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 roleplay as a craft, present tense, fanfic, and other stuff
Erik
 Posted: Mar 4 2016, 11:57 AM
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continuing off some chatter in the cbox, i think itd be interesting to explore some things about roleplay as a craft that makes it distinct from other forms of writing. some themes that have come up:


1) PRESENT TENSE

present tense wasn't always the norm in neopets roleplay, which is the particular genealogy of play-by-post roleplay that this site came from. past tense used to be enforced in much widee use, and a lot of us favour it because it makes it easy to:
  • convey a sense of immediacy and earnestness
  • breeze through a lot of omniscient exposition in a relatively punchy way
the second one is a common no-no for fiction writing. infodumps are bad for immersion and often a sign of laziness, but could the priorities of a roleplay be different than for solo writing?

DISCUSSION STARTERS: do you prefer past or present tense in roleplay? if you do solo writing, do you prefer something else? have you noticed a difference?


2) FANFIC VS. ROLEPLAY

recently, i've noticed present tense becoming prevalent in popular fanfics as well as roleplay. and as a practice and a community, fanfic has lots in common with play-by-post roleplaying:
  • shorter format
  • primarily online
  • character- and often romance-driven
  • alternative communities & spaces: creators and readers are often young women & nb people
  • an RP partner or fanfic reader has more preexisting knowledge of the story than a general reader (whether thru OOC discussion or canon)
DISCUSSION STARTERS: what are the ramifications of these points? have you observed other similarities/crossovers between roleplay and fanfic? what are some key differences?


3)?????

i started off this topic by talking about RP as a craft, but havent substantiated it in the least! so what do you think? are there considerations for roleplay that are significantly different than for other forms of fiction writing? or do the same rules apply to both?

and finally, what other meta-thoughts do you have about roleplay? post them here!

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bird
 Posted: Mar 4 2016, 12:29 PM
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aaaa rp meta

here are some thoughts/observation of mine that aren't particularly cogent or structured into any real cohesive argument one way or another
  • re: #1, i definitely remember when present tense became a thing in roleplaying! i recall jumping on it pretty quick precisely because of the reasons erik listed: i wrote (and still write) a lot of sci-fi and fantasy stuff, which tends to be exposition heavy, so present tense was a way of making it feel more engaging/fluid/etc. interestingly: i recall writing historical or real world stuff exclusively in past tense, and a bunch of people i wrote with who generally did the same. as if past tense was somehow more 'real' or 'concrete', and present tense was more visceral?


  • and piggybacking on to that: as a roleplayer i think you straddle this line between being like... a writer but also in a way almost an improv actor in terms of creating a scene and yes-anding shit your partner does and building on things. and you have to do it quickly! especially in an intro, and especially in one that's set in a fantasy world, and especially if that's not a fantasy world that's been developed already (or agreed upon with by your partner)! so you have to establish the rules and texture of this place, as well as a character, and you have way less time to let details trickle in than you might if you were writing a novel by yourself! like - related though not immediately relevant - it's much, much harder to simply start in medias res for a roleplay, unless you're very comfortable with the universe/your partner. so short of creating a BACKSTORY PAGE or an OOC post detailing your world, you're going to be looking for anything that can create that sense of immediacy ... and i guess present tense is one way of doing that.

  • edited to add from the c-box: a lot of roleplayers started out writing in script form, or writing actions between asterisks? which mimics a lot of screenplay writing as well (which, as k pointed out, is also written in present tense). so possibly the limited third person present tense style in roleplaying is a natural extension of that. (i still sort of think that way when thinking out a post -- dialogue and Big Actions first, then write setting/atmosphere/other stuff around it)

  • overall too i think a lot more modern authors write in present tense too, so that could be an influence! i remember noticing it especially in YA over the last 5-10 years. or, perhaps, it goes the other way: the increased presence of online fiction in the form of fanfiction and roleplaying has influenced authors, especially ones writing for younger audiences, to write in a way that they know will resonate with them?


  • on the other hand this falls apart when you look at writing for fanfic, since you don't have to establish a new world at all. although, maybe instead you're trying to set up a new status quo or new emotional stakes quickly? so that's why? or it could be that a lot of fanfiction is made about tv shows/movies/comics, and present tense is a way of mimicking the quick visual punchiness of an establishing shot?? people do tend to mimic the written style (and tense) of the canon work when writing fanfiction about, say, a novel. i don't know.


