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a story is when somebody wants something and...


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#1 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 5059

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Posted 02 June 2004 - 06:34 PM

Hi all. Been kinda quiet in here - partly my fault since I haven''t been posting. Haven''t been able to think of anything writing-related to say that I hadn''t already said. Until tonight! So... I was reading one of the anime-related message boards I''m a member of, and somebody made a thread asking for suggestions sbout how to come up with the ''perfect'' anime script - a pretty normal occurrence, right? But what did they ask for? Examples of emotion-evoking character dynamics? Nail-biting, edge-of-your seat plots? Wondorous worldbuilding? Hilarous humor? Nope. They wanted a list of cool ''powers'' and ''attacks'' so they could pile them all onto the main character and have him go around slicing, dicing, and julianneing generic ''bad guys'' like some sort of walking cuisinart. >.< Gag me with a spoon. So that''s why I''m posting this _here_ where I know some of the forum members are actually smart enough to comprehend it. (Actually this will probably be too basic for most of you, but bear with me here, I have to start somewhere.) Somebody Wants Something You have no story - nada, zip, zilch - unless and until you have one character who wants something: that''s Motivation . They set out to get it and run into problems: that''s Conflict . The problems get more thorny, the goal tantalizingly close to being realized or lost forever (Rising Action ) until... The Climax! The problem is nullified, perhaps by being solved, perhaps by the realization that the problem can''t be solved, or was misunderstood all along and the propoposed ''solution'' wouldn''t actually solve anything. At the same time, the man character(s) have grown in some way - either by changing themseves to suit the world, or reaffirming their resolve to stay the same and change the world to suit them. Let the reader down gently by exprssingyour moral and wrapping up loose ends in the Resolution and NOW you''ve got yourself a real story. Maybe it''s not a great story, but it''s definitely a story. So... how do we make a _great_ story? Who Wants What? There are only so many possible human motivations. Here''s a little list: - fear/protection/defensiveness - anger/dislike/revenge - rivalry/competition/urge to dominance - desire to be helpful/useful/submissive/loyal - ambition/need to live up to personal mythology/vow - loneliness or other desire/lust - desire to be part of a group/good citizen - curiosity/boredom/love of mayhem - whimsy/playfulness I''ve probably forgotten something, but that''s most of them anyway. So those are types of motivation, and they suggest categories of desired object. Now when I say object, don''t fall into the trap of thinking the character has to want some sort of literal physical object. That''s called a foozle, and I''m sure we''ve all done enouh fetch quests in RPGs to realize that foozle stories suck. I don''t care how cool your foozle is - whether you call it the O-Part or the One Piece or the Dragon Ball or the Shinzahao or the Thingamabob of Ultimate Wish-Granting, foozle stories still suck. Spare us, please. So if it''s not a foozle, what is this mysterious ''desired object''? Well, as I said, each type of motivation has it''s own. Loneliness/love/lust is probably the simplest, and yet still complex enough that millions of romance stories have been written based on it without using up all the potential stories that can be generated from this type of motivation. It also happens to be my favorite motivation, so I''ll use it as an example. A character motivated by loneliness or lust or love wants another character, whether as a friend or a one-night stand or as a permanent lover; they might want to perform some specific physical act with this person or have some particular type of relationship with them - the details are what make every story a ''unique snowflake'' as it were, so be creative. One definition of a story might be "the changing relationship between the character and the object of his desire". Fiction Is As Fiction Does Fiction is, at base, a form of entertainment, so the only true measure of a story''s ''greatness'' is its effect on its audiece. Entertainment is all about manipulatng people''s mind and emotions in various ways, and when a story pushes all the right buttons with the right timing and intensity, the audiences is satisfied and will clamor for more. So what does it take to satisfy an audience? What are they searching for in our stories? It''s not just about showing them something new and surprising to alleviate their boredom, although that''s important. You gotta catharsize their emotions - make them laugh and worry, be fearful and amazed, go ''awww'' with pity and coo at cuteness, be angry at injustice and righteously satisfied when it get fixed, you gotta stroke their egos, make tham feel better about themselves and their lives, and so on. And as if that isn''t hard enough, they also want to feel like they learned something, so you have to put in some interesting exposition and probaby also some insightful philosophizing about people, life, emotions, morals, and that sort of thing. But of course you can''t be preachy, audiences hate that. On top of all that you have people looking to you for wish fullfillment and escapism, to "fulfill desires no more than partly satisfied by life" and "experience an imaginary world more lifelike than life itself, more directly and honestly concerned with essential problems, more supple in its expression of every aspect of man’s nature, less burdened by distracting irrelevancies". They aren''t just looking for a better place to go and more interesting situation to be in, they''re looking for someone to be - material that they can use to build their personal mythologies and identities. And finally many people are lonely and are searching for soulbrothers and fantasy romantic objects among your charaters, so if you want to satisfy that segment of your audience you need to provide vivid, deep, and appealing characters for your audience to identify with and lust over. Do all that and you should theoretically get a great story. Do you all agree? What else do you think is necessary to make a great story?

