15

In a dice-based role-playing game, any action you take can either succeed or fail based entirely on the luck of the dice. This is part of what makes the story that is woven during a role-playing game so interesting - you have twists and turns that wouldn't otherwise have happened, purely because of a chance dice roll.

One of the members of a D&D group I played in was trying to take the transcriptions of our game (we played in text format, so the transcripts were readily available) and adapt it into a more traditional novel-like narrative - taking the story we had created during our game and adapting it into a readable story.

The snag I kept running into while reading and editing this, though, was that the sense of chance - that at any time, through no fault of your own, you could completely fail at what you were doing - was missing. Once you don't have that "What did you roll? ...a 1." in the story, you don't see the twists and turns of the dice affecting the story.

Is there any way to re-integrate this sense of uncertainty and possibility of failure into the story, or is this simply not possible in a novel-like format?

8
  • 5
    The problem with adapting a DnD campaign to non-interactive fiction is that the dice have no sense for drama. When a good author considers whether their characters should succeed or fail in their efforts, then they consider which outcome would make for the best story. But a die roll does not care for that.
    – Philipp
    Nov 8, 2021 at 9:37
  • Who is the audience? Is this something you're expecting to be released publicly or just for your RPG group?
    – Laurel
    Nov 8, 2021 at 15:44
  • 1
    @Philipp: To be fair, that's also considered a problem in the original medium.
    – Kevin
    Nov 8, 2021 at 19:44
  • 1
    The problem with this is that it isn't character-driven but chance-driven. They are always reacting instead of being in charge. The times don't change them; situations don't refine their characters.
    – Steve
    Nov 8, 2021 at 20:55
  • 1
    You might consider writing it as more of an "after action report"-style in-universe document: tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AfterActionReport
    – Milo P
    Nov 9, 2021 at 16:35

11 Answers 11

22

I tried to do the same thing: Wrote some code to download the campaign chat log, then some more to parse it, then even more to make a rudimentary visual novel program. I spent hours trying to edit out the out-of-character bits. But this wasn't enough. Some parts were just they failed the roll; nothing happened. And, in particular, combat was something that just didn't make sense. The "story" there became a log akin to a video game, half missing at that. (The players stopped even describing what attacks they were doing as it was the same dagger attack as before!) It didn't need just editing; it needed a rewrite.

A dice roll is random for the players, but not for the characters. For them, they just weren't skilled enough, the pressure was too much, or their opponent just did better.

For each roll, ask why it was this outcome. Ask what happened. You'll have to go beyond what's in your campaign log.

  • Instead of remembering about the weaknesses of dragons, you can only remember the pounding headache from your hangover you had during this lesson
  • Though you tried to stab the orc with your sword, you couldn't find an opportunity while still defending from her attacks
  • The paladin's charismatic smile reminded the barkeep of a customer who swindled him. Of course he wouldn't give you a discount!
1
  • 1
    Yes, I think this is the key - recontextualizing the events of the story/plot to have a reason beyond the random result of a die roll. Simplify narration of combat to avoid detailing every single hit and miss, unless it's significant somehow; focus on the more important details (e.g. a killing blow, an unfortunate miss at a turning point in the fight). ... As a sidenote: I feel that the uninterestingness of most failed rolls in D&D is a flaw in the system itself; most of the time, nothing interesting happens if you roll badly - the thing you were trying to do just doesn't happen.
    – V2Blast
    Nov 9, 2021 at 18:58
9

Books based on what happened in a role-playing game are universally regarded as bad. Even worse, "you can hear the dice rolling" is a common criticism — you can't spice up "and then I rolled a 2" because basing a story on dice rolls is inherently annoying and meaningless.

Here's a fun reddit thread on gameplay-based books being bad. Many replies are of the type "that fantasy series is bad — it's just a tarted-up transcript of someone's game". Then they say how good serieses are about developing some dark elf's personality, or having a plot progress, or seeing more of the world — things which don't depend on dice.

When I write up game sessions, I do it from the point of view that it's people playing a game. The interesting parts are when someone had a bad day and kept killing monsters we're trying to talk to; or laughing about how 2 horrible "persuade" rolls in a row completely derailed the GM's intended plot. The comic Knights of the Dinner Table does this well — the fun is how the people playing the game react to what the GM describes and how the dice fall.

