Today’s guest post is by Los Angeles–based writer Kathryn Stanley (@).
About six months ago, Pocket Gems, a mobile game developer, launched a new platform called Episode. It allows writers to script a story and then turn it into an animated interactive mobile story. It combines parts of TV shows, comics, and novels, and provides the unique ability for readers to have some control of how the story goes.
I started writing on the platform almost as soon as it launched and have written three stories to date. My most successful story, Finding Mr. Wright, has built a significant audience in a short time. So far it has an audience of 163,000 readers, who have collectively read over 1,222,000 chapters of my story.
Writing for Episode has been an immensely rewarding experience. The Episode team is highly collaborative and supportive, with an emphasis on producing the strongest work possible and a mindset that invites and encourages taking creative risks. They’re pushing the envelope on what it means to tell stories in the digital age.
There’s no denying we’re becoming a mobile society. Episode interests me as an author because it approaches storytelling from a completely mobile perspective, giving readers a new medium with which to engage and connect over stories.
Here’s the most valuable advice that I could give an aspiring Episode writer below:
1. Plot out your stories.
A great TV writer once said that you don’t have a season until you know how it ends. Rather than jumping into your first chapter without much of a plan, determine where the story is going and then decide how to best work toward that ending by writing an outline before you even get on the portal. Much like television, Episode’s stories tend to be released in 10-to-20 chapter “seasons,” with many stories having more than one season.
Developing your story premise from a pitch to a season involves plotting out the major moments of conflict, turning points, cliffhangers, and resolutions. In doing so, you’ll be able to develop subplots that’ll play into the larger picture in the end. You’ll also be able to identify areas in which your pacing seems to fall off, as a large part of retaining your readers is making sure that there is a strong, unrelenting sense of narrative urgency from chapter to chapter.
2. Write toward the fantastical and dramatic, but create relatable characters.
One of the really exciting things about Episode is that the content lends itself to creating truly imaginative, exciting stories. Stories on the platform include witches, magic, aliens, giants, and more. In other words, there really are no boundaries to the story worlds that you can create.
However, take the time to figure out who your characters are before you start writing, and make them believable. Plot aside, creating characters who are going through things that your readers can relate to will keep them reading. Allow your characters to have flaws and make mistakes—and then deal with those mistakes in realistic ways. Give some kind of redeeming quality to your villainous characters; nobody’s all bad or all good.
3. Add frequent, meaningful choices.
One thing that really sets Episode apart from other storytelling platforms is that it’s so interactive. Episode’s scripting language lets authors add choices to their stories, where readers can choose different paths in the plot.
The more meaningful choices that you can incorporate into your stories, the more readers feel invested in the outcome. They like to feel like they are determining where their story goes.
However, branching can get complicated when you try to create too many major choices that split the story off in too many ways. For that reason, it’s important to figure out manageable approaches to creating different story paths.
4. Answer your fan mail.
Another thing that makes Episode so unique is that it provides the opportunity for readers to get in touch with the writers. All fan mail that you choose to respond to is displayed publicly on the app.
Many readers have asked me for tips on writing, have had questions about the story or the characters, have shared their own insights about how they experienced the story, or have simply wanted to offer a compliment. It really means a lot when you respond (even if you’re just answering a question about your favorite kind of pie), and it’s been a wonderful platform to encourage and spread positivity, kindness, and tolerance.
Want to experience Episode for yourself? Visit their site and download the app. Or, visit their Writer’s Portal to explore the story-building interface. You should also read the writer’s FAQ and terms of service before diving in.