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Elena

Guesswork dilemma

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My question is a bit connected to this blog post or to this one

 

Everyone knows that sometimes two writing partners have different interests in what kind of stories to write. If I don't have any interest in some aspects the others want to explore, I am not saying it, accepting to write what the other is interested in, because I am sure that, no matter how much I like it or not, it is a part of the story and therefore worth exploring for character development and/ or plot progression. As long as one of us is interested, the other can go along for the ride. 

 

I believe that even in love, in a couple, nobody loves 100% (neither 50% each to make up a whole). Always, in the moment x, there would be someone loving the other more, offering more (70%-30% or so), just for the balance to turn on the other's side next time. It is important only to be a balance - both to want to be together. Nobody counts who offers more in moment x and who offers more in moment y. In writing with a partner it is the same - always one will be more enthusiastic about one thread/ plot point and the other about another thread/ plot point. And I am always offering what I can. If this part is less fun for me, the next one will be breathlessly interesting, so I am doing both.

 

But others aren't like me. They want to have all the fun now, not understanding about build-up and other writing techniques which exist and are used by many writers. They want to skip moments they consider "boring", no matter if they are building something else and they are useful in the story. (I say, instead "do something to make them less boring, instead of avoiding them! It is up to the writers to make a story/ chapter/ thread interesting!") They don't want to write first meeting scenes, with persons who are important in their lives in a way or another, considering them boring. 

 

I know that one can't force another to write what they don't want to write. However, there are 2 negative aspects of this approach, both impacting the story:

 

1) if you never show them meeting, if you never show your character's thoughts and opinions even post-meeting, if you don't want to write the meeting per se, then... not only your character is deprived of character development, but 2-3 characters at least. And is it fair? Can it ground any future relationship in this way?

 

2) If you never show them meeting, nor your character's thoughts and opinions even post-meeting, then if I assume what happened, it might be called godmodding instead of guesswork. At the same time, since this meeting happened (albeit offscreen), since your character and mine live in the same house for a period of time, it is important for my characters too. How can mine show the impact of the meeting, without godmodding, if you don't want to say anything about it?

 

How are you dealing with these missing parts of your characters' stories?

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I lost interest, flat out. I have learned very quickly that the build up is by far the best part. Like right now my guy Ashley is in this very slow build of a plot with a Russian prince and it has been one of the most refreshing pairings I've been in for a very long time.

 

So in me dealing with it? I have learned to set the pace right away as I want it. If a person is getting too fast with me I slow them down.

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I hate meeting threads, and by that I mean I hate it when people say "hey, these characters might react in a way to each other, let's just put them in a thread and have them talk and introduce each other". I hate it, I don't want to write my characters talking, and I never know when to end the thread, so I sit there like "I have no idea what to say to this, you have added nothing to this thread, you've just responded to my last post, like you did in your last post, and now I'm running this thread that I didn't want to begin with". Either that or I have no idea what to add to it, and the other person ends up in that position, and I feel like I'm adding nothing to this thread and I hate it.

 

What I do like is when two characters meet using an actual plot. For instance, right now I'm doing a meeting thread where my friend's character grabs hold of my character on the street because she's being chased by the cops and has my character pretend to be her character's brother so that she won't get arrested.

Honestly just... maybe it's just me, but I don't really meet people to begin with, unless we get pushed together for some reason, and I'm not the type to just hold a conversation about nothing unless I'm stuck somewhere against my will (like a bus stop or the airport). In school, I would usually just go up say "hi, I'm Raven, you look lost, let's stand together for the duration of this lunch line adventure", and that's like the end of it, we stand together now, this is a thing. Sometimes we might talk about shared interests, but mostly we're just here because we have to be.

 

I hate meeting people. I hate meeting threads. It's A Struggle. But yeah, I'll chat play it, but I'm not writing out 100+ words per post when two people are awkwardly staring at each others shoes. I could maybe do it if there were some acknowledgement that it's supposed to be awkward, but without it, my character feels awkward, I feel awkward, it feels like I'm ruining everything, and then I cry and never reply to the thread.

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Oooh. Good arguments for both sides.

 

I agree with you, @Elena, for the majority. It's the whole "journey is better than the destination" mentality, and it's in the little moments, the interactions, that the development occurs. Oftentimes when you get to the "meat" of the plot (the stuff you really wanted to play the most), it's much more powerful if you've built it up and allowed for character development. The story and the meaning to the writers is so much richer.

 

But I also see @Raven's point, too. If you focus too much on the small stuff, and you struggle with it, and you try to force it, you end up giving up or having no fun.

