Knowing when to finish the story?

Astel

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It happens to me time and time again... i have this great nebulous idea for a story, with a neverending flow of epic events, however i quickly run out of steam or interest, ending up with a half finished thing. Lately, looking back i noticed that maybe if i had stopped earlier, i could actually have a shorter and not as epic story, but complete at least...

It happens to someone else? How to avoid this problem?
 

Kes

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The key word there is probably "nebulous". It is not necessary to plan thestory down to the last detail before starting (I don't, anyway) but you do need to have a clear end point, with enough points on the way to give an idea of the story arc and its flow. Always have that end point in mind as you plan any side plot or back story. Everything must serve that end point in some way if you are to avoid sprawl. It doesn't have to be directly, but there should be some connection somehow.
 
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Crimson Dragon Inc.

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when i write a story for my games, i generally build the story around the world i created. as in i create the actors, enemies, world, super villians, monsters, cities, and then put a story to them instead of the other way around
 

ArcaneEli

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I normally do the end first, figure out the beginning next.

get the main goals down and fill in the rest.
 

Uthgard

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Usually, I get a very clear image of an ending--and I mean an actual, visual, image--and I start wondering how things became that way. Those are the stories that I can finish in a rush and feel actually excited about advancing, because they are moving somewhere. When I just have a cool idea for a beginning, that's when I tend to stall and lose direction; ksjp17's avice is precisely what any aspiring storyteller should keep in mind. Of course, following the usual narrative structure of setup, conflict and resolution also helps, and if you want to get more technichal... well, there's a lot written about the subject. Even the wikipedia post may be a good starting point: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narrative_structure
 

trouble time

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I alwaysend the story shortly after the main characters development is done since I write by developing my characters then adding a starting point and working from there based on who the characters are. Once I'm done with the main character arc I just don't feel like there's much room to continue.
 
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This is something you "feel" (God, I hate using that corny line), but it's how it goes.

Read your story over and think about any possibility you may have left behind, if there's something you can add or remove.

Remember that if even you, the creator, feels the story is dragging on too long it might be a good idea to think on a proper ending to the story before it becomes a chore to continue
 

Astel

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Remember that if even you, the creator, feels the story is dragging on too long it might be a good idea to think on a proper ending to the story before it becomes a chore to continue
I guess this would be the case. In one of my games, the character had to visit four kingdoms... but by the end of the quest in the first one, i just lost interest and i didn't know how to continue... and that game got stuck for years literally... and looking back i see that could have been a good stopping point and wrap up the story, instead of waiting for a way to continue.
 
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I guess this would be the case. In one of my games, the character had to visit four kingdoms... but by the end of the quest in the first one, i just lost interest and i didn't know how to continue... (...) and looking back i see that could have been a good stopping point and wrap up the story, instead of waiting for a way to continue.
This is something that happened to me a couple of times. The story I had in mind lasted much shorter than I planned and I hated the feeling of having to leave a concept I once made and liked very much.

But nothing stops you from splitting the game/story in more parts and continue later when you find and renew you inspiration again.
 
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DarknessFalls

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I would finish a story when you feel like you told the story you want to tell. Put your self in the characters shoes and walk through the world with them. Why are they here? What are there goals and motivations?
 

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It happens to me time and time again... i have this great nebulous idea for a story, with a neverending flow of epic events, however i quickly run out of steam or interest, ending up with a half finished thing. Lately, looking back i noticed that maybe if i had stopped earlier, i could actually have a shorter and not as epic story, but complete at least...

It happens to someone else? How to avoid this problem?
I guess this would be the case. In one of my games, the character had to visit four kingdoms... but by the end of the quest in the first one, i just lost interest and i didn't know how to continue... and that game got stuck for years literally... and looking back i see that could have been a good stopping point and wrap up the story, instead of waiting for a way to continue.
Something's not adding up here.  You say you have epic ideas for events in your head, but that you run out of motivation or "steam" before you can finish them.  You give an example of a game where a character must visit four kingdoms but either didn't think that the events in the four kingdoms were interesting enough to keep going, or didn't know how to bind the different ideas together.

What do you think, specifically, is causing you to lose interest?  Do you just not enjoy the act of actually writing things?  It might be worth it to save your more epic ideas for non-RPG projects where you don't have to do so much writing of dialogue (which is, in my opinion, the trickiest thing to write).  Are you struggling to connect ideas into a coherent single plot?  In this case you should focus on personal character motivations, sharpening your plot's action around its characters and the things they would realistically do in a situation instead of trying to connect too many unrelated (albeit cool) ideas.  Do you start typing out things in your game and realize that your epic ideas aren't as epic as they seemed in your head?  If so, spend more time being inspired until you come up with ideas that hold up and seem just as cool when you expand them into a five-page written story.
 

Astel

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Well, i don't really have all those epic events clear in my mind, it more that i think that they should be there... Rpg are about hours of play and twists and world shattering events, right? e.e too much FF games i guess.

Maybe, just maybe, saving a kingdom is not always necessarly just a small step?

For that same reason i never thought about breaking the game in smaller pieces, something that could be a better option for me.
 
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Andar

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Rpg are about hours of play and twists and world shattering events, right?
 
No


RPG's (in the real sense, not something like a so-called Action-RPG) are about story- and character development. And each story needs an end, a character needs a goal and so on. This is what you have to keep in mind, and whenever you think of adding something, your first qustion should be "does this enhance the story/the characters?".


