Storium Theory: Reading Ahead – Outcomes as Inspiration

This post originally appeared at Gaming Creatively on April 20th, 2017.

I’ve written a bit before about how challenge outcomes provide guidelines for writing during a challenge…how they provide the effective limits of what can happen during a challenge, and how they reveal what the players should be writing towards when playing Strengths and Weaknesses.

Today, I’d just like to take a little time to look at that from a slightly different angle: Outcomes as inspiration.

This falls along similar lines to what I said above: Challenge outcomes reveal what players should be writing towards when playing their cards.

Because of this…challenge outcomes provide ideas.

If you have trouble writing on a challenge, one of the first things you should do is take another look (you did take a first look, right?) at the outcomes for that challenge.

Think about what they mean.

What happens in the outcomes?

What does it mean for the story?

What does it mean for your character?

Then, think about what events might lead to those outcomes.

And now…think about what your character might do that causes those events.

These steps can help you to draw inspiration from the challenge outcomes. They tell you what your character’s involvement in the tale is. They tell you what the challenge means to your character – how he sees himself in the midst of the problem at hand. They tell you what your character thinks she is fighting for, or struggling to accomplish. They tell you what your character thinks is slipping away when things go wrong.

They tell you where the possibilities lie. They tell you what paths lead to the different potential endings.

And when you can see a path, and see what your character values in a situation, it can start to become quite a bit easier to think of what your character would do in such a situation. It gives you context, and context is an excellent guide for storytelling.

By taking a look at where the challenge can go, you can make it easier to determine how your character can take it closer to where it can go.

One important point, here: Even if a challenge’s path is at this point “certain” – if, for instance, there are 4 Strengths and 1 Weakness or 4 Weaknesses and 1 Strength and there’s only two card slots left – I still advise reading both outcomes when you’re using this method. Both outcomes still provide valuable context. The Strong outcome still shows what could have gone right. The Weak outcome still shows what could have gone wrong.

In the process, both show what your character’s actions would lead towards…even if there’s no longer a possibility of the challenge actually getting there. They show what can be nearly grasped…or what can be threatened, but end up avoided.

I encourage reading outcomes ahead of time anyway, simply because of the focus they provide to the story…but they’re a great resource when you need a little nudge, a little context, to get yourself thinking on just how you can progress the story of a challenge. They should not be your only resource when you need inspiration, but remember that they are there and put them to good use!