Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Story Waiting to Happen...

Collins Land

This is the first of a series of monthly articles about sims in Second Life that could be inspiring for writers. My goal is to trigger ideas for new stories, new characters and new settings.
Thank you to Harriet Gausman (Andie Pring) for the invitation to become a guest author at the Virtual Writers Inc.

Note: One of the characteristics of Second Life is the fact that it's constantly and rapidly changing. Sims come and go; others look quite different, as time goes by. Do take that into consideration when using the links provided. 


“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”
William Wordsworth

Collins Land

When Harriet Gausman, owner of Milk Wood, invited me to be a guest blogger and write a series of monthly articles about sims that could be inspiring to writers, I immediately thought of Collins Land to begin this extraordinary writing journey.

The garden tools, the pots with lilacs and the garden supplies in the old greenhouse seem to evoke a promise of renewed possibilities, of growth and life. Small details carefully placed trigger an array of ideas immediately upon my arrival.

The first time I visited the sim located in the virtual world Second Life® (SL), I was so fascinated by it that I wrote to its owner, Cerys Celestalis, to thank her for having her private estate open to the SL community. She invited me to enjoy the land and bring friends over. So, let’s go for a walk.

A picnic blanket and a basket sit right outside the greenhouse. The Siamese cat watches me carefully while the playful weasel hides somewhere beyond a tree trunk. Who was having a picnic and left in a hurry? And why did they have to go? Suddenly, I realize there’s a toy on the floor, forgotten, fallen on its side. There was a child here. Perhaps she was the one playing Scrabble near the cat, perhaps she is hiding somewhere beyond the trunk too. A river is flowing somewhere. I can hear it. But where is it? Or could it be a waterfall? What if the people having the picnic had to run to the river because the child was…?

And a myriad of questions, the beginning of every story, explode in my mind.

I decide to walk down the hill and explore a bit more, trying to keep the disarray of ifs and whys in my mind under control.

At the first bend of the road, I come across a deck where a set of binoculars point to an island at the bottom of the cliff. Interestingly, there’s a slider rope right next to it, but I decide to move on downhill first. I’ll visit the island later.

Another turn and I stumble upon a camping site with… a waterfall. Three tents linger about by the fire and a few log tables and benches are so inviting that I decide to sit down for a bit. The tents have sleeping bags, each with two pillows, so they must belong to a group of couple friends who decided to go camping together, on a romantic trip perhaps; St. Valentine’s is, after all, right around the corner. A log burns up in the fire; I poke it a few times and it burns a bit hotter. However, I cannot spend much time here. I have a sim to explore and an article to write! Nevertheless, I can’t help but wonder where the couples went…

I continue down the road until, with undeniable surprise, I spot a fishing boat turned on its side by a rock close to the shore line. The weather is fine now, yet I have the feeling that something terrible must’ve happened to that boat and its crew.

Still seeking answers, hints to stories untold, I arrive at the lakeside boathouse. The mailbox is full and some letters are scattered on the floor. I try to figure out where the mail came from, but the rain hopelessly blurred the ink on the envelopes.

The lower floor of the boathouse has an interior dock where an old dinghy rests by two wooden lounge chairs and a cooler with beers. I wonder who lives on the top floor. It’s a small, one room apartment and I think its owner has something to do with art. As I look around, I notice the vintage posters above the veranda doors, each a story in itself. A quarter past six, whispers the clock on the wall with a ding. I must hurry.

After all the walking I did downhill, the bike rack is so inviting that I grab a bike to go back up. That fishing boat is indeed intriguing; I wonder where the crew went… Ok, eyes on the road. This is a steep climb that gives me time to enjoy the scenery, not, I might add, without having to make a sharp twist or two of the handle bars to avoid plunging into the said scenery I was so admiring.

When I arrive at the top of the hill, I see the Collins home. It’s a public area, I assure you. I was careful enough to ask Cerys, so you can walk about as much as you like, inside and outside.

This is most likely the home of a well-off family, decorated elegantly and with many rich details. A cat is meowing somewhere, I don’t see him. The clock strikes half past. I walk outside onto the veranda and… hah, the cat, a Siamese, just like the one at the greenhouse. Perhaps they are siblings and they roam the sim making sure everything is in its rightful place, as cats do.

At the far right corner of the veranda, an easel is set and someone started painting something. I draw closer. It’s the gazebo right across the water. It stands alone, no access but by boat. I wonder if it was a tribute to a lost love.

Looking at the gazebo reminds me that I still have to check that grout I spotted from the dock up the hill. So, I start walking back, promising myself that I’d explore the upper floor and the basement of the main house in a future visit.

However, something catches my eye right before I leave. A book, its pages open and floating away, a mere hint of freedom, almost lost in the whiteness of a table where a few figurines tell stories of pirates and secrets and wondrous travels around the world.

I move on. Living up to the adventurous spirit evoked by these fragile figurines, I confront myself with having to do some rappel. I take a deep breath and slide down to the small island where it rains copiously. Shelter is only a few steps away, inside a cave warmed by a fire crackling inside. The two barrels next to an abandoned rowboat outside didn’t go unnoticed; contraband maybe or a castaway who floated all the way to this island from across the ocean.

The cave is a curious place. I look around, trying not to disrupt anything just in case, while taking a quick peek at a book entitled “How to Be a Wicked Witch”. By its side, a potion tray promises sleeping draught, invisibility and insanity amongst other terrible fates. I decide that it’s safer not to give in to curiosity. So, I don’t touch anything. Nevertheless, what would happen if I…? Would I disappear, sleepless and insane forever? Or would the drawing on the wall save me from a cruel destiny of eternal condemnation?

I sit down and… oh! This would be an entirely different story. The sofa and the chairs have adult animations. Erotica could be an option for a story too.

As I teleport away from Collins Land, my mind frantic with stories, I cannot help but feel that there was still so much more to share. So, I strongly encourage you to visit this wonderful place and draw inspiration from it. It’s a rich location with an ample range of story possibilities that will increase your archive of information for both ongoing and future writings.

Two brief suggestions before I wrap up. Touch everything; there are animations in the most unexpected places. Also, try changing the sun position; how different things look!

Now, it’s time to go. I recall the words from that delightful book at the main house with a smile, “I could barely take a breath.”

And these would be the first words of my story about a fishing boat mysteriously abandoned, a missing crew, a boathouse owned by a painter, a home of a family of four and a lover’s hideaway in the forest.

But, Lizzie, you never mentioned any hideaway, I can hear you say. Well, that’s for you to find while you roam around, because… there’s a story waiting to happen at Collins Land.



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