Jump to content
  • Advertisement
Sign in to follow this  
sunandshadow

Plotting

This topic is 4709 days old which is more than the 365 day threshold we allow for new replies. Please post a new topic.

If you intended to correct an error in the post then please contact us.

Recommended Posts

Hey all! :) The next round of the writing contest is scheduled to be a "Plot Sketch". I'll assume this means either a plot synopsis or a plot outline, the two standard ways of communicating a plot. I'm probably not going to be entering in this round because I'm not interested in creating a vengeance plot, and also because I'm busy trying to finalize a plot outline for my novel-in-progress (Learning To Kiss Dragons, if anyone remembers me posting about it) in time to start writing the novel on november 1st, for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Anyway, since I'm not planning on entering but I did want to continue encouraging the competition, and since I'm thinking about techniques of creating a plot outline, I though I'd do a little lecture/workshop on creating them. [smile] Okay first, what is a plot? Conveniently, I've already written a whole textbook chapter on the subject, so you can just go read Chapter 7 - Plot. [wink] So that talks a lot about what a plot is, but not how to create an outline or synopsis of one. Well, the first thing to do is to create a logline, a 1-2 sentence statement of the plot. There are 3 simple ways you can get started: 1) If you know your theme and main character, you can construct a premise logline. So our theme is revenge, and our main character is Shai. Just ask yourself, "What lesson will Shai and/or the audience learn about revenge?" This lesson is going to be about WHAT you should/shouldn't do re: revenge, and/or HOW you should/shouldn't go about doing it. Some example premise loglines: "Inflexibly pursuing revenge leads to death." "The only way to find inner and outer peace is to not let bullies push you around - you must work really hard and persistently to defeat them, then you can feel proud of yourself and get on with your life." "Protecting your people is more important than having a personal life." "Those chosen to be tools of the gods cannot escape their fates." "Forgiving or forgetting an injustice is dishonorable and unacceptable." "Warriors who fight on the side of right will find self confidence and inner strength." 2) If the premise approach is too abstract for you, try the Provost Paragraph included in the textbook chapter. All you have to do is fill in the blanks like its a mad-lib. This is actually a very brief synopsis - to condense it to a logline try to state the main thrust of the action in one sentence. 3) If you find that too restrictive or formulaic, the third method is The Snowflake Method. According to this method, every story consists of 3 disasters (or transformations if you prefer) and an ending. Again, this will give you a very brief synopsis, which you can extract a logline from. Now, creating your synopsis/outline. In both cases, you want to state the title (if you have one) and the logline at the top of the page. Now, if you are doing a synopsis you will describe the main events of the game in paragraphs, usually one-two paragraphs per act if you are using an act structure or one paragraph per chapter or two if you are using a chapter structure. The synopsis for a novel generally runs at least two pages and may never run more than 5 pages. Games are a bit shorter, I would be astonished if you needed more than 3 pages. OTOH, if you are doing an outline you simply list the major plot points in the order in which they occur in the game. Hopefully you all learned in high school how to create an outline for a research paper of something. An outline for a story is even easier because they are usually simple lists, you don't have to worry about subtopics and roman numerals. Outlines run a little longer in terms of page count than synopses simply because of their formatting, but they are usually shorter in terms of word count because they explain what happens, but not why or how the events cause each other the way a synopsis does. To expand from a logline to a synopsis or an outline, the first step is to make a list of all the steps necessary to get from the initial incident (Shai's children getting killed) to your premise/conclusion. For example, if you want to convey the premise "Inflexibly pursuing revenge leads to death.", someone needs to die in the pursuit of revenge. It doesn't necessarily have to be Shai - she might narrowly avoid death by learning from someone else's example. But if you want to talk about death, _somebody_ has to die. If you want to talk about revenge, _somebody_ has to be seeking it - probably more than one somebody if you want to show the contrast between one person doing it the 'right' way and one person doing it the 'wrong' way. And if you want somebody to seek revenge, before that they have to have a reason to seek it and make a decision to seek it. Also, you want them to have obstacles to overcome. So you have to think about what obstacles could help demonstrate your points about what/how the main character should/should not do things. Typically, an obstacle teaches a lesson - the obstacle can be overcome the 'wrong' way, which will cause problems to multiply, or it can be not able to be overcome until they finally try the 'right' way, after which the problem will be solved but a new problem will take its place. Okay, that concludes my lesson on how to create a plot outline/synopsis. Please ask questions if you have them! [smile] Tomorrow I will put up an example of a truly awful plot outline (the one for my novel [wink] ) and we can use it as target practice for criticising and improving an existing outline.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Advertisement
Thanks a lot for the time you took to write this, Sun. :)

Is really helpful. I actually don't think I'll enter again either, I guess I didn't catch the part where we had to follow round 1's winning entry. I really don't wanna do a revenge plot, either. That story doesn't really interest me.

