Halloween 2018 IF,  Interactive Fiction

Halloween I.F – “Crafting Love” – Author’s Notes / Story Q&A

[Author’s Notes / Story Q&A]

Thank you so much to everyone who played, read, or otherwise peeked in on Crafting Love! As always, I had a lot of fun writing it, and I hope you all enjoyed reading it as well.

The final length of this story was 52,200 words (around 125 pages in gdocs)! It feels truly incredible—it was NaNo in October! If and when you want to reread it, you’ll be able to find this story linked from my Interactive Fiction page. Feel free to check out some older interactive stories there too!

If you enjoyed the story and are looking for ways to support me and my work, you can learn more about and pick up my books over here. Read some already? Leaving a good rating or review on Goodreads or Amazon can make all the difference. I’ve also got a tip jar over at Ko-Fi! And please, feel free to follow me on social media to see what I’m up to: Twitter and Tumblr.

Okay, business aside—let’s do a story Q&A! Feel free to ask me anything you want about the story, what my writing process was, things people may have suspected but not had confirmed, other ‘routes’, etc. Wonder what would have happened if you’d done X instead of Y? Ask it here! (Lurkers are totally allowed to ask too!).

Here’s some starting information: I originally wrote up the idea for this about 5 years ago under the working title “Bootycall of Cthulhu” (it was much more about dating Great Old Ones in its first iteration), and started to script it up in the Failbetter Games engine before that was taken down. I wrote the ‘pitch’ paragraph for the current iteration about a year and a half ago, with the basic idea that the characters in this were each living out their own horror story, and it would be up to the player to intersect with those stories as they saw fit.

Thank you once again… and happy Halloween!

[Ask Me Some Questions, I’ll Tell You No Lies]

[Previous post: Conclusion]


  • tanoshiso

    Thank you for writing all of this, it was a delight to read!

    What would have happened if Jay and Louis had explored the forest instead? What if Jay hadn’t brought Louis along at all? Were there any particular scenes involved in retrieving the flute that you wish would have come up but just didn’t?

    • MeredithKatz

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Thank you so much for all your involvement!

      My plans for the path to the recovery of the flute were:

      – There is no true world location for the Flute. Whoever Jay chooses to go with, he will get a different location themed to that character, and the flute will be in that world. If he hadn’t brought Louis, the location would be dependent on who he went with. (I didn’t think you’d go alone, but if he went alone I’d either force Ulthar along or put him in Nyarlathotep’s location, I hadn’t decided which but was gonna go off the feeling of the replies)

      – Each of the locations within that location should play off some element (or multiple elements) of the relevant mythos. (This is also tied into the fact that each of the main companion characters are heavily tied into their relevant mythos)

      – I hadn’t actually realized until people began suggesting it that I’d made the forest seem explorable! Since I didn’t bring up the Yellow Sign’s war against the Mi-Go elsewhere, I’d have probably tossed it into the forest & have the flute be falling into the hands of the enemy who would be intent on wiping out the Cult of the Yellow Sign.

      Re scenes, because of how I’d arranged it above, I didn’t have a lot of things planned that didn’t hinge on player locational choice. I think the lost city was the Best Place to get more closure for/with Louis, though. I guess, if anything, I imagined Ulthar (the cat, not the place) trying to protect Jay in the final confrontation, just appearing out of nowhere in hybrid form** but I couldn’t fit it in; at least, not in a way that made sense.

      (** look ok I know that probably the ‘hybrid’ horned creatures in the Cats of Ulthar short story are meant to be egyptian gods, but HPL didn’t say that explicitly so I can do what I want.)

  • dranachronisms

    Thank you so much for this!

    – Were there any potential planned characters that we missed meeting by not concentrating on combing the town as much?

    2. What would have happened if we’d leaned into a relationship with Camden instead? Would we have met his sister?

    3. Did you have plans for if we all went wildly bad end mode and got Jay to play the flute?

    • MeredithKatz

      Thank YOU so much!! I super appreciate your participation, it was a lot of fun!

      1. I can combine 1 and 2 somewhat because you’d absolutely have met Camden’s sister! I also thought that you would hit up the town earlier and meet Hannah sooner, but the nature of the game is that characters only have as much role as people give to them. (If I ever find an engine that I feel comfortable with to make this an actual branching path game, obviously we’d revisit those two).

      2. Leaning into a relationship with Camden would have basically put you on a Mother Hydra & Father Dagon cult storyline (maybe with a touch of Cthulhu and the threat of him awakening). I mean I don’t think I said it explicitly but obviously, Camden’s from Innsmouth. He’s also a lot more openly emotional and easily romanced (but less sexual) than Louis. Camden has a lot of feelings, basically all the time lmao. So you’d meet his family pretty fast. (Next time you’d see him he’d have managed to wash his hair because he wants to impress Jay, he is, like that.)

