Audience participation

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The defining difference between weblit and deadtreelit (aside from the amount of money that does not change hands in weblit) is the availability of immediate interaction between writer and readers. It’s worse even than you might think with deadtreelit, because, as a writer, you not only don’t get reader feedback until you finish writing the book, but, because of publishing schedules, you don’t get reader feedback until a good year after you finish writing the book. By then, as Shirley pointed out elsewhere, your mind has zoomed off in the next direction and you’re most likely a good way into writing your next book, and what readers have to say about the previous one is no longer that important to you.

In weblit, however, readers weigh in as you go and can actually influence the course of the story, whether through a purposeful choose-your-own-adventure or answer-questions system, or informally by comments or emails, or… what-have-you.

For myself, I have stolen an idea or two from character chats, Shirley and I have asked for plot ideas for Kef & Ser (though we haven’t written any yet) and then, a few weeks back, I enlisted readers to act as a virtual command council to help break a siege, and did indeed use one of the ideas put forward. Shirley and I also plan to live-write a book in 72 hours at the Muskoka Novel Marathon, using Google Wave and inviting readers right on so they can see the creative process directly as it unfolds, and contribute as we permit.

What I’m noticing with myself, as I get more used to the weblit format and more comfortable with reader interaction, is that I’m trending towards more audience participation. The command-council gambit was spur-of-the-moment, commenced about 4 ½ hours before the midnight deadline—something I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing a year ago. And then, more recently… well, this story deserves a detailed telling.

In post 275, you might recall, Chevenga received a letter from Assembly about a motion put forward to censure him for encouraging reverence towards himself. Asked to reply to several questions, he found himself at his wit’s end and unable to write.

In a comment on that post, reader V laid out an outline for what he considered the ideal responding letter. It was so good I wanted to steal it entire, but I didn’t want to attribute it to Chevenga himself, both because it would clearly be someone else’s style and because I wanted to credit the outside source. How to do that? Solution: in the next post, I had Kaninjer talk Chevenga into lawyering up. Then the idea hit me… maybe V would be willing to Googlewave-role-play the lawyer?

I asked him, he said yes, we got him a Wave account and we did several sessions over the next few days. V did a great job of being articulate, poker-faced, persnickety, verbally aggressive while at the same time impeccably civil—altogether lawyerly. The resulting material has not all been posted yet, as of this writing, but wherever you see the character Veresinga Shae-Rusha, that’s V (with my edits, of course).

I had never done this—an RP which shortly thereafter became posted material—with anyone other than Shirley (whose RP contributions are found most often in the lines of Minis, of course, Niku, Kallijas, Reknarja, Esora-e, occasionally Karani and sometimes other characters), and V’s strengths as a role-player are totally different from Shirley’s, so it was very cool.

Shortly thereafter, Shirley engaged reader Catfitz in a Wave role-play with Cat playing Zinchaer the Haian psyche-healer and Shirley playing Minis, as usual. I put my oar in, of course, as Shirley had with my RP with V. You'll see the results of that in Eclipse Court.

What this all means is that there will be more of this sort of thing in the future… reader challenges, role-plays, live-writing, calls for ideas, who knows what. I welcome suggestions. If you see a character you might want to try role-playing, sing out—though I totally reserve the right to say no if I don’t think you and the character would be a good match. (V proved it by writing that comment.)

I must warn you about distance-role-playing, however: it is a) time-consuming and b) habit-forming. (Shirley and V can back me up on this.) Fast typing or speech recognition helps a lot (though I haven’t yet figured out how to get the speech recognition utility in Vista to work on Wave yet – works fine in Windows Live Messenger, so that method is available.) As the author I reserve the right to make any and all edits so as to create the resulting post (and I’m sure Shirley does also with her works.)

When I dreamed of being a writer at age 14, I never imagined it could be anything like this.

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I do a lot of roleplay

I do a lot of roleplay related to stories. I run Addergoole as a RP setting, for one, and I co-write some of the chapters with Elasmo, which is really RP in writing format. But RP'ing, online and live-action, is one of my primary hobbies.

Reader interaction also leads to things like cameo characters who wander through the story.

