I’m sure most of you know by now, that I finally completed my self-appointed task of winning NaNoWriMo, writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It was a challenge, and a fun one. Creating characters and trying to make it all into a cohesive story. To be really honest, my novel’s story is not very concise. It is not tightly wrapped together. It needs a lot of editing (not just for grammar & syntax, but for continuity). However, I now have, in my personal files a more-less completed novel. I’m quite proud of that myself.
But, other than eating up all of my time, what did I learn from the experience and how can I use that experience in adventure writing (which is why most of you read this blog).
As I started to write, I used some of the "tricks" I developed for adventure writing. But definitely the most important method was the "four questions" that can be found in this article. Once I had my basic characters (good guys and bad guys) defined, I began to write stories in a random way (at least for the first four). The stories I would write from a few different angles, based on the questions.
With the characters in mind, I would create a story header with some comments (anyone I ever edited knows my fondness for word comments) about what the story should be about. For example, "Sir Azrel was part of a battle where he crushed some rebels" and I would expand upon that. This method is similar to biblical apocryphal writings, where a new text is written to explain something that does not make clear sense. For example, if Adam & Eve had only two sons, who did they marry and have children with? (No, do not ask, I know not the answer).
Because of the greater freedom in using the environment, freedom to decide a character’s reactions to the world, his motivations, his thought pattern, and even apply external pressures that rarely work in RPGs. When writing an adventure, those are things that the author must help the DM point the PCs towards, but cannot force upon them (a least in a good adventure). Those intangibles can only result of good teamwork between the author and DM, with the PCs as willing actors.
In the end, I must draw the conclusion that writing a novel has NOT made me a better adventure writer. The biggest thing I draw from this is that a novel and an adventure are both hard to complete and tighten into a nice package, but for different reason. In a novel, the author also serves as the DM and the player, with the ultimate goal of pleasing the reader. In an adventure, he is but one part of the whole, with the ultimate goal of pleasing both DM and player (who take the role of readers).
It’s a different mindset, and both are enjoyable to me, in different ways (like eating steak vs. chicken: both are great, depending on when & how). I encourage everyone to try writing a novel once. It’s very entertaining!