The joys of collaborative writing (NaNoWriMo – Day 11)

30 Days NaNoWriMo Meme – Day 11 – Ever tried collaborative writing (such as play-by-post roleplaying)?  If so, what do you think of it?

4baac5f094e08545033677551317d38cYes, several times. Many years ago, I tried three different collaborative projects with three different friends. All the projects  worked in the same way: one would write a section of story, then the other would write the following section, then the first would write yet the next section, and so on. We would mail our section to each other – and I mean by snail mail, that’s how long ago that was.

Two of my friends had a very different style from me, both in terms of writing and creating a story. The result was certainly schizophrenic, but it was fun, because it allowed me to confront myself not just with a different way of writing, but also with a different way to conceive the story. Sadly, both these projects were never completed, although they both went along for a couple of years.

My third friend was very much like me, instead, so it’s maybe no surprise that the projects I worked with her were more productive and satisfying. We had different writing styles, but we liked the same kind of stories, the same kind of characters and we handled them in a very similar way, we conceived stories in much the same way.

I worked to three different projects with her and only one was completed, but this was certainly the more forming experience for me. We exchanged lots of notes on plot, setting, background, characters’ reasons and personality. This was actually the first time I did such things, I mean, writing down my thoughts about all these elements. We would write different sections of stories, but we would write the same characters. At a certain points, we discovered we had different ideas about our characters’ reasons, but because we viewed their personality in much the same way, we were able to managed them in a coherent way all the same. This was the first time I experienced that in storytelling nothing is ever written in stone and that the same elements can be seen from different angles, and be effective, logical and functioning just the same.

Many years later I took part in a play-by-mail RPG – and this time I mean email. I had my own character who would interact with all the other characters – we were six altogether, if I remember. It went on for a couples of years, then the game-master terminated it for personal reasons.

This was another experience I enjoyed a lot and one that taught me another important thing: every story may evolve in many different ways, some of which are unexpected. Before that experience, I’d always been the one who decided what course the story would take. Even when I collaborated with m y friends, we would decide together what would happen next, to a certain extent. In this circumstances, it’s easy to think the story may only go one direction, that it could never move any other way. But in a RPG many characters interact, and as a writer, I only know what my own character think and feels. While playing, I didn’t have any way to foresee the story direction or the other characters’ reactions, though any of these elements could stir the story in a different direction any minute. This thought me to keep an open mind. To listen to the story and let it carry me more than I used to do before. It also thought me not to be scared by unexpected ideas or scared to be forced to reconsider everything which had happened up to that point and make changes, if necessary.

If I had the possibility to collaborate with a friend again, I’ll do it without a second thought.

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About the Author

I was born, raised and I still live near Verona (Italy), though I worked for a time in Dublin. I started writing fantasy stories as a kid. Today I’m a bookseller who reads fantasy, history, mythology, anthropology and lots of speculative fiction. Somehow, all of this has found its way into my own dieselpunk stories.

2 Comments on "The joys of collaborative writing (NaNoWriMo – Day 11)"

  1. I miss the ol’ days of roleplaying on the Plaza, and I’ve often thought of going back or finding something similar, but I just don’t have the time. I’d have to choose between that or actually writing, and I think the writing has to come first!

    • I enjoy roleplaying a lot myself, and I do miss the few occasions I had to play. But as you say, it’s one thing or the other, and at the moment, your choise is the same as mine 😉

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