Plot Hooks

I had a conversation with my fiance last night; we were talking about a game of Exalted she had been running for a few friends and I, since a month or so before Christmas.  She’s never been confident in running games, so I tend to push her into trying to GM, as I think she can do it (and quite selfishly, it lets me play in more games…), and we’re now at the conclusion of her Exalted storyline.

I think this is probably the first time she’s had an opportunity to actually finish a game properly.  That isn’t to say we haven’t played entire story arcs in her games before, but this is the first time I think she’s hit that GM-wall of uninspiration (is that a word… spellcheck says no, but I like it) at just the right time to be able to end a game at a satisfying point.  In other games she’s run, we’ve finished a story arc, and they’ve always been fun, but we’ve always tended to lurch straight into another story, and it’s at that point she loses momentum, which is something I think anyone who has GMed a game can understand.  There can be any number of reasons for this situation, but that’s really the subject of another post, but suffice to say it looks like we might get to the end of our Exalted storyline and be able to leave the game there, which is, I feel, always more satisfying as a conclusion than leaving your characters in weird limbo, never knowing what the end of the story was to be.

And, to be honest, I’m quite proud of her for it.  I tend towards the latter fate, with most of my campaigns unceremoniously ending when I run out of ideas, get bored with the setting, or more likely get excited about something new.  So it seems that, with the main plot of her story as she set it out, she has about 1 session or less of material to go through before the story really comes to a close.  We save a town, stole some cool stuff right from under a scary badguy’s nose and killed their chief lieutenant; pretty fun stuff.  The issue that faces her now is that there are a couple of other plot hooks brought up in the campaign, and she’s um’ing and ah’ing about how to close them off.  She doesn’t really want to run any more of this game, but she feels that if we don’t resolve the outstanding issues, the series will go unfinished.

I could see where she was coming from, and I understood her point of view, but when she brought these points up, it very rapidly occured to me that I actually liked the idea of leaving some stuff unresolved.  Sure, I didn’t want to skip this last session and never see our characters conclude their epic adventure, but I also didn’t feel it was necessary for us to wander around the world addressing every last little dilemma or issue that had arisen.  I was happy with the idea that we’d done good, we’d get our rewards and then, in some mystical nonexistant future, our brave heroes would deal with what came next.  It seemed the proper way to end the adventure, knowing that there was always another one around the corner.

And then I concluded that maybe that’s something that I miss from my games.  I tend to try and make sure everything I include is a piece of plot to be used, or something essential to the story, like a Sherlock Holmes plot.  Every single object I describe ends up being some kind of chekov’s gun (yes, I know I’m using that reference slightly wrong, but you get my point).  However, when I consider this last adventure, I feel I very much like the unresolved issues; they give the feeling of a wider world.  Not every problem is for the players to solve, and certainly not right now.

So that’s my advice to take forward; leave some puzzles unsolved, some stories unresolved, some stones unturned.  You might find you like it.

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Writing a Book

One of the things I’ve always wanted to do with my life is be a writer. You wouldn’t know it looking at the path my life has taken up until this point, but it’s something I always come back to, something I always find myself considering and bemoaning my failure to achieve.

I think the primary reason for this is because writing is something I feel I can do. Writing isn’t like drawing or sports or maths or any number of the other things that I know I can’t do, but wish that I could learn; writing is something that I know in my core I’m capable of, and that I enjoy doing.

And so I return to it time after time and think to myself

“You know what, I should take a crack at writing a novel! I could actually do that. Maybe it wouldn’t be the best, maybe it wouldn’t even be publishable, but I think it would at least be something I could be proud of.”

I put the proverbial pen to paper, or more realistically fingers to keyboard, and then I realise I’m not sure I have anything to write about, which is the part that really worries me.

I always get the impression that great writers are people who really have a story to tell, that they have an idea burning away inside them their whole lives until they suddenly discover a keyboard or something and then it all just comes flying out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m by no means implying professional writers don’t do work, I don’t think it all just comes easy to them. I know they slave away tied to their writing for months or even years, crafting a whole book or even series of books out of their initial idea, and I have the most incredible respect for them. But that’s the part that I always find problematic. Where do they get that initial idea from?

Is it something they’re born with? Do they have a story inside them just desperate to be put on the page? Or are they just creative powerhouses, who can pull great stories from the world around them that inspires them? Or are they more like me (or at least were they once), just people who enjoy the craft and kept hammering away at it until something finally stuck?

To be entirely honest I really wish I knew. I’d like to know whether, in order to actually be a writer, you have to be the kind of person that ideas just pour out of, or whether, at least for some, the finding of the initial idea itself is as tough as making forging it into a whole novel.