Choosing a Voice

Choosing a Voice

By In Adventures In Interactive Storytelling On 9 June 2016


learn about using tenses and voices in creative writing – evaluate and discuss – choose a voice for our game

Commonweal PI Unit had the challenging task of choosing what voice, what tense to use in the writing.

  1. Second Person Present
    You can see a long way down the tunnel down towards the airlock. It’s dark and quiet.
    Will you:
    Creep down quietly in the dark?
    Switch on your torch so you can see where you’re going?
    This is the most used tense in gamebooks.
  2. Third Person Present
    Leia can see a long way down the tunnel down towards the airlock. It’s dark and quiet.
    Should she:
    Creep down quietly in the dark?
    Switch on her torch so she can see where she’s going?
  3. First Person Present
    Okay. I can see a long way down the tunnel down towards the airlock. It’s dark and quiet.
    Should I:
    Creep down quietly in the dark?
    Switch on my torch so I can see where I’m going?
    The player is an extra character, an advisor to the main character.
  4. Third Person Past
    Leia could see a long way down the tunnel down towards the airlock. It was dark and quiet.
    Did she:
    Creep down quietly in the dark?
    Switch on her torch so she could see where she was going?

They discussed the relative merits of each tense.

Second Person Present sounds like it puts you right in the action. But, on reflection, they thought it would mean that the hero of the adventure would have to be characterless to accommodate all players.

What they really liked about Third Person Past is that they would be able to create a proper character for their game. It’s also the standard novel format. But they felt that it doesn’t have the immediacy that you would want for a game.

So they considered Third Person Present. They felt that is has more immediacy, but it’s not like playing a proper game, where it’s all happening to you. So they were still drawn to the idea of First Person. That’s what gaming is.

So that brought us to First Person Present. You can also create a proper character in this tense. And it’s in vogue in books like The Hunger Games:

To my left and back, sparse piney woods. This is where Haymitch would want me to go. Immediately.

I hear his instructions in my head. “Just clear out, put as much distance as you can between yourselves and the others, and find a source of water.”

But it’s tempting, so tempting, when I see the bounty waiting there before me. And I know that if I don’t get it, someone else will.

But even here, the action is happening to someone else, so they had the inspired idea that Pye has designed and built a special set of glasses to help her. The Player IS the glasses. So the Player is right there. Pye talks to the Player in the First Person Present, and the Player has to make decisions and take actions to help Pye.

Nominated: First Person Present

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