Explanations and instructions of all things Writing.Com.
Interactive stories are "choose your own ending" stories started by a member of Writing.Com and continued by any member who wishes to participate. At the end of each chapter, readers are given a few plot choices and must choose which direction of the story to follow. When you come to the end of a storyline, it's your turn to add a chapter.1
Adding Chapters to an Interactive Story Item
Each storyline in an Interactive Story can have up to 250 chapters. Each chapter is limited to 10,000 characters.
Note: Because some punctuation marks use extra characters when stored, and formatting/WritingML also uses characters, you may need to allow up to 20-25% of the character count for punctuation and formatting. To be sure you don't lose your work, it's best to work in a word processor and copy/paste to the create chapter form. At least copy the text in the text box (to your clipboard) before trying to submit it. Be sure to save a copy of your work on your own computer. If your chapter is too long, rather than reduce the size of your chapter, consider splitting it into two chapters and giving readers a choice somewhere in the middle.
The number of choices that can branch from a particular chapter depends on its position in the storyline and on the membership status of the member creating the chapter:
For free members -- chapters 1 and 2 get five choices each, chapters 3 and 4 get three choices each, all chapters after that get two choices each.
For paid members with a Basic membership -- chapters 1 and 2 get five choices each, all chapters after that get three choices each.
For paid members with an Upgraded+ membership -- all chapters get five choices each.
Owners who have a paid Basic membership can go back and edit in the third choice (or any unused choices) within their own items.
Owners who have a paid Upgraded+ membership can go back and edit in the third through fifth choices (or any unused choices) within their own items.
Reducing the number of choices after the first few chapters helps to keep Interactive Stories from having a ton of incomplete storylines that are too short to be interesting. It takes at least 331 chapters and at most 781 chapters to fill out the first 5 chapters in all the possible story lines, depending on the membership statuses of the owner and those who add chapters.
While anyone can add a chapter to an Interactive Story item, doing so is a first-come, first-served opportunity. If someone else happens to add a chapter for the chapter choice you picked between the time you loaded the create chapter page, and the time you try to submit the chapter, their now-existing chapter will cause your submission to result in an error message. This is unlikely to happen very often, but due to the nature of the item, this risk cannot be eliminated. To avoid losing what you write, save a copy of the chapter on your own computer before submitting it. Note: A double-click on the submit can result in the same error message on the second submit because your own first submit was successful; you can check by viewing a fresh load of the previous chapter and then the link to the next chapter for that slot, or your chapter listing in your Community tab.
Your Community tab shows a total count of all the existing chapters you have added to Interactive Story items, along with a link to a list of all your visible chapters. Deleted chapters are not counted.
Finding Interactive Story Items
If you are interested in checking out some Interactive stories by other members, you can find them by clicking on Browse by Type in the left navigation menu and choosing Interactive Stories.
The Interactive Stories listings have an optional filter that you can use to filter out the most common topics. The status (Filtering Results or Not Filtering Results) and the switch for the filter are located between the top sort/search/paging bar and the listings.
When you are using the site search functions to look for content that meets your criteria, finding it depends on the item owners making accurate use of the genre options and the keyword section of their items. The item owners, not the site, determine the categorization of their own items.
If you find an Interactive Story that you would like to follow, you can use your Favorites/Fans to make it easy to get back to. See "My Favorites and Fans" .
An Interactive Story must have at least three chapters to show up in the listings. Any content that is not properly rated (E through 18+) may be removed from public listings. Further, Writing.Com reserves the right to remove any story from the public listing that is sexual or profane in nature. While not all content is monitored, we will try to keep public portions of the Interactive Story clean.
Limited Resources for Guests and Free Members
The Interactive Story area of the site is run ad-free with a limited paywall. This began January 2018. Interactive Story items are a small subset of the actual writing here on Writing.Com, but they generate the highest (by far) use of resources, and our 18 years of trying many ways to earn enough revenue from them to pay for their availability to guests and members with free accounts were unsuccessful. We have been pleased with the results of both the resource cost savings and the participation increase due to members moving to low-cost paid accounts. We do not plan to change how this area of the site is run, and as it stands, we have no plans to increase the spending on our free member resources. We understand and accept that not everyone is going to like it. We have to make decisions that we feel are best for the long term, for the community and site as a whole. We've spent 18 years making decisions for sustainability, and demonstrating those in practice. It should also be noted there are few, if any, sites that allow the type of uncensored, unfiltered content that we do; we're extremely proud of our independence and ability to offer a free-speech venue.
