What to do if you can't come up with a good story?

Xenphir

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Characters, characters, and more characters. While I have seen a few good games with good plot and interesting story with half-decent characters, (not including those where the character is nearly a blank sheet for the player to make their own), It seems characters have the heaviest weight, so I myself make those first, then build a world around them. Most games I enjoyed personally had very in-depth characters with their own flaws, strengths, and personalities that didn't seem cookie-cutter throughout the game.

And to start with characters, I like to get a basic idea of the class I want. A rogue, healer, mage, or swordsman? Something unique like a fan-wielding character? Then I either work on the type of location they are from to get an idea of how they look. Is the healer covered in many thick robes from a cold region, or do they wear lighter, more flowing robes from a humid area? Sometimes I even make random people in dress up games to see what looks good, honestly. xD

After that I work on their places. Where are they from? How did they get to where they are now? What motivates them to do what they do. Is their motivation from where they lived? Such as a very honorable society of knights and paladins or a town with lots of rogues and shifty characters? What sort of conflicts would those places introduce because of how their society is run?

There is not always a certain order, but this is how I do it. Also, it is perfectly okay to backtrack, change, and adapt your story after you introduced new ideas. Like hey my healer was from a magical forest, but after making their personality, looks, and story arc, they much better fit a humid desert location.

I also like to look up cliches and then see what I can do to altar them. As said above, everything has been done but there are definitely people who take cookie-cutter cliche stories start to end that gets repetitive. Maybe your hero starts as the chosen one, until he realises he can't do it alone, and must rely on the help of others, getting over his stubborn pride.

Also again, flaws, flaws, flaws. No world, character, or plot will be perfect. It isn't a test or essay with specific answers. It is more like a river that flows through your imagination, taking different turns as you discover new ideas.
 

Lord Vectra

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I'm a weird guy. I look at the ceiling, make pictures out of the ceiling, make a story out of it and BOOM, it's a game. I have them pictures memorized too... but I can't remember what I ate for dinner last night... welp.

I half-wing it. I plan out the big parts like..
1. evil guy comes
2. kills the 6 kings
3. restores his old kingdom by sucking the life force of the other kingdom

Why is the evil guy there? Why did he need to kill the Kings? Did he know them? Did they know him? When did a Kingdom have a life force outside of it's people? All the questions are answered as I go.

ANALOGY TIME!!!
You have a cup with big rocks and little rocks.

If you put the little rocks in first and then the big rocks, the big rocks might not fit. If you put the big rock in first, the little rocks will fill in the gaps between the big rocks making the most use for the space in the cup. The big rocks are the things I numbered up above and the unanswered questions is the little rocks while the game is the cup and the space inside is the story.

Hope this helps you in your writing-a-story troubles. :kaojoy::kaojoy::kaojoy:

Also, when I get an idea for the story, but it's too early to do it, if I'm to use the kingdom example, I would think "do I want this to happen before or after the 6 kings are killed?" and then I plop it there and I make sure as I continue with the story to fit it in where it makes sense.
 

Doogerie

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RPG's are about characters think about you best friend girlfrend people in your life why do you like dislike them I had a character called Heather i based her on a frend caleed Vicky i lover wrighting for her i am goingto reuse her in my new game hopfully peoplel like her she is a bit of a flert but so sweet so use peopl you know for characters a good bad guy is usaly someone fro pop culturer that you dislike (no names). i hpe i helped
 

EliteZeon

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An emotion you kinda want to emphasize on can act as a muse. Real life experiences create boundaries for many stories, and these experiences are always adaptable to fiction.

A person you remember vaguely from childhood can easily become a main character. That 3rd Grade teacher you hated? Make her a possible villian or side character, try to capture their essense and emulate it.

Once you get a plethora of characters, ask "why?" Why do you think that teacher was so mean? Explore your imagination, maybe her children turned out to be criminals, maybe her own childhood was tragic, maybe her marriage was bad and she unconsciously took it out on the kids.

