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Forums » RP Discussion » Development, but can't think of a plot!


Right so. One of my characters needs some character development around here because damn if I don't want him to just be faffin' about. But then again, that's a universal problem we all tend to have, don't we? Development, for some, comes with natural interactions between characters, pitting them through trials and tribulations or exploring chemistry with each other, be it punching each other and rolling in the mud or macking under the starlight surrounded by floating lanterns, I want that good stuff. You want that good stuff. We all want that good stuff.

But the hurdle, as always, is plot.

I don't know what to do! Doubly so when I post up an LFRP and people just come in and expect me to do one of two extremes; be an audience to their stories, or make me think of one for theirs. I stand proudly on this soapbox and cry that the best sort of roleplay is when both writers actively collaborate with each other and think for ways for both characters to shine. You don't always get what you want, and I understand that, so the best compromise I can get is think of some good plots to get our characters to interact so I can squeeze some development for the both of us to enjoy! You get development! I get development! Everybody gets development!

So I ask, how do you get the plot ball rolling? How do you adopt them from the plot bunny center and raise them into your own plot bunny hoard? Note: I find plot lists and generators not really useful as they don't usually apply to the situation, and I can't take much inspiration from them!

That being said, where do you find inspiration from? What goes into your criteria of selecting a partner for an RP? Don't hesitate to tell me!

Until then, goodbye!

I wish I had a magic answer! Sometimes plots just seem to happen, maybe because the character dynamics are ripe for conflict and drama, and other times it can elude me for weeks... maybe months. (Heck, I've got one guy that been sitting in my roster for literally years now and I have never once played him because I don't have anything in mind story-wise.)

I collect those lists that you mentioned: plot seeds or short adventures that I've stumbled upon or bought. I have a folder on my computer just full of them! 99/100 of those snippets simply aren't applicable to whatever character I'm working with at the moment. But yet I still like them and come back to skim them from time to time (and add new ones to my collection as I find them). Because every once in awhile I'm rewarded with one that's either perfect OR it gets me thinking in a new direction.

(Side note: most of these were acquired through DriveThruRPG. There's a TON of stuff for tabletop gaming, but sometimes the resources can still be useful for play-by-post RPs as well. And while many things cost money, there's a lot of free or 'pay-what-you-want' material as well:

Other than the lists, I find plotting easier when my characters have a goal. Multiple goals are even better. Then give them a hint or a clue about reaching that goal and send them on their way. (Then probably yank the rug out from beneath them.) Of course, sometimes figuring out what those goals are is hard. As well as figuring out how to align your character's goals with the goals of your partner's character to form a compelling story.

hexblading Topic Starter

Juls wrote:
(Heck, I've got one guy that been sitting in my roster for literally years now and I have never once played him because I don't have anything in mind story-wise.)

Bro..... bro good luck, bro..... May your one guy that's sitting in the roster get that story he needs.... bro....
The answers you are looking for might be different from person to person, but I'll try to share something to help!
What works for me the most is to always decide first which of these two directions I’m taking with my character:

Do I want my character to learn a lesson?
Or do I want my character to teach a lesson they have learned?

Usually, answering both questions gives me a good rope to lasso and pull them as I write.

This really helps me focus on something to start the roleplay. Maybe this could be a good opportunity for my character to grow and mature or perhaps an opportunity to see something about themselves with new eyes. It might be something good, bad, or in between. And this all begins with some sort of conflict. Is it between characters who don’t get along? Or they might get along so well that they need a third ingredient to stir up the pot? Once you discover a conflict, picking the worst road to reach a resolution is the most entertaining to watch. Usually.

And when that problem is resolved, there should have been enough time to reflect if another one didn’t pop up its head by the side to keep the story going.

So I ask, how do you get the plot ball rolling? How do you adopt them from the plot bunny center and raise them into your own plot bunny hoard?
    What I do is quite literally let it go down the hill like a snowball in cartoons. Start with something small and let it escalate on its own. You need to defeat the Big Bad Guy? Make it so they had an even meaner master pulling the strings. Have to retrieve a stolen treasure? Let your character learn that the thief was the rightful owner all along. (Or it's what they were made to believe). What helps make the bunny grow is to put a twist, choose the worst possible outcome that can happen and have the turn tables happen. A perfect solution that has no reverberation will never create waves for your plot to keep cruising.