Limited resources are allocated for guests and members with free accounts to view and participate in Interactive Stories, including members with free accounts that contain grandfathered Interactive Story items. This limitation does not affect any members with any level of paid membership. These limited resources are available when the load on the servers is sufficiently low. As of April 28, 2018, the logging and statistics showed that these limited resources are available about 70% of the day, and not available for about 30% of the day. According to our server logs, some 11,000 people a day are logging in and using Interactive Story items for free despite the limited server available. At present, we're serving over 600,000 free Interactive Story pages per day, which is a lot of free resources. There are no resource limitations on guests and members with free accounts in using the other areas of the site.
Since not as many guests and members with free accounts can view Interactive Story pages at the same time as want to, the options for dealing with the limited resources are:
Put up with the restrictions and keep trying. When the resources are available, getting a page is sort of like a lottery where your odds of winning depend on how many people are asking for a free interactive page in the same time frame -- only so many are available at once. There is no hard limit on how many pages you can view, nor any restrictions on which pages you can view. Besides the current-online counts in the left navigation menu, you can check the page at Writing.Com Tools/Who's Online, which has a breakdown at the bottom, to see how much competition there may be for the free pages at any particular time. Besides the number of users, the server load is also affected by site maintenance activity, which usually occurs after midnight in the early am hours, site time.
Pay for a membership to cover the costs of the resources you're using: a year of Basic costs $29.95, which is less than 10 cents/day.
Find some other free site to frequent. If you choose this option, the site wishes you well.
Reading Chapters with the Dynamic Interactives Option
When reading an Interactive Story item, those with a paid membership can use the Dynamic Interactives option to load multiple chapters in the same page. Click on one of the chapter choices to dynamically replace the choices section with the chosen chapter. You can open additional chapters until you run out of storyline. To return to a particular chapter and take another path, use the Go Back button at the top of the chapter that begins the branch you want to close. Right-click on the chapter ID number at the upper right corner of a chapter to open it in a new tab or window. The dynamically loaded page is printable. Using this option makes it easier to print a copy of a storyline for your personal use.
The Dynamic Interactives: On/Off toggle switch is displayed below the item header. This is an account level preference setting: changing the setting on one Interactive page will change it for all subsequently loaded Interactive pages. Changing the setting of the switch is a two-step process. Click on the switch, and then to compete the process, click on the red text of the interim message: Setting update. Please refresh this page.
Creating an Interactive Story Item
Members of any paid membership level may create and host an Interactive Story. The number of Interactive Story items a member may create and host depends on their paid membership level. See "Compare Free and Paid Membership Benefits" .
Interactive Story items are created just like any other item type on Writing.Com. There are two methods for creating and saving Interactive Story items. You can click on either Portfolio/Create New Item or on Create New Item in the left navigation menu, and on the new page, scroll down and click on Interactive Story. Or you can go to your Portfolio and select Create Item just below your Portfolio tab, and click on Interactive Story in the drop menu. In either case, follow the instructions in the CREATE A NEW INTERACTIVE STORY page. For a detailed explanation of creating an Interactive Story item, please see "Create/Edit an Interactive Story" , which is linked at the upper right of the create page.
Responsibilities of Owning an Interactive Story Item
Owners of Interactive Story items are responsible to keep their item content rating current to the content being added, either by removing content that exceeds the content rating or by changing the content rating upward to include that content. To change this setting, click the gear icon at the upper right of the item or at the right side of the item listing in your portfolio to open the Item Tools menu, and click Edit Item; make the change(s) in the edit page, and submit the edit. If either content rating of your item has been corrected by a moderator+, you are no longer able to make such adjustments yourself, and must request that the rating(s) be changed at "Content Rating Support" . Due to the amount of content that must be checked, content ratings for Interactive Story items, once corrected, are not adjusted downward.
