Good morning, afternoon, or evening, wherever you live on Earth.
I am Mark, the author of Webtastic Stories: Fear and Loathing on the Internet and the game designer for Tales from Trinity City.
Welcome to my writing series – focusing on how to write a fantastic story for your game, comic or novel!
Introduction and Definitions
Understanding the basics is essential for any skill – these four blogs discuss the importance of understanding the basics.
In this blog, I look at great examples of great storytelling and ones that fail, showing the best way to tell a story.
This blog shows how to incorporate themes and messages into your work because there is a difference between great ideas and shitty messages.
Everyone has phases where they fall into deep holes, and sometimes they find a way out of those pits by learning universal truths, and sometimes we need to be trees beside the river of truth and say, the world needs to change.
The characters we are writing about should have the same journeys.
Story arcs are all about the needs and desires of the antagonistic force. They have their own goals and objectives and will take an interest in the protagonist, who becomes a threat to them.
Positive Character Arcs
I use Red Dead Redemption 2(RDR2) for Positive Character Arcs. They flawlessly executed Arthur’s and John Marsden’s character arcs to show the theme of blind loyalty vs independence and honour.
Both on a story level, and a programming level, Rockstar showed how Arthur didn’t have any agency during RDR2, from constantly helping the camp to never maximise your honour or dishonour through most of the game, and the contrast of facing his mortality and turning his life around.
In this blog, we look at how Rockstar rocked (see what I did there) the story beats for Arthur’s and John’s arc – showing their growth from one of Dutch’s boys to freedom and self-ownership.
The best way to write antagonists in positive character arcs is to make them mirrors of the protagonist. They are everything that is the opposite the protagonist wants to represent – which is why Micah makes the perfect antagonist in a story about independence vs blind loyalty – he was never loyal to anyone but himself.
Static Character Arcs
In Static Character Arcs, the protagonist is everything that can heal the world filled with lies. For this series, I use Horizon: Zero Dawn (HZD), because Aloy is an anchor for everyone – leading to victory.
We look at the theme of the Horizon series, over-reliance on technology. In Horizon: Zero Dawn, we see why over-relying on technology put the ancient world in peril and still threatened life on Earth in Aloy’s time.
Aloy’s quest to understand her origins leads her on the Hero’s journey. She finds out she is what her world needs in more ways than expected.
When you create an antagonist for a static character arc, make it something that has a weakness that the protagonist’s truth can overcome. In HZD, Aloy’s self-reliance can overcome Hades’ inability to do anything but its programming.
Negative Character Arcs
Sometimes, characters with deep wounds strike out at society as they fall deeper into darkness. We see it in Anakin’s transformation to Darth Vader, Arthur Fleck becoming the Joker, or Commander Shepard dooming the galaxy because of the events of Mindoir. Negative character arcs give us something to pause and consider. I use the pure renegade run of Commander Shepard to show a fall arc.
We look at some changes I would have made with the Mass Effect Trilogy to make it thematically consistent and how that theme is uniting the galaxy vs the Reapers, looking at how a pure renegade runs for Shepard is the opposite of unifying the galaxy.
We look at Shepard’s life before and after the events of Mass Effect, showing how Mindoir destroyed their ability to trust aliens. With the Reapers, they were so focused on destroying them without uniting the galaxy, leading to the destruction of the Earth.
The Reapers become a mirror for a story where united we stand, divided we fall. The Keepers created them to prevent the advanced races from exploiting the primitive species. However, they become hypocrites to their programming – they are the superior force in the galaxy using the lesser races.
I had fun writing these series to help creatives understand the message, character and story arcs – and how these tied together.
Feel free to use this table of contents for the blogs you want to check.