  • on another note. realtalk: in 20 years, will fanfiction be considered an influence on literature?


  • i mean, self-publishing is much more of a thing than it used to be! i remember a lot of snide online discussions c. 2001-2003 about 'vanity publishing' being the last refuge of the untalented, etc. now it's a huge market that is actually really lucrative! especially post-50 shades. the people who used to write fic on LJ or fictionpress/fanfiction.net/AO3 are now making money off their stuff, and distributing it to a much wider audience. your mom has a kindle now and can read smutty fanfiction whenever she wants to. so, it stands to reason that even traditional publishing houses would try to cash in on a new market too, right? so maybe 20 years from now universities will have a class on Online Fiction of the Early 21st Century (who wants to teach it)
cool cool cool

now i'm gonna edit this a million times while you guys say things that actually make sense
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XANDER
 Posted: Mar 7 2016, 05:18 PM
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this started off as a reply but it became a meta analysis of fanfiction and i've already had way too much coffee today!!

everyone read this defense of fanfiction first

then look at this list of homestuck AUs and consider how fucking detail-oriented and true-to-the-medium some fanfiction can be, as far as presentation, tropes, and characters go!

now that being said, i have this knee-jerk dislike of most tumblrina fanfic writers, a dislike more refined and resilient than any single critique of roleplayers and their styles.

over the years, i have observed the roleplaying community slowly cop to the fact that we are all engaged in collaborative, literary escapism, and that the 'point' is not so much writing as it is playing a fun game with words with another person/other people. i think fanfiction is still a little clingy to the idea that it's "about the canon", without totally acknowledging that the canon is about escapism to begin with, and the fanfiction is about even deeper escapism. because fanfic writers are closer to traditional writers than roleplayers are, i fear they are more likely to possess delusions of grandeur, exaggerated by any attention they receive.

as a roleplayer, it is fucking hard to get other people to give a shit about your OCs and actually read your writing: it rarely happens. you continue to roleplay for your own private self indulgence and love of the craft and the characters. you only rank the quality of your own writing when you are searching for other roleplayers, and when you are trying to keep up with whoever you're writing with. you bond with other roleplayers directly through roleplaying, or around techniques and problems of writing and community building.

fanfic readers are ravenous fans who have not been satisfied by the amount or variety of canon material, and come stampeding into the fanfic buffet. fanfiction readers and writers bond over characters, canon, and subsequent interpretations of canon. the priority here goes to generation of material; the community exists only in extension of the content. you do not have to be any kind of good or interesting to get clicks as a fanfic writer: by virtue of existing within the fandom, someone will look and someone will like it.

as a roleplayer, pretty much no one is aware of your individual existence. as a fanfic writer, you can become known, not due to the quality of anything you generate, but because you generated it about something that people have a previous attachment to, predisposing them to like your work out the gate. roleplaying and fanfiction are both generally dominated by younger, less experienced, more socially isolated people, so you can really go a long way in reflecting on how these people shape their communities, and are shaped by them.

other random idea:
  • roleplaying is deeply social, and i think by its very nature can construct very deep social bonds. have you ever noticed just how deeply people are bothered by another roleplayer's disappearance? while we might paint the most distressed roleplayer among us as melodramatic or clingy, i think the community at large is yet to reconcile with the deeper psychological effects of what this kind of game/immersion does in the realm of forming connections. sharing yourself through your writing is no small potatoes: you're probably more honest about who you are in your writing than you are with your coworkers, or some family members.
OTHER STUFF LATER, MAYBE?

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Erik
 Posted: Mar 7 2016, 10:58 PM
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first off to bird & xando, i kno i havent said much in the way of commentary to you guys in other chats, but there's been enough here for me to think about for days.

re bird: the way that roleplay writing has been influenced by contemporary published fiction isnt something i'd thought about before, so thank you for opening my eyes!! i dont have much more to add about the ways in which writing as a whole has been influenced by the internet, but it's a good reminder that we don't exist in a vacuum (insular as roleplay communities can feel sometimes, lol)

re: xander: one of these days ill have to press you on your hate of fanfic authors, cause i want names lmao. that said, i balk at pitting roleplay communities and fic communities against each other, even rhetorically; a lot of fic writers i know also roleplay, and vice versa, so i wonder how natural this distinction is. but lets talk about this over chat one of these days?? im super interested, but i feel like it might go out of scope for this topic.

what i really want to expand on in both ur posts tho was the idea that roleplay was unique as a social act:

QUOTE (bird)
as a roleplayer i think you straddle this line between being like... a writer but also in a way almost an improv actor in terms of creating a scene and yes-anding shit your partner does and building on things. and you have to do it quickly!

