Frank Perez, aka Elysius, recently posted four articles on how to write a story for NWN. You can see all four posts here:
To decide on our story premise (in other words, the general idea of what the story is about), Dirtywick, Anduraga, and I agreed to hold a brainstorming session. We gave ourselves twenty minutes to generate as many ideas as we could, during which no idea would be criticized. We allowed ourselves to suggest any idea, even those that were deliberately silly, in the hope that these may lead to better ones. Afterward, we voted on three of the ideas that we liked best. We then picked the idea that was chosen by most of us.
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I once wrote in this blog that regardless of a story’s length, I find it useful to structure its plot as a three-act outline. In fact, I have a specific formula for how the acts are written.
Act 1. The hero (that is, the PC) becomes aware of a problem to be resolved.
Act 2. The hero tries to attain an objective, to which a strong antagonist is opposed. At this point, the hero gets a complication that makes it more difficult to attain the objective.
Act 3. It seems that the hero has no chance to defeat the antagonist. Nevertheless, the hero can still prevail, but only with the help of one or more third parties that tip the balance in the hero's favor.
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Entire books have been written on developing fictional characters, but I won’t even begin to touch the surface of this topic. Instead, I’ll provide only a couple of tips on character design. Don’t be misled by this seemingly meager offering, however. When applied properly, these tips will add considerable depth to any character concept.
Here’s my advice to beginning writers on how to create characters:
1. Write a back story for each significant character with a focus on the emotional problems that the character faces, how and why these emotional problems came to be, and what it would take for the character to resolve them.
2. Put your characters in situations that force them to confront their emotional problems in a way that will advance the story.
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It helps to read a lot of fiction with an eye toward studying what the authors did that makes their work effective. Even if you aspire to write exclusively in the science fiction or fantasy genre, include a lot of mainstream fiction in your diet of books. My favorite novels include Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, Life of Pi by Yann Martel, Shella by Andrew Vachss, The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt (not to be confused with the movie of the same name), and Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (a surprisingly brutal novel from a 19th century country girl). In the fantasy and science fiction genre, my favorite books include Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Doubtless, you’ll have your own list of favorite books. One can learn much by studying the works of the writers you admire.
Reading will not get aspiring writers anywhere unless they set themselves working on their own fiction. Don’t worry if your first stories are amateurish. Even the masters started with baby steps on their path to greatness. They got better with practice, and you can too. So dust off your favorite game toolset and start making the interactive stories that you’ve been wanting to write.
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Frank Perez is the creator of the NWN2 module "Battle of the Builds" and is currently working on his next module called "Faithless." See more at his blog: Faithless: The Making of an NWN2 Module.