Pen and Cape Society: Choose Your Own Adventure

In case any of you are wondering what's going on with the Pen and Cape Society, here's what's going on with that.

Back in the late spring, we had a lot of visits when we opened up, but we're not stopping there. We are currently doing a "Choose Your Own Adventure" story. Basically, the concept is much like the way the books worked except for a couple things:

1. You're not going through this alone. The entire audience votes on the direction that they want the story to take.

2. Each update will written by a different member of the Pen and Cape Society.

If you want to take a look:

I think the plan is to do it as long as we're interested. It's a fun idea for promoting the group, and I think we're likely to throw the main character into a number of our worlds in the process.

This is a really cool project. If I had any experience or skill in writing about superheroes, I would definitely join. Unfortunately I DON'T have that skill, but I'll definitely be taking a look around and seeing what you guys have written so far.

Holy cats. Thanks to Nina for essentially up voting this post. (The summer was not kind to me in terms of free time and forum reading.) What blows my mind is I decided to do this very thing, a serial with a "have the audience choose the path" vote that very same month. Just me writing though. And on a day when I get more than 4 votes I'm all OMG WOW. The idea of different writers for different parts is fascinating to me -- I'd think it would be more difficult in terms of continuity as the story goes on? More back reading at least.

I had a quick browse of the first two entries (Willow's powers thing is quite interesting), and also noticed that it just went 14 chapters, into September. Was there any thought of follow-up, or were any of the good and bad experiences collected anywhere? Like, any parts run too long, or authors neglected, or anything? I'd be interested to know. Also, is there anyone ELSE out there doing this sort of thing?

When my turn came I wrote... and wrote... and wrote... I think about 4,000 words at the first draft, and I savagely cut it down, but it still wound up somewhere over the 2K mark. It was waaaaay too long.

mathtans, there WAS a point at the end where one author hadn't yet had a turn and several of teh authors involved told their followers to vote for that person next.

Personally, I always made a point to only give the option to pick from people who hadn't written one yet. I think that's what most people did.

That said, Drew Hayes and I both went twice. Also, on one occasion, I asked my readers to throw the vote to someone else due to being too busy to handle it that week. I'm still amazed I managed to fit the other two in. Both ended up longer than my typical story update, but were done in addition to it.

Also yes, a follow up is likely.

We tried hard to give everyone a shot to write, but the fact that the next parts were chosen by the readers meant things didn't turn out quite as equally as we would have liked. Overall it was a lot of fun though, and I agree with Jim, I'm definitely hoping we do another one of these in the future.

To answer Mathtans question: I do one of these on my site every year for Halloween. It gave me some best practices I could share when we did this one. If you meant doing it in groups through, I don't know of anyone else that did it quite the same way.

All cool, interesting how length ended up as a common remark. @Drew, no, I didn't mean the groups, just the voting, given how I've been trying it myself. I'm not sure I understand how you can do it only for Halloween? Did you have people voting live in a chat or something?

@Mathtans I do a separate story just for Halloween. It's not connected to any of my web-serials, so I give them the chance to vote on Polldaddy each day, then write the next chapter based on choices they make the next morning. It's taxing, but a lot of fun. I only have those run for 13 days though, and if they make it to end without hitting any "Dead End" chapters then I let them vote on a bonus chapter from one of the regular serials. Here's the link if you want to see how I run it more in depth:

I did love the halloween run this year, and cant believe i missed it last.

@Drew - Gotcha, thanks for the link, making sense now. If you're updating daily, I can see that would be taxing! Just one last question, since you have "Dead Ends", to what extent were the choice results sketched out in your mind when you started? Like, did you have a mental tree diagram for the next couple days in terms of what might cause a failure condition? Did you even have an end goal? Or was it more spur of the moment, "this is going to mess you up"?

I also discovered someone has created a "Choose Your Own Adventure" on Twitter (short entries!), if anyone's curious. Horror theme:

I was basically flying by the seat of my pants for the day to day chapters. I went with a general sense of the overall plot, and what the big finale would be, but trying to plot out more than that when the readers can send you down all manner of crazy paths is more headache than it was worth for me. I did make a point of planning out the "Dead End" segments though, I always knew which choice would kill them, and even wrote it down so I'd remember. It seemed like the fair way to handle it. My main goal on them was to just have fun with it. The characters are shitshows, and it was really nice to write something without much gravity. If I felt like the next installment would make someone chuckle, I considered it a good way to keep the story moving.