Ready for one last adventure? Previously, we talked about gamewriting (and writing in general!) basics, creating settings, and writing characters. This week we are tackling our final topic: the actual plot! Now, some of you are pantsers, and some of you are planners, but everyone needs a plot sooner or later. The middle of Camp NaNoWriMo’s August session seems like as good a time as any to figure that out!
For a Live Action RolePlay, the writer constructs what we call a Flow. It’s sort of a skeleton of what the writer wants to happen, consisting of major events: the Dragon King is assassinated! the spaceship’s engines break! These generally serve as catalysts for the players to react to.
But of course, your players are acting as characters that don’t know your plan; they’re improvising. And, well, no matter how much planning you do, games never go according to the Flow. It’s just like a novel—your characters get away from you. So how do you manage characters that take on a life of their own within the structure of your story?
The best Flows are those that give the illusion of choice while secretly guiding and constraining your characters from behind the scenes. If you place your clues well, the players will pick up on them and do exactly what you want them to do without any input needed from you! As a novelist, you’re planting these clues for both your reader and your characters inside your story.
Of course, on the other hand, sometimes things go crazy at a crucial moment, and that’s when you need to be totally open to improv.
I remember a game that hinged on a particular ancient scroll. We were supposed to hire a gang of thieves to steal the scroll from a palace, but… it turned out that the kingdom’s prince defected to our side, and happened to bring the scroll with him. So the thieves had nothing to do! Their clever leader immediately came up with a whole set of new jobs to do, and organized a thief-off.
Sometimes, too, the characters take much more interesting turns as they live out your plot than you did when you were first outlining your Flow. Don’t be afraid of that! Encourage it!
A friend of mine once decided he wanted to pull of a particularly crazy in-game theft, so he spent the whole evening leaving a fake trail of clues for me to follow. I got completely caught up in it, bringing my whole team of swashbucklers along, and we wound up involving everyone in a massive faked conspiracy. While we settled what was going on, my friend stole an entire temple. The whole thing! Statues, tables, chairs, even the walls!
So what are my three tips for constructing interesting plots while letting your characters live and breathe?
1. Force them outside their comfort zones.
Characters are most entertaining when they’re challenged. This can be in little ways or big ways. If you’re dealing with a secret agent superspy, how do they react to having to take care of their aging parents? Push your characters to places they don’t expect to go, and see what happens.
2. Create interesting interactions.
Take the two characters in your story with the least in common. Put them face to face. Watch the sparks fly! A good Flow pushes characters together in strange combinations to see how they interact. Maybe they’ll suddenly become best friends. Maybe they’ll get in a fistfight. Maybe they’ll realize they actually have the solutions to each others’ problems, and collaborate on a sweet new Mars-lander rocket crane.
3. Go with the flow!
Sometimes characters have other ideas about where to go than what you had in mind. Move with their direction! Set up situations. Set up concepts. But let your characters do what they want. If you’ve given them complex and driving motivations, they’ll drive your story as they live in your world.
That’s it for my series on LARP-writing, and what it can teach anyone constructing stories! I hope you’ve enjoyed them.
Good adventuring, campers! Good luck!