I had a nice email from reader HM (who gave me permission to use this here):
I’ve read Storyteller’s Tools a couple of times now and have had several epiphanies about how stories work and are constructed. Thanks for those!
However, there is one kind of trope(?) that I’ve been turning over in my head that I can’t seem to grasp with the tools in the book. I’m talking about working the story around a disruptive event that is out of control for the players in the story.
For example, let’s say that certain characters find out that a massive earthquake is imminent, threatening the whole community with total annihilation. The actions and struggles of the players happen against this backdrop, but the characters do not have any means whatsoever to prevent or affect the impending destruction.
How do you think the quake or its threat fits in the conflict diagram? Some of the implications of the quake can be bones of contention, but is that all?
First, answer, you don’t, not if you are stuck.
The philosophy of Story Teller Tools is that if you are stuck with one tool, you pick up another! For example as soon as you use a Story Outline, you’ll probably find your characters reacting to the impending doom, and thus find your conflicts.
However, my approach would be to look at the implications of the disaster and turn those into players. Once you have those, the Bones of Contention just pop into your mind. Here’s my stab at the problem: