Writing Collaborative RP

7 Aug
When I started gaming I had no idea what it meant to roleplay. My husband (NOT a roleplayer) chose an RP server, explaining that RP populations tended to be nicer and more mature. I was clueless. Eventually it was explained to me that shouting LOL out-of-character in public areas wasn’t quite in the spirit of roleplay; I asked around and found lots of people who were willing to show me the ropes so I could fit in (or at the very least not make an ass of myself). It was fun to interact with other players in character. After the novelty of stabbing WoW baddies wore off, roleplay kept me in the game.

At first I was terrified to share my stories–what if my writing was awful?–but after spending time with encouraging RP communities and reading what they wrote, I screwed up the courage to try my hand at storytelling. Five years later, I’ve churned out hundreds of pages’ worth of fiction, most of it story RP that I post to guild forums or personal blogs. I work alone on stories about my own characters, but when other people’s characters are involved, I prefer to write together 1) to make sure I’m not putting words in their mouths or making them act in ways they wouldn’t otherwise and 2) because collaborative writing is a bucket of fun.

[Collaborations can range from serious to super silly.]

If you’ve never tried it, you should. Most everyone has a Google account, and it’s easy from there to start a gdoc to share with one or more friends. It saves automatically every few seconds as you write so you’re not likely to lose anything in a computer emergency, and there’s a chat feature built into the window, so you can talk to everyone who has the document open. If you enjoy talking to the people you’re working with, you can fire up Ventrilo (or Skype or whatever else you use for VoIP) and do the talky-talk there.

When more than two or three writers are involved, it can be difficult or even impossible to schedule joint writing time. Gdocs are good for that. Everyone involved can work on the story when they have time, and leave notes for the others in color-coded text at the top or bottom of the document for the next person who comes along.

[Here’s what can happen when five people write a single story. It’s chaos, but it’s fun chaos.]

Once you’ve got a huddle of writers together, decide on your setting. Maybe you already know your characters are all sitting in a pub together. Perhaps they’re traveling through a dense jungle in pirate country, or fighting a monster (or amongst themselves). A scene might open with something as simple as someone putting out a kitchen fire because he didn’t know it was time to flip his pancake.

Alternatively you can start by deciding what events unfold in your story. Sometimes you’ll know exactly where you want the story to end, and you’ll spend most of the scene writing your characters from Point A to an agreed-upon Point B. It’s especially important if you’re telling a story that is part of an overarching plot. If you’re just writing simple interactions and vignettes for character development, you and your writing buddy can make it up as you go along and see where it takes you.

Of course, if nothing of interest happens in the story, you’ll wind up with a piece of writing only you and your friend will ever want to read. If it’s slow, insert a random interruption and see how your characters react. This is akin to throwing a stick of dynamite in a duck pond–you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but you’re pretty sure it’s going to be a sight.

I was a shy writer when I first started collaborating. The innocent blank gdoc in front of me was intimidating when that blue bar in the upper right corner broadcast that CEILING WRITER WAS WATCHING ME WRITE, word by agonizing word, through every backspace and mass delete. If you’re self-conscious, ease into the process by agreeing to alternate lines or whole paragraphs with your partner. If taking turns while no one is looking doesn’t quite do it for you, try writing your parts in another document and paste them in when you finish.

What’s important about the story you want to tell? Don’t be shy, discuss it with your collaborator. Communication is key. Whatever you come up with, it’s sure to be a great writing exercise. Just don’t be bad like me and toss in lines like “Take me now, you big stud!” at inappropriate or super-serious places unless you’re pretty sure your writing buddy will pee her pants laughing.

Have you ever written a collaborative story? Tell me about it! If you haven’t, grab your bestie (good God did I just say that? I think I did) and give it a shot. It’s a hoot.

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2 Responses to “Writing Collaborative RP”

  1. Tami August 8, 2011 at 8:02 am #

    Actually, I think this is the only kind of RP I’ve ever really done. One friend and I made such a great pair that we started a novel together – one that’s on hold only because our schedules are not meshing the way we’d like rather than because it wasn’t working out.

    It really starts to get out of hand quickly when more writers get involved, though. Two seems to be the perfect number. Three or more turns into a circus.

    • Itanya Blade August 8, 2011 at 10:19 am #

      It depends on the group and the ground rules. If the group agrees to certain rules and such and are open to discussion it can work well. Without an agreement like that, it can get a ittle messy.

      When we did Shunk, we knew how it started and how it ended. (Though I did initially have Dorri make a snide comment at the end, but it was edited out because it took away from Keltyr’s sulking)

      We’ve actually done some rather serious RP type writing this way and it has worked well.

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