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things you should and shouldn't do when writing stories

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#1 FridgeRaider   Members   -  Reputation: 112

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Posted 26 November 2004 - 06:13 AM

I have been writing little worlds on paper since i was 5 when i wrote my first mini-series, The Witch and the House of Stones, on my dad's old computer in the basement. Im 16 now and have found some does and some donts while writing stories. So here they are. Dont: -Things that you shouldn't do when wanting to create a story for your game. 1)The #1 thing that i cant stress enough to ppl is dont just sit down and try to think up a story in a day. The greatest stories ever written were molded in time and thats where the best results will come from. (To counter this please see Do: # 2) 2)Dont start making your game until you atleast have a rough-draft of your story, if you dont your story will be wasted by you trying to get the story done real fast in hopes that you can put your game out to the public soon. 3)Dont ask anyone to help you on creating yuor story unless your absolutly positive that the person your working with thinks just like you. If you let someone else make up your story for you it will only be half-ass. Think about it who in there right mind would help you create a story for a game when they could do the same thing for themselves. Also, letting someone else do it will remove the passion that you could've put in it thus ruining the story, again. Do: -Things that you should do when wanting to create a story for your game. 1)The first thing that you should do is think of what kind of story you want to write. You should make it a story that you will have fun making whether its a knight & dragon world, or a mafia type setting. 2)Next try to get some movies, games, or even books and try to go through them. This will usually sparks things in your mind and will give you some ideas on what you should do in your game. 3)Another thing that i highly suggest to ppl is use a spellcheck. I dont know how many home-made games ive seen where someone has misspelled words like how and accidently put hoe instead. It brings the overall image of the game way down and will thus run the story, yet again. This is all that i could think of in 10 mins so i will be posting mre do's and dont's latter on. Thank you for reading!!!

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#2 onyxflame   Members   -  Reputation: 199

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Posted 26 November 2004 - 08:57 AM

Not having actually completed a game yet, I could be just talking out my ass here. But here's a few of my ideas on the subject.

- If you create the story before figuring out all the nitty gritty aspects of actual gameplay, don't be afraid to revise your story to fit better. (Aerys or whatever her name was in FF7 for instance. HOW many times did she die during combat, and then suddenly this one dude's able to kill her forever? Get real.) View your original story as a starting point, and be aware that you may have to add/subtract/change aspects of it at some point along the line.

- I personally think it's entirely possible to collaborate on a story and have it turn out good. Sometimes other people think of twists and turns that you wouldn't have imagined in a million years, that end up making it better than what you could've produced alone. You should DEFINITELY know the person you're trying to collaborate with though...if I like intricate plot twists and deep philosophical questions, and you like zombies eating everyone's faces, we're probably not going to produce anything good, even if we can keep from arguing long enough to produce anything, period.
If a squirrel is chasing you, drop your nuts and run.

#3 RPTD   Members   -  Reputation: 310

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Posted 26 November 2004 - 09:14 AM

if would perhaps refine rule 2 a bit. it is ok and often very helpfull if you know the basic gameplay you aim at before you go into the story. it does not help much to think of characters and their abilities if the game later on doesn't honor this. i would think about both in the same time instead of one by one.
Life's like a Hydra... cut off one problem just to have two more popping out.
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#4 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4538

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Posted 26 November 2004 - 01:24 PM

Some good principles for designing any story:

Aristotelian Unity - Do not put redundancy in your design. Never use a bigger setting or longer amount of time than necessary. Never have two characters or objects that serve the same purpose. Smaller settings and more compact timelines make for a more intense story, and unique characers and objects which serve multiple functions are more interesting and memorable.

Main Character/Impact Character Complementarity - Most stories will have a main character and another character who has the most impact on the first character because the two characters have either opposite goals, or opposite methods for trying to achieve the same goal. In any story one of these characters should be forced by the plot to change their goal/approch, while the other character remains steadfast in their goal/approach. This is how you as a writer present a moral about what people should do or how they should do it to your audience. The character who changes does not necessarily have to be changing from the 'wrong way' to the 'right way'; a story with an unhappy ending suggests that the steadfast character was wrong and too stubborn or blind to change, and the dynamic character got dragged down too by not being strong-willed or faithful enough.

