Friday, September 10, 2010

The Tao of Foreshadowing

More or less the dictionary description of foreshadowing is to present an indication or a suggestion of things to come in later plot developments. It is an essential writing element needed to maintain the interest of the reader. In our case, as a collaborative story-telling community we are both reader and writer and thus we have to consider many factors when foreshadowing.

First off, in my opinion, foreshadowing is the mortar to the bricks that we write in order to build our story but that being said it is not always needed. Sometimes the idea alone carries the story to an apex, but after that high, eventually we reader-writers will require new concepts to build on. Concepts which will often be revealed by foreshadowing, unless the writer decides to come right out and give up the ghost, a method that has its merits.

Any new members of the Bridge who have not yet entered a story should already realize like the rest of our community, that in Collaborative Story-telling, control is an illusion! One should never aspire to be in control but rather to be a good guide. Guidance and Foreshadowing in a Collaborative environment are pretty much one in the same. Any time you add to the story you have to blend your ideas with what already exists, then you have to provide paths that will allow another writer to continue. This will ensure that your post becomes a stepping stone, thus allowing your ideas to flow along seamlessly.

Foreshadowing is an art. Too little information and you lose your reader, too much and you're basically giving away the story or in our case telling others what to write. In our case, we can choose how much guidance we wish to give and not cause harm to the story, it all depends upon the general tone at the time. It's really all about balance. Everyone should take a turn at the reins but then relinquish them and see where others will take the story. This give and take, is regulated by good foreshadowing allowing all writers to intuitively build the plot based upon the implied information provided in previous contributions. Often the path will narrow, its unavoidable, but the foreshadowing should always provide some wiggle room. When things get too tight you can smother the other writers and the story may stall or take a violent turn. This can easily be avoided in two ways:

1. Realize that your plot line is not really yours. Yeah, you've invested a lot of time developing it, but if others are trying to steer it in another direction, then obviously interest is waning. Try and expand on the ideas of your fellow writers and incorporate them into the plot line (so long as they are adhering to the basic theme of the story).

2. Lessen your foreshadowing and spend some time on character development allowing the other writers to catch up and take the story their way for while. You might be pleasantly surprised where it ends up.

This is the Tao of Foreshadowing.
A way of collaborative writing.

The Decline of RPG-Text


In the specific esoteric circle which we cohabit one always hears talk of the decline of rpg-text style role-playing but the truth is that is very alive and well. The only difference now from the golden-age of Gygax and the present day is that many potentially great writers have been absorbed into the world of interactive video games or simply prefer to Play & Post.

Now, for those of you who are content to write and role-play within a single setting there are multitude of 'theme sites' out there for you to choose from. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a site concentrating only on one particular genre, but this article focuses on those who enjoy participating in several free-form stories at once.

It is a fact that there are actually very few writing sites that provide a haven for free-form style story writing / role-playing and even fewer that allow one to develop there own stories, encompassed within a private forum. This leads us to the four factors that work against the popularity of online group writing sites, which are: Maturity, Interface, Theme, and Style.

There is nothing more disheartening and uninspiring for a writer of any age to attempt to seriously write in an immature environment. It is in fact pointless. Now I am not talking about immature behaviour, those of you mature enough to comprehend what I am saying will know the difference between having some fun and acting immature and being immature.

The web's a wonderful place. Kids who are saavy (and most are) can make themselves a forum, which is great. I highly encourage it, but children often do this for one of two reasons - 1. To be in control and 2. To be in control. Yes, it's all about CONTROL for the kiddies. They want to be the boss, they want to pick and choose their members, they want to trash the place, they want to impose their will upon others, they want, they want, they want. Now, any immature individuals reading this will simply retort, 'It's my site, so it's my right.", and that's because like most of your generation you have a false sense of entitlement, and you can shove those 'rights' up your ass. If your site is accessible to the public, you better be damn well prepared to cater to the public, otherwise you're just some jerk dictator hanging out with a bunch of other jerks on your little island... but hey, 'whatever floats your boat'.

Being a pleasant, mature and catering administrator goes a long way. What helps even more is developing an administration and moderating the site as a council. We all have different talents, and while some are great at hosting they are not always the best enforcers of the rules, so its good to have someone on hand who isn't afraid to drop the hammer. All one should ever request in a good storytelling forum is proper etiquette. If a user is unable to be civil to the other members and conduct themselves in an acceptably mature manner then you don't want them around. A mature site, will offer members a comfortable haven in which to write and in turn will generate scores of new stories which is of course the ultimate goal that this article is alluding to.