Regardless, this is really good stuff to know and can be applied to a lot of other stuff, thanks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What will people say when they find out the writing forum moderator, who is also writing a book on game design and writing isn't compeiting in the writing competition? I think you should reconsider and see if you can devise an entry for this round.

You say you don't like stories about revenge. Well then don't make your story about revenge. Shai's motivation at the start of the game is revenge but that doesn't mean she can't grow and change. The type of story the game is about has yet to be written, and the events that will unfold have yet to be told. We have beginning and a character now, it is up to everyone’s own writing talents to weave them into the story that they want to tell.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Being the moderator doesn't mean I'm obligated to particapate in everything that happens in the forum. And I was planning on entering round 4 even though I'll probably be mad busy with NoNoWriMo at the time; It's only round 3 I'm not interested in. I _know_ I'm terrible at plotting, I don't need to bang my head against a brick wall trying to plot something I'm not inspired by to figure that one out.

Also, since the introduction clearly states that Shai is going to be spurred by revenge to become a great woman warrior, I think it would be very structurally unsound to try to write a plot with a different theme from that initial incident. The first scene of any piece of writing makes a contract with the reader, and it's up to the rest of the piece to deliver what was promised.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by GOR-GOR
Thanks a lot for the time you took to write this, Sun. :)

Is really helpful. I actually don't think I'll enter again either, I guess I didn't catch the part where we had to follow round 1's winning entry. I really don't wanna do a revenge plot, either. That story doesn't really interest me.

Regardless, this is really good stuff to know and can be applied to a lot of other stuff, thanks.


Thank you for saying so, I'm always happy if I actually manage to help somebody. [smile]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by GOR-GOR
Thanks a lot for the time you took to write this, Sun. :)

Regardless, this is really good stuff to know and can be applied to a lot of other stuff, thanks.

I agree, this is really useful for when I get around to actually writing a game with a plot (which looking at my present plan, might be around 2008. Sadly, long story themed games are out of my development scope for quite a while...)

I'm also a bit daunted by the sheer scope of this round; I don't think I could write the plot for a game in the hour or two I could spare. I'm not going to conclusively say that I won't enter, but I can't guarantee that I will either (mainly because I don't think I could give it my best shot in the time available). I'd definitely be trying to write a scene script for round 4, though.

The main story structure that I'm aware of is the one for epics, such as the one outlines in Campbell's "The Hero's Journey". Does that kind of story structure, in your opinion, apply well to games?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yes, heroic journey aka heroic monomyth plot structures apply well to games because players like to be heroes, go on journeys, get tested, be given gifts, gain powers, defeat monsters/villains, etc. An it's easy to implement as a game because it's strictly linear and often the hero is the only developed character. I would say at least 80% of existing RPGs as well as many FPSes use this plot structure. If anything it's overused.

Some other common plot structures (not necessarily appropriate to games) are:

- A standard linear relationship development plot. This can include anthing from a romance to a buddy/odd couple story to an internal struggle within one character like Crime and Punishment. The climax of this type of plot is generally the fulfillment or destruction of the relationship between the two characters - sex, marriage, pledge to be best friends for ever, a permanent separation, the betrayl of one character by the other, or the death of one or both characters. If we were to write a game about the character Soroland/Sanglante and their quest to not be trapped in the same body any more it would likely be this type of story.

- Thriller/psychodrama - This type of story focuses on fear, protection, adrenaline, paranoia, and doubting sanity. Threats appear periodically in the form of serial killings, messages from a stalker/blackmailler, vandalism, beatings, and direct verbal threats. Generally the character issue is the character to whom the threats are being delivered struggling to make a decision about how to feel about them and what to do about them. The climax is of course the final ending of the threats, usually by the death of the threatener, but sometimes by the escape of the one being threatened or by a more creative means of neutralizing the threatener, often by magically altering them in some way to take away their ability to threaten or change their desire to threaten.

- A mystery/detective plot - Generally this type of plot has an initial incident of a crime or suspicious clue being discovered, and the activity focuses on learning/discovering the truth. The character issue can be either internal to the criminal (their motivation), internal to someone else (their emotional/psychological reaction), or between two criminals or a criminal and their ally, or two detectives, or between the detective and the criminal. The climax is a revelation of what actually happened, either in the form of a confession or the detective explaining it to someone else.