For Every Element, Include Its Opposite - If you want to talk about one character with a particular virtue/flaw/trait, you need to have another character with the opposite trait to contrast them with. If you want to show how a society is too ritualistic/individualistic/frivolous/stodgy/whatever, you need to show either a misfit individual or group within that society, or an alternate society, which has the opposite trait. Plot events too should generally be symmetrical or circular: a 'leaving home' scene somewhere in the story suggests a 'coming home' scene elsewhere, a fight scene is balanced by a brooding scene, a clever plan by its accidental mis-execution, a mystery by its solution, etc.

Register: Consistency and Variation - Your register (word choice) and tone should be consistent throughout a story and for each character, but each character's way of speaking should be different from the other characters' and the narrator's.

Control Focus With Detail vs. Ambiguity - Some of us prefer a lot of detail, some of us very little; nevertheless, you need to use both in your writing to direct your audience's attention to the important elements of the story. If you make everything detailed your audience will be bored because you are not asking them to use their imaginations; if you make everything ambiguous your audience will be confused, which again leads to boredom because they have no foundation on which to base their imaginative guesswork. Either make the setting ambiguous and the main character and plot clearly detailed, or make the setting detailed and the character motivations and plot ambiguous, and the audience's attention and suspense will be focused on figuring out what the detailed parts imply about the ambiguous parts.

[Edited by - sunandshadow on December 7, 2004 5:24:16 AM]

#5 boolean   Members   -  Reputation: 1702

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Posted 27 November 2004 - 12:39 AM

Dang, I wish I had another sticky I could add this too [wink]

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Full version and Demo Version available on the Android app store.


#6 ahw   Members   -  Reputation: 261

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Posted 27 November 2004 - 04:10 AM

Maybe we should put all those good things (and those sticky) into an article or something, here on GameDev ?
-----------------------------Sancte Isidore ora pro nobis !

#7 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4538

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Posted 28 November 2004 - 11:22 AM

Quote:
Original post by onyxflame
- I personally think it's entirely possible to collaborate on a story and have it turn out good. Sometimes other people think of twists and turns that you wouldn't have imagined in a million years, that end up making it better than what you could've produced alone. You should DEFINITELY know the person you're trying to collaborate with though...if I like intricate plot twists and deep philosophical questions, and you like zombies eating everyone's faces, we're probably not going to produce anything good, even if we can keep from arguing long enough to produce anything, period.


Lol, is that a comment on the collabortive game design project?



Boolean and Ahw - I'll sticky this thread if it gets more good suggestions, I don't think there's quite enough material here to justify a sticky yet. Anyone who is moivated to write an article, by all means go for it. :) I wish I had the energy and inspiration to write some articles myself, but there doesn't seem to be much demand for writing about writing - the whole time I've been a moderator here, nobody's requested me to cover any topics in my developer journal or in article format.

#8 orionx103   Members   -  Reputation: 130

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Posted 28 November 2004 - 02:45 PM

Quote:
Original post by FridgeRaider
Do:

-Things that you should do when wanting to create a story for your game.

1)The first thing that you should do is think of what kind of story you want to write. You should make it a story that you will have fun making whether its a knight & dragon world, or a mafia type setting.


The storyline I've been working on is completely different. I've come up with a ton of characters and basis of the storyline, but I'm not sure if I should have it on Earth or on a "Earth-like", alternate reality planet. You don't need to figure out your setting. You need to figure out what you like, what you want, and start from there. If that means you start by writing characters, so be it.

Quote:

2)Next try to get some movies, games, or even books and try to go through them. This will usually sparks things in your mind and will give you some ideas on what you should do in your game.


Agreed.

Quote:

3)Another thing that i highly suggest to ppl is use a spellcheck. I dont know how many home-made games ive seen where someone has misspelled words like how and accidently put hoe instead. It brings the overall image of the game way down and will thus run the story, yet again.


You, uhh... Might wanna look into one, too, dude.

