When Things Don’t Happen in a Scene

Filed Under: Interaction

Often seen in: role-play

One...flaw (some might say) of role-playing is the exact point of it: that it introduces too many characters and different styles of writing at once. It’s not realistic of scenes or commercial pieces of writing to have a bunch of characters suddenly come to the reader. The problem of role-plays is that some authors go for the approach of throwing everything in at once, which can often lead to the previously-mentioned points of power-playing and impossible characters.

It’s better for authors to let main characters be introduced straight away, before having the following characters...follow. At the appropriate moment. However, in collaborative, there do not seem to be any main characters, which is when you get the situation of the scene of introductions.

[begin scene]

I gazed around at those gathered in the living room area. There were so many!

“Okay, guys,” I called, clearing my voice. “I think we should do some introductions. I’m Claire and I can read minds. For instance, you’re Red-” I pointed to the crimson-haired girl in front of me “-and you can make objects materialise.”

“That’s true!” laughed Red.

“Okay. Next. Who are you and what can you do?”

“Hi, I’m Cassy, I can climb walls.” Cassy demonstrated as we all stared on in awe.

“What about you?” I asked the boy who had so far been silent in the corner. “What’s your name? Do you have any skills?”

“I’m Josh,” he grumbled. “I can control the weather.”

“Cool!”

And then we all went into the kitchen to eat the muffins that Red had just materialised. [end scene]

Frankly, by the end of the example, I’m annoyed at the narrator for being so forthright with her questions. There is no sense of variation between what she is asking – simply because there are no variations between the ways the characters are being introduced. Yes, it’s useful for the writers to have a scene where each character suddenly gets to know all the others, but it leaves no lasting impression on the reader, who is still confused as to who is who.

I’ve been told that each scene must contain conflict, even just as little as a pair of friends or lovers arguing over minute things. Why? Because it keeps the prose alive. If a book was filled with the ‘mundanity’ of life, then no one would read it. I sat here typing my ideas for the collaborative I was going to add to. I was hungry, probably because of the boring ethics test I had just had. They made them too difficult! I looked to the clock. 12. 00. I was going to have to wait a whole half-hour before my schedule would allow me to eat lunch! I looked back at the text... (I could go on!)

I believe this should be the same with role-plays; if there is nothing but meetings and discussions, the chances are high that authors will drop out or conveniently forget they need to post.

Now, how can we at Protagonize combat this without getting rid of role-plays? I suggest working as a group of authors to give each character a significant entrance that utilises their skills (even in role-plays where the supernatural is not prominent). Let’s not throw everything at the reader at once. If it’s a romance, we could have the love interest helping the best friend out of some trouble, and then being introduced through the best friend, something which mirrors life.

For the occurrence of many characters, they all need to come to a point of relevant motion in the story, but they don’t necessary have to all meet at the same time or be involved in the same sorts of actions. The more action and conflict, in the midst of which characters meet, the better. Let’s not have a scene dedicated to introductions alone.

In one collaborative I worked in years back, there was this scene (helpfully paraphrased here!), which I found particular helpful for the introduction of a couple of characters:

As Sapphire stared in amazement at the flames she had shot out of her hands, she began to panic. The windowless room heated up alarmingly quickly.

Suddenly, water began to pour through the door, leaving a wet mark, but a safe exit nonetheless. The door swung open. Sapphire peered around its edge to see a woman with long blonde hair, her hand pressed firmly up to the door. It took Sapphire a second longer to identify that the water still pouring was coming from the pores of the girl’s palms.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“Better now. That’s amazing! I thought I was alone in my abilities...”

The End

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