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Cyllya

Can't finish plots...

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I always get some protagonist characters I like, a few situations I want to occur, general plot idea (mostly backstory and set up), some stats on the setting, etc... But I have such a hard time thinking up the entire plot. Especially since I'm trying to avoid some of the really bad RPG cliches like finding (insert integer) ancient magical artifacts scattered all over the world. One thing I tried was to write down all the events I know I'd like to happen and then think about what other occurrences could lead to that event... It got me a little farther, but not much. Does anyone else have this problem? Do you have a method or anything for getting around it?

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Throw a couple of plot twists in and end up somewhere even you weren't expecting ;). Also, don't be concerned that your plot has to be 100% original. The plot of mothballs falling into Earth from a trans-dimensional vortex and you have to stop the rift by applying gallons of bubble-gum is original, but such a game would probably suck (well maybe a little humor could help...) My point being that as long as you tell a good story, people are probably going to stick around. If you want to avoid the pick up [uinteger] items quest, then do it, just keep in mind that all simple plot ideas have been taken. I remember hearing somewhere that there are only like 10 plots in all of fiction once you break it down to the simplest elements. So instead of trying to avoid unoriginal, just focus on what you would find fun and I'm sure you'll find some good mid-ground.

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I'd recommend using a beat sheet. Sure they're used for films, but they still help a lot in planning out and structuring out your plot. Whenever I get an idea in my head for a screenplay or game idea, I follow a six step formula to getting it started.

1. Concept. Basically, think of an idea. For a game like Metroid, it would be something along the lines of "a bounty hunters explores alien worlds and discovers hostile aliens". The better the concept is, the shorter it can be said. If you find your concept is a paragraph long, it probably isn't very good and is becoming too muddled with superfluous information. A great film concept was the idea behind Speed. Which was essentially "Die Hard on a bus".

2. Title. Titles can either draw you in or repel you. If the title sucks, the rest of the game suffers from it, simply because the first thing the audience sees casts a negative shadow over the rest of the experience. One of my least favorite titles is "Ninja Gaiden Sigma". It just feels like the developers were throwing darts at a dictionary. The only information this title gives me is that the game involves a Ninja. Sigma? Is he a math ninja? A good title is Too Human. It states the theme of the game and forces us to think look introspectively (even if sub-consciously) at our own humanity.

3. Logline. Yes, I know. Loglines are pretty much a movie industry thing. But every story can be told in a logline. Loglines are different from concepts because they are specific to your story and they contain irony. If there's no irony in your logline, then there's probably no plot. Irony turns into conflict, and plots are built around conflict. A good logline would be "Two strangers attempt to form a relationship after one becomes pregnant" (Knocked Up). Even though the irony isn't groundbreaking (getting pregnant by a stranger?) it is still there and the conflict is readily apparent. Just like concepts, the best loglines are the ones which can be said in less words. A bad logline would be "Marines get lost in space and discover a massive ring. On the ring, they fight several alien races" (Halo). This logline is wordy and most of it unnecessary. A better logline for Halo would be something like "Lost space marines fight an alien race on a massive ring." Conflict is built into this logline, and where there's conflict, there's plot.

4. Beat sheet. This one is my favorite, because it really makes or breaks your idea. I'm not gonna write out every step, but basically a beat sheet is an outline where you describe all your essential scenes. If you find you're having trouble making a full beat sheet, then your plot is probably flawed in concept. Screenwriters use Blake Snyder's beat sheet a lot (it's free at blakesnyder.com) because it breaks down the plot so well and simplifies everything. Beat sheets are usually one or two pages in length.

5. Treatment. Once the beat sheet is done, it's time to expand it into a full-length treatment. In a treatment, you summarize the entire plot of the story into a 10-20 page treatment. In the treatment, you break every scene down into its most important aspects and basically flesh out the story you planned out in the beat sheet. A common rule I use, is take how long your beat sheet is, and multiply that by ten to get how long your treatment should be. Treatments are basically maps for when you write your script or game story. If someone reads your treatment, they will have essentially read a long summary (pardon the contradiction) of your story.

6. First Draft. Exactly what it sounds like. Building off your previous five steps, write a first draft of your script and/or story. This can be either really fast or painfully slow (for my current project, it's painfully slow right now). If you've made it this far, then it's fair to say that no matter what youy have, it's enough got enough plot to sustain itself.

Keep in mind these are steps primarily used for screenwriting, but since film and games are so similar, I find it translates nicely into writing for games as well. So yeah, if you're ever having trouble filling up a plot, I'd recommend using these steps as they've helped me with every project I've worked on.

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I personally like to work somewhat backwords. I get the whole general plot idea, Than I sort of start from the end. I think of what i want the ending to be than i work up ideas on how we can get to that ending in a fun creative plot twisting way. Some people may not like this approach though becuase as there writing there trying to enjoy the process and be suprised by what the ending just like while reading it.

I hope maybe this approach will help you out.

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My method takes forever and I don't know anyone else who writes this way, but I will share anyway. I play god, or so you could say. I create a world usually in extreme detail, keeping documents on history of various regions, topographical information about areas, maps, whatever else I can come up with. Then I start placing towns on my maps and start placing people in my towns. I let all these 'people' live in my head and I grow their characters there. Then when they have grown to where I like I start throwing random things at them and somehow in my mind I can get the people to react pretty realistically to what I throw at them. Then the story just kinda forms in my mind from there.

That almost makes me sound psycho... I'm not promise... Good imagination.

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I just wrote a long one, so maybe this will be short.

People write differently and that's okay. I understand Edgar Allen Poe know how many lines "The Raven" would have before he started. I think that's wacked out, and it doesn't do it for me. But lots of people have heard of "The Raven" so it works for him at least.