#9 dhasenan   Members   -  Reputation: 128

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Posted 01 December 2004 - 02:56 PM

Quote:
Dont:
1)The #1 thing that i cant stress enough to ppl is dont just sit down and try to think up a story in a day. The greatest stories ever written were molded in time and thats where the best results will come from. (To counter this please see Do: # 2)


Um. I usually do think up a story in a day--the basic premise, at least, and a bit about the protagonist.

Quote:
2)Dont start making your game until you atleast have a rough-draft of your story, if you dont your story will be wasted by you trying to get the story done real fast in hopes that you can put your game out to the public soon.


Well...I understand this and sympathize somewhat. But I would tend to recommend a fluidity of storyline, at least, in case the game can't handle part of the plot.

Quote:
3)Dont ask anyone to help you on creating yuor story unless your absolutly positive that the person your working with thinks just like you. If you let someone else make up your story for you it will only be half-ass. Think about it who in there right mind would help you create a story for a game when they could do the same thing for themselves. Also, letting someone else do it will remove the passion that you could've put in it thus ruining the story, again.


Perhaps. Collaboration is, imhoe, a good thing, as long as all participants share the same understanding and respect for the power structure, which should be clearly defined.


Quote:
Do:
1)The first thing that you should do is think of what kind of story you want to write. You should make it a story that you will have fun making whether its a knight & dragon world, or a mafia type setting.


The basic premise is more important than the genre or setting, naturally. My novella, "In Service to the King", started with a premise of politics and revolution, quickly adding a subgenre of fantasy without magic.

Quote:
2)Next try to get some movies, games, or even books and try to go through them. This will usually sparks things in your mind and will give you some ideas on what you should do in your game.


Knowledge helps. Too much knowledge stifles creativity. If you can, you should probably imagine the whole of the society and the main characters in as much detail as you think you'll need, then predict where each character will move and how. Then you review each step for realism, first within that world, then in contrast to reality. Make sure that all unrealistic elements are deliberately placed and don't involve sociology or psychology. People are good at predicting how people should act; don't mess with it.

Quote:
3)Another thing that i highly suggest to ppl is use a spellcheck.


Much more importantly, proofread your work! Spellcheque (sic) doesn't care if words are spelled correctly but used wrong.

Here's my writing process, for comparison:
- Idea
This occurs randomly to me about once a week. Most ideas are forgotten; some I write down; a few of those actually receive consideration. When I attempt to draw one out, it usually eludes me. An example of an idea is "medieval politics", "magic war", "kidnapping rescue", and so forth.

- Premise
This is what the story is about, in two sentences or so. The words "the protagonist" must always appear somewhere in here. Examples: "The protagonist must recover the Amulet of Yendor to gain control of all of Lower Earth and bring world peace, in the face of bitter war." "The protagonist is an FBI negotiator working on hostage situations and must use verbal wit and patience to rescue the kidnapped kiddywinks."

- Characters
Yes, the characters precede the plot. That's just my opinion of how things should be; I highly prefer character-driven plots. Others have plot-driven stories or character-driven stories. (An example of the latter is Jhumpa Lahiri's short story anthology "Interpreter of Maladies" -- most stories lack something that could traditionally be called a plot. Lahiri usually introduces the conflict within seconds of dissolving it, and rarely does she include a climax between rising action and denouement. It doesn't work very well with any sort of campaign, though you might use something similar with a relationship game.)
Anyway, you need the protagonist and possibly an archrival, along with the chief allies and enemies, at this point. Since you have a world built right now, you can fill in the histories of each rather well. Or you could use their histories to shape the world, as I did with "In Service to the King". That may be a sloppy way of writing, but it saves work.

- Conflict
What trouble or change besets your protagonist? In Nox, the protagonist is sucked through his television by a wormhole of some sort and lands in a strange world. Other methods that are commonly used are the sudden appearance of an alien force (zombies, a division of infantry from Canada); a family disturbance (protagonist disowned / family killed); or the completion of some form of training, which naturally involves the inheritance of some other conflict, such as a war.