As for why gameplay makes a bad story, start with the movie Troy. In the opening scene Brad Pitt kills that high-level warrior with a single stab to the heart. No game would allow that. Or when Bilbo tricked Smaug into revealing its weakness — it's hard to say just what skill Bilbo criticalled and when. The scene reads much better as natural dialogue. And Bard kills Smaug in 1 shot because it was inevitable — Smaug's sin of pride doomed it, for story reasons. Or even in The Dresden Files Harry often wins because he remembers who he's fighting for and/or gets extra angry and that powers-up his magic. Whenever he hits or misses, it's for story purposes.

Looking at it from another angle, I know of one painter who starts with some random splotches for ideas how to start, but then the randomness is done. Authors often say the characters take them in direction, or they sketch out the arc and fill it in. I've never heard anyone who wrote anything I enjoyed say they rolled dice to decide what happens next.

2
  • 2
    "Universally regarded as bad"? Replay is a popular genre in Japan. The Record of Lodoss War franchise is so successful that it's spawned a bunch of media that's even been released in English, including an anime. Still, OP didn't specify who the audience for the novel was, so it could be something for the other players.
    – Laurel
    Nov 8, 2021 at 15:29
  • @Laurel Yeah, the Q can be read both ways: how to write a real story from the game, or how to make a more exciting game-transcript which is clearly a transcript. Frankly, the thing about emphasizing die rolls more has me somewhat stumped -- in a transcript, just say "with +7 on the roll, he still fumbled, twice". Gamers will be fine with that. Nov 8, 2021 at 22:17
4

Use a Story Engine

Have a look at Ink. It is a story engine for narrative games. It is free, and open source. https://www.inklestudios.com/ink/

Your novel-transcriptions could be adapted into a 'game' with non-linear navigation through the various encounters, while remaining text-based and structured like a novel.

Ink stories can be navigated by options presented to the reader Choose Your Own Adventure™ style. Or the system might reveal story elements only if hidden conditional variables are met, only after other story sections have been seen, through stats, state machines, and shuffle systems.

Advanced structures can assemble story content dynamically, pulling from stacks of present-character dialog, evolving descriptions that track how many 'turns' the reader has made, inventory that is consumed, even in-story gambling. Just about anything can be randomized.

Ink runtime is JSON, but it is for writers and easy to start with CYOA stories. If you have a little programming skill, you will quickly see how a story can be deconstructed into procedural elements that can be shuffled in a game 'loop'.

Ink is markup language (short tags and punctuation similar to html, or how Discord/Facebook are styled with hidden text). They have a free editor Inky that exports a functioning webpage, there are Ink plugins for the various game engines, and an active Discord community.

2
  • I thought of a similar idea. The problem is that, when you write an Ink story, you have to also decide what happens if the dice roll is different than in the game. So you have to write a lot of new stuff. Nov 8, 2021 at 16:00
  • Yes, they would need to write and edit more content than would be seen in any read-through. But the randomization could be at a more granular level, with the shuffled content being in the battles and blows, injuries and rewards. Less CYOA and more like actual rpg.
    – wetcircuit
    Nov 8, 2021 at 21:30
3

Perhaps you could integrate it into the magic system - that there is an element of luck inherent in the entire world, and much of the magic relies on it. Thus you would have a reason why seemingly simple actions could fail, or seemingly impossible ones could succeed.

I think also an interesting way to go about it is look at how it is done in reverse:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJ0_Ro3ls3U

This video is funny, but it does illustrate how you would take a story like Lord of the Rings and reinterpret it as a D&D game. I imagine you might find some inspiration in how you could do the inverse.

I also can speak from inspiration in adapting games to novels. My first completed story was a fan novelization of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. While some elements of the game transferred over well - (like Link actually goes straight to rescuing his sister rather than like in Ocarina of Time where you do a bunch of dungeons first) - many others had to be significantly altered or scrapped entirely.

I had to completely invent his character. But in the end, even though someday I might redo that project, I came out happy with having captured the spirit of the story.

So you'll probably run into moments like that in adapting this. Sometimes you might find that you could improve upon the original narrative. Don't be afraid of it, have fun writing the story, whatever you want that to be.

3

Do something similar to what Andre Norton did (but learn from her mistakes) with Quag Keep: write a story about what happened during a whole adventure arc, but rather than bring the dice into the foreground as the agents of Fate or Chance simply describe events that the dice trigger.

I'll further suggest that you use the "write a short story" approach rather than the "write a novel" approach. The short story, or even a pulp serial, style allows you more flexibility in how you treat succeeding chapters or episodes as they come together to form their own sub arcs for the characters in question.

