I’ve mentioned this in my introduction post, but I aim to mainly help with projects in the writing aspect, as I consider myself to be a fairly strong writer. That being said, I know that there’s always room for improvement.
I’d love for some more experienced writers to drop some general tips that I can keep in mind when I’m writing chapters for a hack or just helping out with supports. Your advice would be much appreciated!
Like this post, keep it concise.
Okay but for real, try to convey whatever you’re trying to in the shortest amount of words possible. Of course there’ll be exceptions for pacing and all that stuff, but it’s always better to say less. Nobody likes a dialogue that goes on and on and on and on. As well, every sentence spoken should have a purpose. You should never have a sentence of dialogue that doesn’t do something to further your plot, your gameplay, or your characters. (There’s probably more things you can do with a sentence but I’m tired so whatever, this should be enough)
Especially for Fire Emblems, give as much information as what’s needed. We don’t need to know that Ephraim wanted to be an axe user, but spears were more expensive and more pricey = more good.
There should always be a “mystery” moving forward. Basically there should always be something the player doesn’t know and wants to know so they keep moving forward. If they know Asta betrays Kevin because he says it in the first meeting then that’s bad writing. If he hints at a different goal then Kevin and they bash heads over the course of the game that’s better.
I’m not the best on writing growth, and I don’t believe it’s needed in characters. But showing their personality and ideas helps alot, whether that’s in boss convos or not. Personalities locked behind supports is bad writing. More personality hidden is better though.
Tying in with above, introducing a new character is rough. You need them to be immediately useful in that chapter to incentivize the player using them. unlike Sophia Fe6, Fiona Fe10, the entire dawn briga- But also with them being useful in that chapter, this is also your prime and sometimes only chance to show their personality. Gimme something useful so that I might get attatched to the person more.
For the plot of games, the main villain is arguably the most important person because they literally set your whole world into motion. The thing i struggle with mostly is who, what, and why? Who is the big baddie, what are they trying to do?, and Why now, and why in general.
It’s hard to say much without knowing what your writing looks like. If you post some of it, it would be easier to point to strengths and weaknesses.
That said, “keep it concise” is good advice in general, but even more so when writing for a game. A lot of writers fall into the pit of piling words upon words upon words and it’s like… you know i’m having to press through all this dialogue in boxes that show two lines at a time, right? You know this text scrolls by default, right?! So the quicker you can get your point across, the better; and the quicker you get your game started, the better as well. When it comes to things like supports, have a goal in mind and make sure you move steadily towards it. Make sure you pin down each character’s personality and goals before you start.
I half agree - there should be questions for the player to uncover throughout the game, but the how and why Asta turns on Kevin can be every bit as interesting as the event itself. You can keep the player on edge knowing it will happen, but will this strain on the relationship be what causes it? You can play up the tragedy by showing that they are good friends, they have similar goals and could easily have worked together, but something is going to ruin that. Or you can flip the idea and show that Kevin doesn’t have the full picture, or perhaps even is at fault for what happened and either an unreliable narrator or ignorant of the problems he caused. (But of course that’s harder to pull off in a satisfying manner.)
Also, stay away from predictable tropes as much as you can. Clever use can improve storytelling a lot, but if you abuse them, it will start being just “Generic FE Campaign #341”.
Here’s a list of some things you should avoid abusing:
- EvulMcEvul Land: The blatantly evil country that conquers everything.
- Goodshire: The oposite. Usually the first country conquered and the hero’s homeland.
- The Corrin: The story will always accomodate so that the main character is always the good guy and his choices are always right. This isn’t good because it doesn’t offer character development or much insight into what kind of person they are. Good characters make choices in critical moments when forced to choose between pretty terrible alternatives. They’re not perfect heroes, but they try.
- “Chosen One” protagonist: Related to the above. Good characters are chosen to act. Excellent characters choose to act.
- The Kelik: When the “Not perfect hero” thing is taken too far, the story can’t handle the weight. If you make your main character too unlikable, players are going to walk away before the character gets to redeem itself.
- Avatars: Be careful around this. It can be well done but it’s basically a minefield. You can’t make them too overpowered, you can’t make them a wimp. This goes for both gameplay and the character itself.
- Whiny protagonist: The nanosecond I hear the protagonist complain but do nothing to solve the situation I’ll drop the game.
- Lol I’m evil becuse i want xdd: Fairly obvious. Villains should have motivations beyond “Mwahaha this land is mine to conquer”. Otherwise, the only thing that can save them is being imposing badass and imposing enough so that the player doesn’t have time to question what the hell was that stupid plan.
- Ridiculously obvious plot twist: “Lucina is a woman!!! Garon was evil all along!!! Wow!!! Shocking development!!!”
