Ned vs. Ted . . . or How to Roll a Story with Plot Dice!
If you’re unfamiliar with Story Dice or Story Cubes, these are dice you can buy that come with random pictures to each side of the various dice instead of numbers or dots representing numbers. Their purpose is that you roll them then, harnessing your brilliant creativity, you line them up in whatever order you choose and construct your new story around the pictures however you see fit with whatever comes to your imaginative mind courtesy of said pictures.
The point of these dice is for gaming fun. You gather some friends or family then take turns rolling the dice and tell a story. Or you divide the dice one to each participant in your group and roll them then go around the circle of players with each telling their own inventive part of the larger whole.
But if you are familiar with these dice then you know they are more for children what with their simple pictures (for example: a camel, a cactus, an airplane, etc . . .).
So I did what all great abstracters do: I stole the concept and decided to make my own Plot Dice for writers . . . and so can you!
There are several methods at your disposal when making your own set of Plot Dice. You can write several lists onto paper then just use one six-sided dice taken from your dusty ol’ Monopoly board game stashed in the cupboard and roll to your writerly heart’s content then jot down the results and go from there. Or you can prove more inventive, buy some blank dice off Amazon along with a Sharpie, then make your own. Just don’t forget to buy some clear nail polish and coat your dice so as not to rub the Sharpie ink off during use.
I’ve chosen the latter method, and I’ll explain how I use them to roll a story in seconds.
First the list of Plot Dice. I chose seven dice for the five main events of our story:
1. Inciting Incident #1 (that which our protagonist seeks)
2. Inciting Incident #2 (why our protagonist seeks it)
3. Pinch Point (main event of Act 2A)
4. Midpoint (main event between Acts 2A and 2B)
5. Punch Point (main event of Act 2B)
6. Climax #1 (main event of Act 3 and the end result of our protagonist’s story)
7. Climax #2 (how our unique protagonist achieves the end result)
*these listings are just examples for the parts of your story so you know where to apply them for the plot when creating it.
Let’s start with the Inciting Incident Dice.
Inciting Incident Dice #1 (that which our protagonist seeks):
1. Possession of . . .
2. Relief from . . .
3. Revenge for . . .
4. Possession of . . .
5. Relief from . . .
6. Revenge for . . .
Dwight V. Swain, author of the fantastic book ‘Techniques of the Selling Writer’ and a definite recommend for any writer seeking to improve their craft, suggests the protagonist in every great story seeks one of only three goals after everything else of lesser value is stripped away, and I agree. Possession of something, Relief from something, or Revenge for something. Since we’re using six-sided dice we repeat these three base desires, writing them twice upon our first Inciting Incident Dice.
Inciting Incident Dice #2 (why our protagonist seeks it):
The second Inciting Incident Dice provides us the ‘something’ our protagonist is seeking Possession of, Relief from, or Revenge for. In other words #1 & #2 combined are our Motivation Dice (just as #6 & #7 combined are our Resolution Dice). Now, understand that all of these are up to your own interpretation. If, say, we roll Murder, it may be that our protagonist is framed for murder, or witnesses a murder, or is paid to investigate a murder, or commits the murder in the heat of passion, or what have you. Be creative!
The Pinch Point Dice provides us the main event of Act 2A:
Same as before these suggestions are totally up to your own interpretation. If, say, we roll Capture, could be our protagonist is captured, or one of their allies is captured, or the protagonist or an ally captures one of the antagonist’s minions, or what have you. Again, be creative!
The Midpoint Dice provides us the main event between Acts 2A and 2B:
The Punch Point Dice provides us the main event of Act 2B:
Climax Dice #1 provides us the end result of our protagonist’s story which is the main event of Act 3, the protagonist vs. antagonist showdown:
As you can see, Triumph is listed three times, and that’s because the majority of readers prefer a triumphant protagonist ending to their stories. But again, the number and order of what you write on your particular Plot Dice are up to you.
Climax Dice #2 provides us with the unique method by which our protagonist achieves the end result:
3. Special Ability
4. Special Weapon
6. Dumb Luck
This is not only how our protagonist contests the antagonist during their Act 3 showdown but also the unique method by which our protagonist deals with their problems throughout their story leading up to the final battle. This dice provides us the ending while also allowing us to go back in our story and pepper this particular trait throughout.
If, say, we roll Special Weapon, maybe our inexperienced protagonist gains such a Special Weapon during Act 1, trains and learns to use it throughout Act 2, then masters and harnesses its full potential during Act 3.
(*author’s note: If you don’t consider Dumb Luck a unique protagonist trait or are unsure how to apply it to your protagonist and story then I suggest you watch anything starring one of my favorite actors Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams ala the Evil Dead movies or the television show Ash vs. the Evil Dead. Homer Simpson is also another great example of Dumb Luck. So is Peter Griffin from Family Guy. Plenty of others exist as well).
Just remember, none of these suggestions are set in stone. When you make your own Plot Dice you can choose to write on them whatever you wish. Do you like my suggestions but not their order? Then rearrange them however you want, or remove those you dislike and replace them with others you prefer. Or mix my suggested lists. Again, be creative!
The important key to your Plot Dice is that you elevate the conflict each one provides you from their roll the closer you approach the ending to your story. Remember, my suggested lists are just examples.