I personally just write what comes into my head and feels right. If it doesn't feel right, then I have to go back and rewrite until it does. For instance I recently blew up a ship that really needs to make it to the space station, so I'll have to cross out some lines and they're gonna make it after all.

What strikes me as important is to sit down and keep writing until the creative machine finally moves it's rusty gears and starts putting out. Having discipline helps the process, because it trains the mind to be creative at 8:00 after work every night, or whenever you get off from not writing. I'm not good at it, but when I draw a blank, sometimes trying to write through it works. Just keep the pen moving.

Short Short Short
Write, a lot. A lot.



As to the ten plot thing, I have in my hands "The Seven Basic Plots" by Christopher Booker, isbn 0-8264-8037-3, Link

The plots are:

1. Overcoming the Monster
2. Rags to Riches
3. The Quest
4. Voyage and Return
5. Comedy
6. Tragedy
7. Rebirth

Just so you know, something like getting lost forever and never returning home counts as a variation of #4, so these things are about as boiled down as they get. Recombination is the lifeblood of stories, also DNA...

I would suggest you get it, but it's kind of a scholastic read, which means it's boring me to tears. Not to tears, but I have a hard time reading a lot of it all at once.

(Can you believe this is short?)

[Edited by - sunandshadow on August 21, 2007 3:53:29 AM]

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I have a serious problem with this as well. I won't say because I just can't finish a plot. More like I start on one, and another pops into my head which I must start on immediately. I end up rushing from one story to another without putting much thought into any of it. I currently have 10+ storyline ideas that I haven't really expanded much on because I'm stuck on which one to do first or what exactly to do at all.

Sulphix your advice is rly helpful though. Thanks. =D

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Don't ever feel daunted if you have a lot of ideas floating around somewhere. I currently have twelve projects which I'm developing right now. Granted, I won't ever get to some of them, but they're still available for me to work on. Most of them I've just written down my first three steps on (concept, title, logline), but that's still useful because it helps me organize my thoughts and straighten out the different projects.

I'd much rather have to decide on which project to flesh out next instead of stare at my computer trying to think of a new project. With me, I've never thought of a new idea when I've sat and tried to think of a new idea. The initial "spark" kinda just happens, and then I have to pursue it (or discard it because it sucks).

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Quote:
Original post by Cyllya
I always get some protagonist characters I like, a few situations I want to occur, general plot idea (mostly backstory and set up), some stats on the setting, etc... But I have such a hard time thinking up the entire plot.


That's backwards!
First you need to know what point you want to make - what's the reason for writing the story.

Story creation can't begin with "what would happen if I put a wizard and a Taliban and a WWII paratrooper and a gladiator together with a geisha," that way lies madness.

The point of writing stories is to make a point.

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The point of writing good stories is to make a point. But what about bad stories? Bad stories help sate the hunger for entertainment long enough for people to get excited about the next didactic parable.

Really, I'm not even joking.


It's okay to put in the point later (if it works), you ever do one of those horseshoe puzzles? Sometimes it can help to go backwards.

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I am going to agree with T.S on this one. It is absolutely required to have a goal in mind when you start a story. If you put a story together that was just whatever popped into your mind then your goal would be just that, a random story. If that is your aim it is something you should take ownership of and exploit in your tale. I have never read a novel that had no point. I have read novels that use the nonsense and randomness of life as plot instruments, but these things are points in themselves.

I think you are headed in the right direction as far as trying to make your game original. Do your best to not make these clichés the meat of your tale, however should you use one of the clichés back it up with something innovative.

I read someone’s comment on here about not worrying to much about originality, I am going to tell you that it absolutely matters. There is a difference in sticking with one of the six boiled down plot lines etc and straying from clichés. There is no need to have a main character with amnesia who is the chosen one blah blah blah. But if you do have this character you should be inclined to set him apart from others of this nature as to make it your own. (one easy way to do this is to not make a character like this at all, but if you must don't stick to other characters just like him to a T)

Whatever you write just make sure you own it. That is what makes it original. You will find that once you have a goal in mind for your story you will be able to form your events and characters around this goal. I'll also add you should / can have more than one goal. A goal for each character individually, a goal for all characters in general, a goal for the world you are building, and of course a goal for the story overall. The last stated goal should direct all other sub-goals even if it's in a small way.



Even when you do have a point to make the problem you are having will still arise, because you still have to create and place events in order to show this point. In these scenarios you just have to keep on thinking. Use your goal to guide your thoughts and it will make these hang-ups end more quickly.

I think you will be fine once you have a goal in mind. I take it you are passionate about character creation, and the events you have in mind must be so awesome as they play out in your head. But if you have a goal the events you construct will have so much more meaning and actually propel you towards a complete story.

Good Luck!

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Thanks everyone. :)

I guess it's true that you should start with the point you want to make. Though whenever I start with that step, I always end up preaching about gender equality or whatever my ephemeral religious beliefs currently are... So I've tried to make that the second step and decide on a point based on what my characters' flaws are, what they need to learn, and I've made progress. (Then again, I guess people don't notice when you do religious symbolism as long as your medium isn't respected for literary merit. I'm looking at you, Harry Potter fanbase.) I'll try what Sulphix described for fleshing it out.

I did end up going with three magic artifacts, but they aren't related to the magic elements, the game starts in the process of obtaining the second one, and the Ancient Evil(tm) that's unsealed with them is a supporting protagonist.

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Well when I get an idea for a story, I think of a few random scenes, then I somehow link them together in an extremely loose way. Think of that as the story's skeleton. Then just start fleshing it out. Not like "Oh well I think people would like this kinda stuff." don't worry about the people yet. Think more along the lines of "I think it would rock out if my hero/heroin did THIS in the story." Worry about continuity later.

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