Talking about writing irregularly structured stories

This post is for those folks that are actually somewhat interested in Converging Forces. The rest of you, please have fun in the pool, try not to slip on the wet deck. And don’t spill your drink!

The last posted story bit, “Interlude – The Tale of Samuel the Undying”, was a bit of an experiment for me.

I’m not sure who knows what, but Converging Forces may seem like just a poorly written story, but it’s actually a Play by Email Game (PBeM) that has truthfully become a Play By Blog Game.

The story you are reading is actually composed of game turns for the two characters, Terin as played by James, and Jessie as played by Manny… but all written by m’self.

This is the entire story as far as the two players are concerned. For the last year, after I posted a new chapter, whichever player is under the gun that episode writes me an email with their reactions and response, and branching directions they want to go. I long ago had both players use a random RPG online dice roller, that let’s you choose the number of dice to roll, how many rolls to do, and who to email the results to.  It kinda gives the player the chance to have their luck drive the rolls, as much as a program can, and the website emails me the results directly, so no cheating. Not that they would, but what the heck.

Anyway, point is that yes, a lot of the story is linear in direction… but I am fully prepared to roll the bones and go with the “what the fuck?” flow.

Jessie dying in her attack on the ancient treant? That was all Manny. I gave her all the tools, but truthfully never expected that to happen… and damn, did she blow her Con check.

However, I didn’t just Deus Ex Machina a resurrection. The capabilities and events going on are not the only way the story could go, by a long shot… but the structure of events let me change direction. Honestly, I thought we were screwed… but so far, Jessie’s story seems to be working out. So far.

In Jessie’s last turn, it ended where it did so I could give Manny a chance to change what he’d committed to when prepared for Raktar, once he’d finally seen the orc appear and had the advice of Gavin and Fergus.

Yes, it often causes me a spot of bother for exciting flow… having a sudden stop like that. I do so try to have a nice slow buildup, and an exciting culmination, but it is what it is.

Bless him, but Manny actually gave me new direction this time, totally unprovoked, that I think, when coupled with the character disadvantages he chose a long time ago, and what was already going on in Raktar’s head, have given me not only a good story arc conclusion, but an epic one. A Godlike one… if my writing can pull it off. Big damn if, there.

But getting back to an earlier point… The Tale of Samuel the Undying was an experiment.

Because this is an ongoing PBBG, I do not feel that I have the luxury to write from anyone’s point of view except the two main characters, because the players should have no idea exactly what the people around them are thinking. Unless they develop the ability to read the thoughts or emotions of others, heaven forbid. [shudder]

But I also have world setting information that I’d like to share with the players. Some background stuff that will help them understand better things that their characters may or may not already be aware of. Knowledge of other, far away events that tie in to what they themselves may be doing or getting caught up in.

Samuel’s tale was my way of trying to pass on a general impression of duchy politics in general, the personalities and scope of events in Mordant in particular, a feel for how vastly different life in Mordant is compared to Doneghal (the duchy due north of Mordant, where Terin is traveling now), and also the scope of recent events. I wanted to impart some of Terin’s background, Terin being from Madrigal, from the point of view of an outsider.

I didn’t want to do it with a long, lengthy, soul deadening exposition, blah blah blah, that had nothing to do with the current actions of the two main characters, when all it would have served to do was serve as a 30 minute version of the 5 minute pre-episode recap we all fast forward through.

So I decided to try writing an entire story, all 100% based on the existing background of the world setting and all happening in real time in other areas, that would tell what I wanted shared from someone else’s point of view, someone that Terin and Jessie aren’t very likely to meet.

Samuel could someday be encountered, even as a player character. I always intended to end book one shortly after Jessie and Terin meet and join forces. ‘Converging Forces’, you know. Once those forces converge, book one be done.

With book two, and with Jessie and Terin together, I always felt there would be room for one, preferrably two more players. Samuel would make a dandy player character…

Or a main villain controlled by me. He could honestly go either way, and still be true to himself, based on what events unfolded around him, and how they would interfere with or help him towards his own true goals.

Anyway, I hope that the experiment worked. I think it breaks up the ‘single novel’ feel, with a net loss, but I think it added a lot that was new and provides for a richer feel for events that are unfolding, and that’s a good benefit.

I hope you enjoyed it!

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4 thoughts on “Talking about writing irregularly structured stories

  1. I’m all for interesting spins on storytelling. I’ve tried a few experiments of my own in the past, and I feel they’ve worked out rather well, and I have an idea rolling around in my head that I may try out in the near future.

    I look forward to this interesting new turn from the BBB.
    .-= Samodean´s last blog ..Comics for Noobs: Thor =-.

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  2. I really need to get up to speed. Then again, I also really need to write my own blasted novel series already. Oh, for more hours in the day…

    So yeah, I like what you’re trying here. Good luck pulling it all together the way you want to. 😉
    .-= Tesh´s last blog ..Ends and Means =-.

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