Questions That Keep Me Going Through a Plot

Keeping going in a game can be difficult sometimes—if the players are driving me crazy, the style isn’t anything I’ve done before, the… you get the idea. It’s easy to be frustrated nowadays. Writing, sadly enough, is likewise: if anything, a game is likelier to keep my attention, or at least my participation, because the game at least can bring peer pressure to bear, while my fiction writing is almost entirely for myself. So I’ve started looking at what it is that maintains my interest, regardless of format. My primary drive, I think, is curiosity; I’m willing to forgive or work through almost anything if I have an interesting enough question to sink my teeth into, the kind that I know I can find the answer to if I just keep playing through and working at it. Here are some of the questions that I’ve found keep me in a game.

What is going on here? I love situations for which there is clearly a logical explanation that I don’t yet have the background to find. The more layers within layers there are, and the more tantalizingly the clues pile up, the better. These things are at least as much fun to write, particularly if I’ve got just enough outline to keep moving while the complications and the explanations pile higher and higher around me.

What happens if I do this? Situations like this require several conditions to be met for the question-urge to really kick in: I’m not just going to experiment for the sake of experimenting. Usually, what’s going on is a problem that probably should be all rights be outside the characters’ ability to solve, or a danger they have no business facing but don’t have much of a choice on. I need to know that experimentation is worth it: that the characters aren’t just going to get slapped down by a law of metaphysics or a strict interpretation of the rules.

What is wrong with these people? I don’t know why this one’s so addictive for me, but it’s definitely a plot I do well with; some of my best characters have been essentially motivated by the need to smash heads together until people stop doing stupid, politically counterproductive things that make said character’s life unnecessarily difficult. I suppose while I may not be able to fix the real world, sometimes it’s satisfying having some plane of pseudo-reality in which I can actually demonstrate to people who are being foolish that they really need to think these things through.

Oooo, what’s that? Sometimes, the urge to explore is enough. I find, though, that I need something to beckon, rather than to be exploring for the sake of exploring; something the character is actually looking for, rather than just wandering through seeing the sights. While it’s most straightforward to do this for visually nifty landmarks and creatures, I can get it out of anything, including political systems, in-world books, and hidden motivations of sufficiently intriguing characters—and hey, sometimes even mechanics.

What questions do you find guide you through a plot when everything else is discouragingly frustrating?

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