Video Games And Planning A Novel

For those of you who now me, probably know that I am a huge gamer. I have played video games of all types, but my favorite ones are the first person shooters or the hack and slashers. I like the first person part of it because it gets me into the game. Now, I’m not going to say that this post is about the first person POV. To be honest, I’ve never written in the POV. That would be for another post, I suppose.

For many months now, I’ve been kind of struggling with some parts of planning my current work in progress. The funny thing is that the first two drafts have already been written. So, why am I worried about planning it now? That’s a very good question, because I still ask myself that. Maybe it’s because instinctively I feel that it is somehow missing marks. In my research, I have learned quite a bit about structure and even found some interesting websites and books that cover the subject, but what gave me the click moment didn’t come from those (well, not directly anyway). What made it solidify in my mind? Videos games.

Yep, you read that correctly video games. I’ll get to why I say that in a minute or two, but first I have to explain a few things about structure before I move on.

Every novel, no matter how you look at it, has some sort of structure. I happen to believe in the 3-Act structure. At its basic parts, a novel’s structure has a beginning, a middle and an end. Act I, Act II, and Act III. That’s the bare bones about it, or rather the extremely simplified version. Now, there are other parts within those three acts.

In previous post, I explained what they all contained, but in the interest of explanation, I’ll briefly put them down here:

Act I contains two parts at a minimum: You need an inciting incident and a key event. Often the key event is what’s called the First Plot point.

Act II contains four parts at a minimum: Here you need the first pinch point, the midpoint, the second pinch point and the Third Plot point.

Act III contains just two main parts: The climax and the resolution.

That’s the most basic structure. After reading several other books on writing novels and even script writing, I have also found other things that get added between the acts.

I’ve since learned that some outlines have as few as forty scenes. Some do more, depending on what their perception of a scene is. In these scenes, they have beats. They can be the whole scene or just a blurb in a scene.

All of this threw me for several loops for quite some time. It wasn’t until I was playing my favorite video game that I realized what those beats inside the acts actually meant. I had a reference to help it solidify in my mind what they actually did for structure. In this game, I play a person who was frozen for 200 years to find that his/her son was taken while he/she was frozen and the game takes through the character trying to find their way through a post-apocalyptic world where things have changed and not for the better. Here is where the epiphany hit me.

My struggle really was with the midpoint. At what point does the main character (MC) decide to go from reactive to proactive because that’s the midpoint’s purpose. I couldn’t grasp how the MC would go from reacting to what the antagonist is do to where he/she decides enough is enough and goes on the attack. Again, I wrote and published a full novel (and it seemed to work) and even got through the first two drafts of my WIP. It’s like I had my midlife crisis in the book except it was my midpoint crisis.

Enter the video game.

In the game, I was in the middle of downtown Boston on a quest to rescue some trapped settlers. I was minding my own business looking for some loot when I heard a bullet ricochet past me. That forced me to get behind some cover, but I couldn’t find from which direction the shots were being fired. Every time I moved from my cover, the shot rang out and I could hear the mutant yelling, but I still couldn’t find him. I noticed that my ammo was getting low (I know, right? Just when I get into a firefight, I am running low on ammo). I saw a non-player character (NPC) next to a pack animal (which usually indicates they sell stuff). I couldn’t get to the guy just yet because the mutant was still shooting and I couldn’t find him. He’s still yelling. I finally stepped out and saw a glint of movement to my right just before another shot rang out. Bingo! I finally found the target.

That’s when I realized I found my midpoint!

That was the point where I went from dodging bullets, or being reactive to my antagonist, to actively seeking the antagonist, or being proactive. That revelation hit me so hard that I actually paused the game, hit save, and exited. I think I was even breathing hard. I immediately had to write down what I discovered in my brain.

So, here’s how it went:

Act I
Inciting Event: MC gets a distress call
Key Event: MC get shots fired at him
Act II
1st Pinch Point: After seeking different cover, another bullet ricochets near MC’s head still no location
Midpoint: MC finally finds the shooter and gets the general area where he can move
2nd Pinch Point: Shots come from a different area, but are closer and MC can now see the shooter
3rd Plot Point: MC gets a shot at the shooter and the shooter disappears and realizes there’s no way to win this fight since he/she is out of ammo
Climax: MC gets a really cool gun from the merchant NPC he/she saw earlier, follows the bloodtrail to the shooter
Resolution: MC gets shot in shooting arm, but the cool weapon has an interest feature that takes out the mutant for good. MC can now find distressed settlers and save them

There you have it. A basic outline from a video game. Now, I have a visual in my head as to what that feels like. In a sense, I lived the midpoint through the game. It blew me away at the moment. Sometimes, it’s just funny where inspiration strikes. And people have told me that I wouldn’t learn anything from video games. Pffft. Seems like a pretty good lesson to me.

I hope this helps someone as it did me. Even writing this down has given me something solid to grasp whenever I doubt myself in the heat of writing my midpoint scene. Anyway, thanks for reading this and if you have any questions or comments, please add them down below. As always, Happy Writing!


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