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Cooperative Writing

A bit after having left the original FFGF, I was asked to help start a new web based area similar to the FFGF. This area became Infinite Realities, or ir.net. This is an article I wrote at that time as an introduction to the cooperative writing aspects of free-form RP. - Panther


 

While you'll find a variety of items for you to enjoy in the forums of InfiniteRealities.Net, from our patron galleries to the ongoing stories that are posted on our message boards, the basis of all our forums is the form of role-play known as Freeform Role-Playing or Freeform Gaming.

Freeform Gaming can be summed up with these three words "in-character," "interactive," "improvisation."

"In-character" refers to the fact that once you step into one of our forums you are stepping into a whole new environment where the image you present is no longer that of the person sitting at your computer. You are taking on a persona that 'exists' in its own right.

This is your "character."

Think of it as a form of acting. When you see Harrison Ford in a movie, he is not playing himself, he is playing a character, whether it is Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark or the President in Air-Force One. When you are participating in a story line, either in message boards or live in a chat room, you are playing a character of your choice. It could be anything from a knight in shining armor to a cat sitting on a tabletop. The only limits are those of your own imagination and the setting in which you are playing.

For instance: You would no more play a highly chromed cyborg in the Mermaid's Tale Tavern than you would try discuss football in a chat room or message board whose theme is classical music!

This is where the interactive part comes in. In Freeform Gaming, there's always some form of interaction. If you are writing for a message board or a gallery, you are writing for the readers. At the time of the writing you may not be interacting with anyone, but when writing this way you are going to have interaction between the characters in your writing as well as further interaction when people read what you have written. This is like being an author of a book; you control not only your character, but also all the others in your writing.

The next level in this interaction is when you do collaborative writing with others. In a situation like this, you and others are writing about a particular event or series of events from the perspective of your characters. Unlike writing alone for your audience as noted above, you are working with other writers and your character is interacting with their characters for the mutual enjoyment of each other as well as those who may read your work later on.

You may have seen examples of this in many a sitcom where the characters get in trouble for some hi-jinx and each character tells their side of the story, usually putting themselves in the best light while putting the blame on the others. This is an example of how it might work in collaborative writing. While the writers are all working towards a common goal for their story, the path to this goal can take many twists and turns as you view it as seen by the different characters.

While the Number One rule in Freeform Gaming is that nobody can decide what happens to your character except you, as you interact more and more with other patrons, you may develop understandings with them where you may not object to them using your character in scenarios as they write. This is usually done in minor scenes, and nothing would be done that would greatly effect character you are borrowing.

A good example of this type of writing is the Thieves World series edited by Robert Aspirin and Lynn Abbey. These books are a series with an on-gong story written by numerous authors, each focusing on a specific character or small group of characters. Other authors may, at times, use these other characters ... but never to the extent of changing the characters in any major way.

The third and probably most popular form of interaction in our forums occurs live in a text-based chat environment. Unlike a movie where the director can yell "Cut!" and the action stops, chat-based Freeform Gaming puts you on-stage in the middle of a play that has already started. You are interacting with other characters and they are interacting with you, all for your own mutual enjoyment.

To "Improvise," as defined by Webster in the following ways, is:

  1. to compose, recite, play, or sing extemporaneously

  2. to make, invent, or arrange offhand

  3. to fabricate out of what is conveniently on hand

Improvisation is the act or art of improvising, and is a big part of Freeform Gaming. While the stories you have with others may have a common goal in mind, how you get there is the fun part. In traditional role-play gaming such as AD&D, you have a game master and a bunch of dice that determine what happens on your path to that goal. In Freeform Gaming, it's the imagination of the players that determine what happens.

For example: Player A and Player B are in a bar and Player A insults Player B. True to his character, Player B gets angry and turns to hit Player A. Player B throws his punch, but in Free-Form gaming, it's up to Player A whether the punch lands or not! No dice. No Game Master. It's up to the players involved to determine what happens to their character.

By themselves, none of these three items are overly special, but when you combine them into the whole -- the creative outlet of telling a story from your characters perspective, the enjoyment of sharing these stories with others, the of having been part of a good "scene" with other players -- they make Freeform Gaming the unique and wonderful creative outlet that we all enjoy.

Another item that is important to Freeform Role Play that should be mentioned is the environment. Your characters need a place to interact in, the "stage" upon which to play. Infinite Realities (IR.net) is here to provide a home for a variety of forums, each of which aims to provide patrons with a unique environment for patrons to participate in. Some resources are shared amongst the forums of IR.Net, and the staffs of each forum work together to help make IR.net the premiere place to go for Freeform Gaming while maintaining their own unique settings.

Alongside our official forums you can also find member galleries that have their own settings. Some may eventually even grow large enough to become their own forums on IR.Net, but in the meantime you should have no problem in finding a setting in which you can enjoy playing in.

Welcome to Infinite Realities. What reality would you like to explore today?

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