So You Want to Write a Story (Appendix A) — Getting started with Fan Fiction and Solo Journaling Games

Now that you have a little background on how to write, how do you get started? How do we go from a blank page to figuring out what to write about?

Rather than talking about inspiration, I want to show you a few ways to get started. Today we’re going to talk about two shortcuts you can use to jumpstart your writing: Fan Fiction and Solo Journaling Games. 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last two decades, you’ve probably heard about fan fiction — Any story written by a fan of, and featuring characters from, an existing book, TV series, movie, etc. 

Didn’t like the ending to the latest superhero movie? Rewrite the ending. Didn’t like the romance arc between the two main characters? Rewrite it or write a completely new romance with that third character. Got an idea for a prequel story that they alluded to in the film? Or maybe you’ve thought of a great “what if” scenario for an alternate timeline? Maybe even a mashup of two franchises that would never happen on the big screen. 

Fan Fiction encompasses all those things and more, and it can be a great way to get your creative brain started. A lot of the heavy lifting is already done—the world and characters are already made, you just have to get them moving. While some authors enjoy writing fan fiction exclusively, others have used it to kick start writing their own stories.

If you want to check out some Fan Fiction, you can start with these sites: Wattpad, Archive of Our Own, and FanFiction.net

The second group, Solo Journaling Games, are like the cooler big brother to writing prompts. Most writing prompts consist of a sentence or two, and provide the initial idea for a story, like a spark for a campfire. But sometimes we need more to go from smoldering embers to a fire. Sometimes we need wood and grass, and everything needs to be arranged in the right setup.

Enter the Solo Journaling Game. The mechanics of the game can vary, but in general, you can think of them as a moving set of prompts that guide a story through its completion. One of the common ways this is done is by rolling dice and advancing through various writing prompts, but there are other systems that make use of Tarot Cards, or pulling blocks from block towers (think Jenga) with the increasing instability representing the tension in the story. 

One of the coolest aspects of these journaling games is just how varied they are, even as a relatively new concept. There are games about charting a powerful Artefact’s journey as it is found and lost repeatedly across time, another that is a partner game about Two Rival Mech Pilots facing each other against the backdrop of ongoing war, or another about a Gentleman Bandit who leaves poetry with his victims, and even one where You Are Quarantined With Adam Driver And He Is Insisting On Reading You His New Script

I’m fairly new to this niche of game, but I’m definitely a fan of the journaling style. One that I’ve enjoyed is the above mentioned Thousand Year Old Vampire. It was my first foray into this type of game and remains one of my favorites. You start by thinking up the character’s life right before they turned, what people they were attached to (family, friends, other townsfolk), and what creature turned them. Then you roll a ten-sided dice and a six-sided dice, subtracting the d6 from the d10 to advance through various writing prompts (roughly 70 in total), each representing the passage of time as your vampire ages. Each prompt will affect your attachments and your resources, and will require writing a sentence or two in your journal. 

One of the most interesting mechanics of the game is that your vampire keeps a journal, which can help them keep track of the people they knew in life and meet along the way. But as you age, your memory can’t keep up with everything, so you are forced to forget things along the way and even your journal has just a few pages to keep track of things. This can lead to all kinds of amazing and/or bittersweet moments, such as a vampire desperately clutching to a long-dead family member’s sword, all the while having forgotten their name. Or holding a grudge against a rival family after your vampire has forgotten why the grudge started. Or reconnecting with a beloved when you thought they were lost. 

Though the game can be played by responding in one or two sentences to each prompt, there are optional rules for writing out paragraphs to each. The latter is how I choose to play, and it lends itself more to our purposes. 

I hope all that’s enough to help you find some inspiration and get you writing! If you have any recommendations for Fan Fiction reads or Solo Journaling Games, leave them in the comments.

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