Gaming Fiction Day Four: Inferred Plot and Metaplot

Game fiction can sometimes have an “inferred” plot because of its popularity like many popular movies. Most people know Darth Vader is a bad guy. Writing about the rebels running from Darth Vader may seem like plot to you but really? That’s just a standard detail nowadays. Instead, those same rebels might be running from Darth Vader because they’re hiding a piece of jamming equipment that is going to screw up his cyborg life support mechanism. Now true, we know Darth survives, but how? Will the rebels make it out alive or will they be the ones responsible for delivering the plans to the Bothans?

Providing a layer of curiosity to your plot will help alleviate some of the challenges with an “inferred” plot, but sometimes it’s not enough. Sometimes, the publisher will say “and the character X has to be included and he has to win the day.” Okay, yeah. This can stunt creativity and cheapen the story, but only on occasion and strongly depends upon a writer’s skill.

The other thing that often happens is that writers will be trudging along and then *poof* are told that they can’t write X because it doesn’t fit within the metaplot, or the parts of the story that they can’t see. A metaplot is an over-arching plot that covers several books, games, or other media like webcomics in a series like . Examples of metaplots are the Harry Dresden Files book series written by Jim Butcher, the Resident Evil series, or the In a perfect world, writers should be told what they can and can’t write about up front. But the creative world is far from organized, because there are a million zillion moving parts that affect other pieces even the publishers and creators don’t know about. Writers truly have to be extraordinarily flexible with their writing as a result, because the contract only protects so much. Additionally some authors, like myself, have to be very careful about how we put our feet down because well? Unknown writers have less clout that “known.”

In this way, you’ll have to design your story so that it can bend and stretch if it needs to. I know this can be really hard to stomach, because some writers fall in love with their work. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t love what you do, but writing game fiction is about sales. If you’re not writing to sell fiction, you might be doing what I did early on. I wrote to build my portfolio, get references, and explore something I was interesting in doing. In the end, though, if you see a World of Warcraft or Forgotten Realms or even a Vampire: the Requiem novel sitting on a bookstore’s shelf, remember that that book is there to be sold.

There is a ton of other topics to cover with respect to game fiction, and I’ve covered the bare minimum here: audience, theme and plot. Tomorrow, I’m going to cover something different but if you like the series, feel free to let me know and I can talk about this more to cover what I haven’t really touched yet: setting, characters, game mechanics, and so much more.

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?

Day Three: Do you Know how to Plot your Story Based on a Game?

One Response to Gaming Fiction Day Four: Inferred Plot and Metaplot
  1. Jim Johnson

    Well…all books are there to be sold. No professional publisher is going to publish a book just cause. The vast majority of tie-in writers I’ve met (and game fiction is a category of tie-in fiction) are dedicated writers who happen to love the settings they write in. I’ve written a handful of Star Trek stories; I love the setting. I didn’t just write them to sell, though that didn’t hurt.

    Writing tie-in fiction is an odd beast in that a writer definitely needs to be flexible in their writing, and be willing to work with an editor on the story. Fortunately, most tie-in books begin life as an outline that is vetted by an editor and the licensors before the writer puts down word one in the manuscript. That way the writer knows what will and will not fly in the book, and won’t end up wasting time or words on something that won’t pass the hurdles.

    Good article, thanks!

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.

Want to Interview or Hire Me? Send Fan Mail?

Would you like to hire me? Because my projects and manuscripts are in flux, I am always open to discussing new opportunities with publishers and studios. As a full-time writer, I spend a portion of my time seeking new gigs–so don’t be afraid to reach out. If you’re interested, please e-mail me via my Contact Page. I typically reply to work-related e-mails within one-to-two business days.

Want an interview? If you’d like to interview me or request a guest blog post, please connect with me via the contact page, too. Due to time constraints and other communicative concerns, I typically don’t follow up on requests via social media.

Keen on sending fan mail? I am also happy to engage with readers and fans. Please note that I am unable to reply satisfactorily to certain types of queries related to the companies I work for due to the agreements I typically sign. If you have a question about a TV show or a line of books, the best way to get your answer is to contact the studio or publisher directly.

Back to Top