Then adapt it to your liking. A queen of a small kingdom calls to imprison all who question her authority... Turns out as a child her father, the previous king abused her... When the previous king was assassinated by the current queen's hands, she started becoming paranoid and is trying her hardest not to let anyone know the secret of the king's death... Leading anyone that looks into her past and questioning her to be imprisoned. Perhaps instead of that, the queen is always nice actually, but the peasants think her evil due to her tyrancy. Maybe she is strict on the township because negative emotions empower a demon lord that lurks underneath the castle.

Its cheesy and cliche, but hey we just came up with a villian with some motive and backstory. Make a character, ask why they behave that way, ask why again to flesh out more concepts... Then make more characters and connect the dots.

Don't be afraid to be cliche, everything has likely been done already. I tried making my game similar to Steins Gate... Then hundreds of more games/stories based on traveling back in time with tradgey appeared... Then .hack//sign was a popular show about being stuck in an MMO... Now we got SAO, Log Horizon and many others of that genre.

Focus on the execution of your story. Good characters will be memorable. Plots will come together once you play a game of connect the dots.

You can also look for random DnD stories or characters. Just ask "why" on vague topics and you will draw ideas eventually!
 

Lothloran

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If I'm absolutely stumped on a story, I just make it up as I go along, fix parts as ideas come to me IE, go back and edit dialogue to match the new ideas, and repeat that process until a fully formed idea comes to my mind and then I continue on from there.
Like my WIP Volkheim Chronicles; I started out with NO freakin' clue what story I wanted to tell, then over a few months I developed a complete backstory with little ideas here and there.
Now the story is about the descendant of a holy knight trying to stop a secret society from gathering the "Materia Prima" (or Elemental Truth... the gooey stuff that sticks between everything in the universe and makes reality happen) and perverting it, blah blah blah, rare celestial event, blah blah blah, a shard of Materia Prima coalesced, blah blah blah, etc etc.
I've got a complete backstory that players can piece together with books and shines and temples and whatnot that tells the story of the events leading up to Aryanis, the main character, coming to "be", and a great sub-storyline dealing with his inner conflict at having joined "The Order", a sect of Paladins who act like the arbiters of justice, he was only recently made a Paladin after serving a Lord for a while blah blah blah.

It's obviously much more in depth in the game, but the WHOLE story came out of the character generator and when I started building the world I had NO idea it was going to turn into this specifically because I had no idea what story I wanted to tell, it evolved as the world got built. That's my advice; "Just go with it" and fill in the blanks as ideas come to you.

More often than not, by the way. The best elements of a story are the little tiny subplots that stick in a characters head. I have a quest in the game where you have to find a cure for a little girl who is dying from some strange disease, and the tiny little 5ish minute backstory and 3-ish minute cutscene is really potent, but this idea took me around 2 weeks to really formulate, it's all about taking a feeling and turning it into an idea, and anything that is relatable is "good storytelling"

Like Aryanis, no one in the world today is a Paladin, that's silly! that's fantasy! But everyone knows what it feels like to be conflicted about a choice they've made, everyone knows what it feels like to doubt themselves. THAT is the story, everything else is just a vehicle for that, so pick a feeling you've had that you want to share with people and then make it happen.

The game I'm working on right this very second, Suns of Uriel is an open world zombie survival game, but the story is about my 3 year experience dating and living with a girl who had multiple personality disorder and the discombobulation, frustration, anger, disappointment and hurt I went through because of her, there's no such thing as zombies, but there's definitely such a thing as pain and that's what people will remember about any great game.
 

vigaman

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A good story comes from good execution, which good execution comes from good representation from different sources that's all put together in one experience.

So to cut it short, a good story = good experience. The game's theme doesn't really matter just as long as good execution is in effect.
 

Alanood

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I use my dreams and my imagination to create my story. If you can't do that and you need a really good story, maybe team up with a good story writer?
 

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