-No one ever
- Sword Lord: This is a very arguable point, but most vanilla FE games already have one. A huge point about romhacks is making a protagonist fundamentally different from others by setting apart personality traits, classes, combat styles. This is to avoid “Marth Carbon Copy #14”. Of course, that is not to say that if your character is a sword lord your hack is immediately bad.
- Bidimensional characters: Arguably the worst sin of modern Fire Emblem. Fates’ child characters were probably the worst. “Hi I like playing. Hi I make curses. Hi I make haikus. All the f*cking time”. I just recited the entire character arc of three different “people”.
- Ride without bumps: “We haven’t lost a single battle and we’re basically plowing through their ranks. How the hell did these losers conquer half the continent again?”
- The Netflix’s “Titans” adaptation: The opposite of the above. “Let’s create a constant, horribly bleak atmosphere that will make the audience want to stop playing! What could possibly go wrong?”
- Anti-Villain Kryptonite: This sword was specifically made and is the only one able to kill the main villain! It also kills all plot consistency, because why the f*ck would they let you get it in the first place!? While we’re at it, let’s make our Chosen One protagonist be the only one who can wield it! What could possibly go wrong? (A lot of things.)
*Azura Syndrome: Female character gets grabbed and becomes effectively useless with zero effort. Peak of storytelling right there.
- I’m going to tell you my plan!: “And then I’m going to execute it perfectly!”… No. There has to be a twist in the middle, or tell the plan as the story goes. If you tell the audience a plan and then execute it exactly and everything goes perfectly, you’re just telling the same story twice.
- God mode villain: Exactly that. Although, you can pull it off it you make the villain look badass enough. Laughs in Zephiel
- The dark sorcerer: Oh no! It’s Gharn–I mean, Vali… uh, Manfroy! Wait, wasn’t it veld? No, veld was actually the paletteswap of Jedah, who was actually the brother of Ner–(Bonus points if he pretends to be good but is actually evil all along; straight into Obvious Plottwist and your plot straight into the trash. In fact, the plot twist would be for these guys to be good.)
- Look at me I’m the bad guy now: Don’t kill off the antagonist of the whole saga just to do this without foreshadowing.
- Mary Sue Heroes: “And this is the protagonist’s brother, he has a phoenix pet and he mastered every magic and weapon at the age of three, when he was a teenager he had a reunion with buddha and–” (This is actually really close to a plot I read in this very page.)
- “I used the Rune-Grimoire-Starling Method to–”: Yeah, sure, but have you tried the Pheonix-Newton technique? It’s called ShutYourMouthAndSpeakLikeANormalPerson.
- Oldeth englished is spokeneth like this-eth: …No.
- Haha we are nobles and we are bastards: Okay, yes, fair point, if you look back in history most rich people WERE bastards back then and only cared about power. But we’re not reinforcing that stereotype here.
- Haha we’re political figures and–: The same. Only politics is still absurd nowadays.
- Camus without a Cause: “I will not join you, because I have sworn loyalty to my king, who literally murdered his own family, admitted to it, mocked me publicly and threatened me and my family with execution. So, I will fight to the end for this noble cause. Who wouldn’t?” Looking at ya Bryce.
I think that’s all for now. Sorry for the wall of text. This was more of a rant than anything else
I’m not experienced in writing, but I don’t agree with every of your points
I think some of them, well made, can be good.
For example: the Ragnell and the Black Knight
Obvious Spoilers Ahead
Ragnell isn’t a one solve all weapon. It’s just a national treasure from Begnion which was wielded by Altina some odd long time ago. Anyone can wield it and there’s really no limitation.
Black Knight was good though.
“Anti-Villain Kryptonite: This sword was specifically made and is the only one able to kill the main villain!”
I was refering to that point, because part of its statement applies to the ragnell. And as you said, it works.
Also pretty sure only Ike can wield it gameplay-wise, not story-wise. So it’s become kind of the same, not in terms of writing, but in terms of gameplay.
Exactly. “Brevity is wit.”
-some dude, probably.
Since brevity is the soul of wit / And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief…
I love me a good Hamlet reference!
You’re actually right about that point. It’s a good example because it solves the main problem with the trope, which is “Why would the villain allow you to obtain it in the first place instead of destroying said item?”, he straight-up hands it to you because he wants a worthy duel. Also, Ike is not a “chosen one”, he starts as a rookie mercenary but ends up being basically Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star through a LOT of effort.
When not done right, however, it can make the villain just look stupid. I really like Justice and Pride, but my biggest issue with that hack (Well, that and Re-Move Aderyn) is that the main villain literally stands aside while you get the only artifact that can seal her power, which she is aware is in that same place because she’s the one who put in there in the first place. She even warped in a few minutes prior to mock you and then left. And unlike the Black Knight example, the dialogue when you use it leaves it clear that she did NOT expect that.
