Fiasco is a role-playing game where things go wrong. It’s a GM-less cooperative story-telling system that facilities a story of converging fates that combine in catastrophic but oh-so-entertaining ways.
To set up a story you each choose things off of some charts. Relationships, Needs, Locations, Objects. From there you make characters and start acting out scenes. Then, terrible things happen and you continue the process to its grievous conclusion.
For each game you pick a playset, which supplies those charts and directs you towards a specific genre or style. There is a surprising breadth of playsets to choice from, but the core system is the same.
Fiasco is very good at what it does. I recommend you grab some friends and a playset and give it a try.
I have played a few games of it, and each one has been better than the last. As I go I’m starting to learn what makes the game work well. Since Fiasco is essentially a story-creation engine, I found that what I learned can be applied to writing as well.
1) Each character has to have a need. Even if you don’t explicitly state it, you should know as the writer what is driving this characters decisions. If it makes sense to you it will make sense to the reader.
2) Characters should have connections with each other. If characters are working in their own little bubbles, they don’t have real reasons to be in scenes together. Give them reasons to interact that they care about and have fun from there.
4) Each scene needs a goal. This is so important in Fiasco as well as writing! I don’t like to think of where a scene is going to go. I like to think about where the characters want the scene to go. If they get it there or not, well, that’s the fun part about playing the game or about writing the scene. Either way, the goal is what drives the story.
5) Have fun! Relationships, needs, objects and locations are the building blocks. Make each block as interesting as possible. Everything has been written already except the things only you can think of.
6) As usual, all rules are made to be broken. If something isn’t working, don’t stick with the rules, just do what feels right and move along. Nothing sucks time and creative energy like trying to follow rules that aren’t clear or aren’t working.
Overall, the fact that Fiasco and the art of story creation use the same principles shows that the game hits upon the fundamentals of how stories work. And that is the beauty of it. It directs you to do what writers are supposed to do: tell a good story. It’s a great activity to help you hone in on what makes good fiction tick.