Scarlet’s Story Studies Volume One: Plotting In this “Story Study,” I’ve decided to cover something that I think can often be the reason why some rps don’t get off of the ground. The problem comes in with the plot. I know a lot of people like to go with the flow, but on some basic level, every single story ever written has had some sort of structure to it. That structure can be easily be explained by a plot diagram. Understanding the basics of a plot diagram might just help you start a plot plan for your next roleplay and help it soar to the highest levels rping can achieve. It’s worth a shot, right? All plots share the common elements found in a plot diagram to some degree or another. There are a few variations, though. Some stories will abruptly end at the climax of the story. To me, that doesn’t quite fit the world of roleplay, but it is possible. Some stories will have a falling action that is not equal to the rising action. That’s actually, I think, more common than stories that have an equal rising action and falling action. Additionally, some stories have mini climaxes built into the rising action which means that instead of a single straight uphill, the result looks more like steps or spikes on the way up to the climax. Aside from those variations, though, a plot diagram is a very good place to start when trying to figure out what the actual plot of your roleplay will be. Let’s break down each piece and go into them in more detail. Additionally, we’ll look at how they can fit in to roleplay specifically. Exposition Rising Action Climax Falling Action Resolution For Those Who Dislike Endings This is essentially the introduction to the roleplay. This is where you introduce the readers (and your partner) to your character(s), to the setting, and to what “normal” looks like in your story world. If you’re writing a slice of life story in a modern universe, you won’t have to show too much of what typical life looks like because it’s the same life that we (people) live every day. However, if you’re writing in a fantasy universe, sci-fi universe, or any other genre that not everyone will be familiar with, that might be more required and it might take longer to get everyone accustomed to all the details of the world. Overall, the length and detail of the exposition depends on how much information is needed to tell the readers about the world and how long it takes to deliver all of that information. One problem roleplays can run into is that they get stuck in exposition land. Exposition can be fun, especially when it involves a lot of world building, but eventually, to readers especially, exposition can drag and get dull. Exposition alone cannot carry a story. All good stories, even slice-of-life stories, should eventually have a conflict of some form or another. Without conflict, the world is too perfect and the characters become Mary Sue and Gary Stu. The rising action is where the conflict begins and it’s also what takes up most of the story in my experience. At the point where the exposition and the rising action meet, some overarching conflict is introduced into the story. It can be a conflict that exists in the world that your characters are going to face such as a big bad villain, or it can be a conflict that’s more internal between the characters of your story such as one of them wanting children while the other does not - something that can be a rather large conflict if your story is one that will have lots of smut. Regardless of what you choose for your big conflict to be, note that it’s going to be one that will span the entire story. “But wait… what if we don’t want our roleplay to ever end?” I’ll get to that. For now, I’m talking as though the story will have an ending, but after I go through the pieces, I’ll talk about keeping an rp alive even after you make it through a whole plot diagram. There are multiple ways to structure a rising action. The rising action can be a straight line of constantly building tension relating to the initial conflict. In this option, you aren’t really going to be focusing on any other conflicts that might come up along the way. The rising action can be structured more like steps. In this option, each mini-conflict that you introduce builds closer and closer to the resolution of the main problem all while building the tension and the excitement revolving around the main conflict. The rising action can be like the spikes on a heart monitor, having their own little climaxes and falling actions along the way while still building up to the main conflict’s resolution. In this situation, there are mini-conflicts, but they don’t all necessarily have to relate to the main conflict. They should, however, help build the tension revolving around the main conflict. Whichever option you take, remember to always be building the tension of the main conflict even if you’re characters are dealing with something completely different. After all, that main conflict is something that’s likely always going to be on their minds so it’ll always be affecting them in some way, shape or form. So… you remember all that tension we built in the rising action? This is where you take all that tension and make it explode! Give your readers exactly what they’ve been waiting for for 10,000 pages or give them something they totally weren’t/aren’t expecting and let them deal with it! Which one you choose is completely up to you! The climax is the point of the story where the conflict is essentially resolved. Something happens that makes the conflict no longer a conflict. One example could be that your big bad guy dies. If you’re going with a conflict of not agreeing on whether or not children are an option, you could have your character get pregnant. Then they kinda don’t have a choice anymore. Better yet, have one of your characters find out their infertile. Pregnancy really isn’t possible anymore so they don’t have to argue about it anymore. It might leave one of your characters more sad than they’ve been the rest of the story, though. You don’t have to clean up every single piece of the conflict here, though. That’s what the falling action is for. This is where you clean up all the pieces still remaining from the conflict. For example, while your conflict’s solution might solve the conflict, it might also leave a rather large mess behind. If you’ve seen The Avengers at all, then you’ve seen the big mess that climaxes can leave behind. They defeated the alien invaders, but the city was practically destroyed in the process and that had to be put back together. In fact, the clean-up created new conflicts in and of itself, some of which even spill into some of the next Marvel movies. Depending on the size of the conflict and how much destruction was left behind, the falling action can be a longer process or it can be fairly quick. It’s really something to discuss with your partner. This is where things return to the way they were before the conflict. Show the readers what the new “normal” looks like. Did the conflict change anything about what “normal” is or isn’t in your story world? Is normal still just the same as it was before? In many fairy tales, this is happily ever after. Hey now! Hey now! I said I was gonna get to this part, didn’t I? Well, I’m here now! Don’t you worry! If you don’t want your roleplay to end, then don’t end it. All that means is that you have to talk to your partner (Yes, I know. It’s a scary concept.) and plan another plot. Start the diagram all over again with a new conflict. Since it’s still the same characters and still the same setting, you don’t need to include a brand new introduction. Instead, let the resolution lead right into another main conflict. Then proceed into rising action. From there, everything continues as was previously discussed. In theory, you could continue this cycle for as long as you want. See? You don’t have to end your roleplay… ever… if you don’t want to. Now that I’ve covered all the pieces, an example feels appropriate. Spoiler: Three Little Pigs Plot Diagram In the spoiler is a story I think we all know, and it’s broken into the pieces of the plot diagram. The exposition introduces the situation. The rising action builds the tension with the wolf blowing down houses and hunting the pigs. The conflict is resolved in the climax when the wolf gets toasted. Now he can’t hunt the pigs anymore. In the falling action, the pigs quite literally clean up the climax. And then we see their new happy life and get a “happily ever after.” The end.