 

It's kind of like writing a novel in that the writer needs to choose carefully what to show and what to not. Oftentimes, writers are instructed to start writing in the middle of the action rather than doing a slow build up, especially for the first part of the novel when the goal is to hook on the readers. Then once the reader is hooked, you can take time to build and grow so that further events are more satisfying.

 

I guess a possibly good way to go about it is to figure out what types of interactions would be beneficial to the common goal. For example, most of us don't need to show our characters initially meeting in most situations (though sometimes there are good reasons to do so), but there can be threads that expand on the fact that the characters don't know each other well. People tend to not like "coffee shop threads" because there is only so much you can do before it gets weird and forced, but people could have follow-ups to these sorts of threads in which the meeting was implied. Like, "Shoot, my car broke down and I need to use a phone. I recognize you from church/school/Cafe and I thus have a reason to trust you slightly more than a complete rando walking down the street. Can you help me?"

 

In roleplay, I don't think we've really figured this out yet. It seems to be an either-or situation in which the characters are either complete strangers who are first seeing each other, or they have known each other for awhile.

Edited by Uaithne
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That's an excellent point @Uaithne! I actually love thinking about those weird in-between times. One of my characters ended up in a real crappy situation with a guy and had to work for him, and one of his classmates also worked for this guy so they developed a friendship out of that because the classmate was the only person my character knew there c: I really struggle with coffee shop threads, but the in-betweens are my forte tbh.

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I love doing in-betweens. You guys know the "now kiss" meme? I do that with my members ---- I sneak them together using plot devices so that they interact and make friends (or enemies).


 

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It depends on what you consider a "meeting" thread. For me, a thread needs to have some sort of purpose/interaction that makes it interesting. So, examples of possible meeting threads:

 

Characters bump into each other while in the same area - meh? Realistically this is an "oh sorry!" and scurry away.

Characters get stuck in an elevator, one is claustrophobic - Heck yes.

Characters are introduced by their parents at a fancy tea party - Meeeeh.

Characters are introduced by their parents at a fancy tea party as part of an arranged marriage agreement - Yesssssssssssssssssss.

 

Basically the more quirks I've got to work with, the better. "What if our characters meet?" is not usually enough to get my interest, we need to go a little further in that OOC conversation to "What if our characters meet because of this weird thing they get caught up in?"

 

In short, if you're having trouble getting people to be interested in those type of threads, it may be worth suggesting something like that before you get into the thread. That way there's something to get both players fully engaged from the start.

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@Uaithne, @Raven, @Mousie, I am not talking about the kind of meeting "I just bumped into you", or "let's have a coffee together and leave less strangers". (Even these are needed in some cases, or at least a discussion about how they had met if the story starts after the meeting, which would be fine for me  e.g. for mercenaries who have to work together).

 

I am talking of "now, that we are married and you have met my mother/ my brother, how do you react towards her and what opinion does she/ he have about you?" Or "we had the wedding at the other corner of the world, now let's meet my best friend. He is very important in my life... so knowing how you two get along/ his reaction to my sudden marriage would be important too". These would generate character development, and without the other communicating, at least, I have no idea what to further write when the other "new relative" is mentioned. Because having a good impression or a bad impression about the new groom in the family depends also on how he behaves towards the bride's relatives and best friends... Or because going to a new place means also adapting to a new life, and if nothing about this is shown from one side (be it through journals, or something else if not in direct threads - only that some characters wouldn't have journals either) then.... how the others are supposed to react to something which is just a big enigma, a ghost (for lack of a written presence, I mean)?

 

 

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@Elena -- I think the same principle still applies, even for meetings of that type. You need to create a situation that is engaging beyond the "so these two people meet". 

 

Talking about possibilities before starting the thread can help, like "So, (best friend) is probably going to hate (new husband)... what if (character) dragged them both to do (activity)?"

 

A lot of what will actually happen in the thread will still depend on how those characters receive each other, but you have a bit of a direction for the thread to start. If that makes sense.

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@Elena, dang, really?  That seems like really fun stuff to write.

 

Could it be that the people are getting tired of interacting with NPCs?  NPCs can be hard because either 1) you control them and it can be draining, or 2) the other person controls them and they aren't as dynamic as a player character.  To me, that would be boring unless the NPC was really well written, or it was something that happened only once in awhile.

 

Perhaps re-approaching the thread as not just the people meet, but a thread that takes place after the meeting of your player characters with the NPC where the player characters try to recover from whatever tedious or insane conversation they were forced to participate in.

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In one of the cases, @Mousie's solution can work :).

 

For me, the NPCs are just characters like any other, who happen to have less "screen time". I don't see any reason why they shouldn't be as dynamic as other characters, neither why they should be draining to write.

