I’m writing an occult-detective branching narrative with Ink Engine.
The narrative switches POV between 2 protagonists, an older seasoned detective and his younger inexperienced driver (Old Cop/Young Cop trope). The POV is 3rd-person limited, consistent through a scene, sticking with one POV or the other.
I’ve chosen 3rd-person limited because the two protagonists have distinct personalities, and are not just avatars for the reader. The aging detective is cerebral, methodical, and sometimes spooky. The younger is a streetwise (flunky) ex-cop but naive about the paranormal. They provide different perspectives on the “rules” of the occult world: one an insider, the other an outsider.
The reader’s experience will be more like reading a mystery novel than playing a game. Within each scene are short storybranches the reader chooses that are within the range of possibility for each protagonist. These reader choices usually don’t redirect the greater plot. Instead reader choices influence the tone of the scene, or lead to worldbuilding Easter eggs, or possibly alter the details a suspect reveals about themselves or what each detective notices and observes.
The in-scene branching is structured so important plot-points are inserted before the scene will end.
Similarly, reader choices effect non-linearity within each act. Choosing the order in which suspects are interviewed may determine some of the questions asked, as clues are revealed out-of-order. If the reader procrastinates or avoids making certain choices, the necessary plot-points are inserted. In some instances the choices will narrow to direct the action.
The in-act branching is also structured so the relevant scenes must occur before the act reaches its climax. The novel is more of an interactive narrative than a “game” that is won or lost.
The novel formula is more-or-less 4 acts:
1. Follow an Occult MacGuffin, interview suspects
2. Determine inconsistencies, investigate and confirm
3. Confront suspects to expose the villain(s)
4. Resolve the Occult MacGuffin
While much of the story is predetermined, an existing mystery uncovered through reader-directed choices, the novel also incorporates generative mechanics. These dynamic story elements represent a ghost in the machine, a chaotic influence from the occult world that spills over into the narrative itself. Occult artifacts within the novel are mutable, appearing under different names or with different properties, but they are also the plot twist around which the narrative branches diverge.
In one mystery, a paranormal artifact influences a suspect to a murderer another, but which suspect becomes possessed and which becomes the victim are unpredictable. It’s not until the artifact is revealed and invoked that the novel changes course to decide who will fall under its sinister influence.
Solving the case involves both unraveling a mystery, and resolving the paranormal artifact that is causing mayhem with the narrative.