Choice of Games pieces also very often involve multiple romantic or career options; and in my WIP, I found that there was kind of a risk of making all the romances be variants of “…and then you ride into the sunset with person X.” From a storytelling point of view, though, I don’t find that very satisfying, because it makes those characters interchangeable and makes it harder for them to have distinctive arcs in the body of the text.
Recently I tried an exercise that helped with this. It is really pretty trivial but I shared it with a few people who found it useful, so now I will share it more widely. The exercise:
List all the major characters, which probably means those for whom you’re tracking relationship state.
For each character, write down the outcome they most want. Start a restaurant? Retire in luxury? Win the Olympics? Find love? Sometimes this goal can require them to make personal changes to be successful. This doesn’t have to be the protagonist’s goal, or related to it, at all — it’s what this character wants.
Also write down what their worst outcome would be, given the bounds of this story universe. Is this character committed to earning her father’s respect, and would be devastated if he cut off contact with her? Afraid of losing the business she worked hard to build? Facing the destruction of a beloved country?
Then brainstorm about what the player character might do that would cause these outcomes. Could you coach this character? Help them network with an important individual? Turn them in for something they did wrong?
Now you’ve got clearer stakes for your interactions with these characters, and the basis for more individualized or complex happy and sad endings. What if the player character gets what they want, but their beloved doesn’t? What if the beloved’s goals are incompatible with ours, or incompatible in some circumstances?
Also recommended: Adam Strong-Morse has written about the arm-and-fingers structure used successfully in several Choice of Games pieces, where the game branches strongly in the last chapter or two.