Writing Another Successful Storyline – Series


This series was written to help players develop their own storylines with ease. It consists of three parts and each part can be found here. Enjoy!

Part 1

Okay, my last guide was called “Writing a Successful Storyline“. I think the guide was pretty good personally, but I feel it was aimed towards more of a personal storyline. This guide aims at helping you write a storyline that isn’t based around your character, but perhaps a group of people.

Just like the previous one, I’ll be writing what I would do and how I would go about it.

Here are a few things to consider before writing your story.

Characters

Firstly, you have a group to worry about. Let’s use 10 as a base number for example. Each member of the group is an individual character. Each have their own feelings and beliefs. Each will only do certain things and will not break their principles. Some characters may like combat, others may not. So how do you get everyone involved?

Personally, if I was going to write a storyline that involved more than 2-3 people, I would consider what was going to happen in the story. The important thing is to get everyone involved. I see this all the time… Storylines that are written with no characters in mind apart from the story teller. I disagree with this. If you do this, no one will attend. So make a clear definition of what you want everyone to do in the story. You don’t have to tell them, but know it in your head.

Don’t forget that all characters are different. Some are passive, where as some are aggressive. Know how to get people in line if the storyline begins to lose track. The last thing you want, is your story to be hijacked. I’ll make it clear though, be sure to not be too dominating with this. Don’t turn around and be like “You shouldn’t do that! You have killed him and we needed information!”. Instead, have your members know that this character isn’t to die.

Outcome

Be sure to have a clear outcome planned in your head. This is very important if you want a storyline to pan out for weeks. Don’t rush it, and take your time. After all, a rushed story is a failed one.
If you want your group to reach certain points throughout the story, make sure you make it clear to them that you want them to reach targets.

Another interesting thing to consider, and what a lot of people forget, is that you might want your players to learn from the story. You might when their characters to be affected. I tend to disagree with physical changes to a characters appearance because of a storyline, however psychological changes are fine. They might be disturbed by something during the story. If this is the case, make sure you lay it on heavy in the story and target the character correctly.

For example, Carmtan is a druid. He cares very much about nature and would generally be upset if he walked into a burnt area of woodland.

If we use that as a basis in a story. Have your group walk into the wood. Carmtan should notice straight away and it should affect him. Be sure to engage with him. Talk to him about it and see how he feels. The player should empathize with the character and you’ll get a better standard of RP immediately.

Also, don’t be afraid of having things in your story that changes your groups outlook on life. Yes, not everything is doom and gloom in life, but having something bad happen to a member is often a good thing. It drives RP and gets everyone thinking.

Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of my storyline writing post. In this part, I will discuss how to write the story effectively and what you should do to encourage participation and immersive RP.

In the last part, we looked at how characters and goals work towards your overall story and how they play an important part in it. We concluded that without considering these elements, your story wouldn’t be a successful one.

So once again, this part is broken down into different sections.

Planning – Characters

Planning your storyline is very important. You need to think of every outcome to the story before writing anything in concrete. If you don’t, you might find that the storyline loses its way and the desire to RP will fade.

So, the first thing you should do, is think about the characters that might be attending. Don’t forget, every character is good at different things, so you should create a storyline that caters for the majority and not the minority. Lets make up a basic list of characters here as an example.

– Carmtan, Carcia, Skaraa, Gerrond, Eomor, Castellan, Shíaza, Ninen, Lisel.

We all know that these characters vary in different ways, but if we look at some of the relationships between these characters, we can split them into groups.

– Gerrond, Castellan, Eomor. – Shíaza, Ninen. – Skaraa, Lisel. – Carmtan, Carcia.

We now have four groups. Four groups that specialise and go about things in different ways to the other. So lets now apply it to an example story.

Planning – Storyline – Draft 1

So you have a character list written up. You have thought about their roles in the storyline, and you have thought about what you want to achieve from your story. The next thing to do is to write up your first draft of the storyline.

– The Wardens receive word that a killing has taken place in Elwynn forest. Carmtan calls his members and briefs them that they don’t know what to expect when they arrive at the scene and that everyone should come prepared.

That is part of a basic storyline that could take place. It is very vague, but most members of the team will have something to do. Firstly, Carmtan receives word of the killing, Shíazas and Lisels motherly nature means that will be affected by the killing. Gerrond, Eomor, and Caste are warriors and may have the chance to scout the surrounding area.