QUOTE (xander)
roleplaying is deeply social, and i think by its very nature can construct very deep social bonds. have you ever noticed just how deeply people are bothered by another roleplayer's disappearance? while we might paint the most distressed roleplayer among us as melodramatic or clingy, i think the community at large is yet to reconcile with the deeper psychological effects of what this kind of game/immersion does in the realm of forming connections.


even though you guys brought up different aspects of the roleplaying experience, to me what they have in common is the act of developing trust in your partner.

bird mentions writing a scene succinctly but accurately enough for your partner to reply to, not to mention yes-anding and building on ideas your partner's thrown out--i.e. trusting them enough to do a back and forth. on the flipside, xander describes the phenomenon of establishing bonds w other roleplayers & forming emotional attachments. and when people disappear, that's really a betrayal of trust.

i think this phenomenon is really unique to roleplay as a craft, because in every other kind of reader/writer relationship the exchange is lopsided. here, both parties are dependent on each other to build something.

in response, i wanna pose this question to the larger crowd:

when you start a new roleplay, what are you primarily hoping to achieve? is it something you've thought about at all?

and new people, please chime in!
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Rica
 Posted: Mar 7 2016, 11:29 PM
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My primary goal whenever I roleplay is purely on making myself, and my partner, happy. If that means playing a canon character I absolutely despise that they wants for their original character I will do so happily, as long as they do the same thing for me.

I place a emphasis on fairness, I don't want either one of us growing resentful because my partner or I feel the other isn't doing their part.

I do it for fun and to explore characters. The overarching plot means less to me because I prefer just throwing my characters into a situation just to see what would happen.

re xander: I do have to respectively disagree in terms of fanfiction being obsessed with canon. In fact it's quite the opposite. As a regular connoisseur of fanfiction since I was a tiny little homosexual learning about femslash for the first time in the context of shipping (SangoxKagome and AerithxTifa at the same time) I've noticed the absolute opposite.

While fanfiction does tend to work within the confines of canon it also transforms canon in a way that is more satisfactory to the fandom. As much as I'd rather not bring up Swan Queen (again, I'm sure you guys are getting sick of it) fanfiction is used as a transformative work to bring canon into something more satisfying that we aren't getting from the canon.

Once Upon A Time (forewarning here, spoilers for season 2 on) for example has a horrible history in their treatment of POC characters and plausible queerness in their characters. Mulan, who was both, had been close to confessing her feelings for Aurora and not only did Aurora announce she was pregnant with Phillip's child just before she could. But Mulan left to join the Merry Men and never showed up again. Even when Robin and the Merry Men became part of the story.

Marian, Robin's dead wife brought back in season 4 by Emma, ended up being killed by Zelena (Wicked Witch) almost immediately after Marian was rescued by Emma. They literally killed off one of the few POC to bring back a white woman.

In Season 5 they killed off Lancelot a second time. Because killing a black man once before in season 2 wasn't enough.

Again and again the show has disappointed and disgusted fans with their treatment. I haven't even touched on some of the worse treatment the actor PR has given it's queer fans.

But you go into fanfiction (outside of a certain pair of canon coupling m/f fics, one moreso than the other -sideeyes-) suddenly all these issues are not only resolved but often called out. Throwing shade on the show in a humorous way because we know it's not ok.

Now we have stories tailor made to tell the story of transformative fairy tales. Like the show was advertised. Not the same whitewashed, heteronormative shit we get in every other TV show.

I can read a story about Emma and Regina going through the entire canon from season 1 to season 5A (since 5B hasn't been finished) and they can still have a happy ending despite the show doing everything possible to try and stomp that into the ground for the sake of them being 'straight'.

At the same time I can read a vlogger AU about Emma doing a drunk ranting vlog and Regina's drunk Shake It Off dance video got ridiculously popular because Emma shared it with her fans and they proceed to butt heads and bicker (as they do) until a common goal to prevent harassment in the Youtube community brings them together.

