Character POV

My interactive novel has Old Cop, Young Cop protagonists with different skillsets, backgrounds, observation of details, etc. The POV switches between them using 3rd-person limited. Branching choices are intended to be in character – in other words, the available choices show the range of that character.

Since the reader will see prompts for the un-chosen branches, I want to use them to inform the reader about the detective's thought processes (as opposed to implying diverging story branches). "Wrong" choices may be red herrings that get eliminated quickly, but they are always something the detective considers plausible. The older detective is experienced and methodical, the younger is less sure and sometimes undisciplined, but all their choice prompts are in character and in pursuit of the investigation.

Non-linear Structure

Without going too deep into the larger branching structure, the novel follows a single mystery with a few possible endings. Suspects have hidden agendas that can be uncovered, but only one is guilty – determined by a randomgame mechanic outside the reader's control. Readers guide the investigation but don't control the detectives' every move. Instead choices shift the tone and prioritize the focus, ie: the order in which suspects are questioned, and what suspects reveal about themselves and each other.

All endings share overlapping plot points, and most sub-plots are revealed in a single read-through so the branching structure can be thought of as "deep" rather than "broad". It is a longer story that isn't intended to be re-read.

The Story Engine

I'm using Ink as the story-engine. Each scene is a storyloop constructed so no matter what the user chooses, primary clues are revealed before the scene will end. Secondary clues can be discovered through in-scene sub-branches, or they will be re-introduced in a later scene. The goal is a non-linear, genre mystery rather than a "game" with a player/avatar who "wins", but in the final act, the reader has opportunity to utilize the extra details they've learned to try to apprehend the guilty party.

The non-linear structure means that I rarely control which choice prompts are delivered together. The Ink Engine compiles paragraphs from various "nodes" and saves all choice prompts to display in a list at the end. One node might contribute a few dialog options, while another node contributes action options. Some choices only become visible once variable conditions are met or once all other choices are exhausted.

My Problem

I want the choices to be written in a voice consistent with the limited 3rd-person POV, but as I write test scenes I often fall into the CYOA/text adventure habit of 2nd-person, imperative tense: (You) Do the thing… (You) Talk to So-and-so…. It is easy to write this way because the intent is clear, but it breaks the POV.

How do I structure choice prompts in limited 3rd-person POV?

  • How much your novel differs from point and click adventure games? You can totally present choices without addressing the reader/player.
    – Alexander
    Jun 11, 2018 at 20:01
  • It is a novel with no graphic interface, just text. I'd say it is extremely different from a point-and-click game, but since you offer no examples maybe I am not understanding what you are suggesting?
    – wetcircuit
    Jun 13, 2018 at 15:34
  • Hmm, the genre is large, but I'm not sure how well you are familiar with it. Here is a Wikipedia link, just to start.
    – Alexander
    Jun 13, 2018 at 15:56
  • That's a list of game titles. It's still not clear what you are suggesting.
    – wetcircuit
    Jun 13, 2018 at 17:09

1 Answer 1


By not making them complete sentences

The prompts can be simply actions without mentioning the who. Take for example:

  • Investigate the shiny object under the couch
  • Talk to the suspicious bystander

There is no form to indicate who is doing it.

These prompts can have a leading statement to help imply the point of view. So it would look more like this:

What will the old cop do:

  • Investigate the shiny object under the couch
  • Talk to the suspicious bystander
  • That tense is called "second-person imperative" which is what I want to avoid.
    – wetcircuit
    Jun 12, 2018 at 3:52

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