Owners of Interactive Stories are also responsible to evaluate and moderate additions to make sure that the chapter authors are following the directions given for the item. They can edit or delete content that doesn't follow the directions, and/or use the Block/Ignore utility to prevent repeated problems with an uncooperative member.
The Interactive item's modify date will be changed whenever the owner edits the item, and whenever a new chapter is added. Participants can see whether the modify date matches the date of the last chapter added, but otherwise can be in the dark about what happened. For example, a non-matching modify date can occur if a just-added chapter is deleted before viewers access the item. An item edit might not change text that participants can see. For this reason, if the owner changes the directions, it can help participants to notice those changes if the owner includes some indication in the text of the directions to highlight what has been changed and when.
Frequently Asked Questions
I want to add chapters to my new Interactive Story item. How do I add chapters?
To add chapters to your new interactive story, open the Interactive Story page from your portfolio listing, and click Click Here To Enter This Story. This will bring you to the first page of your new story. You will be asked to add a new chapter; this will be the first chapter. Write the chapter in the main text box, fill out the next chapter titles for the choices, submit it. After that, new chapters are added by clicking on a unused choice option, filling out the new chapter form, and submitting it.
I created an Interactive Story, but it doesn't show up in the Interactive Story listings. Why?
Your item must have at least 3 chapters in order to be listed within the public rankings and listings. Also, Writing.Com reserves the right to remove from public listing any Interactive Story that is sexual or profane in nature. While we do not monitor all content, we will try to keep public portions of the Interactive Story area of the site clean.
If your item has 3+ chapters, check your content rating filter. It must be set to include content of the content rating level of your item, for you to see your item in the listings.
I added a chapter to an Interactive Story, and then noticed I made some mistakes in the text. How can I edit my chapter?
Only the owner of an Interactive Story can edit chapters. You would need to email them and ask them to make the corrections. Whether they do so is up to them. If the owner of the Interactive Story has a free account, they may have difficulty accessing their item to make such changes.
I added a chapter to an Interactive Story, and then noticed that my chapter was deleted. What should I do?
When an Interactive owner deletes your chapter, that usually means that your chapter did not meet their requirements in some way. The owner has the ability to block you from their portfolio, so if they haven't already done that, your best option is probably to not add any more chapters to that Interactive. If you wish to email to ask them about it, be polite, don't assume you're right and they made a mistake, don't speak as if you're entitled, and do not argue with them. Adding to their interactive is not a right. Whether the owner replies to such an email is up to them.
I added a chapter to an Interactive Story, and then noticed that I get an access error message when I try to view that Interactive item. The error message said to email the owner, but it won't let me do that either. How do I regain access?
You have been blocked by the Interactive owner. There is no way to fix that. Trying to get around a block is not allowed. Trying to help someone get around a block is not allowed. You will need to find something else to do.
I added a chapter to an Interactive Story, and then changed my mind. How can I delete my chapter?
Only the owner of an Interactive Story can delete chapters. You would need to email them and ask them to delete the chapter. Whether they do so is up to them. If the storyline continues beyond your chapter, deleting your chapter will also automatically delete any chapters that follow yours. If the owner of the Interactive Story has a free account, they may have difficulty accessing their item to make such changes.
How do I edit or delete a chapter in my Interactive Story item?
Only the owner can edit or delete chapters. On the chapter page, click the edit chapter link which is displayed to the owner just below the chapter author information. After making the changes in the chapter edit page, complete the edit. A chapter can be deleted from the chapter edit page. The delete text box and button are at the top of the chapter edit page. A confirmation is required. Deleting a chapter is permanent and cannot be undone. Deleting a chapter also automatically deletes all chapters that branch off from it.
Note: If the owner accidentally deletes a chapter, there's no way to recover it. Accidentally deleted content can be re-created by hand if a back-up copy is available. Portfolio exports do not include the Interactive Story item type. The email notifications to the owner about new chapter additions and edits contain all the content of the new chapters/edits and can serve as a backup of the Interactive Story if they are saved. Note that emails can be forwarded to another/offsite email account.
Someone added a chapter to my Interactive Story and it doesn't show any choices (or as many choices as it is supposed to) for continuing the storyline. How can I fix that?