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#2 Anonymous Poster_Anonymous Poster_*   Guests   -  Reputation:

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 09:15 AM

I dont have anything to add. I can barely confirm the things youve said, being just the amaeture that I am. But I really like the things youve said, and the way you said them. Since Im more of a member of the audience community rather than the writers community, I can say that the points youve made are whats important, not that I just want to be entertained for lack of anything beter to do.

Just a shame that so many good points in one post should go unanswered. Hopefully, the real writers in this forum (as you pointed out, theres real talent around here) will have something to add so. With all the expertise, and a opening for a new thread like sun has started for us here, there''s real substance here to have a good conversation.

#3 NeoMage   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 01:02 PM

Where can I find some of your writings?

I''ve been sitting here trying to figure out how to start this reply for a while, but I still don''t know what to say. I read this post thinking, "Well, let''s see why this only has one reply... I''m bored, so I might as well take a stab at answering it." Then I realized that you don''t have a problem that needs answering. Instead, you are one of the few people here who actually knows what a story is and how to write it. If you have any stories etc. that you''ve written that I could read, I''d love to read them, because even your post kept me hooked, and I''m interested in seeing how you actually write.

My email address is DarkSide3174@yahoo.com

-NeoMage

#4 vaneger   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 01:43 PM

ok perhaps than, story guru that you are; you could help come up with ideas for this game concept:

The base conflict is that some demon/person/or otherwise ( havent decided yet) wants to control humanity via it''s dreams.
So the antagonist kidnaps the nine muses to rob humanity of its creativity, and thus he/she/it can subvert its own will apon humanity. The protagonists ( a young boy, a young girl and her alive in her dreams stuffed animal) must fight through their dreams and nightmares to save the muses.

what help i need with is:

what would be good twists to add,
what/who should the antagonist be,
and what style of game should it be?


#5 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2797

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 01:44 PM

quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
I''ve probably forgotten something, but that''s most of them anyway. So those are types of motivation, and they suggest categories of desired object. Now when I say object, don''t fall into the trap of thinking the character has to want some sort of literal physical object. That''s called a foozle, and I''m sure we''ve all done enouh fetch quests in RPGs to realize that foozle stories suck. I don''t care how cool your foozle is - whether you call it the O-Part or the One Piece or the Dragon Ball or the Shinzahao or the Thingamabob of Ultimate Wish-Granting, foozle stories still suck. Spare us, please.



I disagree, a foozle story can be good and some of the best stories ever written are foozle stories. The problem is to often writers make the mistake when writting a foozle story in not realizing that the retreving the foozle is the character''s motivation and should not be the focous of the story. Instead the story if done right is about the journey, and the interpersonal relationships that are built along the way, as the main characters bond, and overcome obstacles together.


One thing that goes into making a great story is multiple layers. The story has many layers of meaning to it, that brings across a story on the personal level that also has a higher level that gets across a grander message.

For example my favorite anime series, "Legend of Black Heaven" deals with the life of a man who was rock star in his youth, and now lives with his wife and kid, in a small one bedroom apartment. He works in an office had has a dull, uneventful and unhappy life, until one day when a a young 20 year old woman invites him to play his music again. The story also has a higher level where it portarys how music can change the universe and bring hope and happiness to everyone who hears it.



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#6 vaneger   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 01:57 PM

yes foozle stories should be based on the journey being the focus because we all know the end is meant to be acquiring the whatevermabober and the resolution of that quest. this mirrors life we all know we die so the meaning of the journey must be the experience of the journeying(sp).

#7 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 5059

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 02:07 PM

There are several samples of my writing available on the net for you to look at. Most of them are incomplete, a lot of them are gay romances, a few of them are erotica you should be 18 to read, and some are fanfiction that wouldn't make much sense unless you'd seen the original movies or anime series. o.O I have some song lyrics and poetry around also, but that's probably not what you were looking for since this thread is about fiction.

