White Evening Cascade
Immediate warning: This is a lot to read.
I have told a handful of people the basic strategy I use when putting a quest 'together'. I know that other people just 'fly by the seat of their pants,' and that works for them but I don't recommend doing that. I think a massive part of the graveyard consists of that. An artist had a 'neat idea,' and hoped that the suggestions would take that neat idea and bring it somewhere fantastic without any planning. There might be examples where this works, but you should really reconsider starting out.
I made mistakes in my work that I always try and make light of for new people who want to tell a story.
Even if you are letting the suggesters create the character, this is still a thing. Especially if you are going to give them control, in fact. Draw your characters. Get familiar with the races if applicable and main cast so you will be ready to consistently express the characters so you are not put on the spot when you realize you are not nearly prepared to work with the people in your story. Know the characters you want to visualize through your work very well before you start, it will make a big difference for you. It will show for your readers as well.
Just having neat characters will often be enough to keep a story thriving, but there's still important bits like the setting, overarching plots, antagonists, major events and everything in the bigger picture you might want to have ready for your quest even thinking to start. Your characters need goals. The readers need to have objectives that we can push them to meet. With something to accomplish, a story is much more entertaining to be a part of.
The video embedded is related to this. One minute and thirty seconds or so in TenNapel discusses how he breaks down his stories. This is almost identical to how I've structured my own stories, even before I saw this, and it's a very powerful tool.
Here is the basic breakdown:
Stories are usually broken into three acts. These do not need to be clear acts, by any means.
They can mean, “Beginning, Middle, End,” as TenNappel puts them, or Tarantino's three act system, “The characters know more than the audience, The audience catches up to the characters, The audience knows more than the characters.”
These are not necessarily required, but the basic three acts are a good start for the rest.
You take the three acts, and break that into a beginning, middle and end as well. Then you take all of those and break them into the same. The end result should be 27 or so pivotal moments. This gives you a very strong direction for the story.
Since this is a quest format I am using TenNapel's outline system as the focus because he uses 27 physical note cards. You have to be flexible with a quest by its very nature of allowing the readers to make an impact on the story. No matter how fine you outline your quest, things are going to change. Try and work with the suggesters, rather than against them. Be ready to change or rearrange the outline and restructure your story and especially your ending based on what actually happens.
The 27 Point outline could be an incredible tool to keeping your storytelling on track, but by no means should it cripple you or your readers.
The major benefit is that not only should your characters have a goal, you have a goal. You have a finish line for your quest to make it toward. There should always be an event you can hook into your quest. You can always (try to) smoothly transition from one point to another while suggestions help shape and refine the world you are painting for them.
Title your quest. Put your title in the OP. Make it very clear at a glance that the OP is your quest. Make it obvious without a single drop of doubt that the image signifies your quest.
I am very serious. Not nearly enough people do this.
I am not the best person to tell anyone this, but it is the truth.
More people will pay attention to your quest if you are going to devote your attention to it. People do not enjoy waiting forever. People really don't like when they get into a quest and it stops existing at a whim.
If you are going to make a quest then either you need to try and update it consistently on a comic-like schedule, or you need to plan, announce, and follow through with sessions with a slew of updates for people to actively participate in all at once.
People really enjoy to do sessions, because the fast paced form makes it more like a game and less like a comic they get to give their two cents and wait for several months to get anything out of it.
If you are not willing to devote your time to your work, it is less likely that other people are going to either.
Clarity and Direction
This is a huge problem for people.
People are used to informal language and being able to get instant feedback. When you say something like, “It's over there,” and someone can instantly say, “What do you mean by there?” and after a dozen exchanges you realize you should have said, “The red paddle is over on top of the blue pail.” It would have been much much easier if that sentence was said first. This happens in quests when a quest author draws an update and does not write clearly enough what is going on, what needs to happen, and why the character cannot not do what we want them to do already.
If you want your readers to understand what is going on based on your update the first time, then actually tell them exactly what you want them to know. Artists will draw certain things, or writers will write certain things that make complete sense to them, but if the viewer doesn't see that with any amount of fair consistency then it's not the viewer's fault. It's yours.
It could be argued that the action and story can be succinctly displayed with the picture alone. Unfortunately, everyone cannot dependably do that 100% of the time. Virtually everyone can however, clearly write what they want the picture to show.
Direction is related to clarity, but is not the same thing. When you put an update down for readers to respond to, you can usually tell the difference very easily between a post with no direction and one with a very specific one. 'Sandbox,' is often the excuse or the basis for some of these updates and I can completely accept that. When and/or if nobody suggests anything because of that, it starts to become an empty justification for aimless storytelling.
You want to lead the readers to make a specific action towards a specific problem. Whether that's a multiple choice decision, a judgment call in a hairy situation, solving a puzzle, or determining a plan of action for the events surrounding the protagonist, you need to give people a direction to go. Some suggesters flourish on a dead stage, but from my experience I can testify that people are going to speak up when they know what they are pushing or arguing about.
This is one that has shot me in the foot at least one time.
When readers make a decision, as directed in the last part, there needs to be a consequence for it. Consequences are not always bad. People could vote on arbitrary things all day, but if there's no reason for it, then it's pointless again.
If there's no risk in what people do, there's less excitement. This does not need to be life and death risk, although in quests this is often the case. There should be some sort of thrill over what the protagonists are going for. 'Danger,' is an element which can drive interest into the events, and make the suggesters really think about what they need to have the character do. Something BAD could happen. Things are important and serious now, my input could have negative repercussions!
Some people weigh the negative and positive consequences on their own. Some people use tabletop mechanics with dice, and/or structured tables full of information. Some just use logic. None of these are 'right' or 'wrong' but these are an important element that can really hurt you if you do not take them into consideration.
Consequences can be very damaging if you aren't using the right amount of Clarity. Make sure and be clear with the audience as to the amount of risk that is held in your actions, unless you really just want whatever that is going to happen be a surprise.
Ultimately: Try not to punish your readers for being a part of your quest. If something is lost, the main thing that matters is that they got an opportunity to try and protect or save the element that was lost. If there was not an opportunity, make sure they know why.
If someone is constantly 'hurt' for being a part of something they enjoy(ed), they may eventually give up.
Questing is easy to start. It is extremely difficult to do effectively. Storytelling is a long treacherous road. If you really work and put your heart into it, it will show. You better be enjoying it, and likely other people will enjoy it to.
You're going to mess up, but there are few mistakes that are irreparable. So work your ass off and keep an open mind and an open ear and you might create something you're proud of.
Thank you, I hope this helps someone.