There’s an old adage: Bigger is better. We hear this phrase from men and women. From Texans and Russians. From used truck salesmen and anyone else under the sun. But how could this possibly apply to writing? Are we talking about word count? Syllables used on average? No, friend, we’re talking about your ideas.
This comes to mind due to the role playing session I ran on Saturday. We were bored, the first GM had run out of material, and all eyes were on me. “Paul, we’re doing the Solar campaign, right?” I had been led to believe, erroneously, that my friend had two sessions completed. I was going to take a leisurely week to map out what would happen next, while giving my PS4 just a little more attention.
“I don’t know guys.” The eyes stared at me with hope and despair, my final answer deciding which path they took. The game would be three super powered individuals taking over a tomb with grave goods beyond compare. In my head I raced through all the different examples of mythical tombs in this game and throughout history and literature, the traps and treasures, the spirits and demons, the breath taking architecture. Someone started ordering pizza. By the time he had finished, I said, “I’ll do it.” There was much rejoicing.
So I created everything on the fly, pulling on whatever information I could recall and what I could create from that. However, whenever I was given a second, I looked at the next room they would face and thought “How do I make it better?” There’s a door bolted shut. Do they need a key? Is the key in the reflection pool? What if there are seven minarets, and five of them hold orbs that unlock the door, while the others have horrible traps. Such as a map based minaret which teleports you all around the world? A mortal based tower which had numerous death traps, stating “Those without power are without purpose”? Done and done.
They enter a cave with a giant lake and inside is a large fish. We’ve never heard that one before. Inside the large fish is an army of lampreys. Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. Which siphon magic and then explode, causing ridiculous amounts of damage. Put that hot dog in a bun and add condiments. It’s finished! Nearly killed everyone, and now they have a story to tell that they’ll remember for some time to come. Whenever there was something created, I looked at it and asked how do I give it a wow factor. If there was a wow factor off my original idea, I thought, what’s the next step from there.
As a writer, it’s easy to write along the predetermined plot line, which you have written beautifully in your notes. You thought it was really good, and to be honest, it likely was really good. At the very least, your story is something someone out in the world wants to read. I promise. Just sometimes I have issues finding that someone. The problem is, you thought it up without research, without reaching, without challenging yourself. I can easily come up with a story on a two hour plane ride (which will likely happen tomorrow). That’s a skeleton, though, and if we write skeletons, no one’s going to bite into it. They’ll just gnaw the bones and gnash their teeth.
Tolkien didn’t plan on Lord of the Rings being a grand saga. The more he wrote, the more he asked “what if” and then he ran with it. He wasn’t content with what he had created. You shouldn’t be either. Granted, you also don’t need to go as far as Tolkien had. Happy mediums.
Starting next time I’m going to give a layout of how I create. Since I’m in the final stages for my NaNoWriMo, I thought why not. But before then I had to tell you about going big or going home, because this is what I do. It is the center piece of how I tell stories, no matter what form it’s in. Sometimes I take an idea from a movie, book, or video game. In my current story I’m taking a great deal of material from Arabian Nights. Friends are often asked for input because at the end of the day we are but one person and their ideas could take us in unexpected directions.
My challenge to you is find a way to make something you have more detailed, more important, more epic, more whatever it is you are inspired to make it, and make it that. Use whatever method you fancy. I’ve used tarot cards, runes, and so much more. Comment on what you came up with. In the next few months I’ll show you how I create my worlds and how I make them bigger with every turn of the page.