Apropos of recent discussions on RAIF about writing quality, telling compelling stories, and hooking the player fast:
Occasionally I find it worthwhile to stop and write a four- or five-sentence book-jacket-style blurb for my work in progress.
This sounds kind of cynical, but it forces me to identify right away what I think are the main hooks of my story. What is the protagonist’s initial problem? How does it change? Why do we care? Having those things in mind is useful as I’m planning the game, especially the opening scenes and the prologue text. If the blurb is weak, that often means I haven’t made the initial motivations compelling enough — so then I get to think through how to strengthen them a bit. Or if the blurb is good, but it’s describing things that don’t become obvious until well into the game, maybe I need to rethink the way I’m telling the story to put more of the hook right at the beginning.
I don’t claim this technique is the solution to all our storytelling woes, but I find it helpful, so maybe other people will too.