- Plot
Now you can begin writing. I recommend that you do--at least, that's what I do. Since every word and phrase and every tilt of the head can affect the protagonist's course of action--and other people's actions--you might want, as I do, to play it through your head like a movie, not planning, simply writing as you go. Or you might want to plan a few moves ahead and keep the rest fluid, or plan everything and fill each scene to support that story, only changing it when there's a serious flaw.
If you don't begin writing now, you make the plot first and then write it. These two activities are pretty much inseparable; you'll have to revise the plot as you write, and perhaps even the world and the characters. This might necessitate rewriting the entire story.

- Story revision
Once you've written, analyze everything for believability and consistency. Get a second opinion. And a third, fourth, fifth, and sixth. Then again, for arrangement, point of view, and so forth. Then one last time, for style. Then you get to proofread! Best have a friend do that with you, too.

More later, I hope.

#10 Black Hydra   Members   -  Reputation: 148

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 07:05 AM

When planning storyline ideas I find it is important to maintain consistancy in the flow of action, or at least make the flow of story smooth.

Some games I have played have this exciting intro, some fun first bits, and then they plot sort of quiets down after several boring levels before picking up again. That ruins it.

Seeing as we have both auditory and visual media at our disposal aswell unlike books, there are many forms of symbolism and imagery we can explore to give the feeling we want expressed.



#11 EdR   Members   -  Reputation: 117

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Posted 12 December 2004 - 09:25 AM

The thing that comes to mind first for me is to target your story at your audience.

I don't mean just content. Certainly, content's important--you're not going to give the same story to a six-year-old that you would do a twenty-five-year-old gamer. Maturity is important, as is taste--but know why something is tasteful so you know when it's okay to break the rule.

In the story for the game I'm working on, there are a number of possible endings involving some sort of romantic plot with a number of different characters. Some of them are homosexual romances. Does this mean I can go "0mgz d00d lesbian s3xx0rz"? No. Treat your story with the respect it deserves. I agree with Ernest Adams here--the people who treat games immaturely screw everyone else over when they do. I haven't a problem with gratuitous gore (okay, Soldier of Fortune came close), but if you are attempting to elicit emotion from the players of your game, you have to treat them, and your story, respectfully.

My second point deals more with mechanics--intrusion of plot and so on. Tell your story in the medium advertised. The game I'm working on has a lot of text and cutscenes; parts of it are more of a comic book than a game (we use hand-drawn cutscene pictures, which provide a very nice feel to the game). But I say that up front. I also flatter myself by saying that the writing is of fairly high quality and the artwork is definitely nothing to sneer at.

This sort of style of plot interaction wouldn't work for a lot of games. It's working for ours because that was our goal from the start. The "game" part of things is not neglected, but we use it as a vehicle to tell a story as well.

#12 stimarco   Members   -  Reputation: 1071

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Posted 12 December 2004 - 10:13 AM


One rule to rule them all:

* Once you know what the rules are, you can decide which should be broken.


--
Sean Timarco Baggaley

#13 EdR   Members   -  Reputation: 117

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Posted 12 December 2004 - 10:16 AM

...That works.

#14 Avatar God   Members   -  Reputation: 1072

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Posted 21 December 2004 - 10:41 AM

Second opinions can make your story so much better. Sometimes you even need reality checks throughout the process, or just advice. Don't be afraid to ask for it, it could spur you through a block, give you a great idea, or just enhance something you already have. Or it could encourage you to just wipe the last three pages because no matter how cool and artistic you think they are, there's no way around the point that they make no sense. Honestly, this is good advice in almost any endeavor.

And I agree on the spellchecking/proofing. I know that I screw things up every now and again, but I would usually notice if I simply took the time to look at it again. To be fair, I don't always know how to spell words, so I just use a synonym. I just get depressed when I see typos in World of Warcraft. (Blizzard seems to have big issues with using possesives and plurals correctly: Rogue's vs. Rogues', for example).

Both of these are also good reasons to work in advance of any deadlines you might have, so you can make those small refinements and get advice before calling it "finished".

The biggest thing for me, though, is reading. That's where I pick up interesting little ideas, edit my writing style, think of new characters, flaws, or relationships. Plus, it enhances your vocabulary quite a bit. And it's fun.