So here are links and descriptions of some of my pieces of fiction:

_Shapers and Shaped_ - Short, g-rated MMORPG creation story

_Jessop's Story_ - Furry alien children start going to kindergarden. ^_^ Rated pg-13. 7 1/2 chapters, somewhat fragmentary.

_Hearts Or Nello_ - Complete! ^_^ Cute little historical bisexual romance arrnged marriage story. Rated PG-15 for discussion of bisexuality, but really very innocent. Not actually the sequal to _Jessop's Story_, even though the characters have mostly the same names.


_As the Moon Loves the Sun_ - Lord of the Rings fanfic with the pairing Faramir/Grima Wormtongue/Eowyn Rated PG-15 for discussion of homosexuality, but no explicit sex. Complete, but with a sequel intended but never written.



***Stuff below this point is only for readers over 18!***


_Facepaint_ - My personal favorite of everything I have written. Fanfic for the anime series Fushigi Yuugi, rated NC-17 for explicit homosexual sex among other things. 10 chapters, ongoing

_Uke On Top_ - Script for an original historical anime, rated NC-17 for homosexual sex and attempted suicide. About 85% complete. Drawings of these characters are available if you are interested.

_Howl Together_ - OMG heterosexual sex?! Did I really write this? A twist on the idea of werewolves. Rated NC-17 for explicit heterosexual sex and beastiality. 2 chapters.



Please let me know if you have a problem opening any of the files.

[edited by - sunandshadow on June 3, 2004 9:18:47 PM]

#8 Nathaniel Hammen   Members   -  Reputation: 136

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Posted 03 June 2004 - 02:21 PM

Someone beat me to posting about foozle stories. I was going to say the same thing that TechnoGoth said, with one addition: Even though I beleive that a good foozle story can be written, I have never read/seen one.

--------------------------------------
I am the master of stories.....
If only I could just write them down...

#9 Anonymous Poster_Anonymous Poster_*   Guests   -  Reputation:

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Posted 04 June 2004 - 11:17 AM

quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
What else do you think is necessary to make a great story?



Good characters.

Rurouni Kenshin is a popular manga with a really crappy plotline: you have several heroes, the heroes fight an opponent, fight another opponet, fight a third opponent and so on. Despite the crappy plotline, it''s very popular because the author created four very good characters Kenshin, Aoshi, Misao, Tomoe. It''s interesting to see that readers do not care about crappy and cliche plotline as long as there are some good characters, this totally contradict the popular myth that story with cliche plotline sucks.

There are other manga like Get Backers/Bremen/Blackcat with the heroes fighting opponents after opponents, but they are not as popular as Kenshin, because they lack good characters.

#10 Anonymous Poster_Anonymous Poster_*   Guests   -  Reputation:

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Posted 07 June 2004 - 09:25 AM

quote:
Original post by vaneger
ok perhaps than, story guru that you are; you could help come up with ideas for this game concept:

The base conflict is that some demon/person/or otherwise ( havent decided yet) wants to control humanity via it''s dreams.
So the antagonist kidnaps the nine muses to rob humanity of its creativity, and thus he/she/it can subvert its own will apon humanity. The protagonists ( a young boy, a young girl and her alive in her dreams stuffed animal) must fight through their dreams and nightmares to save the muses.

what help i need with is:

what would be good twists to add,
what/who should the antagonist be,
and what style of game should it be?




There isn''t that much to go on here.... Maybe you should try to flesh it out a little bit and then ask for some help with it.


#11 Evil_Greven   Members   -  Reputation: 410

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Posted 07 June 2004 - 08:43 PM

I pretty much agree with every point. Personally, I can't think of any others, really. Escapism is one of the main things I know I seek. Further, I desire strong emotions in a story, and I do expect it to have at *least* a little humor (though I quite enjoy comedies), as well as a good bit of action that relates to those emotions.

I also like detail - not necessarily total understanding - but hey, if you're shooting a plasma gun, I want to know sort of how it's supposed to work. And, I really prefer (in the case of book series/movie series/tv episodes) a stronger by-case storyline... that is to say, for instance, I prefer each episode of a TV to have a strong storyline even if the overall series storyline is less interesting. To a point, at least.

Also... perhaps not the *best* place to ask, but speaking of anime and stories, sunandshadow , do you have any particular favorites as far as storylines go?

I would say Cowboy Bebop is a good anime, but then I realize the storyline is rather fragmentary at times. Mostly stand-alone episodes.

Big O is another I somewhat like, but the storyline is just.. bizarre. What the hell, is everything a holodeck creation?