- The faction plot - found in historical novels, comedies of manners, and operas, this is a story of a struggle for political or social power between at least 3 factions. The focus is often on the issue of loyalty and individual sacrifice for the good of the faction. Often blackmail, an arranged marriage, intimidation, seduction, bribery, and making deals are involved. The climax may involve the triumph of one faction, the destruction of one or more factions, or the unification of two factions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Okay, here's the example plot outline. I decided to take it easy on you and, instead of giving you the whole woven plot outline for my novel, I'm just giving you the main character's plot strand. So, your mission, if you choose to accept it [wink] is to rework this plotline to make it better. You may convert it to synopsis form if you prefer.



Outline for main character's bildungsroman plot strand: Merru goes native as a dragon. (M stands for Merru's Plot Strand)


M1) Merru finds himself unexpectedly in the body of a dragon, on a planet of dragons whose language he doesn't speak.

M2) The dragons treat Merru like a typical new construct, i.e. like a dog.

M3) Merru tries to avoid treatment he doesn't like, resulting in problems for himself and Attranath.

M4) Merru comes to terms with being thought of as a pet.

M5) Merru takes advantage of being a construct in ethically questionable ways to pursue his pleasures and curiosity.

M6) Merru wants to be a good construct to help Attranath (his owner), but figuring out how to be a good construct requires learning to understand dragons.

M7) Merru makes funny mistakes learning to speak and act like a dragon.

M8) Merru learns that beta male dragons will have sex with him.

M9) Merru wants to be a good alpha male dragon to gain respect, to gain the power to act autonomously, and to protect Attranath.

M10) Merru learns that having sex with beta males doesn't fit with being considered a good alpha male dragon.

M11) Merru becomes Attranath's blood brother.

M12) Merru needs to masquerade as a real alpha male and a leader to protect Attranath.

M13) Merru is worn down because he doesn't like being a leader, but he wants to be a good leader because his followers look up to him and deserve to be lead well.

M14) Merru uses his leadership position to help Ravennin and push Ravennin and Attranath together.

M15) Merru sees Lieann's demand as a chance to escape from being a leader while looking like a hero/martyr, so he entrusts Attranath to Ravennin and substitutes himself for Lieann's intended hostage.

M16) Merru wants to be Lieann's ardenmate and must 'out' himself to do this.

M17) Merru and Lieann work together to accomplish something which makes their enemies feel threatened.

M18) Merru wishes he could have a child with Lieann.

M19) Merru becomes Ravennin's submate, and Merru and Lieann work to make Ravennin a clan leader.

M20) Merru uses his creative problem solving abilities to protect his family.

M21) Merru finds his place in the world by becoming a father and a teacher.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This is gamedev. The design of a plot for a game story is not the same as that for a novel. You might as well just consult your writers' group.

A hierachy for game story plot design:
1) Interaction - The power to provide gameplay elements
2) Anticipation - The power to allow the player to anticipate gameplay
3) Flexibility - The property that allows events to be encountered in different order
4) Mobility - The support for the engine to use the Flexibility to construct a directed observable plot.



re: TechnoGoth on plot design

* The choice to not compete is very logical. Plot sketch is almost completely a topic of design, not writing.
Quote:
We have beginning and a character now, it is up to everyone’s own writing talents to weave them into the story that they want to tell.
There are many different kinds of talents and approaches to designs. I personally condemn your view of design. It is not design, it is duct-tape. Furthermore, interactive plots cannot be represented effectively on plain writing. That particular ability is obsolete in the context of game design.


re: Presenting plot strands

S/S your style of presenting the plot strands is very distracting. You should group them in terms of transitions and delineate the states and the operators, and the plots used to represent those. Example:

S0) [Describe the character's initial personality or belief; list plot elements used to present the character's personality of belief]

[List the possible transitions; For each transition, list the plot elements (actions or circumstances) that transit the character to its next state]

S1) [Described the character's current state; list the presentational plot elements][List the next set of possible transitions and list the corresponding transitional plot elements]

...(and so on)


Why do I say this?

M1 and M2 are not states, they are presentational elements for the same state. M3 is a transition, where M4 is another presentational element that describes the submissiveness of the character. In short, your way of presenting the elements hid their functions. A modified presentation:
Quote:
M0) Confused but Rebellious
Merru finds himself unexpectedly in the body of a dragon, on a planet of dragons speaking an exotic language. The dragons were treating Merru like a [dog]. Although [Merru] is confused by the situation, [Merru] did not submit easily...

Confusion:
[List plot elements showing that Merru is confused]

Rebellion:
[List plot elements related to Merru's contempt or attempts to rebel]


M1) Confrontation
By various attempts, Merru tries to avoid treatment he doesn't like and created problems for himself and Attranath.

Confrontation:
[List the plot elements related to the problems]
...


The way you presented the strand was distracting. The person reading it is not primarily interested in the actual events, but the states of the character and the transitions.

Another note: The actual story is incomplete. You can't just dump a character in a new setting explaining no meaning whatsoever about that transition. Neverneverland has a meaning. Alice's wonderland has a meaning. This is a fatal design flaw when the meaning of such transition is not presented.