#15 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4538

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Posted 26 May 2005 - 05:39 PM

Plot hackwork to avoid (very funny)

#16 Lysander   Members   -  Reputation: 134

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Posted 06 June 2005 - 07:22 AM

Quote:
Original post by FridgeRaider
Dont:

-Things that you shouldn't do when wanting to create a story for your game.

1)The #1 thing that i cant stress enough to ppl is dont just sit down and try to think up a story in a day. The greatest stories ever written were molded in time and thats where the best results will come from. (To counter this please see Do: # 2)


It depends on the length of the story. It's certainly possible to write a first draft of a short story in a day.

Quote:
Original post by FridgeRaider3)Dont ask anyone to help you on creating yuor story unless your absolutly positive that the person your working with thinks just like you.


I disagree. You want to work with someone who shares a mostly-similar sense of aesthetics, but is still different. A good writing team is complementary, not redundant.

#17 Deleter   Members   -  Reputation: 169

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Posted 17 March 2006 - 03:23 PM

Quote:
Original post by FridgeRaider1)The #1 thing that i cant stress enough to ppl is dont just sit down and try to think up a story in a day. The greatest stories ever written were molded in time and thats where the best results will come from.

I think it should be noted that the best stories were not thought, they were written. I also think it varies from person to person as to how they create their story. I know personally I get a basic idea in my head which I throw around and think about and eventually expand to being a basic skeleton plot. I then start writing, molding and supplementing the overarching plot as I go. To think out the whole thing in detail reduces the actual writing of it to monotany and might deter the game developer from actually writing the script.

#18 Zenphobia   Members   -  Reputation: 142

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 02:04 PM

Don't publish something without running it through a grammar and spell check first. O_o

#19 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4538

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Posted 09 May 2006 - 07:49 AM

Horrible cliches to not put in your game story. (Yeah this is my personal opinion, and any of these elements could probably be done well by a skilled writer, but they usually aren't.)

1. Numbers. Please please no 13 warriors reincarnated every 100 years to search for the 4 orbs of the 4 elements! *dies*

2. Good vs. evil. Noting can more easily render your story meaningless tripe than creating a villain who is evil for the sake of being evil, and has no motivation other than a haphazard cocktail of egomania, sadism, and outright insanity. A villain is just the protagonist of the other team. Give your villain and protagonist some real moral issue to disagree over, and show shades of gray rather than reducing everything to black and white.

3. Elves and other Tolkein/D&D races, or werewolves and vampires. No. Just no. We've seen it a hundred times before, we don't want to see it again, unless you at least reinvent the race, give it some new biology and culture to make a new thematic point. They call what we do _creative_ writing for a reason.

#20 Silvo   Members   -  Reputation: 166

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Posted 20 May 2006 - 11:30 PM

Quote:
Original post by onyxflame
- I personally think it's entirely possible to collaborate on a story and have it turn out good. Sometimes other people think of twists and turns that you wouldn't have imagined in a million years, that end up making it better than what you could've produced alone. You should DEFINITELY know the person you're trying to collaborate with though...if I like intricate plot twists and deep philosophical questions, and you like zombies eating everyone's faces, we're probably not going to produce anything good, even if we can keep from arguing long enough to produce anything, period.


I completly agree with this. If someone is reading/playing your story/game, and they have the same mindset as you, they will likely not be all that suprised by any of your plot twists. However, if their mindset differs, they won't play/read it at all. A mix is needed, which can either be provided by letting the story write itself (ie. something just pops out at you that makes sense and suprises YOU) or having someone else add their views.

It's not just plot twists either, if the collaberator works with you, consistently the events will suprise the audience, or if not suprise then at least reduce the level of predicability.

Also, when thinking of the game as a whole, think what will bring the player back to play again. If it's the story, ask yourself, why do people read books again? If they enjoy the events that transpire, and enjoy living the life of another character, then make sure the events are suprising enough that they can't guess what's going to happen even before they read it, and make the character resond in ways they likely wouldn't respond, so that the character they are living as is not the same as themselves.

Then again, I've haven't finished a game yet, but these are my musing, and I like what I'm saying!

PS. Zombies eating everyone's faces is philosophical, you have to ask yourself, WHY are they eating people faces??





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