~Lyn

@Lyn, nice to see you here

I didn't think that Shirley and I were the only ones, but it's interesting to hear from others. I think Veresinga would qualify as a cameo wandering through the story.

Curious, do you use Wave? Or what?

Oh man, do I even still have

Oh man, do I even still have all my character sheets from my email RPing days back in high school? I think a bunch of them are stored on *hard disks* that I don't even have a drive to read them on any more.

I quit cold turkey back when I went to college. Stop tempting me =P (The character chats are enough!)

Email RPing in high school???

When I was in high school, we didn't have email. We didn't have character sheets, either. We had character clay tablets.

You had clay tablets?

We had to carve ours in rock, except we had no chisels. I had it worst—as GM, I had to do all of the NPC's and maps.

That was before most numbers had been invented, except the Mayan 'zero', which was so new we had to pay royalties.

I would say it was before dice, but I've seen a stone 20-sider dated to ~1A.D. (seriously).

: )

—Michael, who has been gaming since 1981.

What? Just since Eighty-One?

Yer a pup! We were playing on the Vax. You are lost in a maze of twisty passages that all look alike... Or you could talk to a program called 'Budgie' based on Rogerian Therapy...

Looxoory

We had to code our Vax in cuneiform! Then Dad would shoot us and dance on our graves singing "'Alleluia!"

Ha! Ye scamps.

I have a trick or two of my own up my fleeves.

< no shit >
No shit, there I was (obligitory opening for this type of oration, but this one is true).

You see, I'm only forty-something, but I used to live in the past. When I joined the Air Farce, I literally (real literal, not what it's come to mean) travelled back in time. My aircraft was a B-52 that was made in 1960. The systems on it were old. I mean really old, vacuum tube old.

One system programmed by punched paper tape, which is even older than Fortan cards.

When we learned programming, no joke, we wrote our programs out in machine code (not assembly) and put the data into the mainframe two bytes at a time, set up in binary switches!
< /no shit >

I teethed on zero's long before we had one's, and we didn't know what else to do with them. The Earth was so new that you couldn't find a place to stand without lava on it. We had to wait for it to harden into rocks before we could even have a stone age.

—Michael

It's not impressive that they put a man on the moon...

...it's impressive that they put a man on the moon using computers that were less powerful than a Commodore PET.

Less-than-six-degrees-from-a-man-who-was-on-the-moon department: I'm currently doing illos for a book written by a guy who interviewed Buzz Aldrin as part of the research. No shit, this is true. When it's out I'll let you all know how to get a copy.

Earth? Feh. Our Dad made us walk along the strings of unformed pre-stellar plasma to get to the mill to work, and it was uphill both ways.

I had to go to work

in a helium factory when quarks were still brand new. We had to slingshot around the gas gaints to get there, and it was uphill in four dimensions.

It was so long ago, the 'Big Bang' was still known as 'What's that Noise?'

Smiling

Luxury! Luxury!

Uphill in only four dimensions? YYYYOUUU'D settled into four outside dimensions? Well, let me tell you, we had to deal with eleven dimensions and not even folded in yet! String theory hadn't knotted itself into existence yet!

We had to vibrate at 10 to the minus 23rd, I tell you! Vapour all of us! Quantum FOAM! And we were grateful fer it!

At night,

our da' used to lock us in a singularity. I had Avogradro's number of siblings, and those are the one's who lived. Most of them evaporated by interaction with objects passing close by.

We had to drift to work straight through the Oort Clouds, with nothing to keep us warm except a single MeV, and we had to eat that for lunch.

We had to work forever, because there was no time, only inflation. The only jobs we could find was as fuel for a nuclear reactor. And it didn't pay, it was an internship, and I had to pay them, but I was glad to get it.

And let me tell you about inflation. Food was so expensive that you had to work your entire career just to get one spoonful of ashes. And those ashes were volcanic glass ashes and we were glad to get it.

Every day when we got home, our da' would radiate us to death with pulsar, just for existing, and then he'd rock us to sleep with carbonaceous meteorites. Then he'd fling us into the void where it was zero pressure and four kelvins. We'd say our prayers with our last breaths before we froze solid.

And we loved him for it, all 6.22 x 1023 of us.

=> And Now... The Punchline <=

"Yeh tell yoong wavicles that these days, and they woon't believe yeh."