party-time.
You: I don’t know. That sounds like some serious trouble…
Leo [HAPPY] When in Rome! Well…<i>Athens</i>…you know what I mean!
IF YOU CHOSE OPTION 3:
Leo [SURPRISED]: I…I didn’t expect that to come out of your mouth.
You: I pride myself on unpredictability! But, my company is on one condition…
You: Food FIRST. I wanna get my mind <i>blown</i>, remember?
Leo [HAPPY]: Okay! I know the perfect spot. Amazing. Right by the bay.
Event: You walk towards the METRO entrance. The escalator whisks people down below the street.
Leo: Our carriage awaits. And I swear to guard you from thieves and strange men. What do you say..?
You: I say who’s going to protect ME from the big, bad <i>lion</i>?
Leo [HAPPY]: Don’t worry, Katie. I’m a <i>pussycat</i>…unless you demand otherwise.
You [HAPPY]: <i>MEOW</i>.
EVENT: You put your arm in Leo’s, grin mischievously, and disappear down towards the trains.
So…what do you think?
A stinker? True love? An epic ‘meh’?
Would YOU want to see what happens next?
Sound off in the comments, and thanks as always for reading!