Now lets elaborate on the story a little.

– The Wardens arrive at the scene and upon inspection, discover that it a human boy was recently killed. The boy bares no wounds but the area stinks of fel magic.

Just by adding that little section, you have made your storyline more immersive. Due to the nature of the Wardens, fel magic use is taboo, and by a boy being killed by fel magic, it makes the storyline more interesting. This is where your storyline begins to come to life. Because most members have been affected by fel magic at some point, you are emotionally involving them. By doing this, you are making sure that they take part in the storyline.

Let’s elaborate more.

– Skaraa is sent to search the rest of the area. He comes back holding a bandage covered with fresh blood. The house is searched, and more blood is found in the basement. No one knows whos blood it is, but they know that at least two other people were at the scene.

What you will have done here is make a cliffhanger. No one knows who it is, and most people will be eager to find out who this blood belongs to. This is the point at which your storyline can split into various directions. Either your members can : 1. Forget about the blood. After all, a boy is dead and his family must be informed. 2. Inform the family members and search for more clues. 3. One of your members can sense fel magic and jumps to the conlusion that there must be more than what reaches the eye and so search parties are made.

This is where planning comes into it. You can prepare for every eventuality, but something can always change. I have learnt this myself over a period of time. When you think that you know a character inside and out, something changes and the character has to adapt. This is what you should prepare for.

Planning – Storyline – Draft 2

Now that you have a basic storyline written, iron out the rough edges. Think about the smaller things and how they affect your story, and what they will do to your story. Don’t forget that your storyline doesn’t have to end immediately. You can always have it lead into another one if you like, or have it lead into a current one. Obviously you need to square it away with the other story maker so that you can both make it feasible, but anything is possible.

Planning – Storyline – Outcomes

Finally, as mentioned before, think about the outcomes. Let’s apply this to the story.

– The Wardens search for the killer. It turns out that the killer was being controlled by a demon and as such, had no idea what she was doing. The Wardens save the woman and banish the demon. All is well, but the boy is still dead. His family are informed and they are devastated.

What will your members get from this storyline? Right now, nothing, but there is always one member that might be affected by your story. One member that might walk away and think to themselves and realise that this storyline actually affects their character. This might be something in their background, or it might have shocked that character to see the boy dead on the floor. Either way, this creates a successful storyline, all you have to do, is work out what you want, and what you want your members to feel.

Part 3

Welcome to part three of the guide. In this post, I will discuss other things that you should consider when writing a good, in depth storyline and how you should go about executing it.

Firstly, I will give you some more examples of things that are important to a storyline.

Planning – Background History

As with most storylines and characters, a background history or background story exists. These aren’t necessary, however I strongly encourage you all to write them as it gives your members some sort of idea what took place before your story. This is important for immersive RP and this is normally what drives your members to engage in RP, so make it good!

Let’s write a small background history for the example story.

– Dorean was always a happy boy. He used to play with the squirrels and sheep of Elwynn forest and always used to come home with new and exciting things that he found in the forest. His parents, Eliana & Felston, felt that he was too young for his age. It was time for him to toughen up. His father started training him. Felston was well known in Elwynn and he had a lot of contacts. Due to the nature of his work, he also had a lot of enemies which didn’t help. Eliana feared for her family, like any mother would. She didn’t want her son growing up weak. She wanted him to grow up and be strong, like his father. By the age of 16, Dorean was in full training. He was to become a strong warrior, like his father. He still liked playing in the forest, but he wouldn’t be so eager to explore. His training had made him cautious and wary. Instead, he used to train with dummies in his garden. Unfortunately, the dummies would get damaged, and so Dorean would have to gather materials to repair them.

One day, whilst he was gathering his materials, Dorean stumbled upon a small, gold amulet. It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. Even more beautiful than Elisa, his childhood sweetheart, and next door neighbour. He picked up the amulet and something surged through him. Power. He knew he should have left the amulet there. His mother had always warned him of magic and its powers, but he was young and had a thirst for knowledge. He took the amulet home, and showed his father. Felston was wary about the amulet also and told his son to return the amulet. Whilst on his way back, Dorean heard a faint whisper. The whispering grew louder and he became scared. He found an old, derelect house and decided to dump the amulet there. Then it all went wrong…

I like these types of background stories. It gives the reader some knowledge of what he was like as a child and it also gives the reader some basis of what to think about. Let’s extract some of the key points.