There is not a single other medium that provides stories like this. I can't go to the library and read the vlogger romance book for queer women. Or read a assigned-male-at-birth queer woman finding love and acceptance among her son's difficult and sometimes outright hostile other mother, while struggling with her own parents who gave her up and they mourn the loss of a son without bonding truly with their daughter. Or a queer re-telling of 'Bridges of Madison County' that takes place in the mid-80s with all the consequences a lesbian affair with a transient photographer is going to end up having.

I can find these transformative works in fanfiction. And nowhere else.

So I absolutely must disagree that fanfiction holds canon above all else. Because fanfictions very creation came from people dissatisfied with what canon gave them. (And came to popularity very much due to queer fans twisting canon to fit their needs)
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XANDER
 Posted: Mar 17 2016, 12:22 AM
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THE ON-TOPIC STUFF
QUOTE (erik)
bird mentions writing a scene succinctly but accurately enough for your partner to reply to, not to mention yes-anding and building on ideas your partner's thrown out--i.e. trusting them enough to do a back and forth. on the flipside, xander describes the phenomenon of establishing bonds w other roleplayers & forming emotional attachments. and when people disappear, that's really a betrayal of trust. [...]

when you start a new roleplay, what are you primarily hoping to achieve? is it something you've thought about at all?


trust is huge in roleplays for me, and it has gotten bigger over time. in my earlier roleplaying days, i avoided making friends with other roleplayers, for two reasons: (1) because i was primarily there to write with them and 12-year-old me gave 0 shits about the real people, i was here for the fake ones, and (2) i did not need to trust anyone, i was writing extremely vanilla shit and most of my roleplays were 'reply in 15 minutes on this neopets thread' kind of things. i didn't have to put myself out there and wonder if someone was going to reply to my distant, perhaps forgotten email - no, these people were on this thread, here to write, and they were gonna write until they had to go or sleep. that's it!

now i am older, and replies take a lot longer than fifteen minutes, and the shit that i write is very far from vanilla. when exploring Dark Content, you need to really trust your partner - you need to feel like they can honor the material that you're mutually interested in. so for example, while i would enjoy writing something like an abusive relationship, i'm pretty averse to actually looking for it, because i am very cautious about trusting someone to write that well. additionally, i need to actually trust that the other person is committed to the writing, and will actually make an effort to reply (and i need to earn that trust too, don't get me wrong.)

what am i hoping to achieve? quality entertainment! quality writing! quality examination of the human spirit! aka a lot.

THE OFF TOPIC STUFF
  
QUOTE (erik)
that said, i balk at pitting roleplay communities and fic communities against each other, even rhetorically; a lot of fic writers i know also roleplay, and vice versa, so i wonder how natural this distinction is.

this is very true, so we can consider my critique pretty theoretical and very impressions based, and i'd have to stew in the fanfic community a lot more to be justified in comparisons. that said!

QUOTE (rica)
While fanfiction does tend to work within the confines of canon it also transforms canon in a way that is more satisfactory to the fandom.

rewriting the canon remains an obsession with the canon. people are not getting mad at Once Upon A Time and sallying off to write their own similar-but-different stories with greater representation and different storylines: they are obsessing over the canon and reinterpreting it to satisfy themselves. rewriting the canon, reinterpreting the canon, calling out the canon - everything still revolves around it! the fan community only exists in relation to the canon.

perhaps what you misunderstood - or maybe i communicated it badly? let's assume i misworded it - is the idea of 'canon above all else', which is not what i meant. i meant 'canon at the center', which does not preclude random spin-off universe, e.g. lesbian vlogger universe. but without the canon, there would be no AUs. without canon, there's no fanfiction. projecting yourself into canon characters and transforming them to make them feel relevant to you is a different thought process and creative experience than projecting yourself directly into your roleplay characters.

fanfiction does offer a great opportunity for queer and other marginalized groups to represent themselves in ways that are more relevant than the original media. this is probably the central reason why i cannot totally knock fanfiction, aside from the amazing artistic quality that some of it has. but can i judge fanfiction by the best of all fanfiction? can i judge all modern literature by like, vladimir nabokov? ehhhhhhh probably nottttttttt.

to reference back to erik, i think a deeper question is, "what do people get out of fanfiction? and what do people get out of roleplaying?" if there's an overlap between the groups, what makes a person say, 'i want to roleplay that' instead of 'i want to write fanfiction of that'? what prompts someone to delve into a collaborate work, and what keeps them from it?
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