Writing Game Fiction Day Three: Plot your Plot

So now you’ve decide you’re going to write this really awesome story based on the video game Final Fantasy X. You love the character of Yuna, so you’re going to sit down and write a story about…but wait? What is your story about? Okay, you’ve figured out that Final Fantasy X is based on the idea that Zanarkand was at the height of technology but somehow “fell” to “Sin” 1,000 years ago. You and your band of merry adventurers are traveling on a not-so-merry quest throughout the planet Spira to get that final Aeon to relieve the world of Sin; only to do this, you have to sacrifice. A lot.

Last time, we took a look at what the theme of the game should be. Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that we know the theme of this story is fantasy quest with eastern philosophical overtones. We also know what the overall plot is, because either we’ve played the game or we’ve heard about it from someone else. So now what? How are we going to expand upon this already well-developed story?

In an open game environment like an MMORPG, RPG or even a board game like Arkham Asylum, it’s pretty easy to plot the plot provided the “rules” are followed. Things like monster weaknesses, powers, setting restrictions, and other minutia all come into play here. For that type of gaming fiction, it’s easier to think big and squish down the elements to fit within those particular parameters because really, the sky’s the limit on the plot.

In a closed game environment, where the plot has already been decided, your plot is exceptionally more challenging to figure out because a closed game environment has a time line of events. As a writer, you’ll have to determine the “when” of what point in that time line you want your story to occur. Once you figure out the timing, you’ll probably be able to recognize “where” in the game your story might take place and then “who” your character is interacting with.

Coming up with the proper timing, characters, and setting isn’t enough though because really, I could babble on and on for pages about “something cool” at the bottom of Bevelle and the priest’s conspirary. A plot has to be acrobatic and fluid: a plot has to move. Without pacing, all you’re doing is describing what happened to the characters through the lens of a Wikipedia article. That method is not enough to tell a readable, enjoyable story based on a game, but it’s a trap that many, many writers fall into. I can’t even begin to tell you how many books I’ve read based on mass market properties that have very little plot, but lots of theme and setting. If you’re not propelling the characters to some kind of end then, in my opinion, you’re not telling a story.

How can you successfully escape this trap? Very simply: after you identify your story’s theme write, in the most generic terms as possible, what you want your story to be about. Ignore the setting, actions, and characters of the game and figure out what kind of a story you want to tell. Here’s an example:

Final Fantasy X Game Fiction
Theme: Fantasy Quest
Secondary Theme: Eastern Philosophy
Plot: The main female protagonist contemplates leaving her group of fellow questors, to keep them safe from the city’s soldiers that are hunting them down. Torn between her love for the main male protagonist and her duty to her country, she’s not sure she can leave them and is looking for a sign. When the group gets attacked and face a foe they might not be able to beat, will she take the opportunity to leave? Or will she stand and fight with her friends?

Now, here’s the trick. You know what you want to write, but will it fit to the game? We know that the above story might, so we’d fit it back into the timeline and see where this might occur. The conclusion would have to be definitive, because we know what happens in the story. Typically, game fiction is written to expand upon the story that has either already been created, or is the writer’s view of what might be created if the game’s plot went in a particular direction.

More about plot tomorrow, since this is a big topic to cover.

Game Fiction Series

Day One: Can you Define your Game Fiction Story’s Audience?

Day Two: Can you Identify the Primary and Secondary Themes of your Game?

Monica Valentinelli is a writer, editor, and game developer. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Firefly, Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

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