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Story Design Tips: Memorable Entrances & Exits

Making your characters’ exits and entrances more memorable improves your game’s value.

Guy Hasson, Blogger

November 17, 2011

3 Min Read

In this Story Design Tips column, I'm trying to put an emphasis on the techniques of storytelling. The importance of the story designer is usually overlooked in gaming companies, as the story and assets are usually almost ready when the designer/writer is brought into the picture.

On the one hand, it means your story is not as good as it could be. On the other, it’s understandable, because it’s hard to trust your entire game with someone who isn’t a master. In this column I’m trying to put a greater emphasis on story design, showing how important that person is to your game, while at the same time I’m trying to improve the overall technique of the story designers.

In this column, I draw storytelling theory from the three storytelling arts: prose, theater, and film. We already covered the art of dialogue (borrowed from the theater), the craft of world-building (borrowed from science fiction prose and film), the techniques for creating good surprises (borrowed from prose),  comedy theory (borrowed from theater, and used in all three mediums), and the technique of creating beautiful endings (borrowed from prose).

Today we’re going to borrow another technique from the theater. It isn’t a technique used by writers, it’s a technique used by actors.

Memorable Entrances and Exits

In the theater, plays come and go, but actors stay for years. In fact, actors wish to keep on acting for decades. The only way for them to do that is to become memorable in the eyes of the audience, regardless of the play. They feel they have to make an impact, so that the audience remembers them no matter what.

One way for actors to achieve this is through memorable entrances and memorable exits. Some of the longest-working actors make sure that their character’s first appearance in front of the audience (the entrance) is so memorable, so special, so unique, that it remains etched in the audience’s minds. In the same way, they make sure that the last time they are seen in the play (the exit) is just as unforgettable.

That is a good way for a writer to try and establish his most important characters. Rather than think about what your plot needs, think about the most memorable way for your character to make an entrance. Find a way that is unforgettable and also serves your plot. Then do the same for the last time a character is seen.

What’s memorable? Think about the first time you saw Doc in Back to the Future. Think about Yoda’s first scene (in Chapter IV). Think about the first time you saw the terminator: the way he got his clothes and sunglasses right after he appeared. Think about Steve Martin’s first few minutes in Little Shop of Horrors. Think about the first scene of every James Bond film. Think about Indiana Jones’ first few minutes on screen in his first and second films.

Why Is It Good?

Think about it like this: If you don’t look for a memorable entrance or exit, all you’ll find is something that serves the plot. If you do look for one, you’ll achieve a memorable entrance/exit in addition to finding an entrance/exit that serves your plot. You gain added value. Your game gains that added value.

 

[A small reminder: Our Story Design Challenge is still on. The deadline is Thursday. Winners will be announced in this column that will be cross-posted as a feature in GameCareerGuide.com magazine. Good luck!]

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