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FridgeRaider

things you should and shouldn't do when writing stories

49 posts in this topic

I'm working on the story to an RPG i'm creating right now. Keeping notes next to the story to tie the game's engine into the story, building a list of features i will need.

Best advice i can give to writing the story:
1) First think of the general theme of your game, the overall story in a sentence.
2) Expand this to a paragraph, then add another explaining parts of it until you have a short outline with each paragraph being a chapter, can always add more later if it becomes needed.
3) Draw a timeline of events in the story, this'll help keep track of time in the story, can be at any scale you need.

This is what i've been doing and it's kept me an track and gave me a foundation to build upon before i really started to write the story.
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I am not going to state what my writing experience is, without proof it is pointless.

However, I do have some.:)

Good advice from FridgeRaider.

I would add a couple of caveats:

1. Ignore "Do's and Don'ts" if you find what you are writing feels right, Keep trying.

2. Their are rules to follow when writing anything, it's a good idea to learn them.

3. It's also a good idea to know when to ignore them effectively.

4. Know the medium you are writing for. Whilst it may not be absolutely essential you really enjoy that medium/style, it will affect what you produce and your 'voice' may show the reader your feelings. This would be bad.:) (probably). So like a little at least.:D

5. Writing is a skill, it's part science, part art. Practice constantly and read lots, read a lot of what you do like to write. But also read different types of literature, both 'high' and 'low'.

Finally (yes, I know there are more than two) have fun. If it isn't fun to write, how can it be fun to read? In the literal sense as in reading a story, or in the conversion to another medium.

There is one more point I am going to make and for the writer, it's the hardest to learn, and it is here where a second opinion can help.
Learn to be critical about what you have written. If it is rubish, accept it, move on. Start Again!

Writer's Block
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I don't know if this would be a writing issue or a design issue, but whenever you have something that's part of the story (even if it's just a brief story about a unit's weapon in an RTS), make the design follow the story.

As an example I'll use Red Alert 2's chrono leggionaire. His weapon supposedly erases units and structures from time, as if it never existed.

Doing such should have had other consequences, other than destroying a structure/unit.

For example, if it never existed money wouldn't have been spent on it, so it should be a full refund for the player attacked with the weapon.

Also, units couldn't be built/trained at a building that never existed, so those units should be erased and the training cost refunded.

Now I know they had logical reasons for doing this the way they did, but it just didn't match up to the story behind the chrono technology.
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Learn to love loglines (and alliteration). If you can't describe your story in a logline, there's either no irony (hence, no conflict) or you're trying to pack way too much in.

Every time I create a story, I create a logline. While they're usually much wordier the first time I write them, they at least keep me in check with regards to what should or shouldn't be in the story and if certain details serve the piece or distract from it.

And they are not just for movies (even though they are really used most in that industry, for pitching reasons.

Another important thing to remember is that just because a logline is short, it doesn't mean the narrative lacks depth. Take this logline for example: A former slave deals with her scarred past and is visited by a reincarnation of her murdered daughter (Beloved). Anyone who's read the book can tell you that the novel is anything but simplistic, yet it is easy to summarize in a sentence (or two if need be).

That's just my two cents. Loglines. Learn about them, use them, love them. They're also great tools for separating the good ideas from the bad ones.
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Every beat should have a purpose in mind. Every beat should change a character's condition. If they do not change as a result of it, it is useless. No matter how cool it looks.

Reveal vital information at the last possible moment. That means grind your expository lumps and stir it well all over your story. Don't let it gather in lumps all over the place, but let it seem invisible to the reader.

Have a character premise in mind for each main character. That way you won't trail away and your story won't become wishy-washy. A premise is a shorthand for plot. Pride leads to self-destruction. That means the story starts out with a proud character and who destroys himself at the end of the story. All the event links in the middle connect those two ideas.
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Quote:
Elves and other Tolkein/D&D races, or werewolves and vampires. No. Just no. We've seen it a hundred times before,

Huh ? Werewolves were done in hundred games ? Thats news to me...i can remember several console platformers with werewolves, and a few fightings...and thats about it.
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Some people don't understand this, but this is a very important rule: do not use excessive vulgarity in your story and script. A good story doesn't need it to be powerful and exciting. Swearing, if used in the right way, can be useful.
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Quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
Some good principles for designing any story:

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.


I really like these principles, but I'm not sure the above applies to games. The setting and world can't help but be detailed simply due to games being a visual medium (unless, of course, it's a text adventure or a game with very crude graphics) and games having more information detailed (items, character stats/appearance, layout of locations, etc) that otherwise wouldn't be in written form.

I'd suggest that for games the principle would apply not to setting and plot but gameplay and plot. If the plot is ambiguous the player can make up for it by creating their own stories through the fun and interesting gameplay. If the gameplay is lacking or unfun this might be overcome by a very detailed, interesting, and thought out story. For instance: Ultima Online didn't much much of a story surrounding it, but I enjoyed the process of making my character and forming my own stories through playing. And The Longest Journey didn't have particularly compeling gameplay (it was point and click) but the story drove me forward out of interest.