When I enter a role playing / rpg-text site I immediately put the brakes on when I see out of character (OOC) discussions, informative topics, and character threads in completely different area than the stories to which they are a part of. I can't get my head around sites that do not have a separate OOC discussion for each individual stories, and those that do have them in a different forum than the location of the story. I cannot stress how important organization is. Your interface should cater to all levels of users, from the newbie to the advanced, if it doesn't then you are closing the door on many potentially good writers and dooming your existing members to a future of poorly ordered archives. It is inevitable that at least a few stories will grow beyond a few episodes and when they do they will require that the past chapters and information are properly stored. New and existing writers alike will appreciate being able to apprise themselves of past posts in a quick and efficient manner and that in itself will assist to perpetuate the stories which are the life's blood of the site.

Yes, all forums should have a theme, it makes them more inviting and memorable, but that's not what I am referring to in this article. I am talking about a single theme or setting that governs the entire site which is completely counter productive to free from style writing. Why dominate the entire site with one story line? Several forums can co-exist in one site, so why would a writing community want to limit their own creativity to one genre? The reason for this honestly eludes me. It is not difficult in the least to create, a site that would feature all the information for an extensive story setting and link it back to a single forum of a writing site, then it is treated more or less like any other story. A single story dominating an entire site is stifling to a community of creative writers who enjoy developing stories as much as portraying the characters within them.

Lastly, I will talk about style. Every, rpg-text site has its own way of conducting their story threads. At Bifrost Bridge, we enjoy very much using pictures to enhance our posts, some sites absolutely forbid this, which I find tragic. One could argue that it's all about the 'words', but I subscribe to the old saying that 'a picture is worth a thousand words' and so encourage people to provide imagery to their posts. This and other subtle differences do in fact prevent many cross over's from occurring in the overall online writing community. I am not about to say that our way is better than any other site, just different, unfortunately for many, including myself it is these small dissimilarities that make a big difference in the stories I participate in.

I am not alone in embracing the philosophy that we are all in fact part of one giant online writing community but the reality is that there are many factors that prevent 'cross overs' from occurring. Conflicting administrative views is yet another and there are several more not mentioned here. Should any other writing communities out there embrace our beliefs and share a similar style of writing to the Bifrost Bridge then we invite you to cross over and share our stories.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bifrost Bridge - A Storyteller's Haven

In a true collaborative environment, each contributor has an almost equal ability to add, edit, and remove text. The writing process becomes a recursive task, where each change prompts others to make more changes. It is easier to do if the group has a specific end goal in mind, and harder if a goal is absent or vague.

A very good method of discussion and communication is essential, especially if disagreements arise.

Successful collaboration occurs when each participant [or stakeholder] is able to make a unique contribution toward achieving a common vision or goal statement. Supporting this common goal are objectives that have been generated by each of the participants. It is important for each participant to "feel" as though he or she has a significant contribution to make to the achievement of goals. It is also important that each participant be held accountable for contributing to the writing project. [Brown, C. A., 2007, East Carolina University]

Collaborative writing can lead to projects that are richer and more complex than those produced by individuals. Many learning communities include one or more collaborative assignments. However, writing with others also makes the writing task more complex.

Collaborative Writing - Practical Approaches - Wikipedia


At Bifrost Bridge our style can more appropriately be referred to as 'Collaborative Story-Playing' because as opposed to re-editing a story over and over, we are in a state of constant construction and rarely if ever demolish and build anew. If you enjoy 'group writing' then you have to check out the Bridge.

If you are familiar with RPG Text role playing, then you have probably noticed that many of the sites out there are either populated by children, playing the roles of winged vampires or are based upon a common theme that offers no flexibility. At Bifrost Bridge you will not be surrounded by immature kids, nor will you be stifled by one setting forcing you to adhere to another person's ideals. At the Bridge, if you do not wish to participate in any of the current stories you are welcome to create your own.

The site mainly caters to a Collaborative Writing Style, where members take turns in adding to the story by either manipulating the setting or writing from one or more of their character's perspectives. Unless otherwise stated all stories are Free Form, meaning that all writers equally control the story and everyone works together to develop new directions for the story line.

This site also allows Play & Post style scenarios, which are hosted by a Game Keeper, who will completely direct the story. Those who are familiar with this kind of Role Playing will be used to providing short descriptive posts that only state the actions of their character. All styles of RPG-TEXT are welcome.

The majority of our stories, however, require members to post in a Storytelling format providing enough information that other writers can build upon. A Play & Post style response will not offer any continuity to a Collaborative Writing Style Story, so we urge all those who wish to participate in the various scenarios to please not post in such a manner.

We have tried to design this site in such a fashion that is intuitive and simplistic. Nothing is more frustrating then when a story writer can't even figure out where the actual story is located. Here all stories are contained within their own forums and you will see that all 'story-topics' are Titled and designated as either Chapters, Books, or Episodes. The structure is entirely up to the creator(s) and/or the participants of the story. All information and OOC discussion surrounding a story is contained within the same forum so one does not have look too far to access pertinent information.

If you enjoy Collaborative Writing then check in for more advice and writing tips or just join Bifrost Bridge and become a part of our community.