      3. I didn’t think you guys *would*, but yeah, I had some plans! The thing with stories like this is, since you can’t just replay after seeing a bad end, whatever I have to do I have to make satisfying, so if it veered to bad end it would need to feel paid off. I was thinking, since there’d be like…2? days left I think? Having Nyarlathotep show up to fight Godjay (though of course, Hastur was already arriving) and you’d all get to spin the cosmos out and rewrite reality to 🙂 fit your needs 🙂 You’d get the questions of, what do you do, how do you change things, what do you tweak to your satisfaction. Like, really lean into the You’re Basically All Powerful now, with narrative tones of corruption (describing Louis using weak words, thinking back to the pitiful dirty hoarder’s home you’d inherited, etc).

  • Vikarmic

    As always, this was a delight. Thank you so much for running.

    * What were some of the other potential endgame scenarios like?

    * Relatedly, what could we have found if we’d explored using the other Signs we’d found more?

    * If we’d had Jay be more expansive in his Sign usage, what could the other two Signs have done to help in the endgame, if anything?

    * Did you have anything planned if we’d doubled down on exploring the house? Other stuff we could have found that might have been useful?

    * Which location would we have gone to if we’d decided to just bring the cat?

    • MeredithKatz

      Thank you as always for playing!! I always look forward to your comments. <3

      * The theme around Camden's horror story is involuntary physical change, vis a vis the Innsmouth Look, so the final confrontation would revolve around body horror as well as probably a threat from the deep ones. It'd be set in R'lyeh probably. If you'd gone with Nyarlathotep (or maybe Ulthar?) it would have been the Tomb of Naphren-Ka-esque. Hannah's I only have bare-bones ideas of. (Since I don't do any prewriting, these are all just bullet points I mentally expand on as you guys interact with the characters). Then in each of these they'd depend on choices, so along with the forest bit mentioned above, the palace or the city would be two possible takes on the King in Yellow play (there are at least two known versions). In either cases, Louis's presence would be, uh, marked. (The Stranger in the Pallid Mask is...not a very lucky figure). Basically the various confrontations and themes had to tie into various key elements of the stories (though obviously I'm not interested in playing with, like, HPL's Racism lol, so although Innsmouth is on some levels The Fear Of Miscegenation, I would steer away from Human Equivalents to eldritch bloodlines, you know?).

      * You mean like, if you'd used individual signs to go through the door? Early on, using the keys on those Signs would give you access to areas of the Dreamland influenced by that figure/the ability to travel specifically to 'their' worlds/stars/areas. It also would have drawn their attention more. If you had used a specific sign to explore a lot there would have been a lot more ic push to get Jay into that cult.

      * It'd depend how you used them, really. You basically never did anything to get Dagon/Hydra's attention, but the lake's right there (and Derleth at least interwove them in The Return of Hastur). And Keziah could have been a lot more present/hands on. (It was theoretically also possible to hook up with Keziah, just, not very likely).

      * If you'd doubled down early on the story would have spun out differently just in development, I'd probably have tossed more things in the attic or basement for direct discovery (for example the Necronomicon Book of the Laws of the Dead wouldn’t necessarily have had to come from Nyarlathotep’s hands). In my original Failbetter system writeup (I can’t even remember what the user-available engine was called anymore…) I had a sanity mechanic where spending time exploring the house in a mundane way/reading books/etc would raise sanity, while spending time on eldritch artefacts, exploring the door etc, would lower it. If your sanity got too high, you could no longer see the door, while if too low, uh, that’s its own problem. Obviously I scrapped strict mechanics for a narrative version, but I gestured to it here and there.

      * I hadn’t quite decided and was going to pin it down if it came to that. The Cats of Ulthar story indicates that all cats came from the same source (probably Egypt), which would make it a good tie in to more Nyarlathotep stuff, esp if you hadn’t got close to/didn’t bring him, so I might still have ‘run’ the Tomb of Naphren-ka. (Ulthar wasn’t in my original outline, but I added it in due to people wanting to explore a random safe place).

  • jsorcerer

    Hi! I had a crazy October and completely missed this and now I am so mad at myself! This story was absolutely amazing, another year, another masterwork. Already can´t wait for 2019 🙂 Aaand Camden was cute, but Louis was steaming! Aaaand I have a thing for the name since the times I was a hardcore Directioner 😀 Anyways, my questions are:

    Can you describe the pallid mask a little more? How does it work? How come it never falls off, considering he can still move it? I raked my brain but especially when they were kissing I kinda failed to understand how it managed to stay on 😀

    How did Louis and Dr. Archer ended up together? Did Louis actually kill him?

    Was Dr. Archer actually just a sadist or is it actually a part of their cult?

    Did Ashesh return and became an ominous sexually frustrating neighbour?