If you read the four hierarchy in the begining, you should start to see how anticipation and flexibility are coming to player. If it is a game story is interactive, then you can expect that each
    contains interchangeable elements that serve the same function. For example, player can [encounter] different ways where Merru expresses his confusion. The player doesn't need to hit all the elements, so that you can leave some room for replayability. However, to create anticipation, the gameplay needs to be consistent. This means that the way in which the player experiences the character's confusion and rebellion must be intuitive and integrated through the gameplay. A classic* example:

    You are an angel and you have a mission. However, a demon had turned you into a teddy bear. You got [kidnapped] by a kid who is not necessarily happy. The kid wants you to stay but you have *more important* things to do. And thus the conflicts, interactions, plots, mystries, and meaning.

    In this context, anticipation is created by the consistent struggle between solving the kid's problem, the bear's problem, and the mission.

    * This is a classic because the formula is really old: Involving a hero with a determined goal encountering a different viewpoint in an unexpected situation, thus presenting a meaning through the struggle of the meaning of the original mission.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Estok - Mostly I agree with you. So I'll get the few points where I disagree out of the way first, then move on to critiquing the outline.

Quote:
The choice to not compete is very logical. Plot sketch is almost completely a topic of design, not writing.


I doubly disagree with this. Firstly, I believe that creating plot is at the very heart of writing, not design. The design element only comes into play when you are figuring out how to make the plot playable. Secondly, I'd be perfectly happy to compete in a design contest, I'm a designer as well as a writer. I clearly stated my reason for my decision not to compete in this round: I have no interest in creating a plot to explore the theme of revenge.

Quote:
This is gamedev. The design of a plot for a game story is not the same as that for a novel. You might as well just consult your writers' group.

A hierachy for game story plot design:
1) Interaction - The power to provide gameplay elements
2) Anticipation - The power to allow the player to anticipate gameplay
3) Flexibility - The property that allows events to be encountered in different order
4) Mobility - The support for the engine to use the Flexibility to construct a directed observable plot.

Again, I disagree with this in several ways. First of all, if you are writing an interactive story the most important part of the interactivity is not the ORDER in which events are encountered, it is the existence of a RANGE OF ALTERNATIVE events, one of which is chosen as a result of the player's actions.

Second, interactivity is not the be-all-end-all of game stories; a totally linear plot has its own virtues as the story structure for a game. Any linear plot, such as this one for a novel, can be implemented as a linear game. It wouldn't necessarily be a great game, but it certaily could be a game. Not to mention that there are non-linear novels, such as Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books or books where the action takes place over several repetitions of a time loop (like the movie Groundhog Day) which could easily be implemented as interactive stories.

And where the heck is theme in your hierarchy? The first purpose of any plot structure is to convey an argument and conclusion about a theme - didn't you say this yourself back when you were talking about the TDM? A game plot is not fundamentally different from a story plot, it is just presented through a different medium.


Anyway, those points aside, I think that grouping them in terms of states and transitions is an excallent suggestion. This sort of grouping is the type represented by the story diagramming method of the plot tree (i.e. grammatical tree). Another example of the functionality of this structure can be seen in the Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis theory of history.

So, to restate all that in a simplified way, a plot outline can easily be built out of the following building blocks:

Character A is in state J.
Character A is impacted by action X
Character A reacts, changing to state K.
Character A takes action Y.

Character B is in state P.
Character B is impacted by action Y.
Character B reacts, changing to state Q.
Character B takes action Z.

Character A is in state K.
Character A is impacted by action Z.
Etc.

Note:
- A character can be impacted by his/her own action or an outside action not performed by any of the characters such as a natural disaster.
- Taking an action might mean chosing to do nothing as well as actually doing somthing.
- A single action might affect more than one character.


Quote:
Another note: The actual story is incomplete. You can't just dump a character in a new setting explaining no meaning whatsoever about that transition. Neverneverland has a meaning. Alice's wonderland has a meaning. This is a fatal design flaw when the meaning of such transition is not presented.

I was intending that the meaning of the transition be an initial mystery which is explored throughout the progression of the story and finally explained either a bit before or a bit after the climax. But I agree, there is no mention of the meaning in the outline itself, this is a flaw.


About Merru's confusion - a confusion such as in your example, is generally a wavering between two opinions. What two opinions do you think Merru is wavering between?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Advertisement
×

Important Information

By using GameDev.net, you agree to our community Guidelines, Terms of Use, and Privacy Policy.

We are the game development community.

Whether you are an indie, hobbyist, AAA developer, or just trying to learn, GameDev.net is the place for you to learn, share, and connect with the games industry. Learn more About Us or sign up!

Sign me up!