– He liked to explore. He was in training to become a Warrior. His mother feared for him and warned him of magic. He stumbled upon a gold amulet. His childhood sweetheart Elisa, lived next door. He tried to dump the amulet.

By extracting the key points, it allows the reader to make their own conclusion about Dorean and his family. Let’s apply some of these key points to characters and see how it would affect them.

Firstly, Dorean was training to become a Warrior like his father. Gerrond should pick up on this and should be able to shed some light on it. Skaraa, Carcia and Lisel are all magic users and would be able to relate to this. He also tried to do what was right, and dispose of the amulet like his father told him to. Almost everyone has been affected by something like this before, and this leads on to the next point.

Character Inclusion

In my experience, almost every character has something in common. At least at some point, anyway.  So this next point is to try and help you get others to join in and participate in your storyline. It’s alright having a character list written and them saying that they will attend, but don’t forget, you need to get them involved in your story.

I find the best way to do this is to emotionally involve characters in some way. As mentioned before, all characters have a set of principles. Play on them, and you’ll get a better standard of RP. Immersion in RP is very important and you should always try and get characters as involved as possible.

General Storyline Execution

You have a story written, and everything is ready to go. So how do you initiate it?

Well, it’s quite simple to initiate a story, and there are various ways you could start it. Firstly, there is the in game calender. You could make an event there and post on the forum also. Or you could start it yourself and gradually bring other characters into it. The second is my favourite and if we apply it to the example storyline, it would be similar to this.

– Carmtan receives word that a boy has died recently at a derelict house in Elwynn. Due to recent goings on, he’s cautious and refuses to send scouts. Instead he talks to his high command and they decide that a small group should visit the area in question. Gerrond is chosen to lead a small group of warriors into the area. Gerrond talks to Eomor and Castellan and they both agree to be a part of the group.

Something like that is a very good way to bring characters into a story. By talking to them personally, you are basically tying them to the story and then they will have to attend. Now, this isn’t always the best thing, but OOC is also important.

General Storyline Execution – OOC Chat

I’m not very fond of OOC Chat during RP, and I feel that all of the details should be squared away, before RP begins. Again, this comes down to immersion, as it detracts from the experience. However if OOC Chat is necessary, I follow some basic principles.

Firstly, do it in Party or Raid chat. No OOC Chat should occur in /s at all. Even if it has “(())”. OOC Chat that is inside brackets really annoys and it is a sign of a poor RP’er in my opinion.

OOC Chat during RP generally occurs because someone is unsure of something. Let’s use some examples.

– Lisel says : ((What happens now?)).
– Lisel shrugs her shoulders at the mage. She is unsure of what happens next. 

As you can see, the second example is a lot better than the first as it isn’t classed as OOC Chat. I strongly encourage all of you to use this method instead of OOC Chat.

General Storyline Execution – OOC Chat – Party & Raid

OOC Chat in Party and Raid Chat can be very distracting on times and I wouldn’t encourage the use of it too much. As mentioned in the previous section, it generally boils down to players not understanding what is happening. Everyone should pay attention to Raid and Party Chat as important notes can be placed in there by the storyteller.

– *A small glint of colour catches your eye as you walk past the tree.*

I strongly encourage all storytellers to use this method of warning players of anything unusual, or things they should take notice of. By remembering basic principles like these, all members will know what you are talking about, and they’ll know what you are intending to communicate with them.

Spoilers

Spoilers are things that I absolutely hate. Why? Because they ruin my experience. It’s as simple as that. Avoid placing spoilers on the forum at all costs. It’s very difficult to tell players about a storyline without giving away any spoilers on times, so it’s very important that you tell them details that are only important to them. You could say that you’re manipulating them to some degree, but I tend to disagree.

You don’t want to be giving away too much when you tell people. Instead, you should use your background history as a way to encourage participation in your story. But remember, leave plenty of cliffhangers in there to keep players guessing.

There we have it! My guide to writing a good, in depth storyline. Keep these things in mind when you’re writing your storyline and you’ll walk away with a polished product that everyone will want to be a part of. If anyone would other things in the guide, let me know and I’ll happily add them!

Thanks for reading.

Lisel x

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