Now, one anime I enjoyed watching recently seemed to have a well-built storyline; Witch Hunter Robin. Rather dark anime, but quite well done, in my opinion. The main character seems to mature greatly, as well as affect the other characters around her quite a bit.

For something less serious and more comical, what about Ranma 1/2? Again, mostly stand-alone episodes, but the brilliance of it is the comedy being mixed so strongly with action and drama. It's everything and nothing, I suppose. Overall storyline is pretty weak, in my opinion, but individual episodes have superb storylines (well.. more often than not, nobody's perfect).

...basically Ranma 1/2 is everything I want in a story, except the lack of a stronger main storyline.

There IS a novel series out that I have enjoyed immensely, but I cannot for the life of me remember the name offhand (it's been some time since I read them).

-Greven

[edited by - Evil_Greven on June 8, 2004 3:46:04 AM]

#12 Chokki   Members   -  Reputation: 610

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Posted 08 June 2004 - 06:09 AM

in defense of foozles, imagine if you will a story that didn''t have one..

foozles are necessary, if but for giving the player an objective to work for, or something to measure his progress by. it has already been well noted that foozles can be abused, by making them the focus of the game. i agree. but at the same time, i think we are not going in the right direction with them either..

making up an example foozle story here..
the evil king has sealed the 8 golden pearls, and the world will end if they are not all recovered by monday.

ok then. in such game, i would gladly fight the odd dragon or wizard or what have you to recover them. after all, i want to save my world, gosh darn it! but, individually, i might not see a reward for recovering said foozles. the player''s gameplay is not enhanced by collecting them.

this is whre the problem lies, gentlemen. when foozles are just foozles. fortunately, this is a very easy thing to fix, depending in how much the game creator cares about it.

in the case of magic golden pearls, just carrying them around doesn''t do me any good. can''t eat them, can''t throw them at enemies.. can''t sell them... somehow, the said foozles must affect the gameplay, to a marginal degree. what if each pearl endowed the owner with magical powers? there''s a start, me thinks. i dunno, that should do good enough for most games, but not doing anything is just a bad idea.

ok then, that said ihave to go to work...
happy story writing!
~Chokki

#13 SJ_Zero   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 08 June 2004 - 01:27 PM

Actually, you don''t really need a final objective, if you think about it. Just having character interaction is enough for a LOT of people!

Notice how many people cling to MMORPGs, in spite of their virtually nil objective? I''d argue that the lack of an objective keeps more people there than it drives away(it drives me away -- I don''t want to level up perpetually!!), so as a writer, finding a way to create a world completely devoid of race/class superiority(you hippie!!), yet somehow allowing those who want to have something as their final goal(you cosmopolitans!), would be the ultimate.

Personally, the best thing for me is the idea of the "personal sacrifice creates a players need to play in a certain way". Imagine if some people imageined an evil pirate or warlord sacrificing themselves to save him. I think those people would keep those folks in their mind. Imagine on the other hand, a hero saving you from said pirate/warlord...makes factions easier to draw up for those who like RPing, and gives less incentive to be purely humanist/good for those who don''t like RPing.

#14 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 5059

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Posted 09 June 2004 - 11:40 AM

quote:
Original post by Evil_Greven
Also... perhaps not the *best* place to ask, but speaking of anime and stories, sunandshadow , do you have any particular favorites as far as storylines go?



He all, sorry I haven''t been keeping up with this thread but I just moved, had delays getting my internet connection working, and am now taking 4.5 hours of class with 3-4 hours of homework a day in an attempt to graduate at the end of the summer, so a lot of my free time has disappeared.

Anyway, animes with good plots, hmm... Plot is not one of the elements of witing I''m particularly interested in so I don''t pay too much attention to whether things have tight, unified, suspenseful plots. Off the top of my head I My Me Strawberry Eggs has the strongest plot I can think of, probably because it was complete in 13 episodes so there was a lot of main story line and little episodicity or filler. Crest of the Stars also has a pretty good plot, if you like protracted escape stories. Me, I was annoyed that the story ended just when it got to the military academy part, which was what I really wanted to watch. o_O Berserk is regarded by many people as the anime with the most literary and dramatic quality, but the last 5 episodes are so frightening/horriffic that I hesitate to recommend it to anyone. Ghost in the Shell and Akira both have good plot unity because they are short enough to be watched in one sitting. I personally really liked Ai no Kusabi 1 and 2, but not so many people like NC-17 rated gay si-fi romances with bdsm/slavery themes. (Of course I better like them, since I''m writing one. ) I could have done without the tragic ending though.