So now that we have all that explanation out of the way I’m going to use my exampled Plot Dice and roll us a little story. Here goes . . . and here are my results:
1. Relief from . . .
6. Special Ability
Now let’s put the results together into a quick little story that I’m going to write off the top of my head using my rolled Plot Dice. Imagine that we’re sitting at a table, I just rolled then arranged the Plot Dice to my muse’s liking, and I’m about to tell you my story:
Our protagonist, Ned, is seeking (#1) RELIEF FROM the (#2) MURDER he wakes up to one morning after a long night of drinking with his twin brother Ted. He and his brother ran a successful locksmith shop for years until they had a falling out and went their separate ways. But Ted contacted Ned the previous day and they agreed to make amends over some beers before Ted leaves for vacation at night’s end.
Beside a hungover Ned now is his bloody wife Meg stabbed to death, and Ned has blood all over his hands and a bloody knife lays upon the bloody sheets inches from his reach.
Just then the phone rings.
“If I can’t have her then nobody will!” replies a muffled voice, pursued by maniacal laughter.
Ned hears elevating sirens outside and drops the phone, scrambles panicked into his clothes and runs out the back door just before the police show up and kick in his front door.
On the run and with no idea what to do but for his (#6) SPECIAL ABILITY of being a master locksmith, Ned tries contacting his brother then remembers Ted left the previous night on vacation and receives no response. So Ned contacts friends for help while outrunning the police but none of them will help as all of them believe the news story of Ned’s guilt. Ned breaks into places with ease because of his (#6) SPECIAL ABILITY while hunting for clues as to how the murder really happened and who set him up, all the while being haunted by that muffled voice from the phone.
(*author’s note: Yup, I’m totally stealing and combining bits from the movies ‘The Fugitive’ and ‘Taken’ but so what? Bad writers plagiarize, and good writers steal!).
Eventually Ned contacts his beloved brother after Ted returns from his vacation which also provides him a convenient alibi. Ted offers help and agrees to meet . . . then Ted (#3) CAPTURES Ned by putting crushed sleeping pills into Ned’s drink while they’re talking about Ned being on the lam.
Ned wakes up tied to a chair and tries to explain himself but Ted won’t listen, because Ted also believes the news stories of what Ned did to his wife, but before he turns Ned in for the big cash reward he wants to know the reason why. Ned tries to explain he didn’t do it but Ted refuses to hear it. He convinces Ned all evidence shows Ned did it and the best option is to cop a plea otherwise he’ll rot for the rest of his life in prison. Ted confesses he already called the police, and they come lock Ned up.
Now Ned’s dealing with prison life as he awaits his trial while debating copping a plea for a shorter sentence or refusing it and probably getting two life sentences and dying in prison. But something doesn’t sit right while Ned lays contemplating about he and his brother’s last conversation . . . to the point that Ned now suspects his brother Ted set him up because Ted loved Meg first though she chose Ned to marry (which provides the reason for their falling out years ago and the closing of their locksmith shop).
But because we’re round the Midpoint now we need to raise the stakes as all good Midpoints do, so we elevate the death stakes from Ned serving the rest of his life in prison once found guilty of (#2) MURDER to him learning once convicted he’ll get the lethal injection.
Ned explains his woes to his cellmate who is doing time because his own brother turned him in as well for making and selling crystal meth, and he sympathizes as well believes Ned’s story of innocence.
Devising a plan with his cellmate who was a high school chemistry teacher before turning crystal meth dealer (*author’s note: Yup, and now I just stole from ‘Breaking Bad’ so you can just deal with it), Ned uses his (#6) SPECIAL ABILITY of master locksmithing to steal some drugs and chemicals from a prison storeroom and his cellmate creates him a concoction that makes it seem as if he’s dead from an overdose.
Ned pretends (#4) SUICIDE to get out of prison, and once outside for burial he awakes then escapes from the morgue with the plan of finding evidence not only to prove his innocence but also his suspicious brother’s guilt.
Eventually Ned sneaks back to the scene of the crime and investigates, discovers more clues, then confronts his brother with the evidence proving Ted is the murderer.
Ted admits the (#5) TRUTH of murdering Meg after drugging Ned while setting him up, as well that Ted confesses he’s the one who requested lethal injection for his brother for such a brutal crime by petitioning the courts while Ned was in prison. Rage overtaking him, Ned attacks his brother and they fight but Ted escapes and Ned hunts after him.
After some exciting chase scenes, Ted gets away while distracted Ned escapes the police. Turning the tables, Ned contacts his brother and lures him alone into their closed locksmith shop for the final battle of protagonist vs. antagonist showdown.
But Ned has prepared using his (#6) SPECIAL ABILITY and sets devious traps for his brother, capturing him. He wants to kill Ted for murdering his wife, but instead Ned calls the police and waits for them to arrive so he can turn Ted and the evidence proving Ted’s guilt over to them for lawful justice.
Only Ted manages to escape his bonds because Ted is the one who taught Ned locksmithing long ago, and so they fight as the police show up. During the fight Ned has no choice but to kill his brother or be killed and so stabs Ted to death with the same knife Ted used to murder Meg.
The police barge in soon after and arrest Ned, but the evidence he possesses now proves his innocence without doubt and they let him go.
Such a (#7) BITTERSWEET ending because though Ned is free his wife and brother are now dead.
See how easy that was? It’s not Shakespeare, our quick little story, but it proves the point of my Plot Dice. Make your own Plot Dice using my suggested lists or your own or any combination thereof then roll them and have some fun plotting out your next great story!