Developing a good plot is perhaps the most important part of creating a good quest, though it can also be the most difficult thing to achieve. Whether your quest is going to be based around a series of short adventures or set up as one grand journey, it's best to have something written out before the initial thread creation. That is, if you want your quest to be more serious. There are plenty of quests that started out with no plan in mind.
Everything under this sentence should taken lightly, and some bits are arguable at best. As explained later, different things work for different people.
The plot is the narrative action of a quest (as opposed to the characters, setting, mood, or theme). It can be the sum of all the events in a chapter, or a really vague outline that relies heavily on the reader's suggestions. A good plot line carries readers eagerly along as they decide how the characters try to solve conflicts or overcome problems. In essence, the plot is the quest.
Classic plots have the following five stages, although creative writers give their own original twists to the "rules."
- The initial incident sets the plot in motion. Readers are introduced to the major characters and the problem(s) they, with the reader's help, have to solve. If your quest is already a few chapters in and the protagonists are already established, introducing new characters or places, which would in turn create a general predicament, can sometimes be a good way to start.
- The rising action occurs as events and tension build up. The characters meet further challenges and obstacles.
- The climax is the point of highest intensity in the plot. All the action leads to a culminating event.
- During the falling action, the characters react to the events of the climax. And explanation of problems or conflicts may be offered.
- The conclusion or denouement brings the plot to a close by resolving conflicts and revealing the fate of the characters. Other times, the chapter can end with a plot twist or a cliff hanger, resulting with the infamous "To Be Continued" in most cases.
Create a Plot Outline
Begin by making an outline of your plot. Build your plot according to the five stages listed above. At each stage, your characters should come closer to resolving the conflict.
Writers all have different ways of going about creating an outline, so find a way that you like best or best suits your quest. You can write it out in point form or draw out the frames that will accompany your updates, but you shouldn't stay too attached to your guide. Reader's suggestions can throw things off completely forcing you to think on your feet, and from there you can try to get things back on track or go with the flow and rethink the way your plot is going to work out.
Don't let the fact that you're making an outline confuse you! Don't ignore the reader's suggestions and just drive the quest in the way you want it to go. Cutscenes are good for moving the plot along on a certain path, however "You're just laying the groundwork for the story, and it's the observers that influence how it goes. How much you let them have a say in it is up to you, but without any, you will not be doing a quest, but writing a story."
Deepen the Plot
- Think about the sequence of events in the plot. Will you tell everything in chronological order? Or will you begin with a climactic event, work backwards to explain happened, and then move forward again to the conclusion?
- Try using literary devices to spice the plot up a bit. Use foreshadowing to give clues as to what will happen next, or flashbacks to reveal events that took place before the reader's came in. Flashbacks can also be used to refresh the reader's memory about past events.
- Conflict is central to the plot. To develop conflict, ask yourself, "What does my main character want to achieve, and why? What obstacles stand in the way?"
- It's always a good idea to skim through other quests that you've read and enjoyed. Examine how the authors have developed their plots, and use some of these techniques in your own writing. Bare in mind that sometimes some techniques are better off not adapted.
Run a demo with yourself. Draw mock frames and create mock updates accompanied by mock suggestions. It may seem silly, but you can often find things wrong with what you had in mind and find plot holes or situations you weren't expecting. And besides plot, there are all the other essential story elements which also apply to quest-making that you should think about:
- Characters: Make them vivid an appealing. Their personalities typically have an effect on what people suggest which help shape the key events of your quest. You can start off with a developed character or have the readers define them on their own, but either way once their personalities are set you should start to think about actions that they would typically do and try to keep them in-character.
- Setting: Your readers should be able to picture the specific time and place in your quest. The use of pictures will help, but you should be able to create the setting using yours words as well.
- Mood: The feeling and atmosphere your quest creates are important in engaging and keeping your reader's interest. It's best not to try to appeal to everyone. No matter how hard you try, some people just aren't that in to horror or romance or mysteries or what have you.
- Theme: The theme of a quest is an often looked over component. Do you have a message you want to convey to your readers? How will your quest accomplish this? Gnome's quest, "Shambles," is a good example of this. Theme can also be seen as the moral of the story, in some cases.
Revise Your Plot
At the revision stage you have a chance to improve your quest. Is it believable? Can it be realistically created? Jot down a few possible outcomes or different branches that your quest could take, especially at the major turning points in your plot. This is also a time where you can try out ways you'll start your quest/chapter. Will you have a long opening prologue, or jump right into it, asking for suggestions on the very first post?
After you've made and finished your quest/chapter, it's a good idea to look back on it and ask yourself if you were pleased with how it turned out and come up with ways you could have improved. A few questions you might ask are:
- Did my plot outline help me to construct a well-crafted quest? Should I be more specific, more open-ended, or even waste time making one next time?
- Did the opening (or initial incident) grab the reader's attention?
- Did the events of the rising action build tension and conflict? In the conflict believable?
- Was the chapter climax have an exciting or unexpected?
- Did the falling action and conclusion give the chapter a satisfying ending?
- Did I give the reader's enough freedom in what they did, or was it just a disguised rail road?