Filed under: Plot; world-building
Often seen in: role-playing; free-for-all; general collaborative
Let’s face it, everybody has ideas for how a story should advance, and, when placed in the ruling position – or slotting themselves in – to write the next chapter of a collaborative story, we shouldn’t be surprised that some writers pour their entire thoughts in the one chapter.
Arianna looked up at Michael’s comment. If they were going to get out of the Special Kids defence centre/academy, they’d have to work together.
Suddenly, the wall of Arianna’s ‘room’ imploded from the outside. She leapt to her feet and faced the intruder, a Special Kid with faint blue skin, called BilliBob. It was clear his intentions were malicious. Everyone knew that, though he was in very few scenes, BilliBob was always plotting, plotting away behind their backs. Now he raised a triple-headed mace above his head. So, this was his mission: to rid the Special Kids of their most useful asset, though one they had not yet come to realise: Arianna.
In reflex, her fingers tingled, as they had done in Training Facility Z. She flexed and her pink light smacked BB in the chest. He recoiled, but lashed his mace. For the majority of the chapter, a battle ensued between the two of them, with Arianna delivering her famous roundhouse-kick-to-the-face just as the reader was getting bored.
And the Special Kid with faint blue skin called BilliBob was never seen again.
Also is the variant: the briefly mysterious face from the past.
Suddenly, the wall of Arianna’s ‘room’ imploded from the outside. It was BilliBob, Arianna’s arch-nemesis from her previous Special Kids school. The reason she had been expelled.
“This time, it’s personal, BilliBob,” cried Arianna as she charged at him. <Insert battle here, followed by brief backstory exposition and moralistic conclusive speech from MC expounding the evils of the villain>
Wait – what? Where did all this new information come from, and how does it help advance the current plot? Notice that, in these extremes, the ‘secondary’ characters to an author’s own suddenly fail to exist. Whilst this may be considered an act of charity by the writer hoping not to miswrite another’s character, it can often end as a selfish-looking gesture.
However, even including the other characters can lead to unnecessary plot twist world. Often more so, in fact, as every character is rushed to defeat/conquer/befriend/discover the new addition to the fiction.
“It’s BilliBob!” cried Arianna. She hauled Michael to his feet, before blowing the summon-conch. Within seconds, the rest of the Special Kids trapped in B block were at her side.
“What’s going on, Arianna?”
“Yeah; I was in the middle of my own plot twist when you blew that convenient plot device!”
Not everyone will have the same ideas, and those new plotlines can get twisted tighter than a ball of string chased by a kitten.
Consider character three in the above example. When numerous authors have this tendency, though some reserve their entire revelations for stretching over the next five of their chapters/turns, one really does end up with a knitted tapestry, albeit not the kind a reader wants to set eyes on for long.
Now, I’m not saying that each author having a different idea is necessarily wrong. Some quirks of authordom pull together previously-flailing plot strands; some quirks of character can create new and exciting advances. However, one must, in these situations, always remember the bigger picture. It can help to talk ideas through with the other authors first. For non-roleplay collaboratives, this is likely the best option, since the authors only have a select handful of characters between them to work with. If someone develops unexpected backstory, this can jar with the writers of the chapters leading up to yours, where they each must have seen a different follow-on.
I’m not saying random is bad… Random is just – unexpected. And some people can’t afford surprises in their fiction.
If you are more a person who has the gall to go for it, I’d, personally, test the waters first with a hinting chapter, and if another author picks up your hint – or, rather, another character shares an interest in where their story might lead them – take that as more of a validation that the new information can be a helpful plot twist rather than a lengthy tangent into cyberspace.
Arianna looked up at Michael’s comment. If they were going to get out of the Special Kids defence centre-academy, they’d have to work together. She sighed. She had to tell him, didn’t she?
Arianna crept over to her desk, to the framed picture she’d planted there that first day. Her only real possession since the academy had stripped her.
Michael’s ice hand itched on her back. “Who’s that?”
“BilliBob. My first – first love. But he was also the reason I got expelled from my last Special Kids academy…”
Arianna glanced up. Michael was smiling at her. For once.