Saturday, 1 April 2017

Guessed Writing 2017

On April 1st, 2015, I wrote an ‘April Fools’ update for Jim Zoetewey at “Legion of Nothing”. Then I blogged about the creative process. On April 1st, 2016, I wrote an ‘April Fools’ update for J.A. Waters at “SyncPoint”. Again, I blogged about the process. Well, here we are again.

This year I got Unice5656’s story Fantasia. I swear, I really luck out with these things, because the main characters are always ones that I can mentally synch up with. More or less. Kudos to Alexander Hollins and/or his randomizing generator.


"I Hope You Dance", Lee Ann Womack

As always, there are spoilers below for my “Fantasia” story entry, and to a lesser extent, Unice’s entire story itself, because I go in depth into how I approached the final product. So go and read it first, if you haven’t yet.


BACKLOGS


I had a little over 50 entries to read, each around 3,000 words. I figured this would take me about a week. Yes, I’m kind of a slow reader, because I need processing time (but also recognize I wanted to be taking notes too). Still, that gave me flex time (the assignment was given at the start of March), so I got a few other things dealt with first (including a guest post at Time2TimeTravel and a special for my webcomic on March 14) before starting to read in earnest on Wednesday, March 15th.

Full disclosure: The “being inside a fantasy game” style of story isn’t one I’m really familiar with. But I have seen some related anime (where you tend to be trapped inside), and I play D&D, so I’m not completely adrift. In some sense, it’s better without the history, I don’t have any preconceptions. (Also, I’m not into Pokemon, but I have watched Linkara’s “Let’s Plays” for Omicron.)

Like the last couple years, I was aiming to not be immediately recognized as a different writer (more a gradual “wait..."), while simultaneously offering a window into the given universe (main characters, rules, etc) for the benefit of anyone who was only reading “April Fool” entries. I started by noting every character and NPC name that came up, and copied over most of the early stats, though my rigour with that faded as it faded in the narrative. I also read every comment, to get a sense of the audience.

I’d emailed briefly with Unice in advance, and she seemed fine with me commenting as I go (obvious in retrospect, from her Author Notes). Luckily, I’d signed into RRL some months ago, so I didn’t have to make an account (a reason I hadn’t done this in 2016).

So as I read, I’d occasionally point out small inconsistencies or spelling items along with story commentary. Unice was nice enough to give me “Fantasia Proofreader” levels, and by the time I was caught up (a week later, as predicted), I’d “earned the title Fantasia Editor”. Which (along with being fun) I suppose helps give me credibility?


BRAINSTORMING


My first major thought occurred before any of the main characters (outside of Fey) were introduced, namely that Fey meet the (or “an”) in-game Arwyn. My second major thought came before Chapter 20, namely that there’s some emergency back in town. And maybe Fey could suggest killing herself (or suggest it to someone else) as a way of getting there sooner (it being a respawn point). Of course, that death shouldn’t happen - probably because of Leandriel’s flight power, if I put him nearby - but I thought it might be a sufficiently outside-the-box “Fey-like” idea (if it could be painless).

Shortly after that, I had this whole vague scene idea form, where Fey was back in the infinity dungeon taking out revenge on the level 22 rays, and Arwyn went to fetch her, because some elves were upset with Tallen, what with him not being an elf. Maybe trying to run him out of town? Though maybe not that, because that’s vaguely racial, which could be controversial. A wood argument? Some reason to need to get back fast. And as I’m playing around with this in my head - Fey left town.

So, never mind. True, that idea could always be adapted to a new setting, but I wanted to explore more options too, particularly after the time skip of Chapter 27. The next idea? In Chapter 31, commenter “readerdreamer5625” wondered if a ‘Bard’ character could be created (and have the Feypets eat his flute). Unice responded that she might make a bard, but he would more likely play the violin. Hmm, I’ve played a bard in D&D.

New thought: Create a gay bard, who might hit on Blade, confusing everyone. His violin bow could double as a magic wand, and maybe he fires off magical girl attacks. I can put him in the same party as my initial “Arwyn”. Shortly thereafter, Requiem turned up, and Sirena went “bard”, and so, yeah... another idea I set aside. Except for the notion that "Arwyn" might be travelling with a group.

