Before these Campaign and Story Elements posts go any further, I have to mention probably THE best book ever written on the topic of story writing.
It is the book Story : Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee.
If you’ve seen the 2002 movie “Adaptation”, this book featured prominently in it.
Originally recommended to me by my writer friend JDMF, I bought Story… in hardcover. Read it through. Then read it again. When I read it AGAIN a few months later, I made handwritten notes (about thirty pages’ worth) which I then posted on the wall behind my computer monitor as a constant reference and reminder.
If you like movies, you’ll love this book. If you like writing, you’ll love this book. And if you hold a special place in your heart for well-written scripts and stories, you’ll love this book. McKee gets into what screenwriting is all about. He breaks down not just the technical aspects of constructing a screenplay, but also the philosophy and the principles behind it. He uses specific examples from well-known films, deconstructing scenes using the actual scripted dialogue, explaining why the writer did what they did, and what effect it had. This book is a wealth of great information and insight.
The best part about Story… for me, was that McKee’s insights about screenwriting are applicable to other forms of writing as well, like short stories and novels.
And, by extension, well suited for people like you, who are creating a story to support their D&D adventures. It will open your mind to so many great ideas about structuring story arcs; the nature of conflict; subtext; crisis; compelling characters (in our case, NPC’s) and their motivations; and theme. Many concepts I have will discuss in the CaSE series draw from my understanding of McKee’s truly sublime book, and how it might be applied by a DM when building a game.
It has been a considerable influence in my creative process. You would do well to buy a copy, learn from it, and take your game’s story to the next level.