What are Branching Stories and Why Should I Write Them?

You have probably heard of interactive fiction before, but what on earth are branching stories? Glad you asked!

What do we mean when we talk about branching stories?

When a user is reading a story in the Sana Stories app, they are occasionally presented with two choices that will take the story in two different directions.The reader will pick one of the presented options and, in that sense, control what happens in the story.  Giving readers these options to explore alternative scenes, plotlines and endings is what we call branching stories. Stories like these can also be referred to as interactive stories.

Why should I write branching stories?

If you’re an author looking to have more people reading your stories, writing branching stories could be very beneficial to you. Writing branching stories doesn’t just expand your audience, it can have many different advantages compared to traditional linear stories. We’re going to explore a few of the benefits below:

1. Stand out among the crowd

The competition for getting one’s work seen is higher than ever. It’s very easy for your stories to drown in the mass of books being published. For example, there are currently six million books available for Amazon Kindle—and this number grows everyday. We all strive to write good and interesting stories in order to engage people to read our work. You can stand out by writing well, but you can stand out even more by writing in a different, more engaging format.

2. Engage your readers on a whole different level

We all love books that can really suck us in and make us feel like we’re actually there with the characters. But no matter how invested we are in the story, we are always just passive spectators—we can never really be there ourselves to influence the story. This is exactly what interactive stories are about! The defining point of interactive stories is that readers can interact with the world themselves and make an impact. By making choices, readers get much more invested in the story and connect with the characters in a way they never could with traditional, linear books.

3. Boost re-readability

How many times do you read the same book? There’s usually very little motivation to read a book again, unless you really enjoyed it. With branching stories, a story can play out differently depending on what choices were made when reading. Stories can have multiple plotlines or endings which makes the possibilities endless! Depending on how complex the branching is, one book can contain many vastly different versions of the same story. This gives your reader a reason to re-read your story many times—if they enjoyed it the first time, they will want to explore every angle of your story!

4. Explore your story

With branching stories, you as the author get the opportunity to explore different storylines within the same story. You can write multiple endings, give different versions of your characters a go, explore different ways a scene might go—in short, explore every option! You never have to limit yourself to only one idea. And noone can tell you how complex or simple the branching should be. If you only need it for two different endings, that’s fine! It’s your story after all.

5. Make money

Writing stories just for fun is, well, fun, but it would be nice to get some compensation for all that hard work. Very few authors make it in the retail publishing world and many self-publishing channels require the authors to pay for the privilege of getting their story published.

With Sana Stories, anyone can publish their story and all stories published in the Sana Stories app are eligible for receiving royalties. Right now we are also offering a testing reward for all stories that are written using our Writing Tool and published in the Sana Stories app. We are also currently hosting a writing contest where the winners are offered rewards of up to 500€. In the future we will explore options to offer popular authors in the Sana Stories app the possibility of writing premium stories for us, to be compensated to industry standards, on top of royalties. It can literally pay to get started now!

6. Not convinced yet? Check out these stories!

Chances are that you are more familiar with branching stories than you think. Interactive storytelling has been around for a long time in many different shapes.

Are you familiar with Tell Tale’s games? These are very story-driven games where the player’s choices enhance the player’s experience as the story moves along. Do you remember the old Choose your own adventure books? Same concept, but in an actual book format! You can still find books today that work in a similar way, take for example Romeo and/or Juliet: A Chooseable-Path Adventure, My Lady’s Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel, or any story from the Sana Stories app! Our most ambitious example would be the Black Mirror episode Bandersnatch—instead of a game or a book, you can control a whole Netflix episode as it plays out on your TV. And these are just scratching the surface of interactive stories!

Are you ready to start writing your branching story?

If you’re still wondering whether writing branching stories is for you, why don’t you start by familiarising yourself with writing branching stories a bit more? You can find our recommended best practices for writing branching stories here. Or check out our For writers page here, our hub for everything you need to know about our Writing Tool and about submitting your branching story to be published in the app. You can find more information about how your stories work in the Sana Stories app here.