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?

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.
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