Another advantage of this approach is that it takes pressure off of you to have a novel-structured beginning, middle, end, denoument, etc - unless the campaign you are playing in has a pretty well structured arc in the first place.

Work backwards from the results of the whole adventure arc.

Until you know the end of the story, you don't know how to drop in a bit of foreshadowing, nor see the key decision points that made the story go in the direction that it did. Take copious notes while you are playing, but don't try to write the story as though you are traveling in time with the game you are playing.

Put another way, your story is the After Action Report from a series of combats, fused with creative writing.

While this may sound counter intuitive, it's the only way the fan fic I wrote years ago had a hope of working. The result that works best will most likely be a 'serial' type of story - each significant adventure arc that your party undertakes is its own story. This will be similar to the stories published in the pulps back in the day, for example the Conan the Barbarian stories from Robert E. Howard, or the short adventures (with an overarching tie in) found in the Niall of the Far Travels stories in early Dragon Magazine.

Why is 'write it like the pulps' a key to doing this effectively?

Having read a lot of D&D novels and short stories over the years, my answer is: D&D came from the pulps. The stories I've read with D&D as an inspiration work best when presented as pulps. (No disrespect meant to Salvatore, or Hickman/Weiss for their hard work and success, but their novels only occasionally made me glad that I had read them and rarely captured the feel of the D&D adventure in their story).
You could do a lot worse than read Fritz Lieber's Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories and see how your party's exploits follow a similar pattern: short adventures, each with a particular goal, and then some NPCs as narrative glue (Ningabul of the many eyes being one of them, Lanhmmar the city as another bit of narrative glue) to attach one adventure to another.

What did Norton do when she wrote the book Quag Keep (I read when it came out, and I enjoyed it) that you may want to not do? She wrote the characters as role players more than as characters in their own right, which recent critics have treated with some brutality.

I think they are being overly cruel, TBH. Norton's attempt to take her considerable skill as an established SF writer and explore the new sensation in the geek gaming hobby at the time (Dungeons and Dragons) was intended to result in a fantastic adventure stories similar to what she'd written in The Jargoon Pard (a book I picked up after I read Quag Keep). It was a first effort worth making, but the latter work was a better story.

If you play long enough with the same group, and if you all share back stories with each other so that you get to know all of the characters, you'll find that you have enough meat, usually, to make the characters fit "in-world" with some depth rather than as game players displaced into another world. While it worked well enough Lin Carter (Green Star) or Burroughs (John Carter of Mars) at the time, you are better off treating your game world as its own world and the characters as organic to that world.

In summary:

D&D comes from the pulps, write your story about your group in the style of pulp fiction. Each episode can be self contained, or blend into a longer work, depending on how narratively structured your DM's campaigns is.

The dice represent Chance, Fate, or unexpected things going wrong (Murphy's Law) and need not be addressed directly.

Experience base: I've been the scribe for multiple D&D adventure groups, and have written a lot of stories about what happened in our adventures. And before you ask, yes, I took a bit of artistic license with all of them in order for what I wrote to look like a story. Don't feel that you need to account for the dice themselves. Describe what happened, and if the die roll that triggered that odd result was one of those "OMG I don't believe I rolled that!" you've got a variety of literary devices (Fate, Chance, Providence, Guardian Angel, Deity, Devil, Warlock's Patron) to attribute that extraordinary luck to. I'd use those in your narrative, not the allusion to a die roll.

1

Short answer: Don't

When you're writing a story, with no D&D behind it, and a character attempts to bluff his way past a guard, the guard reacts based on the quality of the bluff, and on the guard's own skepticism (and the needs of the story, more on that later). If the writer makes the outcome feel uncertain, that has nothing to do with there being uncertainty because a player is rolling dice. Any doubt about the outcome is the result of the actual uncertainty of the situation.

From the point of view of a D&D character, there are no dice rolls. Just like real life (mostly), they try to do things, and it works out sometimes and sometimes it doesn't. From the point of view of the character, unless they know they're a D&D character, there's no distinction between actions which would "require a roll" and things they just do.

Long answer: There are two extremes of storytelling, and D&D dice rolling represents one end of that spectrum

In a Batman story, the Joker either gets away, or he gets arrested and locked up, and then escapes. Why? Because the Joker is a popular character, and whatever happens, he's not going to be put out of action permanently. (Alternate timelines and one-shots not counted.) The needs of the story dictate this outcome. Whatever nefarious plan the Joker has, Batman lives. Whatever derring-do the Batman accomplishes, the Joker will get away.

