Brainstorming Plot

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

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As I've been hashing out the plot for one of my novels, I came to the realization that coming up with plot for my characters is much like thinking up hooks for roleplaying games, both table-top and live-action. Having worked with larping plot teams and tried a little Game Mastering myself for D&D, I've been looking at some of the things GMs and plot teams do to and for the Player Characters (PCs).

It might be something weather related or an ancient trap or a goal to accomplish. Some things might last a single game session while others cover multi-session arcs. But everything is to give the characters/PCs something to do and get involved in--if they weren't already. Because after all, characters create a fair amount of plot themselves by their choices and interactions with other characters.

The Dungeon Master's Guide version 3.5 has a chapter on creating adventures for the PCs. My favorite part is the list: One Hundred Adventure Ideas, on pages 44-45. I needed ideas for things to have happen to my two main characters on their way to the first set piece I have in mind. Well, there's a hundred ideas right there to start with.

A few of my favorites from the list:

#6. A caravan of important goods is about to leave for a trip through a dangerous area.
(I used the caravan idea plus some bandits as inspiration for a couple chapters-worth of events. Even worked it into the primary arc.)
#42. A haunted tower is reputed to be filled with treasure.
#58. An evil tyrant outlaws nonofficially sanctioned magic use.
#81. An innocent man, about to be hanged, pleads for someone to help him. (a common hook)
#97. Someone in town is a werewolf. (The new Red Riding Hood movie comes to mind here.)

From larping:

1. Giant ants are wandering through the woods.

2. Packs of wolves are hunting for food.

3. A woman begs adventurers to save her husband from captivity by a pack of fishmen.

4. Dark dwarf women are out trying to snare husbands.
5. The king arranges a tourney and will be awarding prizes.
6. A rediscovered old mine is filled with monsters and pockets of hazardous gas.


Having a list of plot hooks and ideas is useful for the times when thinking of "what to have happen next" has you pounding your empty head on the keyboard. (Fingers go on the keys, not your head.) Since I don't currently have permission to reprint the D&D list in entirety to share with you, and it's only a start anyway, why don't we build our own shared list of seed ideas?

Post your plot hooks in the comments below, as many as you want/think of. Don't worry if they are genre specific. (see examples below) They can be ideas you've used in your writing or from books you've read. Let's see how many we can collect over this next month. I'll post weekly reminders until the beginning of March when I'll share the compiled list. Get your friends to join in.

Here are some examples of my own to get us started:

Astronauts discover a crashed ship on the Moon.
Fairies cause problems at a christening.

A woodcutter is trapped under some deadfall.

Someone is injured and gets wound-fever.

Aliens munch on an old truck.

8 comments:

Brad said...

Excellent post!
Though I haven't played in a looooooooong time, I was a pretty heavy gamer in the early, heady days of the early 80's.
I've always thought that RPG's have a lot to teach writers, as they are all about immersing yourself into a story.

Porky said...

Some more possibilities, based on recent posts at TalkToYoUniverse:

- Ideas begin occurring simultaneously to apparently unassociated individuals.
- Someone sprouts tentacles.
- Animals of all kinds are migrating en masse.
- Storytellers drawn from across the land build a world that becomes real.

Jaleh D said...

Ooo, good ones! Thanks for contributing. :)

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

The king has choked to death on a concubine. When they arrive, it turns out to have been a misunderstanding, and it was actually a courtier who choked on a cucumber. The messenger wasn't great with language skills.

The players find a knitted sampler, the edges decorated with birds and flowers in the wilderness. It has the motto "Eat cold steel, pig dogs!" on it, and is surrounded by the corpses of several bandits, variously strangled with pink yarn, or stabbed with knitting needles.

A magical construct has insufficient dates (fruit) due a war in ______. A new supply must be procured.

An institute of magical learning has vanished from sight, but can still be bumped into. In addition, about 30% of all conversations will be lost due to the chiming of a clock which makes silence instead of noise.

The party requires a virgin sacrifice for some reason. If the Paladin has not taken vows of chastity, re-roll.

Jaleh D said...

Thanks for joining in, too, C'nor. Some great ideas there even if a couple are more detailed than I intended. I'll make your fourth one into two separate entries on the list, because they don't have to be used together even though they can.

But I especially love the knitting one. I about choked with laughter when I saw it. Sounds like it would make the type of story I'd love to read.

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

Check out The Last Hero by Terry Pratchet. That's where I got the idea from.

Jaleh D said...

Thanks! I'll add it to my to-read list.

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

You're welcome!

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