You should never add parts just to "increase play time" - the players will usually realise that, and also usually it will get you a bad reputation for filling up your games.


There is no problem with short RPGs, and if your storyline doesn't warrant a longer game, then don't make it longer.


And there is no need for world-shattering events either - just as there are movies that don't need explosions to be fun, you can make a game about simple characters. It's the quality of the story and the gameplay that will keep the game alive, not the number of bosses or how often the destruction of the worl gets prevented.
 
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Wavelength

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Well, i don't really have all those epic events clear in my mind, it more that i think that they should be there...
If you don't have interesting, clear ideas to start with, it's going to be very hard to spin a compelling tale.

Looking through your other topics, my personal read on it is that storytelling isn't really your thing, and your talents might lie more in presentation and design of action.  It would be well worth considering playing to your strengths and not trying to create a story-heavy game that's going to force you to write the equivalent of half a novel.

But what do I know?  You know yourself better!  If you think your talents lie mostly in storytelling, then do some things (like I linked) to get inspired, or if you aren't there yet but you really have a passion for telling stories, then take a creative writing class or two!
 

neko-niki

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Maybe it would help if you thought of the beginning and end first and then take down bullet points of the events that may happen in between and then once you run out of ideas, review what you've written down and take out the scenes that are irrelevant/redundant/overused/don't make sense/etc. Then when you're left with what you think works, that's when you start fleshing out the scenes. 
 

Emmych

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Is the protagonist's main need met?  If yes, there u go, that's the ending.  How you fill the space in between depends on how complicated meeting that need is (is it "I am hungry -> I get a food -> I am no longer hungry", or is it more like "hellspawn stole my dog -> I quest to get my dog back -> antics ensue") and if other people come into conflict while the protagonist is getting that need met.

But yup, that is my basic metric for plot: what does the protagonist want?  How do they get it?  Once they get it, wrap up the story.
 

LaFlibuste

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Plan ahead. Start with whatever has you rilled up and build from there. Build the world, the base canvas (in broad strokes at least), decide who yo characters are, where they come from, why they're there, what their goals are, etc. Decide what your story's starting point is, how it end and they main, key event along the way. You don't have to plan every single dialogue beforehand, but at least have the generic guidelines.

For example, the project I am currently working on started with "Hey, I like Celts, I like steam punk and I have these key gameplay ideas I'd like to introduce". The I thought "I also like tarot, I,ll try to blend the symbolics in my game somehow" but read a bunch on celtic mythology, celtic legends and stuff and finally ditched the idea in favor of something else. I'm still building the thing, but I have the beginning, my main characters more-or-less figured out, the main NPCs and main events, the world and setting and the main plot down. I'm currently working on the side-plots, the main characters and some setting flavor-elements (I like to have rich, alive-feeling feeling, complete and coherent worlds and settings).Once I've got that finished, I'll probably (re)start working on the systems and maybe work on the music a bit (just because I feel like it, really).

Yeah, so anyway, at least have the broad strokes of your main plot down. There's nothing I hate more, personally, than the having the feeling the author is making the story as he goes and constantly pulling rabbits out of his hat.
 

Astel

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Yeah, so anyway, at least have the broad strokes of your main plot down. There's nothing I hate more, personally, than the having the feeling the author is making the story as he goes and constantly pulling rabbits out of his hat.
But... i like rabbits :(

Anyway, i'm just very fickle... there is nothing more confusing that having 10 versions of the same history with little details changed :( even more when you end up with 2 halves that no longer match  ;_;  

Lets keep trying, surely something good will happen, i hope B)
 

Crimson Dragon Inc.

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actually making the story as you go is a good idea for certain types of games, 

for instance lets say you have a game about someone learning the truth about their origins, accepting said origins, and learning that your origins dont define who you are

with this as the main focus writing the story as you go is a very viable option considering that you just have to meet those three criteria with in the game

you also have to define pulling rabbits out of hats? cuase for me that is having someone survive impossible odds thru a series of convenant events, but a twist in the story are good plot points so long as you dont use them to often (and when you make it up as you go this is one of the better ways to increase the length of play)
 

LaFlibuste

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actually making the story as you go is a good idea for certain types of games, 

for instance lets say you have a game about someone learning the truth about their origins, accepting said origins, and learning that your origins dont define who you are
Even then, not really sure, no. I feel making the story as you go always is a bit chaotic, undirected, like there's no clear goal, it gets messy. Imho, it's always less driving and interesting. One of the most important things in story telling as far as I'm concerned is suspended disbelief. I know the story is fictional, but it has to be believable, to make sense. In the story telling as much as in its background. If it doesn't, I just don't see the point of going on with the story, I get bored and pissed real fast.

And why shouldn't a story about self discovery not need to be carefully planned and scenarized?

As for pulling rabbits out of hats, I especially mean really big, deal changing surprises that come out of the blue. Now I'm not saying I'm against surprises or plot twists, but I especially appreciate them when, once revealed, I can look back and say "Damn! X, Y and Z hinted at it but I still missed it! It makes so much sense now!" rather then "Wtf is this?!" or "Well, it's true the story was driving itself into a wall and the author needed to do something drastic about it.". I like when stories are driven and feel like a coherent whole.

But hey, were (all?) doing this as a hobby (or at I am), so whatever makes sense to you and is fun for you, go for it! You asked so I just shared my opinion and personal experience, but feel free to do whatever you like :)
 

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