When a chapter doesn't show choices for continuing the story, the member who added the chapter didn't fill out any titles for the choices. The owner can edit the chapter to fix it:
On the chapter page, click the edit chapter link which is displayed to the owner just below the chapter author information. In the chapter edit page, scroll to the bottom of the chapter text. There should be numbered choices at the bottom to give a title for the follow-on chapter possibilities. Unless those are filled out, the Interactive Story system thinks that this chapter is supposed to end this storyline. After filling out at least one of the titles, complete the edit. Then view the chapter. It should now show choice(s) for continuing the storyline.
The same procedure can be used by owners with paid memberships who have the ability to add a third choice (and/or fourth and fifth choice) to a chapter written by another member.
I edited a chapter in my Interactive item and deleted one of the choice texts and saved the edit. Now the Interactive does not connect to the existing chapters that followed on from that choice. How do I fix this?
Edit the chapter again, put the choice text back, and save the edit.
If I edit a chapter in my Interactive Story, will that change its addition date?
I've been reading an Interactive Story. How can I know when new chapters have been added?
If you Favorite or Fan the Interactive Story, it will pop to the top of your Favorites list in the right hand column when the item itself is edited or when a new chapter is added. Editing or deleting a chapter does not change the modify date of the Interactive item. Those who add a chapter to an Interactive Story have the option of getting email notifications for future chapter additions to that interactive. Make sure the option is set the way you want it before submitting the chapter. That's the only way to turn it on. It can be turned off in any of the emails.
I've been reading an Interactive Story. Now when I click on its link in my Favorites, I get an error message. Why?
Unless the page request timed out due to high server loads, the error message means that the item has been deleted. You can check by looking at an item link for the item (WritingML Help for item); if the item link says Invalid Item when viewed, then the item has been deleted. Item owners are allowed to delete any of their items (including Interactive items) whenever they wish. Also, when a member deletes their account, all their items (including Interactive items) are also deleted. There is no archive. Once an item or account has been deleted, it is gone.
How can I tell when a chapter was added?
Hold your mouse over the chapter title to display the date it was added. The chapter author's list of chapters also includes the addition date. The Recent Additions link in an Interactive Story item lists the addition date for those chapters.
I've been reading chapters written by a particular member. How can I know when they have added new chapters?
There are no notifications for chapter additions to any Interactive Story by a particular member, but members can be favorited, which puts them in your Favorites list. (See "My Favorites and Fans" .) From the Favorite Authors list (My Account/(Favorites) Favorite Authors in the left navigation menu), it's easy to go to their port, click their Community tab and click their list of chapters under Member Activity to check for those you have not yet read. [Or you could use a browser bookmark to go directly to that page.] Favorited or Fanned members who create or update their own items will show up in your Daily Updates (My Account/(Favorites) Daily Updates in the left navigation menu).
I want to rate and/or review an Interactive Story item. How do I do that?
You cannot rate or review an interactive on its main page. After you enter an Interactive Story that can be rated and/or reviewed, each chapter (or set of chapters) displays this button at the bottom: Click here to Rate and Review this item. Clicking the button displays the review box area. Sending a review and/or a rating from any chapter replaces all the review boxes with Email Comments boxes. Reviews are sent to the item owner. The authors of the individual chapters are not notified or sent a copy of the review. If you want to review another part of the Interactive Story, you must first clear your rating to restore the review box.
How do I see who has Fanned an Interactive?
Enter the Interactive Story and click on the Click here to Rate and Review this item. button at the bottom of any chapter. The Fans information is displayed below the the review box. If it's your own item, the Fans information is displayed below the chapter.
Some free accounts contain Interactive Story items, but I can't create one with my free account. Why?
Those are grandfathered Interactive Story items.
Originally the policy was: Any account can create/host an Interactive Story item.
On 1 January 2013, the policy changed to: All accounts created before 1 January 2013 can create/host interactive Story items. Free accounts created after that date cannot create/host Interactive Story items, and paid accounts have limits on how many.
On 1 April 2014, the policy changed to: No free accounts can create new Interactive Story items. Currently existing Interactive Story items are grandfathered, and can be edited. Interactive Story items cannot be transferred to a free account.