That is, sometimes things happen in a story because the plot demands it, because for it to be a story (following all "the rules"), the main character can't suddenly, meaninglessly die. And the point of the story won't be suddenly, inartistically negated. In fact, someone who gets the general idea of the drift of a plot can often predict particular story events well in advance, because threads have to be tied up, and what can happen to tie up those threads is limited by conventions of the medium.

In other stories, this is partly turned on its head. What if you suddenly kill a character who was the protagonist just a chapter ago? Some authors explore this. In a large sense, that is what dice represent: What if the thief tries to bluff his way past the guards, but he fails? What if your thief then picks a fight with the guards, and they overpower and kill him?!

A series of bad dice rolls can result in a narratively unsatisfying story, but it also introduces real stakes that a classic Batman story doesn't have. You may wonder how Batman is going to get out of this one. You're not actually wondering whether the guards will see through his bluff, then gang up and kill him. And Batman himself sometimes makes decisions as if he's not actually afraid someone might get off a lucky shot and just kill him.

Conclusion:

When you write a story based on a D&D adventure, you probably don't want to (directly) show each dice roll. In the actual moment, you are not going to be talking about how risky this is because of the high DC the player has to beat. But by having the randomness of dice rolls in your story, the actual un-storylike twists when the trap actually kills the hero, or what should have been a routine fight suddenly going south and the party of heroes is forced to sacrifice one-time resources to survive, or has to run for their lives...

Eventually the presence of extraordinary good luck, and unplanned-for catastrophes, will create its own suspense, when the reader realizes that there is no plot armor, and no predetermined outcome is shaping the narrative.

1

IMO this would not have the same gist as a literary work.

RPGs work and are fun not because of mere chance, but because you have "live actors" that react to those die rolls with the purpose of having fun. For the best roleplayers this means, well, good role-playing, not just die rolling.

Although there are people that have fun just hacking and slashing, making their behavior be driven by die rolls, that translates very badly to a literary work style, IMO.

That's because it's not die rolls that add drama, it's the actors' choices. Remove that and you are left with a nonsense story usually.

Take for example the classic sword-happy fighter-type that barges alone into a room full of orcs without backup, even if he has a high wisdom and intelligence score, just because the player wants to feel like Aragorn, leading to a Total Party Kill because of bad die rolls.

If you try to analyze most fantasy fiction works in terms of possible die rolls, you'd find that what would have happened in the "parallel" RPG domain would have been lots of 1s and 20s and just at the "right time" for having the most dramatic effect.

In a literary work it's the author that outlines a plot in advance for maximum dramatic effect. Random outcomes are just fictional devices to enhance the reading experience.

If Aragorn and C. actually rolled their dice to see the outcome of their actions, probably we would have had a Total Party Kill just in the first half of the first book of Tolkien!

In short, what makes both media (RPGs and books) fun is the human factor, and that is a key point for a written narrative work. Without that readers won't have that immersive experience that good narrative provides: being carried-in in a world of fiction where the words on papers don't exist any longer, you just "live" what you are reading!

1
  • 1
    "probably we would have had a Total Party Kill just in the first half of the first book of Tolkien!" - This happened during a playtest of Dragonlance, the first dragon ate the whole party halfway through book 1. DL designers did a major overhaul of D&D for the modules to produce novelizable transcripts (which the OP would do well to learn from), but in the end when the lead (Hickman) was writing the books, he teamed up with a trad novelist (Weis) and did it the old way. Nov 17, 2021 at 11:25
1

Uncertainty and suspense don't translate exactly to tension in a story

In a story tension needs to be set up (before our roll occurs in the game), and then either released or escalated. In a roleplaying game, there might only be tension because of a result, so in game we do some retroactive storytelling.

For example, if in a game we try and fail to convince the university bursar to pay for guards in the magical menagerie, we can retroactively say our argument wasn't convincing because they hadn't slept properly, or were conspiring against our characters. In the story we narrate this tension (and thus provide uncertainty/suspense) before our character tries to persuade them, even though in game it was added afterwards.

We can still look at different types of dice rolls, and how they need to be interpreted differently. We'll see, though, how they impact the tension in the narrative is more down to circumstance and reaction from the player/characters than the result however.

If the die roll doesn't represent chance

Then there is no tension to translate:

Timoen: Can I roll to see if Tolopher has heard of the Mega-Hippogiff? DM Alex: Give me an Arcane skill check using Intelligence.

