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I am writing an adventure story, adding one chapter weekly. This is the third story posted on that specific site, and I have followers, some of which post comments after each update.

I was very proud of my recent chapter which I posted after I'd researched an investment banking procedure which had relevance to the plot - I myself am not knowledgeable and bored to death by finances, so I wasn't at all surprised when a reader in the comments mentioned (very politely) that the visit to the bank part of the chapter was a bit longish and not that interesting.

Problem is, all the other comments were complementary, emphasising the funny parts. I know this specific chapter was weak, but except that user no one mentioned it, not even my beta (she mercilessly roots out all my horrifying grammar mistakes and pretentious wording, but otherwise never suggests to shorten or omit parts of the text).

So I started thinking how could I get my readers to provide constructive criticism (besides asking for it directly in the introduction, which I already did.)

I am considering to add after each chapter a poll for the readers, in which they could chose between details, chatacters, certain outcomes etc.

Example:

Who should accompany the hero on the mission?

1) Dracula

2) Iron Man

3) Xenomorph-xx121

4) a gremlin

...and so on. The reader would get to choose between options presented in the poll.

I can see the advantages of this method - I would get feedback on my characters and help in plotting.

But what are the drawbacks, besides being committed to a certain detail chosen by the readers? Had any of you tried this method, and if not, why?

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    I wouldn't, because I think the feedback would come from only those people who like to do that sort of thing. So, your choices would be driven by a specific demographic. Also, I have a story to tell for me, using my strengths and life experience. if someone tells me to put a wizard in it, well, there may be a way to do it well, but then I am suddenly writing the story they want to read instead of the story I want to write. – DPT Oct 3 '17 at 15:22
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    I suppose you could try it and see what happens. Maybe start a second story where you do that, one that you don't care too much about. – DPT Oct 3 '17 at 15:36
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    Yep. Definite vote for "one that you don't care too much about". – ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Oct 3 '17 at 15:50
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    I think this would be great to build a following. If your story is great, people will want to partake in it more and more so that a fan base grows. I would do this with a story or 2 that isn't one you want to put all your eggs in the basket in. Help draw your readers in, and then when you/if you get enough of a following. Write your novel of your dreams and you will already have a fan base who will be ready to put in the footwork for you to get the word out. – ggiaquin16 Oct 3 '17 at 16:24
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    As far as this idea goes, I think it's a good idea that could go wrong very fast if not done carefully. I like limiting the choices to sections so that you always have control of it while still giving the reader a chance to pick what they want. This sort of reminds me of the twitch channels where the collective viewership can play pokemon using commands in the chat. It's a great idea in theory, but something that is more of a marketing gimmick for a blog/self promotion than it is for an actual story. – ggiaquin16 Oct 3 '17 at 16:30
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Interactive feedback can be great - ask Arthur Conan Doyle or any other great serial writer - but you'll want to be fairly thick skinned, particularly if you're posting on the internet.

Interactive feedback on your story is one thing, but what you're suggesting later in the post sounds more like writing by committee. It's a valid thing, but if you go that way you'll have to recognise that it's no longer your story. Worst case, some of your readers will be more upset when the story goes the way other people suggested - a problem that wouldn't have come up if you'd made it quite clear that you were the one telling the story.

I've never tried anything like that, but I like to think of my relationship with my writing being that of a benign dictator (though sometimes I'm not sure which way round).

Someone will always complain. The choice here is whether you want to be a driver or a passenger.

  • Um, a driver with instructor(s)...? – Ekaterin Nile Oct 3 '17 at 15:32
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    Good comment. Nothing wrong with giving your readers a map, but make sure it's your map. And watch out for that tree. – ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Oct 3 '17 at 15:35
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To the specific issue about something technical being boring: It was probably boring because you were bored. Unless you really wanted to inform the reader about the important differences between "latent fees" and "semi-optional fees" and "non-fee application expediting fees" or whatever, the point of research (IMO) is not to translate a graduate level accounting course into a fun narrative.

The point of MY research, at least, is to be sure I do not bake a cockroach into my pretty chocolate cake. So no readers (especially those better informed than me) will not drop their interest because I had my character do something completely impossible at the bank, like for example secure a hundred-thousand dollar signature loan with a fake ID.

Or for a more realistic example, in one of my stories a character was a gun expert (I am not) and I spent far too many hours reading on the fine points of making bullets and re-rifling barrels and calling parts of guns by the correct names (most of which I no longer remember). But I did not have him recite a dictionary of it, it was just used at times in conversation or in describing his actions.

It may seem a waste to spend a lot of time learning something and then not use 99% of it, but I think of it as a form of insurance, and just enough reality spice to make it seem like I know what I am talking about.

You don't have to explain what X, Y and Z mean, your character (and a bank employee foil) can discuss such things without explanation, relatively quickly. One trick is to introduce a minor conflict or disagreement:

Character: "I can't pay that for X, I can pay half that."

Bank Girl Foil: "Your Z will increase, a full point."

Character: "I can live with that if the Y stays the same."

Bank Girl Foil types, checks screen: "Okay, sir, done."

Interactive Writing

I think that is a mistake. In your example, who the MC goes to the bank with must not really matter at all. Which makes your story weak, and not thought out. If a side-kick is needed there must be a reason, a need for the side-kick, and that need is best satisfied by one character.

If it isn't and characters are interchangeable, your characters are not sufficiently different from each other. If you are writing for comedy, there should be a funniest character to take to the bank, the one that provides you with the best opportunities for jokes or comical situations.

I think you just handicap yourself by relying on the whims of non-writers in crafting a good story. In a GOOD story, every scene is relevant to the whole and each character has a reason to be in it. Your suggestion sounds like it would result in a series of standalone improv routines. While individually those may be funny, there is no depth to them, they don't make a movie, or show, or string together into a funny story.

So no, interactive feedback (from people that only consume writing and have no idea of story craft or structure) is not a good idea IMO, I think it will result in nothing of value.

  • I believe this may be an answer to a different question but I don't see how this relates to doing an interactive story where a user picks the various plot points and segments. – ggiaquin16 Oct 3 '17 at 17:44
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    In the 2nd paragraph the OP mentions a problem he had with feedback, I was explaining what probably happened. I presumed it was relevant to why he was asking the question in the first place, and an explanation might help him. Also, he is not really doing an interactive story, he is considering writing a single story and asking readers to vote on what each chapter should contain. I agree I don't answer that directly. I will edit... – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Oct 3 '17 at 18:35
  • Ah, I see where I made my mistake. Perhaps the question also could be a little miss leading then. I read it in a different manner than you did. – ggiaquin16 Oct 3 '17 at 20:00

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