Creating a Story
Written by Gen

The purpose of this thread is to discuss techniques and practices for running stories, and to divulge some tips for how to do it here. Also, if you have some advice as players, feel free to chime in on what draws you to a story and gets you interested.

For me, I use Dramatic Structure to make a basic outline of my story and what I wish to achieve therein. I'll break this down a bit below.

Basic Plot

You're going to need a basic idea of what kind of story you wish to tell first. Is this an epic, world-spanning adventure, or a down-to-earth tale about a lost pet? Once you solidify this, the rest lies in building around what you're doing.

Also, don't worry about rehashing plots from other stuff. This is done all the time in Hollywood, and it works equally as well here. Just because everyone has save the world from an out of control asteroid does not mean the Academy has!

1. Kicking it off with the Intro

So you have your idea. Now, you need to figure out how to introduce it! This can be done in many ways; most often, you'll want a good hook to get people interested in your story. Everyone's approach to this will be different, and what grabs the attention of some won't work for everyone - that's ok. Use this time to lay the foundation of your plot, while paying attention to the characters that join the story. You want to know right off who's involved, so you can tweak any necessary elements later. Things like robots in your story are great, but if Giga Volt can rewire them and control them right off, its going to throw your story for a loop. Don't worry about covering all the bases, just make sure that your biggest plot points are covered.

IE - If the main antagonists in your story are a bunch of fire critters, and you have someone like Blake who's an ice user, be prepared for the fact that he's going to have an easy time hurting them, though as a GM you can make sure he gets beat up a bit too tongue.gif

It's always 'just another day at the Academy' and you know what? That's okay. We don't tell many epic tales about how nothing happens, because that would be boring. Even in life, its 'just another day' before something happens to us personally, so take that with a grain of salt. What is going to grab players' attentions is how you set the stage. There are several ways to do this:

Weather - dark and stormy days are an overused method, but a valid one. Everyone knows that bad things happen when the weather changes, and its an element that everyone discusses in daily life. Even when two people don't have anything in common, its almost always easy to strike up a conversation about the weather!

The building - Every student lives at the Academy, so its easy to describe the surroundings. There are lots of ways to incorporate this and use it any way you see necessary. Need people to move somewhere? PA system announcement. Want to shake things up and have students talking? Cancel all their classes for the day. All of us have been to school at some time or other - the things that happened to us there and got reactions work just as well here.

Outside Events - another common method, this is used to introduce things off camera the players should be somewhat informed of, but cannot react to. You have to be a bit more careful here, since you'll have to decide what people should know IC vs OOC - a good example of this would be a conversation between Dean Henderson and a military figure say. It sets the stage, and though the characters won't know all that happens right away, they will know some when Henderson chooses to disclose such.

Think about books you've read, movies you've seen. There's always a way the author/director grabs your attention immediately… this is what your after.

2. Rising Action

This is the build up point. If you need to get people moving, this is the time. Is there a boss to fight? Plans to steal/recover? In order to get there, you need to get the plot moving. There are so many ways to do this its obscene, so let your mind work on it a bit. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry must go through a set of tasks to reach where the Philosopher's Stone is hidden, where he will have the final battle. These are the actions leading up to the climax where Harry must face Voldemort who is trying to get the stone. This is also where you'll want to let little plot points drop to keep people working to the height of the story, which is….

3. The Climax

This is it, the big show! The characters meet the badguy, steal the plans, whatever, but this should be the height of the story, the point of running it. Generally you want to set the mood and tone to lead to this encounter, as it is the main reason you're running the story anyhow. Think again about the encounter Harry has with Voldemort - all the action leads up to one dramatic showdown.

4. Falling Action

The badguy gets beaten, the plans are stowed away, and everyones ready for the mission complete. Let your characters get a brief reprieve here, react to the events, and start pushing towards the ending wrap up. This is also a good place to toss in any foreshadowing say, if the bad guy is going to make a comeback later, or the encounter ended on a low point, to lead into another story.

5. Resolution

Wrap up loose ends and call it a story! There isn't much else to do here, so you let the characters get home or what not, and end the story cleanly.

Generally I'll make myself expound on the structure a bit, and put in two points I want covered for each part of the breakdown, for a 10 point outline. This is a valuable asset for referring to, especially if the story starts to go off-track or you need to remember what you were going to do next. A little bit of extra detail here can go a long way towards giving your players plenty to work with during the story.

Final thought: BE FLEXIBLE! A lot of things happen you can't control, and players will occasionally try to do things you didn't expect. Don't worry too much about it - remember, as the GM, you can take control of the story and characters actions easily, so if they need a push, push them. If they need a hint, drop one. It is YOUR story, and the players are players. Keep them entertained, but make sure its not too out of control, or you'll just frustrate yourself.

Good luck!

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