Counterpoint: eat the rich, all nobles are bastards and if anything i’d like to see more games that focus on nobility being ineffectual-to-oppressive and don’t soften it by making most of the important sympathetic characters “good” nobility (and/or royalty).
The way I see it, there are two main drivers of a plot: character motivations and logistics. For example:
The Kingdom was attacked by the Empire.
Character motivation: the Emperor believes the only way there will be lasting peace is to bring the whole world under his absolute rule.
Logistics: the Empire’s economy is built on the assumption that there’s money and talent flowing in from tributary states, so subjugating the Kingdom, their only remaining neighbour who hasn’t bended the knee, is natural.
The Empire suddenly collapses while the Emperor is off to war.
Character motivation: the Emperor’s advisers had a long-standing conspiracy where they agreed to dismantle the imperial court the first chance they got because they believe no one should have the absolute power that the emperor does.
Logistics: it is in the interest of the Emperor’s advisers to enrich their own families/estates, so their siphoning of state money becomes more aggressive when there’s no one around to hold them accountable. They hire armies to defend and enforce this, which leads to civil war when they start to encroach on each other’s “territory” and they become warlords.
The main character, who is from the Kingdom, decides to help the Emperor fight the new warlords rather than try to defeat him.
Character motivation: placating the Empire by helping them means the main character doesn’t have to fight his childhood friends, who are lords from bordering states that have since become tributaries of the Empire.
Logistics: the Empire is a huge centre of trade and learning, but it will never be the same after the civil war, so having access to the Empire right now means the Kingdom can exploit the opportunity to find potential new allies and expand its influence in the area. Joining them for now instead of fighting them just makes too much sense to ignore.
All of these scenarios would work with just the character motivation behind them, just the logistics, or both. Want some extra juicy gut-punching drama? Make them contradict each other. The main character helping the Emperor makes logical sense, but his people hate him for it and it sickens him that he finds himself fighting for the sake of an openly despotic ruler. Suppose he decided to fight the Emperor instead? Now he has to fight his friends and watch as the Kingdom is devastated by war. Forcing characters to cope with these kind of “you can’t have your cake and eat it too” situations is a great way to develop them and make them interesting. Even the blandest of Marth-clones would pick up a lot of flavour by being put through this wringer.
Yeah, even I could see that this was bad writing indeed x’)
I should probably note that a lot of things people say here are, in fact, good pieces of advice in general, but it’s perfectly okay to stretch out a little and do things, if you want to make a point, add to tropes to make them interesting, or use them so you may subvert them. Being aware of tropes and the pitfalls they present is vital, but if you treat everything like a no-go-zone, you’ll be severely limiting yourself. The beauty of writing is that if you try hard enough, you can really make any basic idea work, if it contributes to the story.
In fact, there are some tropes such as “pure evil villains” being seen as an inherent negative, when in reality a pure evil villain is far more memorable and enjoyable than a slightly sympathetic, boring villain who was barely given proper attention. There’s a great Youtube series I highly recommend called Trope Talk that discusses certain tropes, where you can learn more about them in an entertaining format. I have linked a few examples below.
If you feel your story can benefit from utilizing certain tropes, feel absolutely free to do so. The most important thing is to be extremely careful with tropes that are more volatile and can easily drag a story down. There’s nothing wrong with having an edgy swordsman in your party. The part that people hate is when the edgy swordsman slowly replaces the significantly more interesting protagonist at the beginning as the main character because “cool”.
A good way to improve your own writing would be to analyze stories you especially like (or especially dislike) that have some flaws in their writing, and try to come up with ideas for how you can improve it. One of my absolute favorite movies is the original Iron Man film, from 2008. It’s not just a good superhero movie, but it’s a damn good movie.
It’s near perfection, but the way the main villain, Obadiah Stane, is written, I can’t help but feel highly disappointed. He comes across, ultimately, as a stock corporate type villain that just wants to kill Tony Stark so he can take over Stark Industries, which is a shame because he does make extremely thought provoking statements to Tony that imply a more complex motive for betraying Tony, that being the belief that the Iron Man suit would be better off in the hands of the United States government, comparing the suit to the atomic bomb that Tony’s father had worked on. I have linked the scene below.
This is an example of excellent and creative thinking, but it goes to waste because the character is not treated fully properly. One can analyze the issues with the character, and rewrite the film slightly or heavily to improve this lackluster area, which the below video created by Nando v Movies (who makes a lot of videos where he rewrites films to fix issues with them, or at least analyze the problems) performs quite well.
Be wary of people that tell you that you can do this or you can’t do that. The best thing you can do is to explore the wide world, and take what you can into your heart. Challenge everything, and what you find you can triumph over may surprise you.