Tips for Telling Stories

As I read through the forum, I see many players asking how they can make their families — and thus, their games — more interesting. I put together this list of tips that are useful for storytelling and for adding interest to gameplay.

Edgar Evans listens to a story told by his young son, Jonathan. Also pictured, Michael Evans and Elijah Grayson.
Edgar Evans listens to a story told by his young son, Jonathan. Also pictured, Michael Evans and Elijah Grayson.

Tips for Storytellers

1. Your sim characters must want something. A sim who drifts aimlessly through life will never be as interesting as one who wants to take over the world. Of course, what your sim wants doesn’t have to be something big. It might be a desire to reach the top of a career, or it might simply be a desire to find the perfect partner and raise a family. As for those drifters, they can be interesting too if they see that as a clear goal. For example, a sim who is determined not to ever fall in love and get married could be very amusing to play, especially if he’s always meeting flirtatious women.

2. There must be a reason why your sim wants it. Add interest to your sims and their families by creating backstory motivation. Why does your sim want to be rich? Is it because he grew up in a poor family and has vowed to rise above the poverty he knew as a child? Does he want fame and fortune because his sweetheart’s family won’t accept him until he’s become successful? Does he want to reach the top of the medical career because his father before him was a physician and expects his son to be one, too? Of maybe your sim is intent on avoiding marriage because of the divorce her parents went through. Giving your sim a reason for wanting something provides motivation for stories – and keeps your simming interesting.

3. What your characters want should be fairly specific. You have to know when your sim reaches the goal, so be sure you’re clear on this point. If your sim wants to be rich, for example, when will he feel he’s earned enough? Be cautious about generic goals such as a desire to have a happy family. What is a happy family? How do you measure it?

4. What your sim wants must be important, at least to him or her. Ideally, whatever your sim wants will be important enough to fight for. Does he want to achieve success in the business world? Then he’ll have a make a lot of sacrifices – less time to spend with his family, more time doing drudgery in order to earn promotions, putting up with difficult bosses who don’t appreciate him.

5. Make sure something is at stake if your sim fails. That sim who wants to be a business success? Maybe that’s because he’s trying to please his wife. If he fails, she’ll divorce him. Consequences add a lot of interest to the game, especially if you add in a deadline. Consider the greedy, selfish wife who tells her husband “Unless you get promoted before our son starts school, I’m taking him and leaving.” Plenty of incentive for husband sim to fight hard for that promotion.

6. Always, always, always put obstacles in the way. Use your imagination and the resources the game gives you to provide lots of obstacles, conflicts, and problems for your sims to overcome. Give that hard-working husband a romantic rival, or throw him a curveball with an office romance. Hmmm, maybe he won’t care if the wife walks out. Oh, but wait! He’d lose his son, too. Get inside your sims’ heads, imagine how they would think and feel, and ask yourself, “What’s the worst problem I could throw at this sim now?” The fellow who doesn’t want to get married might find out his girlfriend is expecting. The guy who’s trying to become a doctor in order to please his father might “flunk out” of medical school. The more problems you create, the harder your sims will have to work to achieve their goals, and the more interesting their lives will become. Bonus, the more satisfaction you’ll feel if and when they accomplish their objectives.

7. Celebrate your sims’ successes along the way. The most interesting sims move both forward and backward. Your sim gets a promotion, then faces self-doubt. Can he actually fulfill his new responsibilities? Your sim gets that new house he wants, but then gets demoted at work. What will he do now? Enjoy the good moments with your sims before new obstacles come along. The higher the emotional peaks, the lower those emotional valleys will be.

8. Be willing to let your sims change as the story progresses. Maybe that commitment-phobic fellow actually will fall in love. Maybe the husband decides that fighting for success means missing out on too many other things. Change — positive and negative — will add realism to your sims and interest to your stories (and your game).

Use your imagination, use the tools the game gives you, and have fun!

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