1. Power struggles: Intrigues related to gaining or maintaining political power, such as leadership contests, elections, and coups.
  2. Espionage and sabotage: Intrigues involving secret information, blackmail, and sabotage of political opponents.
  3. Scandal and corruption: Intrigues involving revelations of unethical or illegal behavior by politicians, government officials, or corporations.
  4. Ideological conflicts: Intrigues based on disagreements about political ideology or philosophy, such as debates over social policy, economic policy, and national security.
  5. International relations: Intrigues involving relationships between different countries, such as negotiations, alliances, and conflicts.
  6. Election interference: Intrigues involving attempts to influence or rig the outcome of an election.
  7. Populist movements: Intrigues surrounding the rise of populist politicians and movements, often fueled by popular anger and frustration with the political establishment.

So I identified these 7 types of intrigues, and then I told myself I just need to make sure the various parties and individuals constantly backstab each other so that a two opposing groups is actually in fact a dozen of different groups all vying for power.

Did I figure out the recipe to weaving complex stories, or is there still more to it than I originally thought?

  • 2
    Don't forget characters. This makes me think of the Jackal, where one (several?) persons are deceived using emotions and sex. It can be small, or large, or perhaps it should be both to be complex. E.g. having the bad guys kidnapping/threaten the hero's family while planning a coup d'etat. (E.g. "Hostages").
    – Erk
    Feb 11, 2023 at 15:44
  • Just a question, do you think the above is sufficient to generate any number of stories similar to Game of Thrones, or are there more things I should look into including characters?
    – Sayaman
    Feb 11, 2023 at 15:58
  • Game of Thrones is partly based on The Wars of the Roses, so using real events as inspiration always has the potential to bring out all that gory intrigue and betrayal (history is full of it...)
    – Erk
    Feb 14, 2023 at 15:59

1 Answer 1



From your comment, the general direction you are aiming for is something like Game of Thrones, so let's take that as a template.

The key to what makes that story work is not any of the 7 things above. They are ingredients, and they are certainly an important part of the world building, but without characterization, the whole thing would read like a Wikipedia page.

In Game of Thrones, the characters are people and they behave like people. Yes, there are power plays, and wars and various intrigues, but by and large, everything comes back to the relatively simple questions of who a character is, what they want, what they think they want, and how they act.

This is not just what makes the show believable, it's what makes it possible to follow at all without mountains and mountains of exposition. We don't need to know all the rules of succession. We can simply look at a character and see whether they are in trouble. We already know how they are likely to react, so all the rest is detail. It's filled in in the world building, but we don't need to understand it to understand the story.

Take a character like Cersei. Lots of intrigue there, she maneuvers her kids onto the throne, and then herself, she engages with a religious sect with varying levels of success and so on.The reason this never gets complicated is that we know her. We know her background, we know her motivations, and we know what she's likely to do in any given situation.

Once you have a character drawn out well, you can start throwing various things at them. Have them suffer a setback, give them a succes, have them clash with another character. Everything will follow logically, but you have to start from character.

The reason I mention this is that when you start reminding yourself that everybody should always be backstabbing each other, you've already lost. You're having people backstabbing each other because you feel that is what ought to happen, not because it's a natural thing for the character to do., given who they are and what they're trying to achieve.

Once you have the characterization in place, your seven elements can act like catalysts. The characters make the choice to backstab, but the world around them makes it easy. It punishes them for being open and honest, and it rewards those who play the game.

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