I have a free membership and have a grandfathered Interactive Story in my portfolio. If I buy (or am gifted) a Basic membership, will my item be locked when the paid membership expires?
No. That's not the intent. While it hasn't been explicitly tested, no one has reported that this has happened since the restriction was put in place in 2014.
I noticed a chapter in an Interactive Story that exceeded the content rating of the item. How can I report this?
You can report this at "Content Rating Support" . If you click on the content rating in the header of the Interactive Story item, a pop-up window opens, which contains a link to "Content Rating Support" near the bottom. In the forum, add a new post, and fill out the form with an appropriate title, such as Interactive chapter exceeds content rating, and include the copy-pasted chapter ID number and the item ID number (labeled as to what they are) in the body of the post, with a brief explanation of what exceeds the content rating. A moderator+ will take it from there.
I noticed that a particular member has added chapters to Interactive Stories that contain nonsense, abruptly close the storyline, or otherwise interfere with others participating in the Interactive Story. How can I report this?
You can report that member by creating a new post in "Technical Support Forum" with an appropriate title, such as Nonsense chapters in Interactive Story items, and include that member's username and some of the copy-pasted chapter ID numbers and the item ID number(s) (labeled as to what they are) in the body of the post, with a brief explanation of what the problem is. The site will take it from there.
I noticed that a particular member has added a chapter(s) to an Interactive Story that does not follow the item directions, or otherwise doesn't fit with the typical content of the item. Can anything be done?
Evaluating and moderating the content of an Interactive Story is the responsibility of the item owner. To complain about such problems with someone's chapter(s), email the owner of the item. The owner of an Interactive Story item has the ability to remove those chapters and to prevent that person from adding to the item again by using that person's username in the Block/Ignore utility in My Account/Account Settings. Whether they choose to do so is up to them. If the owner of the Interactive Story has a free account, they may have difficulty accessing their item to make such changes.
I noticed that the owner of an Interactive Story has not been online in a long time. Can I volunteer to host that item and actively moderate it?
No. The site does not transfer an item to another person without the owner's permission.
I tried to view the outline of an Interactive Story, but it wouldn't load. Why?
Loading the outline of a large interactive can be beyond the capacity of phones and tablets, especially older ones. On a laptop or desktop, it depends on whether the browser can handle that much data. It takes a desktop some time to process the page.
I noticed a chapter that doesn't identify who wrote it. How does that happen?
Chapters added by a member who left the site before a certain date do not identify who wrote them. Chapters added by a member who left after that date show "past member username" as the author. The site does not provide a link to "other chapters by this member" for these chapters. Some time later the site returned to not showing the username of chapter authors who left the site.
How can I rejoin two storylines after they've split, such as if both storylines arrive at the same destination, or if a storyline returns to its origination point?
You can link to an existing chapter using the chapter's ID number and the writingML tag for chapter, WritingML Help for chapter. You can put this link tag in the title text box of a chapter choice instead of typing a title. You can also use a link to a chapter in another Interactive Story item.
Does the resource limit for guests and members with free accounts hurt the Interactive Stories or their authors?
No. Most of our interactive authors write and enjoy interactives for themselves and the other writers. Between January and April 2018, the number of new Interactive Story items created daily increased about 5-fold. Only paid members can create them, and more paid members has led to more new items. There are also more new chapters, with better content. It seems that paid members who’ve put up a small amount of money (statistically) are creating better content chapters, more so than just free members did in the past. An additional benefit of the resource limit is that currently free accounts that contain Interactive Story items are no longer purged for inactivity.
I really like a particular Interactive Story and want a copy for my personal use. Is there a way to download all of it at once?
No, there is not. There are no plans to offer an export utility for Interactive Story items (for either owners or readers) due to the server load such requests would create, and the frequency with which they would be requested. The site User Agreement allows you to keep one copy of an item/page for personal use only, either as a printed copy or as a file on your hard drive. With Interactive Story items, you must save that copy page by page as you read. The Dynamic Interactives option available to paid memberships can make this process much easier, and the Story Outline can be used as a TOC to organize the copy.