 

I have been writing for plenty of NPCs in my life and the only time when I felt it a bit draining it was when I had to write 6+ of them in the same thread (usually a battle, a festival or another big event) just because in addition I had to write other 4-6 characters too. And I would have liked, in that case, given the NPCs can be written by anyone, to have a few other people (who had just 1-2 characters to write for) share some of them (preferably in different factions than the characters they were writing, so that they could enjoy the story from various perspectives). And, of course, this is not the case I am mentioning now.

 

Besides, @Uaithne, some of the involved characters are full character, not NPCs. I'd love also your solution of having the discussion afterwards, with each of them. But I am sure my writing partner wouldn't like this either, simply because she doesn't like writing discussions/ threads where there is no conflict. In her opinion, these should be always implied and passing to a real conflict, because only those are worth writing. For me, the "in between, quieter times" are times to explore a character's feelings, beliefs, the way they cope with the new elements in their lives, and it is both character development and... a sort of quiet conflict because it provokes growing. And I feel these are important for my characters (and even for NPCs, because they are characters too and they are entitled to an opinion. And what opinion could be guessed in the absence of an interaction, or... anything else?

 

I tried to explain to her that adapting to a new place IS an internal conflict worth showing by the interaction with the new people. Meeting people who are important in the other person's life and facing communication barriers due to not speaking the same language could be interesting to show too, and it is another kind of inciting conflict, no matter if people ultimately like each other. 

Edited by Elena
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She says conflict. And I am writing with her all the conflict threads she wants. But not everything in life is direct conflict. There have to be quiet times in between. As I showed before, adaptation is an internal conflict which can be shown too :) Making friends/ gaining the in-laws' sympathy should be important as well. Without these, the story feels incomplete...

 

In other cases with other writers, the story felt incomplete because they jumped from A to E, maybe with one intermediary stop at C, or without even that... and many of the "implied" things weren't mentioned even OOC as headcanon. So... it was difficult for my characters to fill the gaps reasonably with guesswork without being potentially accused by godmodding. Because the other didn't provide anything.

Edited by Elena
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My rp partner puts ideas to me I don’t like all the time, and I’m not quiet about not being into it if I’m not into it. In the same respect, she hits me right back with it when she isn’t feeling it. We do compromise for each other a lot, but sometimes we get just get stale. It happens. One of us, more often me, will lose interest and struggle to get it back before giving up all together if it doesn’t respark.

 

I actually really enjoy what you call guesswork. Don’t get me wrong, I love rping out the little details, but I love all of our chats and our plots that only happen in discord. It adds depth where my short threading attention span could kill the fun all together. I’m not a huge stickler for timelines consistency and the like though. Timestamps are my kryptonite. I do find that it can cause issues with other players because they don’t get to see what goes on behind the closed doors, so they don’t understand why some plot they’ve introduced is against the canon for my character. That is a pretty big downside to not having it all laid out, but meh. That happens so little to me and mostly they are understanding and we can work other things out.

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4 hours ago, Bass said:

One of us, more often me, will lose interest and struggle to get it back before giving up all together if it doesn’t respark.

 

I actually really enjoy what you call guesswork. Don’t get me wrong, I love rping out the little details, but I love all of our chats and our plots that only happen in discord. It adds depth where my short threading attention span could kill the fun all together. 

 

These are the main differences between our cases. 

 

- I am the one who never loses interest. If a story is inside me, it keeps growing and wanting out on paper/ screen. I can wait for a while until actually write it down, but while I wait, it grows and gets more depth.

 

- In your case it isn't guesswork, it is just headcanon, and this is different. I think I could accept mutually agreed headcanons, even if I would still feel that some things would miss from my character development. (From hers too, but it seems for her it doesn't count. For me it does, because I care for the whole story, not only for a character or two). But you do communicate at long on discord and you agree jointly what happened offscreen. You exchange headcanons. :) In that case, if you don't want to write it out, your writing partner can write it out in a different way: a journal, a letter to someone else or as a part of a confession to his best friend/ sibling/ etc.  It is still gained development. Both of you know what happened and one of you two can choose to show it somehow.

 

In my case, if I have a headcanon, it has to be only mine, because she doesn't discuss on e-mail extensively about character reactions and such. For her it's "eh, just the ordinary", and she doesn't understand that this "ordinary" can have depth too, in a thousand different directions. So, I ultimately feel that it would be godmodding to assume something from her which wasn't told/ agreed... And this deprives my characters of said development too, of opinions, relations, anything needed for further interactions (not even necessarily interactions with her. I mean, come on, if your mother-in-law doesn't like you, your husband, your brother-in-law and half of the neighbours would learn various details about it! :)

 

 


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If you are interested in this topic the Initiative staff recommends that you start a new topic as there hasn't been a post in it in 741 days.

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