Report article RSS Feed Character and Story - Archetypes Combined

This tutorial takes a little excursion into the creation of character and story. A lot of mods use pretty interesting ideas to establish a story, but some suffer from problems about finding a good ending or choosing the right path for the hero.

Posted by SinKing on Aug 26th, 2007
Basic Management.

[page= Archetypal Characters in Star Wars]
Well - I could actually go into the details about storywriting now, but I don't know if those are the mechanisms to help make a story. Yet there are certain elements that are usually the same in every good story.
The story I am talking about is a single man's heroic journey. He is the protagonist and represents all that's good and fair. Opposed to him is the Antagonist, who is usually bigger than himself in power and has his minions to obstruct the protagonist's path.

The protagonist has a goal, which the antagonist prevents him from reaching. Think of Star Wars - Luke is the hero and his antagonist is the Emperor, whose servant and tool, Darth Vader, always crosses his path and tries to keep Luke from reaching his goal(s).

The interesting thing about this setup is that Darth is also Luke's Father, so Vader has another motive than killing Luke. He really wants to prevent him from reaching the Emperor, because he knows he will definately kill Luke. Due to their special relation, Darth Vader can turn from a flat character into a round character - he changes in the crucial moment and is able to turn against the powers, threatening his son.

Round characters are usually the most interesting in a set of characters, but there can only be so many. Usually there is only one or two of them in a good story. The other characters are needed, too, but they need to be flat, because they represent certain ways of thinking.
Leia is the logic thinker, she's the reason-character. Chewie is an emotion-character (who's actions are guided by his feelings for a man/thing/situation). Han Solo is the witty guy, who makes his remarks and acts upon intuition, so he's an intuitive-character.

If you dig deeper into this you find that Obi-Wan asserts the same position as the Emperor, as they both serve as guidance to either Darth or Luke. So characters can assume different roles at the same time (Emperor = guidance and antogonist).

Star Wars is just a very good example because the roles are distributed among so many characters. You find the same scheme in every so many films, which make use of a team specialised in doing something, but only when you understand why they are made in a certain way, you can give characters the ability to act according to their fate.

So what you really need is to find a goal and a good protagonist. If you find the protagonist you can create the antagonist by mirroring the hero's goal and doing everything to keep him from reaching it. Whoever is capable of stopping the hero is the villain!

It helps lots if you can imagine your hero going to work on a typical day and when you know his goal and if it is far away or close. Maybe he needs to do something bad (like stealing something) to come closer to his goal, but once his decision is made nothing can block him any more and the more enemies come, the merrier it gets! The harder it gets for a hero to reach the goal, the more interesting it will be to watch him reach it.

It is important the hero is always underpowered. Even if he has supernatural powers the enemies he encounters are likely to have bigger powers than him. A good story is never build upon muscle and firepower alone. However, if muscle and firepower are key elements of the story you want to tell, it can only help getting a background about these things.

[page=More Means to Storytelling]
Stories are always changed during development, so it is no use to argue a lot about later story points when you have to get the rough structure assembled first. If you and your team can find a good start for it, with some sharply defined characters, it is most likely you will also find an ending.

Of course that is not all you need to do. The inspiration for all other things depends upon one good premise. In my script, MECHOverride, it is one robot's special ability, which really allows for a turn in the end. This little gadget is essential for triggering the action. It is something which forces all characters into action. Whether it is an atomic bomb to be defused, or if it is valuable information or a special power to be released at story peak, it doesn't matter.
"Where?"," When?" and "How?" are simple questions you should keep in mind when reaching your story's end. In the little time you have there is hardly any space for surplus information. If you show anything it should have revelance to where/when or how something happens later on. For example - if you show a gun, the gun is going to be fired later on and possibly somebody is going to be shot with it; these are just a few associations the picture of a loaded gun evokes.

Don't waste your time explaining everything in words. You can use pictures to tell stories on their own or to put emphasis on certain elements of your story. You can seperate the camera from the action and tell the story from the room next door. You can use voice-over without having to describe again what the pictures tell already. You need to have some surprises in store if you want to keep the audience interested and amazed, so you need to experiment yourself.

It's no use plotting things out forever, outlining all the events. Find the best combination of elements that make up your story and start changing their order. What are the important parts and which are less important to make your protagonist's path meet an end? Throw out everything superfluous.

You have to get yourself writing to really hear your characters talk and build up their relationships. It is crucial that you accept change as an essence of writing. If you stick to your idea just because you like it, but it doesn't add to the story then you lost focus on the character. This story isn't about you and what you think is funny or not. It's about a hero struggling towards his goal and reaching it only with your help. So don't think about what you want in it - think about what he would want in the story...and then give him the opposite!!!

A vicious sport, writing is! Have a fun time!

Post comment Comments
Wraiyth
Wraiyth Sep 8 2007, 9:10am says:

Interesting little write-up, it should give some inexperienced writers/developers a nice basic insight into how and why a story works. Its alot more complex than this, but I even found some nice things in here as an experienced writer :)

+1 vote     reply to comment
myles
myles Sep 8 2007, 11:34am says:

Nice work sin, ill have to spend i little time on my story righting soon.

+1 vote     reply to comment
SinKing Author
SinKing Sep 12 2007, 10:39am says:

Yay! -It's up. I almost completely forgot about this little wash-up I made without really giving it a good document structure or anything. These were just ideas I wrote down in a single writing session and found good enough to share. I'm thinking about making a more complete "tutorial" in honor of our newest beloved modding site: gamecore.grblftlxxx

See you there!
Sin

+1 vote   reply to comment
paper_tigers
paper_tigers Sep 14 2007, 5:53pm says:

lol i just took an english class which taught us about this. not in star wars format but still basically the whole round vs flat idea.
this is well written though keep up thye tutorials and we might be seeing some more good storylines in mod now!

+1 vote     reply to comment
Admiral_Skeybar
Admiral_Skeybar Dec 12 2009, 6:02pm says:

Very nice BUT you should be carefull with what you write on the internet or how you publish your stories, someone might steel your ideas. This happens a lot and is not one of the nicest things that can happen to your story. So to all you writers, be carefull with what you publish, anywhere.

+1 vote     reply to comment
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