Translates just as easily to:

In all their time at the academy Tolopher had never heard of the Mega-Hippogriff, but as it barreled towards them they were going to find out

as does

Tolopher heard the bestial call, and filling with dread, instantly remembered the Mega-Hippogriff.

In the first example, our tension comes from the circumstances, in the second it's not from uncertainty but from how the result impacts the character. Instead maybe the Mega-Hippogriff, despite the name is cute and fluffy? We just change the word 'dread' to 'relief', and see that the dice didn't determine if there should have been tension or not. If the Mega-Hippogriff was posing no threat at the time, then there's be no tension regardless of the die roll (unless, you add it in).

This works for other skill checks, even if there's normally consequences. You can either manufacture it or pull tension in from elsewhere:

Timoen: I want Tolopher to open the lock on the restricted section in the library, maybe there's a scroll in there DM Alex: Roll Sleight of Hand DC 35

There's no innate consequence to failing the roll, and could be narrated as:

Tolopher knew this was a long shot, and with the sounds of the Mega-Hippogriff growing louder behind them, fumbled with the ancient lock and their thieves tools. Click... Click... Snap. 'Drat,' they thought, they'd have no luck getting into the restricted section then.

Or

Tolopher knew this was a long shot, but with nobody and no pressure around they played with the ancient lock and their thieves tools. Click... Click... Snap. 'Nevermind,' they thought, they'd have no luck getting into the restricted section then.

The tension is clearly not from the dice roll, but the consequences of said roll (which is what differed in the two version), the how character approaches the die roll and how they react.

If the die roll determines the extent of an effect that's guaranteed

The tension already exists, and it released or escalated not if something happens but if the something that happens is enough.

Timoen: I cast Magic Missile at the Mega-Hippogriff! DM Alex: You get 5 darts, so roll 1d4+1 5 times

Could translate as:

Tolopher was growing desperate, if the Mega-Hippogriff continued it's rampage it would destroy the library - something they couldn't let happen. With an simple spell, they sent out 5 darts of magical energy towards the enraged beast. As they flew from Tolopher's hand, their only thought was if the spell would be enough to stop it.

You get the tension (from the set up) whether the damage rolled is enough or not; because it existed before the result and the dice only determine how the tension is resolved or escalated.

If we

Now, if that damage is enough or not to change the narrative and how that impacts the tension is down to the circumstance (the continued rampage) and the character (see how we prefaced the snippet with Timoen's state of desperation?).

We can reduce tension based on the result,

The beast easily shrugged off the darts of energy, "No worry," thought Tolopher, "I'm just getting started"

Or increase it,

The beast easily shrugged off the darts of energy, "That's not possible," thought Tolopher, "I'm out of ideas!"

But that never creates the readers uncertainty, or provides suspense. It just informs us how to describe the tension

If a failed die roll advances the story

Let's go back to the Timoen's character trying to get into the restricted section of the library,

DM Alex: Roll Sleight of Hand DC 35, if you fail the librarian-guards will be alerted

And we can adjust our narrative accordingly:

Click... Click... Snap. 'Drat,' they thought, they'd have no luck getting into the restricted section then. Instead, now Tolopher would have to explain themselves to whomever had heard the loud snap.

Tension is escalated, but the set up (the impending Mega-Hippogriff) came before the result, we merely ramp it up on a failed roll. We could even narrate the librarian guards intercepting the Mega-Hippogriff, resolving both lots of tension. But whether that happened or not is part of the original game's narative.

If a successful die roll advances the story

Let's assume they somehow pass the skill check in the game,

We could release tension,

Click... Click... Clunk. 'Yes,' they thought, not sure whether to thank skill or luck. Relieved, Tolopher entered the dusty room, surely they could find a spell to defeat the Mega-Hippogriff here.

Or escalate it,

Click... Click... Clunk. 'Yes,' they thought, not sure whether to thank skill or luck. Apprehensive, Tolopher entered the dusty room, if they were to find a spell to defeat the Mega-Hippogriff, they'd have to be quick about it.

Again, whereas in the game, we don't know how the character will react to the die roll result, and there's suspense because of it, now how the story pans out we can just use the result to flavour our narrative.


As I've tried to explain, in the game, the uncertainty and suspense are drivers of excitement, but when looking back at the game, it's much more important to see under what circumstances the dice roll happened and why there was suspense in the first place. How the characters react is a bigger factor in the story than the dice roll.

