selkie-fay  asked:

Hi Max, I need a bit of help. I have this character, and all he wants is to have an easy life - I've tried putting him into several different plot situations in my novel attempts, and none of them are right, because he's not interested. However, I need a plot for my story. I can't just write about this guy doing nothing all day, every day, but he won't correspond to any situation I try to put him in; yet he keeps coming back to me through various scenes. Can you advise me at all?

Hello there, writerly friend~ ♥︎

I think that a lot of people do plotting and they go about it the wrong way. If you have taken a look at my (Strange) Guide To Planning Your Novel then you probably have a feeling for what I am about to talk about, if not— then prepare yourself.

It’s time for me to give you the best piece of advice that ever came from my many years taking creative writing classes in college. My amazing professor once said something that I have coined “The Marcy Rule” (because her name was Marcy :p and everyone needs to know that she came up with this). It goes like this:

The Marcy Rule

Story rises from character, not the other way around.

What does this mean? I find that a lot of writers are under the assumption that the plot is the primary agent in a story— and that characters are secondary. And I totally get where this misunderstanding comes from. People are taught in school that events make history. People are taught to memorize events and dates as what happened in their past. This is not good, because it forgets about the driving agent(s) behind these events.

Would you say that the most important factor in history is the events that happened (plot) or the people that lived through those days (character)?

Of course it’s the people. Story rises from character, and thus is it character that drives the story forward.

Though… I think that you already know that, writerly friend. As you said in your question— you keep trying to toss your character into plots but they don’t follow along. It’s almost as though you’re forcing events into a timeline, and you find that your lead actor is not interested in going with this script. Now, let’s look at this from the point of view of that question I get all the time:

What do I do if I have a character, but no story or plot to go with them?

You see, this is problematic, because it assumes that plot is primary— and that characters are secondary. I believe this is doing your characters an injustice. Your story does not revolve around events and dates and points on a timeline— they revolve around you, and your actions and your choices and your dreams and your goals.

Take a moment (or a few) to sit down and ask yourself this question:

  • What does this character want, and what are they willing to do to get it?

Everybody wants something. There is nothing too big or too small to write a story about. Again, people get this idea in their head that every book should be an epic story of war and death and saving the world— but I can tell you that a story about a character dealing with their own personal turmoil, and their dreams of finally overcoming their depression and being able to get up in the mornings… that can be a story as good, if not better than any ‘epic.’

So. Take this with you. Ask your characters what they want, and start following them. Don’t get in the way of the story— you are not the mastermind plotting out a plan, you are the camera-crew. Your job is to tell this character’s story. So, follow them. See where their story goes.

As a final note. Remember that everyone wants to live an ‘easy’ life, but nothing worth having ever comes easily. Every choice comes with a price, every action comes with an opposite reaction. Your character can desire to live an ‘easy’ life as much as they want… but fate always tends to get in the way of such things c;

I hope this helps! if you, or any other writerly friend has any more questions, then make sure to send them my way!

Keep writing~ ♥︎


Hello, writerly friends, the VWA is back in session!

What is the VWA?

The Virtual Writing Academy is a weekly writing class where we explore strange writing exercises. This is NOT a lecture. You are not going to learn by listening– but by doing. So, take out your notebooks because we are going to write!

In this week’s episode: I make you hella sad as we explore the harsh life of being a ‘hero.’ Make sure to have tissues handy, because you’ve just boarded the Feels Train c;

Missed our previous classes? Check out the playlist!

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Amy Rose asked:

I am working on a story from the perspective of a group of characters trying to overtake their government. They do this through what is basically terrorism. The thing is that I am afraid that people will think I condone these acts… am I overthinking this, or am I right to be worried? 

Hello there, writerly friend~ ♥︎

I touched on this subject a long, long, time ago. But since it was part of a Writing Advice Blitz, I didn’t go very much into depth– so let’s do just that! For this question, though, I think it would be more effective to take it in reverse.

I am going to warn you that I am going to start off by talking about Society, since this is one of those questions that have very little to do with writing– and more with the writer (and the society they live in).

Is it rational to fear what people may think of you based on your writing (and art)?

Society programs people to be afraid of a ton of things. Society tells people that they need to go to college if they want to be happy, and that they need to get married if they want to be happy, and that they need to have children if they want to be happy. Of course, people forget that this example of ‘happiness’ is an illusion. It’s not happiness, it’s acceptance.

And this is the entire basis behind our fears.

The fear of doing anything that is different (such as art) is the fear of proving to the people around us that we are indeed different, and thus we don’t deserve to be accepted. And anyone who has ever been bullied in their lives knows what happens when people who are accepted have fodder to justify being cruel to those who are not.

I think that part of becoming your real self is realizing that you have been programmed, and that the 'happiness’ that has been taught to you (acceptance) is not true– because you, and only you, can define happiness for yourself.

Now, let’s look at your question again.

Is it rational to fear what people may think of you based on your writing (and art)?

Of course it is. Society programmed you to be afraid of doing anything that is different. Anything that may empower people to hurt you. It’s as rational as being afraid of heights because it reminds your brain that you are not safe, and that a single wrong step can end you.

Just like… writing a story about a group of terrorists may give people plenty of reason to think that you are not a good person–

Except not.  Let me explain.

Should I be afraid that people may assume things about me based on my writing (and art)?

