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Article - 'Plot Writing' by Guest

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Aug 8, 2003

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An Article on Writing a Good Story! Very good read in tip form!

Body

An Article on Writing a Good Story.

By Mr. Y.

Thank you for choosing to read this article, I hope my tips will not disappoint.

My opinion: Stories for games are nearly always integral to the fun. A good story will keep a player at the game; a great story will keep the player on for too long at a time. I say they are nearly always important, because occasionally a game will come along that is so silly as to have a stupid story, just to increase the humor. Also, the story isn’t the key factor in a game; gameplay, graphics, music, and curve of experience all are factors as well. However, my article is not bent towards making a game in general; rather, I’m talking about writing a story itself.

First Tip
Avoid making clichés if at all possible. They make your game seem repetitive and predictable in its storytelling, and that is not good. Rather, try to invent a story off of the top of your head as you write it out. This does not mean you forcefully run from clichés; if you encounter a cliché that is ultimately required for your story, then use it. If the hero’s father absolutely has to be the main villain in your story, then use it.

Second Tip
Do not try to write a story as you go along with making your game on whatever gamemaker you are using. Although this process may prevent you from making holes in the story, it can also prevent you from making incredible plot twists. Also, writing as you go may force you to edit or redo your previous work on the game, meaning more work in the end.

Third Tip
Make sure you are at top shape when writing a story. Write when you are fully conscious; writing at 1:00 A.M. isn’t a good idea, because you will be tired and might not realize what sorts of plot twists you can implement. Be willing to write when you sit down- work for at least an hour at a time, as you will get more work done than three 20-minute spurts of work. Finally, make sure you are comfortable at your workspace. Play some good music on the radio or off of a CD you have, and maybe sip a glass of water or pop/soda if you want. However, don’t listen to anything that makes you think too much- I prefer to listen to music I have gathered for my game, to set moods for myself when writing.

Fourth Tip
Please do not steal material from other games. Many storywriters claim they are ‘inspired’ to make story parts based on other games they have played. However, I will not enjoy a story whose author was ‘inspired’ to make a blond mercenary named Clod Stride with a dark past. That was just a joke folks; most of the time, we don’t actually intentionally steal material. Be careful when writing a story that you don’t steal events or ideas that worked good in another game.

Fifth Tip
Take your time when writing a story, and make it thorough. I typically take 1-2 months to write a game story [working from 1 to 6 hours in a day], but when I write I draw out everything- world map, every event and outcome, and every plot twist. Don’t start working on maps in your game with only a paragraph of information about what your story’s about. If you feel you must absolutely start work on the game itself, do something such as designing characters, items, monsters, battle animation, etc. If you feel you can’t find the time to write your story, you can try to find someone online who will write one. Just be careful when having others write your story- you may not be happy with the end result.

The following is my exact process of steps for how I write a game. You may use this exact approach, or you may make your own. I am simply showing mine to help others.

I. World Map
I draw out how the world map looks, showing all of the major nations and the important locations. I can always change the map later, if I need to; the important thing is that you begin somewhere.
II. Light Character Information
I make the basic characteristics of how the characters are- their moods, beliefs, and ideals, as well as other information such as how they look and what weapons they use. These are for player characters [PCs] only; other non-player characters [NPCs] come with the story itself.
III. World History and Other
I write out all of the important events that occurred before the game begins, in the history of the game’s world. After doing that, I write out what the goals and intentions of the governments and world groups are. Next I’m writing the history of the PCs, as well as getting a general idea of who the greater enemy is to the PCs. I finish by writing a summary of the story in general, showing what basically happens from start to finish.
IV. Introduction to Game
At last, I write out how the game begins. The player is introduced to the main character, or at least tricked into thinking they’ve met the main character. Remember with introductions to make them unique and interesting- no one likes sitting through 20 minutes of a single character’s rant.
V. Finish Earlier Work
Time to make any last changes on parts I, II, or III. They need to become established fact, so that the game can go on smoothly. Of course, they may become edited later for story purposes, but we want to avoid that so that we can avoid holes in the plot.
VI. The Goal of the Game
What will the player be trying to do for most of the game? This is the hidden goal that pops up after the first 5-25% of your game, and is what the player is trying to accomplish. Many times the goal is to defeat an evil enemy, such as the Greater Enemy, so making your game unique in this will help. Examples of part VI are...
-The following of Sephiroth in Final Fantasy 7
-The seeking of the Zodiac Stones in Final Fantasy Tactics
-The attempt at making a new nation in Legion Saga.
VII. The End Result
Next I make the ending of the game, including plenty of plot twists and a good series of final battles.
VIII. The Filler in the Middle
Now I work on all of the story that goes between parts V and VII. Some may disagree with this, saying that the ending should go after the middle in a fashion of start to finish. However, I find this process easier for making great plot twists.
IX. Editing Your Work
The longest step of the 10-part process, and rightfully so. Now I go back over everything I’ve done, looking for extra plot twists I can add to the game. I also look for any corrections I need to make, and I make sure there aren’t any holes in the story. Basically, this step is for finishing the document and making it look its prettiest.
X. Get Reviews of Story
After I’m done with writing a story, I find some willing fellows on Gaming World Forums to read it and check for errors. I also tell them to give me a review of the story in general, so that I know what to correct next time I write.

And, um... That’s the end! Please comment on what you’ve read; feel free to write about your own story-making habits.