Sunday, August 5, 2012

2013 WRITE: Series writing in virtual worlds: plan for a project

Series writing in virtual worlds: 
plan for a project
  • Writing a series is a big job.
  • But not too big if we break it up into bite-sized pieces.
  • And arrange for remote and asynchronous collaboration
  • Next: how we are doing that.
We needed some worlds for a start.  So we used our first working session to brainstorm on worlds.  
We also set up a forum in the website of the Avatar Repertory Theater.  That serves several functions:
  • Save and distribute results of meetings (like the minutes, without a secretary) 
  • Take and distribute suggestions from people who can't make the meetings
  • Support shared and cascading work between meetings
  • Provide advanced notes and progress reports for the next meeting
We found that the forum worked well for remote and asynchronous ideation.   After the brainstorming session, we soon had more than half-a-dozen suggested worlds posted.   And after the worlds were posted, they soon got elaborating comments from other members in the group.  
The next step was for people to choose a world to work on.  Not everybody would have to work on the same world, of course.  We have  plenty of interesting worlds.  And we know how to make more.  So different groups could  work on different worlds if they wanted to.  
That's where we are right now.  One SWG has been formed.  It is busy inventing characters and writing them up in the forum.  From time to time, I will post in this blog about writing progress, especially when we get to the point of staging the episodes.   But for now, my focus is on describing the process well enough to let other people try it out and modify it for their own needs.  (Note that this blog is all Creative Commons License, attribution only.)
BTW: The writing group is still open.  The plan is designed to handle new people coming in.  So if you are interested, contact Thinkerer Melville in Second Life.   
The plan for a working group on a world goes like this:
  • A Special Working Group (SWG) is formed to work on a specific world.
  • Or to give comedy editing to scripts in draft
  • The SWG starts with an organizer and a world.
  • The organizer is most likely the person who suggested the world.
  • If others like the world as a place to work, the can ask to join
  • The organizer opens a SWG thread in the forum
  • Members of the SWG contribute their ideas to the thread
  • Non-members of the SWG may contribute ideas, too   
  • The SWG can hold meetings at times it chooses
What does a SWG need to produce at the start?
  • A description of the world where the story happens
  • A preliminary cast of characters
  • A preliminary narrative of some comedic events
  • A collection of issues and resolutions that could be used for episodes
  • Brainstorming on comedic events might be a good place to start. That would certainly suggest characters and probably other aspects of the world.
What does a SWG do?
  • Helps members to develop their comedy ideas into an integrated series
  • Lets members get feedback on their scripts 
  • Provides cold reads on scripts
  • Note: Actual writing will generally be done by individuals or people working in pairs, not by the SWG as whole.   
People can join a SWG in (at least) 3 roles
  • Writer (writes scripts)
  • Ideator (offers ideas, not obliged to write scripts)
  • Character writer (plots and writes for a specific character)
SWG functions and operations 
  • ideation
  • episode planning (Note: an episode may be written in segments)
  • coordinating writing assignments (who is writing what part)
  • cold reading of scripts in draft
  • recommending improvments of scripts in draft
  • deciding when a script in draft is ready for use
  • maintaining consistency of world, characters, and story
Needed group roles in a SWG for writing a series
Organizer role: 
  • distributes the call for meetings (date, time, place, agenda) 
  • receives agenda items, organizes them
  • distributes complete agenda ahead of meetings 
  • controls sequence in meetings
  • chooses someone to manage idea sessions
  • sees that any needed action is taken as an action item by some one person
  • sees that each meeting includes a report on the status of each pending action.
  • coordinates writing assignments (Writing assignments are action items)

Writer role
  • Write scripts 
  • Read and offer recommendations on work of collaborators (per episode)
Ideator role 
  • Participate in the idea generation phases of development
  • With less time commitment, may work in several SWGs
Character writer role
  • writes for a specific character 
  • ​may also perform the character in cold reads and on camera
  • the character will generally be important and recurring
  • comedy performers may write for characters derived from their experience
  • a character may fit into several worlds with minor modifications 
  • May focus on specific archetypes 


  • What do we do in Virtual Worlds? 
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  • Annotated screen shots made with Jing
  • Creative Commons License, attribution only.
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