    Where did you get all the mythos info? Is there a book or series to be read, or did you somehow devour the near endless network of links and refferences and whatnot?

    I really liked the concept of Yidhra and the Dreamlands, could you point me in the right direction if I wanted to explore that particalr thing more?

    Thanks 🙂

    • meredithkatz

      Hi! I’d been wondering; it’s great to hear from you! I’m really glad you enjoyed it. Haha, I’m especially glad you enjoyed Louis and his name–I was using names that people suggested from the instructions, but when I saw someone suggested ‘Louis’, I had to use it, because someone named Louis Castaigne occurs several times in Hastur-related stories.

      – With the Pallid Mask, I think it’s best to say that the mask is in the process of permanently attaching–so think of it as sticking but not fully affixed. At this stage in his life, he could probably take it off, but he’s not going to (I left it vague as to how, but maybe something like a plant’s roots or thin hairs? That’d give some maneuverability but won’t let it move too far.)

      – I imagine Louis was raised in the Cult of Hastur and was taken into the custody of the doctor when he showed promise as a teenager. I didn’t hash out the exact details since it wasn’t asked, but likely Dr. Archer (who was a psychiatrist) was his counselor. (Nothing about Dr. Archer was ethical). Louis absolutely killed Dr. Archer and hid the body. He lives out in the woods, after all.

      – Sadism is part of their cult, but it was probably part of what drew Dr. Archer to it! Hastur as a god is often associated with decaying luxury and toxic pleasures. (This is also why Louis’s home has this old, uncared-for look of faded riches). I took a number of themes, names, and ideas from primarily three Hasturian stories for the Louis ‘route’: The Yellow Sign by Robert W. Chambers, An Inhabitant of Carcosa by Ambrose Bierce, and The River of Night’s Dreaming by Karl Edward Wagner. The last one is a sort of lesbian pulp horror story where a woman escapes from being unfairly confined to a mental facility and is taken in by a “kindly” “family” of women who are actually sexual sadists from Hastur’s cult.

      – Ashesh would return in some form or another 🙂

      – Oh, phew, the Mythos info. You’re right in calling it a near endless network of links and references. The good news is that many of the authors/stories who were considered part of the Mythos ‘canon’ circle are in public domain now so you can find them on many many sites, but the bad news is that there are SO MANY stories. I downloaded a lot of them as audiobooks so I could listen while doing something else, but I also own these:


      The Hastur Cycle & The Nyarlathotep Cycles are collections of relevant stories centered around that specific deity, with compiled and with forewards by Robert M. Price, one of THE top Lovecraftian scholars (where by Lovecraftian, I mean Mythos-specific even if not written by Lovecraft). They’re really convenient to narrow in on specific topics. (He’s created anthologies for others as well, though not ones relevant to this particular story). You CAN read many of these stories online for free, but I got these books so someone else could curate the recommended reading for me lmao. And The Cthulhu Encyclopedia was good for me to quickly double check names, locations, etc. I was a little relieved that people went with Louis because I know Hastur stuff better than the others so it required less on-the-fly double-checking.

      (If you do look these stories up, it’s important for you to realize that many of the official Mythos stories actually contradict each other, especially Hastur stories. There is no ‘one canon truth’ for how things are in the Mythos, and Hastur might be a benevolent god in one poem, a sadistic one in another, a place, a planet, or anything else. As a matter of fact, multiple authors give different excerpts of the ‘King in Yellow’ play that entirely contradict each other, implying that even WITHIN the Hastur mythos, there’s no one truth. So it’s better to look for where themes and ideas feed off each other and keep in mind that these stories aren’t meant to have a correct canon even when they take place in the same reality. Reality itself isn’t stable in the Mythos, really).

      – Yidhra was created by Walter C. DeBill, Jr for the story “Where Yidhra Walks”. I think she also appeared in his “Predator”, though honestly I haven’t read it. She isn’t terribly utilized because she was added to the Mythos later, and I basically used the name&dream concept to go in a new direction mostly inspired by but not the same thing—she isn’t actually associated with the Dreamlands normally, but since using the thought of a “Dream Witch” it made sense to me to do so. The Dreamlands are from Lovecraft’s “The Dream Cycle”, which is a lengthy series of short stories; Wikipedia has a list on them here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dream_Cycle . They’re notable because they’re kind of more whimsical than pure horror most of the time. (Fair warning that Lovecraft himself, and many of his contemporaries, were super racist and xenophobic. Many of the stories are still worth reading, just, you know, also yikes.)
      –> ETA: As a note, I found out some later things that indicated Yidhra might not be as public domain as initially indicated, so she’s been renamed to Keziah here (from Lovecraft’s Dreams from the Witch House). Since this was a new take on the character anyway, it’s a low impact change 😉

      Hope this helps!

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