In Chapter 38 comments, someone remarked on the weird mushroom guy, Unice responding “That weird mushroom guy probably won't show up again. Just imagine him making weird drugs that cause Magic's status effects.” So I could totally use him; maybe he’s farming mushrooms near NewTown, and Fey is implicated from when Magic was there? That’s nice, it makes for a link to Leandriel. Things started to coalesce.

Then the Drain Spore mushrooms came up a second time (as Magic evolved to a new form), and there was the random remark in-game of “fitting themselves into the ecosystem” (by KevinO), and I decided I had my plot. Then Fey returned to the Moonwood. So the final piece snapped into place in my head - I’d form Arwyn’s party based on previous people Fey had encountered there. (It's not me being too lazy to make new characters, really. It's kinda trickier because personalities exist.)


THE ENTRY


I caught up with the reading the morning of Thursday, March 23rd (as Chapter 53 was published). I only started writing my entry that evening, and I finished it about a day later. Yes, I write way faster than I read, largely because a lot of the writing is already done in my head.

Looking back over my notes, Eli and Terra had been stand-out Player Characters, and Stelli made for a handy hook into Arwyn meeting Fey. (With Eli as a warrior and Terra as a mage, it even made sense to make Arwyn an archer.) Based on the end of Chapter 53, I figured an initial login scene meeting Arwyn, then a scene setting up the mushroom problem, a scene with Leandriel and Magic somehow, then the wrap-up. I had the luxury of up to 3,000 words to play with, so didn’t need to worry about pacing that very specifically.


Fey’s “speaking in increasing sentences” thing came randomly from how Fey’s initial answers as I wrote were 1-2-3 words in length. Having Terra be offline helped demonstrate the world building for new readers, while also explaining why she’d end up with Eli, who had been at a much lower level. The parenthesis narrator was another way to let me tip off new readers who might not otherwise know world details (while perhaps punning randomly).

Even as I wrote, I wasn’t sure how Fey would solve the mushroom problem. Turn the mushrooms into something else? Transplant them elsewhere? I decided to actually have MushroomGuy watching, so she could simply tell him to leave the poor shrooms alone. It meant the entry was a little on the short side (no special effects needed), but I didn’t want to pad for the sake of padding.

So yeah, that all took 24 hours, off and on. With the entry finished on Friday evening, I hammered out the first draft of this post, then set everything aside for the whole weekend. Because I was also doing a Guest Comic this year, and needed to put a significant dent in my work on that.

I gave my writing another scan Sunday night before bed, then on Monday morning, I went back to read the “Side Stories” (which I’d deliberately avoided until then). I wanted to get myself back into the “Fantasia” headspace with something fresh. (I wondered whether to make to make an extra “side story” reference to those, but decided against it.) I roughed out an “Author Note” at this point, did final random sentence changes over and over and over and -- okay, just send the thing. (I’d already received my own Guest Entry the previous night, from Michael Fitzgerald. Check him out at “Existential Terror and Breakfast”! He does a comic there too.)


CONCLUSION


When I first sent my entry off, I thought “this is great, totally fits the genre”. Within a day, my opinion had shifted 180 degrees to “everyone will know it’s fake and also hate me for portraying the main character that way”. (I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that much whiplash before.) After a bit more back and forth with Unice in email, I’ve reached a mental middle ground, something like “it’s an amusing diversion that will be chuckled at, then forgotten”.

As to long term effects? Well, the last two years I’ve done this swap, it’s created a “view spike”... followed by a trailing off to business as usual. (I think I picked up one or two readers via Jim’s audience, less sure about J.A.) So on the one hand, I’m not anticipating much - but on the other hand, I *am* posting T&T archives to RRL. Will that make a difference? I currently have 6 followers there. Maybe that will double, to 12? I suppose if it does, this can be earmarked a... I was going to say success, but let’s go with satisfaction.

Thanks for reading about my writing process! Comment below if anything interesting jumped out at you (I try to reply to all comments), and/or find me on the internet here:


-Time & Tied on Royal Road Legends (or my original website), where a teenage girl has a time travel destiny that affects both her and her friends. On RRL, it’s posting daily, finishing end of August (if I keep up with edits). On my site, it’s posting weekly, finishing end of May.

-Any ~Qs, the webcomic about personified math functions, currently dealing with a derivative virus. It also had an April Fool post today. Updates Mondays, or whenever I feel like it.

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