I am going to tell you right now that anyone with enough interest in reading knows pretty darn well that there is a disconnection between the book they are reading and the person who wrote it.

Let me repeat that.

Anyone who would rather read a book is CERTAINLY smart enough to know that words on the page and YOU are two different creatures. It’s as simple as that. Everyone else, the people who don’t read books, don’t matter at all– because they have nothing to do with your line of work. I don’t know anything about being a butcher, but I don’t think it would be wise to assume that just because a person happens to cut meat all day that this makes them more likely to be an axe murderer.

So, no. You should not be afraid of what people will assume of you based on your writing– because I have written some pretty weird stuff, and that doesn’t make me a psycho, it just makes me a writer.

As that old Dr. Seuss line goes:

“Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.”

As a final note, if you are someone who has been shaking their heads the whole time, and you believe that there are things that “Writers should not make books about, especially terrorism” I want to say that I get what you mean. I do. I get it– but your opinion is immediately invalidated (for me) because you would rather live in a world without Les Miserables (which is really, a story about a group of terrorists trying to overthrow their government). And I am sorry but I could not fathom a reality without Les Mis. I can’t. Sorry, it’s just not possible :P

♫ Red, a world about to dawn! Black, the night that ends at last! ♫

Thank you for the question, Amy! And doubly-thank you for pledging to my Patreon page! Thank you for directly supporting me, my books, and the awesome posts that you see on this blog everyday~ ♥︎

Interested in becoming a Patron? Head over to my Patreon Page where you will find information on the sweet perks that can be yours from as little as $1 dollar a month, least of which is my gratitude! ♥︎

two-bit-prophet  asked:

Hello! I hope this isn't bothersome, but I'm currently planning a story (for a game), and I'm lost. I have two different ideas... each will change the story and some characters' roles a LOT, and even remove some characters. How should I choose? For a 2D game, story's important. I want the ending to be plot-twisty and reveal-y, but IDK how to pace it. Should I slowly reveal things? I don't want to baby my audience, nor plot bomb early and make the ending anti-climatic. (okay to publish)

Hello there, writerly friend~ ♥︎

You pose a very interesting question! Storytelling in video-games is actually a lot more complicated than storytelling in books, since you have to consider gameplay (unless you just take all of the gameplay out of the game and make something like Dear Esther, but thankfully that is not the core of your question c;). No, I have nothing against Dear Esther please put that rock down.

Now, here’s the deal. My advice for your situation is actually pretty straight forward. The reality is that I can’t tell you what option is the best— because there is no such thing. Each story is different. You need to go with your gut feeling, but also follow on the story that seems the most fun to write. Simple as that. I have said this a million times and I will say it again. If you don’t have fun writing this story, the readers will not have fun either.

So, which is best? The one that you think is the most fun to tell.

Also, don’t worry about your audience. There are successful games on all ends of the spectrum. It’s not what you do, but how you do it that is important. You can babysit your reader and still keep them engaged, just like you can write a very distanced story and still keep them interested.

Now, since you are writing for a game, there are a few more pointers I want to give you. These come from my (limited) experience with game design, along with my communications with a lot of game developers, and (of course) a lifetime of being a gamer c;

GAMEPLAY COMES FIRST. Story is important, but it will not make up for a game that plays badly. That being said, your story cannot exist on a different level as the gameplay. They have to be intertwined. They are not two different animals, they are two sides of the same coin. Consider the way Bastion & Transistor work, and how the story is directly connected to the way the game is played (e.g. in Transistor the abilities you gain are actually people who have been digitized, each with their own background stories). Have I played a game for the story even though I hated the gameplay? Yeah, basically every Suda 51 game ever made. I played Killer 7 and No More Heroes because I wanted to see how the stories ended. I didn’t enjoy the gameplay on either game— but I kept going because I WANTED to know. I was so immersed in the story that I just HAD to find out where it all was headed. Which reminds me…

PAYOFF, DON’T FORGET THE PAYOFF. Those of you who know me in real life know very well how much I despise the game Braid. I powered through that game much like Killer 7, because I wanted to see where the story was going. The final level of Braid is a GAME DESIGN MASTERPIECE. I love it. I wanted to see what came after it. And it was a fucking disappointment. No questions were answered. Nothing was ever clarified. The ending does not explain anything of what you were doing or how it all worked. To make it all worse the writer of the game admitted that the ending was ‘open to interpretation’ which I am not even sure what that is supposed to mean… because there was no ending whatsoever. What is there to interpret? This is the thing that game developers tend to screw up most of the time. There needs to be some closure at the end of the game. If you want to leave it open to a sequel then do that— but PLEASE, give your player SOMETHING for the hours that they spent waiting for an answer.

ATTACHMENT IS KING & QUEEN OF STORYTELLING. If you ever played The Walking Dead Tell-Tale game, then you already know what I am talking about. If you want your player to care (at all) about what is going on, then you have to give them a reason to care. Why do these characters matter? Why should I care that they have a mission? Ask yourself these questions. Caring about a character (and thus being attached to them) is one of the most powerful things you can do as a writer c;

I hope this helps! I love talking about game design (did you know that I have actually designed a couple of pen-and-paper RPGs, along with a couple card games? maybe when I have the time I will re-release them c;). Thank you so much for sending your question, it was a blast~ ♥︎