OngoingWorlds blog

News & articles about play-by-post games, for roleplayers & writers


Giving yourself ideas (and remembering them!)

thoughts in head

I expose myself to a lot of really good stories. I watch films, read books, read comics, watch TV series, listen to audio books, read the news, and hear a lot of really good ideas for stories in my roleplaying game.

Copying isn’t bad

Taking a story that you’ve heard before and using it isn’t bad. There are many ways you can take an idea and use it as a story which is totally legitimate, and might be totally different to the original story that inspired you. Most works of fiction are inspired by other works of fiction. Taking a good idea that you’ve heard and applying it to your own characters might create a very different story.

There are many interesting background stories or settings that you could use, and adding your own characters into the story will create a very different story, and could have a dramatically different outcome.

Form ideas from what you’ve seen

Mixing elements from some of the stories you’ve seen, read and heard and blending them together could create some original and very cool stories.

Often though, when it comes to writing a new adventure for my roleplaying game I sometimes forget all the great ideas I’ve had and I start to stare at the blinking cursor in front of me. All those ideas are forgotten. That’s because sometimes I simply forget to write it down.

Write ideas down

Ideas for stories can come at any time during your day (or sometimes at night – dreams can give you some great inspiration), so it’s important to make a note of them so that you don’t forget about it.

Human BrainThere are a million different ways you can make notes these days, if you’ve got a smart phone you can probably use a notepad app, or if you’re at the computer you can save it in a file, or email yourself some notes. You might want to start carrying a small notepad around with you to scribble ideas down and keep them all in one place, or you could just write it down on a scrap of paper, or on the back of your hand.

Act upon them

Of course there’s no point creating and collecting up all these ideas if you’re not going to do something with them! Many times when my life is being hectic, I find this the most difficult part to do. I can come up with ideas when I’m driving to work, or drinking a coffee, but sometimes have a real problem writing them down. What I had to do was force myself to have a few hours uninterrupted so I could sit down at my computer and write it all down into a story. If I need to I can look at my notes that I created during the day to jog my memory.

  • Tigra

    When it comes to new ideas one of the things I have noticed is that the timing for getting new ideas to when you actually need them doesn’t always workout right. As a new adventure is starting I get three or four new ideas but if I’m working on just getting one right before it starts, I never get one. The thing is that is where the first rule of play by post playing comes in…regardless of being a host for a month or three decades we as the game managers are normally strong writers, not just in our games but in general. As strong writers most of us do write other things other than just for our games and as such most of the time do have a note pad or something (I guess now we can give the ok for just using a smart phone or iPad or another tablet) remember to use it as often as needed. Paper is cheap but great ideas live for a long time (the last mission I designed by myself was based on an idea I had back in 1993 while running the USS Omni and after all the years it sat around, it was a great mission).

    • Haha it’s great that you’ve been keeping the idea around for such a long time (18 years!). Whenever I try to write ideas down on paper I lose them, and if I save them digitally I put them somewhere I forget to look, and then accidentally delete it or lose it when I switch computers. The best thing I do right now is save it as a note on my phone, but know that it’ll be hard to transfer this off when I swap phones so might lose all my ideas again!

  • I currently have a Google Wave set up (which I’ll move to Google Docs soon) for USS Providence story lines. Each story or idea is prefaced with the in-game date of the events, a title of the episode, and a status report of the story or idea (completed, in progress, planning, etc).

    This lets myself and my fellow GMs create story ideas and flesh them out in advance before we actually put them into play. This gives us the opportunity to make the stories fit into the universe of our game, perhaps even tying in each story with a larger arc or including details that lead us from one story to the next. We do our best to treat each sim plot as an episode of a TV show. This lets us write each story in a way that it helps move the season along.

    • Wow Josh that’s really quite some intense planning that you must do, I admire the effort you put into each plot! With the additional effort also comes added pressure, do you find that newbies get a bit nervous about ruining your ideas? I’ve noticed a big drop-off in new members at the times when we’ve taken it seriously, because they just feel like there’s too much pressure not to mess it all up!

      • Quite honestly, I haven’t noticed much pressure from new players about that. They know that I’ll keep a relatively close eye on how the story progresses. Veterans know how I run the game and can also lend a hand in letting newer members know how things work. They also know that I watch what happens and will sometimes change the expected outcome of a plot to match what the players ended up doing.

        The ultimate goal of my stories is to make people feel like they’re in an episode of a TV series. It has as realistic of a background as I can give them, and I try to make the world as alive to them as I can. It helps players to stay in character and treat their actions with more seriousness than most, lending to a more realistic game overall.

  • I get ideas from songs, movies, books, or simply from associations of ideas while discussing with my members on yahoo. When they come with an idea, I come with another completing theirs, and so on, the story gets better and deeper…

    • That’s why I think creating stories with other people is so fun! I have a good imagination, but there are limits, and it’s great when someone thinks up an idea that I’d never have even dreamed of!

  • The “writing them down” bit really is important. I forget so many ideas because I don’t write them down – its silly. Writing them down will also help you get started on the “acting on them” bit, as you’ll have to refine the idea into a coherent synopsis – the first phase of planning.

    I started started to help me write down my ideas and share them with others. But so many don’t make it onto the website because I forget to write them down immediately.