DMing Vs Writing

So our story, The Judgments Saga, is a retelling of a Pathfinder campaign that took place a few years back with Devin as the DM (Dungeon Master) and me as a PC (Player Character). It was one of those stories that we would retell each other ever time we met up for a guys weekend or drinks. And so we had to get it down on paper before we forgot the story, it was too good to let slip away to the passing of time. 

But as we soon found out writing is much different than DMing for a campaign. Part of that process of DMing that both Devin and I utilize is outlining. In the session we have the party start in a specified place, give them purpose in order to get them to point B and drive the story forward. They follow a path and series of events that we design to give them the most fun experience. This would be called an "Architect" style of plotting or structuring your story. This is where you have an outline of events or scenes that serve as bullet points for your story. "Gardening" is the other style and more exploratory and free flowing. 

Being a DM requires a bit of both styles, Architecture and Gardening, since you can have the most detailed layout of how you would like the session to go, but as is human nature, the PCs will go down a path you had not expected and you need to improvise on the spot.

But being able to improvise like this requires that you understand your story and your world completely. 100%. These moments of spontaneity can be the most fun parts of your session as you create something together with your players that is fresh and exciting. I find this to be the case with writing the book as well.

Our structure allows us to move the plot along quickly and make sense to the reader, but when inspiration strikes we take a detour to add flavor and character development. The fingers fly across the keyboard and something wonderfully unexpected falls upon the screen. But this is not possible for us without much prep work beforehand.

So I will outline here how Devin and I approach writing and planning, which works for us but might not work for you. I recommend trying everything and anything to find what works for you if you are an aspiring writer or DM.

Architect Style:

At the beginning of each book Devin and I sit down and brainstorm each major arc: where the characters go, what they encounter, how do they solve it, how do they develop and grow as characters.

One of these arcs can be a simple as "Party leaves Kendros and travels across land to Timberfell". That's a bullet point on the outline. But under that short snippet are several more bullet points that we expand upon. What happens in those days that they are traveling? We go over the minutia and add in flavor to make the travel from point A to B more exciting, develop upon what happened before, and continue the story and characters' arcs.

If you want to take the Architect approach I recommend starting at that upper most tier. Where does your character start? What happens and where does (s)he go from there? Do this for the most influential or biggest chunks of your story until you get to your end. This will make up the skeleton of your story.

Take for example that portion I stated before where the party travels to another town on their journey. They need to get to Timberfell because they are on a mission to find the scene in their vision. That is a chunk, a bone of the skeleton that is your story. If a character has a vision as they travel to Timberfell from Kendros, that is the muscle.

That vision shows them that the alternate route they wanted to take was hit up by bandits and so they were able to avoid danger as they escaped town. So as we add muscle to the story skeleton, you get a more exciting jump from point A to B rather than just saying, "And the party traveled for four days north, passing over fields and through forests until they arrive in Timberfell."

Build your world one bone at a time, know it and understand it, then add the muscle bit by bit until you have a fully fleshed out story and characters. And those are my two cents.

Thank you if you made this far, this will be a new series I will try and contribute to once a week where we explain the writing process as we know it. Either writing as a DM or for stories. This is the first attempt at blog posting, so it may be a bit rough, but I thank you for reading and hope that you skimmed some information form it. If you leave a comment, I will do my best to respond back to any and all questions.

Happy Reading!

M. Saddoris