JRPG Japanese: Planning the Story’s Main Flow

You can’t write a book without a bit of planning first. If I didn’t have the main flow of JRPG Japanese: A Language Learning Adventure! figured out, writing the actual book felt impossible from the get-go, with all the random ideas just floating around on .txts, .docxs, and notepad scraps around my desk…

Being a textbook, JRPG Japanese’s main goal is teaching Japanese. However! Considering my lesson ideas all revolve around your standard JRPG dialogues and scenarios, I couldn’t NOT write a plot!

Writing the story’s sequence came in two main stages for me as I tried grasping the 8-bit RPG plot.

1. Making a list of dungeons

The first thing I did was make a list of all the dungeons I wanted my heroes to go. (And by heroes, you’ve already met Ken!) This meant remembering dungeons I’d seen in many RPGs, as well as consulting Japanese strategy guides I’ve been collecting since this JRPG Japanese project started.

example list of jrpg japanese dungeons
An example list of the JRPG Japanese dungeons, currently an Excel mess

This was actually tricky for me to do, because a lot of my “JRPG knowledge” is so ingrained in me classically, that I couldn’t tell what was “JRPG” or “video games”, you know what I mean? The same thing happened when I asked a bunch of JRPGists if they knew any good, “JRPG tropes”. They’d stumble. JRPGs have been so prevalent for a lot of us gamers that nitpicking the “JRPG aspects” out of them can be tricky.

After jotting down all the dungeons I wanted included, I listed some basic details of what I wanted that dungeon to include. Appropriate boss fights, nearby towns, dialogues… those sorts of plot points to help me get the story’s flow straight.

Some quick examples:

  • The volcano level gets a dragon boss. (But, of course!)
  • There will be an Elven village in the jungle ruins.
  • There will be a dialogue between the lead male and female on the remote island.

It was hard not to get too detailed, as my imagination tends to go pretty crazy if there are now settings and characters involved. I noticed this step was very intimidating for me, because, yes, I had the dungeons/town visits planned, but no, I didn’t have the sequence down at all.

2. Drawing a world map

The most helpful thing I’ve done thusfar to help me with the plot’s sequence was to draw out my own world map. After I had a map, it was easy for me (a visual learner, as I’m sure a lot of you are) to figure out the sequence of where the characters would go. Thus, where I was able to put certain lesson plans, dialogues, character appearances, etc.

map of jrpg japanese language learning adventure
The sketched and highlighted map, in all its rough-draft glory

After I had my dungeons list crafted, I finally had a map to incorporate them into, which took me from “a list on excel” to “okay, now I see where I should start my writing”.

Though this is an INCREDIBLY rough draft of a world map, it was extremely helpful for me to draw a little, dashed line, following the character’s journey!

jrpg japanese language learning world map
Can you see the line? I know it’s messy, but it’s there!

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