That being said, where do you find inspiration from?
    Inspiration is a funny concept, at least for me. So far, I learned it can come from pretty much anything. Personally, what helps me the most is listening to songs and letting my imagination run wild. Watching something I enjoy or something new can also be of great help. Creating 100% original organic ideas alone can be hard, that’s where communication with an RP partner to share them in bit pieces is a good choice. Patching something together more often than not works better than a pre-made cut plot.
Oh man do I understand what you mean about collaboration being the best way to develop plot. I wholeheartedly agree, but it can be SO hard to find! Lots of times people create their characters with specific plots already in mind, (I am historically guilty of this) and those plots can be incredibly painful or difficult to let go of.

Something I have started to do (we'll see if it works out) is purposefully design my characters to have a more "open ended" connection to other characters of similar genres. For my steam-punk character she is actively searching for new connections to fight hometown oppression. Several of my Urban Fantasy characters have ways to interact with other realities to try and either bring them more easily into other people's plots or to provide a device to drop other people's characters into my own.

As for plot inspiration, that's another entirely different complicated matter for me haha. Originally (way back in my cringiest early days of writing) essentially all my inspiration came from fandoms. It was all fanfic all the way down haha. Pretty quickly I discovered that I didn't like the stigma that came with writing fanfic. Nothing against people who like writing canon characters, it just became very apparent very fast that it was not at all a match for me.

So for me, inspiration became complicated for a time. I still like the books and shows and movies that I liked before and so the vast majority of my ideas were still coming from those sources. Eventually I started breaking down the plot of what I enjoyed. Trying to identify the core aspects of what I was enjoying.

As a hypothetical example:

Take something reasonably well known like "Ocean's 11"

I would break it down as a Heist of some kind and try to put my own spin on it.

Like instead of a group of expert thieves combining to knock over a casino, what if they were all complete amateurs?

From there I try and logically use the small amount of knowledge I have to create a feasible scenario. As I am not a hacker or other "amateur" criminal, I would need to go in another direction for someone that would conceivably have access to a famous casino yet still be an amateur. Such as a cocktail waitress.

What if it was a group of disgruntled cocktail waitresses that were not making enough money or otherwise saw an opportunity to get their hands on massive amounts of casino funds?

Once I have my premise, I try and focus on villains and obstacles. To me the most interesting and exciting stories are the ones with the best villains or problems. I liked the idea of underdogs against "the man" from the original inspiration, (Ocean's 11) so I am going to want something similar. Maybe a new floor manager that makes all waitresses part time 1099 employees so he can get away with paying them drastically less and saving money on doing their payroll. All kinds of lower level employees are going to be against that, so I immediately have a relatable pool to draw from.

Last I like to focus on the complications. I.e. what other circumstances will push someone from just working hard to grand larceny? Sick family? Unpaid student loans? Are they being blackmailed by local criminals? The possibilities are as varied as you can think up.

Boom. All I need to do is put a name to my new Heroine and see what kinds of plans I can come up with to pull off an inside heist of the corrupt casino. The inspiration is still relatively similar (Steal from a casino) but the cast and story will be wildly different and arguably better for being "more realistic", and I am ready to start looking for partners.

All of that was a long way to basically say that I use movies and shows and books to "get the plot ball rolling" as you said. I am similar in that I also find the plot inspiration lists of only small usefulness. So taking something that has already captured at least my attention means I will at least be interested enough to do some more work on it.

For me personally this works best on trying to create as many realistic differences to the source material as possible. I know some people like it better when it is very similar, (walking dead stories, sons of anarchy stories, supernatural tv series stories, any of the 100s of anime inspired ads I see on this site, etc) but for me I love taking the chance to change anything to the source material that I found at all less interesting or unrealistic. Find whatever "core aspect" of the inspiration it was I was liking at twist it into as many new and different shapes as I can come up with.

Your results may vary

As for my own criteria for partners, it depends on what I am needing at the time. I have been guilty of being both the person that floods their partner with pages and pages of carefully thought out pre-designed material and also being the person who likes the premise of their ad, so I slap together a half-baked character and basically expect them to run the story for a while so I can react. I find it fluctuates somewhat with whatever the current "environment" of the looking for RP pages looks like. Sometimes more people have created new characters they want to try out, so I try and match them with my existing characters. And sometimes more people are looking for new partners for their existing stories, so I try and see if any catch my interest enough for me to use up a character spot.

Because I personally hate deleting characters I mostly fall into the first category if you were to make me choose one. Like you, my ideal would be someone who has a character or story idea they want to explore more that is willing to mold it and change it a little to better match something I am interested in so that I can make a similar amount of changes and give both of us something better than either of us would have come up with on our own.

Hopefully some of my rambling either answers your questions or gives you good ideas about what direction/changes to your own searching would fit you best!


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