0

You do the equivalent of the smoke shield trope without their immunity to damage nature. The situation goes fuzzy at critical point and give a feeling of a hidden cosmic mechanism happening(a ghostly ticking happening in the ether) and when the situation is resolved to a certain result you actually describe what happened mechanically to get to that point with a feeling of luck playing a part.

0

Remember that each round is in a time dilation. Moving 30 feet and stabbing an enemy, or moving 60 feet or casting a single spell or what have you takes 6 seconds of time... which is a lot of time to describe. This can be useful to remember if you want to show the team... start in inititive order and attacks... if the barbarian rages and charges the wizard, concern your self with a few rounds of the wizard-barbarian fight... then show off your rogue sneaking around to get a favorable attack position... then show the sorceror getting jumped by the wizard's minions and dodging (the minion failed his attack, and the sorceror took a five foot step away) before firing a bolt of magic (MAGIC MISSILE!) at the minion.

All of these would probably take place over multiple rounds, but rather than shift the scene turn by turn, focus longer on the fight and block it in your mind as if it is happening in a quick succession (with 5 rounds of battle, you only have had 30 seconds in real time, despite it probably taking 30 minutes to describe in game, assuming players aren't stalling during their turn).

Additionally, like your DM, alter results to make the fight more interesting and play up how the misses work... did the sword get blocked by a shield? Or did the target dodge the sword? If it critically failed, how did it do so (there are actually role tables that add a fail condition to the critical fail to spice it up... basically you roll a dice and the DM will match up with the result. A critical success has a similar roll sheet for debuffing the enemy victim.). Think of them as fight scenes and be more loose with the narrative (If you DM, one trick you are taught is that your rolls are in secret, so you can say "it was a miss" when it would have been a critical hit that would have killed the character. The reason they can do this is because the job of a DM is to please the audience... which happens to be the other people at the table... DMs should never play to win... but play to make your wins enjoyable. Your writing should focus on making the fights interesting for the reader, not be a direct translation of what happens on the table.).

0

Is there any way to re-integrate this sense of uncertainty and possibility of failure into the story, or is this simply not possible in a novel-like format?

It's possible. Maybe you are already doing it and succeeding.

In a tabletop RPG you play, your character can get killed at any moment, combat is always a source of drama, and when (if) he wins, he advances toward yet-unknown bigger and better things.

When you translate the plot to a book, the reader knows the protagonist is safe, whatever setbacks he does suffer pale in comparison to his stupendous success at continued survival, fight scenes become pointless filler, and the plot advances toward the predictable ending that was spoiled in the cover blurb (with a question mark at the end of the sentence, you know, for suspense).

Here's what you can do:

  • There are many, many stories about how much it sucks to live forever. Some of them even succeed at making their points. Draw inspiration from them.
  • Invent more ways for the protagonists to fail non-lethally and make them fail.
  • Add randomness. Go through stories you like and/or accounts of historical events, write down cool plot twists on index cards, draw a bunch, force them into the story, mend it. Adopt the mindset of having to stick by the major beats the random generator produced and let your disappointment shine through.
  • Do you have an ensemble cast? Make the characters fight each other, work at cross-purposes, break up, etc. Make the reader realize the characters will have to become enemies before the characters themselves do, for a sense of impending doom.
  • Hurt them permanently. Maim them, break them, dishonor them, steal their songs, crush their dreams.
  • Introduce more characters and kill them off. A common pitfall of this is sharpening the contrast between boring lucky protagonists and noble tragic hardworking "npcs": to avoid it, see if you can split a protagonist character into two and kill one.
  • As a thought experiment, kill off your lead and try to spin off as little of his storyline as you can into a new surviving character.
  • Write a bad ending and add silver linings one by one.
  • Take a trope of an Important Moral Lesson and write the opposite outcome. If your protagonist will be largely successful, make him into apparent ground zero of an Important Moral Lesson - this is one of if not the most effective way to convey real danger to readers. They will feel the threat coming from you. (Then you just let him win like you always planned.)
  • Get a second opinion. Maybe your problem is that of perception: you know how the story ends (and that you can change it at any moment) and feel no tension, but a reader has neither advantage.
2
  • This advice seems pretty geared towards writing a new story instead of translating the old one.
    – Laurel
    Nov 11, 2021 at 23:13
  • This advice is geared toward writing a story that's worthy of human attention. If OP wants to clean up a chatlog to use in a kindle scam, he should ask crossvalidated about tuning gpt-3. Nov 17, 2021 at 11:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.