Of course, all games and gameplay styles are different, and some don't even require a story for them to be enjoyable. It might only really apply to RPGs or Adventure games.
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Quote:
Original post by Sulphix
That's just my two cents. Loglines. Learn about them, use them, love them. They're also great tools for separating the good ideas from the bad ones.


What, exactly, are loglines? Wikipedia and Google's define have both failed me.
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From reference.com:

A log line is a brief summary of a television program or movie, often providing both a synopsis of the program's plot, and an emotional "hook" to stimulate interest.
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"Elements of Screenwriting" is a very excellent quick POETICA packed read, could be wrong on exact title, very sound, a great introduction to stucture.
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The most important "do" I can think of is to have other people edit your work.

I've been playing and writing a bit of interactive fiction lately, and even in those games spelling and grammar errors slip through occasionally and can ruin the player's immersion.

It seems like an obvious thing to suggest, but you'd be surprised how many errors are never caught in released interactive fiction (including some of mine), not to mention the horrible grammar in many RPG Maker games and such. Trust me; no matter how good you think you are, you'll never catch all the errors yourself. You'll just read over your own writing and skip right past the typo, saying it correctly in your head without realizing it's written wrong. Get someone (or more than one someone) to proofread your game's script, or anything you write, really, before you publish it.
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Personality, personality, PERSONALITY.
I got tired of these stupid games where the main guy is like so cool so nice so light-side-of-the-forceand and the vilain is like me-am-bAd

seriously the best game I ever played had 4 main characters: a girl who fears death, a girl who is bullyed by her classmates, a girl who says 2 jokes in every line and the main character..... WHO DOESNT HAVE A PERSONALITY
yeah, hes like the lost guy in the nowehre, living just becuase he got to live, nothing on his mind, hes happy....
believe me, its the profile of the perfect boring guy, but its thanks to those 3 girls around him that you feel his emptyness and, more importantly, his desire to be something, if there is something that main characters need, its the other-character-who-will-make-your-main-shine.

ie: in a game where the main guy is the dark-wise-intelligent guy, you will need something like a character who never stops talking, who yells and screams for nothing and who does remind me of these gangasta guys all wrapped in golden chains and stuff. it shows how much the main character is wise and darky compared to this one, and most importantly, makes players (hardcores or kids or whatever) say stuff like "this one is my favourite, hes soo funny" "this one is so saad... just like me"
I think that having a character that sounds like ppl is just great
or makes ppl thik of themselves is just great
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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]

 

Really like this write-up. Good job.

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Thank you. smile.png I was just writing about Aristotle's theories of unity and other stuff in the article I'm working on. Intending to get to the main character/impact character topic later, but I'm going in chronological order and I need to make my way through the early and mid 1900s before I get to recent stuff.
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Unusual and untraditional themes/focus/story

 

Original Anti-cliche characters. Unsexified female characters

 

Cinematic

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Oh, something I would recommend, especially when writing game stories, is taking a look at Anita Sarkeesian's Tropes vs Women in Video Games youtube videos.  She goes over a lot of common tropes that seem to hit the game industry over and over, even with smaller studios and indie games.

 

Damsel in Distress seems to be an ever recurring theme, as well as girl character whose only defining trait is that she's a girl.

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I really enjoyed reading the first posts which were written almost 10 years ago and I can say 100% I've edited my story many times to come up with better ideas and I ask myself 100's questions so I'm not left with plot holes. Thank you guys!

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Wow, I was supprised how long it is since I responded to this. Always good when a thread resurfaces; we get the opportunity to see if what we wrote bears any resemblance to what we now think. I'm ok with what I wrote. :)

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In regard to what you said about working with a team, I don't think you are right. It is always good to have somebody to work with. While one idea might sound fantastic to you, another person might be able to see the flaws in it and help you rework it until it is the best it can be.

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One of my favourite rules of writing comes from Hemingway:

 

"Every character has a history, but most don't belong in the story."

 

Think about it. Think about life as it happens-  it's such a great rule because it's so true (imo). And it allows you to create fun characters who might not necessarily 'hold the key' to the plot, but will help build the world, elaborate on themes, ask questions, etc.

 

PS: this is a really good site for story writing tips - (it focusses on sci-fi):

http://www.terrybisson.com/page2/page2.html

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There's some good advice in this thread.

 

Personally, having spent several years studying story structure (I wrote fiction at that time), I can see the techniques used to be helpful when applying them to game design.

 

One thing that irks me in many games is the objective nature of story design.  Sure, story depth can depend on genre, but still, no reason the story in many games can't have depth.

 

Anyway, that is one goal of mine on a current project: to design story first and build the game around it.  Thus, using story structure - as one would in writing fiction - to generate a solid core.

 

I'd like to get into some technicalities to story structure (although, there is plenty out there), but time is pressing and I need to scoot out.

 

Despite if you're a discovery writer or a plotter.  One 'Do' is to Know Your Ending.

 

*EDIT* :  Blimey, just noticed the OP post date!

Edited by doghouse
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These pinned topics have a special exemption to the normal behavior that old threads can't be posted to by normal users.  The idea was that pinned topics should only be ones that will always be relevant.  I retired from being a moderator here though so I have no control over any of that any longer.

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