What I''m currently watching is Uninhabited Planet Survive, which has surprisingly good character interaction and directed plot movement for a 50-some episode series targeted at a 10-14 yr old audience. And only half of it has been translated so far, so...

#15 adventuredesign   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 480

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Posted 16 June 2004 - 11:58 AM

I think a great conflict is necessary, no matter what scale. This is often a function of juxtaposition and POV and scale. Lafcadio the Lionhearted, by Ray Bradbury, is a great example of universal ramification of the tiniest, most natural decision a simple animal could make.

I've said here before a great screenwriter said, "There are only two kinds of stories: a man goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town."

p.s. Love the new icons.

"A good day's writing is a day well lived, but sometimes it's glamerous and sometimes it's hammerous." - Adventuredesign

#16 Avatar God   Members   -  Reputation: 1072

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Posted 16 June 2004 - 03:58 PM

Examples of effective foozle (what a weird workd) stories that most people will know: Indiana Jones! But what makes it great it not *just* that he's searching for the Holy Grail, but that he's falling in love with a (spy) German, trying to find his dad, curious about God, fighting Nazis, and trying to, of course, save the world. So it gets hard to classify things, and I guess I wouldn't call this a foozle story, even though the main point is to rescue the Holy Grail from the Nazis.

I suppose, then, that a real foozle story is the kind where you're questing for the Uber-Sword-of-Darkness-and-Death (Attack+10000), and have no conversation or dialogue with anyone, would suck. Because there's no reason to read it. Play it as a game, perhaps, but I'd prefer there was more to it - it's just a generic shoot-em-up that forgot to write in the plot.

Outside of the original points you made, s/s, there's really not a whole lot. Pretty much everything can be included into what you have for the motivations. Still, things such as love, jealousy, honor, circumstance, hormones, physical and mental problems, probably deserve some mention here.

I particularly like
Quote:
Original post by sunandshadowOne definition of a story might be "the changing relationship between the character and the object of his desire".
because that really is what makes stories great: dynamics. Static, flat characters and relationships just aren't any fun to read. But people who change and are rounded and exciting are well, more exciting to read. So the relationship between (using my same example) Jones (Jr.) and the Grail changes (as does his relationship with his father, woman, Nazi captor, etc.) as he learns more about it, its history and location, and especially as he gets closer to it and sees the power and problems that could be caused by it - namely, God getting really, really mad.

Lacking any conclusion to tie this up with, I think I'll just stop before I start rambling.

gsgraham.comSo, no, zebras are not causing hurricanes.

#17 Vaevictis_A   Members   -  Reputation: 136

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Posted 17 June 2004 - 12:17 AM

Quote:
"Examples of effective foozle (what a weird workd) stories that most people will know: Indiana Jones! But what makes it great it not *just* that he's searching for the Holy Grail, but that he's falling in love with a (spy) German, trying to find his dad, curious about God, fighting Nazis, and trying to, of course, save the world. So it gets hard to classify things, and I guess I wouldn't call this a foozle story, even though the main point is to rescue the Holy Grail from the Nazis."



The reason that Grail is the perfect example of the intelligent 'hunt-for-an-object'-story is that the object itself has a symbolic meaning. It's representative of what Indy is *really* hunting for.

Take a look at the ending: Indy gives up on the Grail (very symbolically, when his father tells him to let go of it because he needs him), and they go home without the Grail. But in the process, Indy has gained a father, and we realize that *that* is what the story was about the whole time. The Grail was just a physical manifestation of the goal, but in itself it was unimportant.

That's why 'hunt-for-an-object'-type stories are in no way inferior. The writer just needs to realize that the object itself should function as a mirror for something else, typically an aspect of the protagonist him/herself.

An added power of this type of story is that it functions on two levels: The obvious level (where the Grail is a powerful artifact) and the higher, symbolic level (where the Grail is Indy's relationship to his father).
***Symphonic Aria,specialising in music for games, multimedia productions and film. Listen to music samples on the website, www.symphonicaria.com.

#18 Avatar God   Members   -  Reputation: 1072

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Posted 17 June 2004 - 05:08 AM

Quote:
Original post by Vaevictis_AAn added power of this type of story is that it functions on two levels: The obvious level (where the Grail is a powerful artifact) and the higher, symbolic level (where the Grail is Indy's relationship to his father).
And his relatinoship to god, which is interesting. I like how the movie somewhat combines the theology and history.

But again, I wouldn't want a story that is _only_ focused on an object.
gsgraham.comSo, no, zebras are not causing hurricanes.




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