Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Story Waiting to Happen


... at Roche (click for full text).

This post is part of a series of monthly articles for the Virtual Writers Inc. website about sims in Second Life that could be the source of inspiration for writers. My goal is to trigger ideas for new stories, new characters and new settings. Enjoy!

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. 



If there’s one thing we can trust about Second Life is the fact that it is constantly changing.

Many locations we have grown to enjoy and even love have disappeared. As a result, I have deliberately tried to avoid sims that are fairly new in Second Life exactly because I realize that, as I write this column, that sim could simply vanish. Fortunately, there are still a few old-timers that can be visited.

One of them is called Roche. Owned by ddsm2 Mathy, this sim was created many years ago and it has been featured in a countless number of blogs, i.e. of virtual photography and fashion.

And, as happens at sims created with passion by someone with a sharp eye for detail, Roche’s blunt simplicity and open spaced areas offer us very interesting writing possibilities. Without any further ado, let us explore around and find whichever stories this place has in store for us today.

As we arrive, a sign confirms we are at Roche and announces in a rather rusty and cryptic way that we should head east in case we wish to go towards “yesterday”. Finding that rather enigmatic for the beginning of our story, I decide to take you into the present instead, so in the complete opposite direction. Let’s go to the train station. Perhaps we will need to go to “yesterday” later in the story. We’ll see.

It is very clear that in this village live hard working people. The station is alive. Cable reels, barrels, fuel tanks, a few wooden crates, a water tank and a tractor.

On our way towards the entrance, we see flattened cardboard boxes leaning against the wall. A few rice bags are piled on top of each other while three cement bags keep company to two milk cans.

Oh, wait! A hand-truck packed with a number of wooden boxes presents our first interesting clue; one of the boxes says “danger, blasting caps”. Questions start brewing!

It’s 9:40. A train should arrive within the next few minutes. It is then that I notice a warning scribbled on a blackboard hanging to the left of the entrance, right next to the mailbox. Apparently all trains have been cancelled due to some eminent maritime catastrophe.

I wonder if that is the reason why the tickets’ booth seems to have been abandoned in a hurry. Several tickets have been forgotten on the desk and some sort of register book is still open. There’s a radio as well. When I turn it on… Morse code?! Then I hear a few voices speaking in a language I don’t understand. The message is playing on a loop. Odd. I walk inside and notice someone has forgotten a bag. I decide to leave it untouched.

Many details are recorded here as possibilities, as bits and pieces of stories, of settings, of characters. Some will be part of our plots, others will be discarded. So, don’t feel somewhat overwhelmed by this jumble of information. The process of gathering ideas by noticing details in a sim is a lot like sitting in front of a blank page and jotting down random ideas while brainstorming the next story we will write.

Back outside, I spot a makeshift garage. Perhaps there is not much movement and the trainmaster doubles as a mechanic. Someone, whoever it is, does have a cool bike parked next to the gas pump!

I’m suddenly hungry. A stand is selling hotdogs, apparently oblivious to the doomed fate awaiting us all. The vendor smiles; he is used to the promise of tragic events. He believes that a terrible incident of catastrophic proportions could simply be a synonym for someone wishing to take the day-off to spend it with some nice lady somewhere. And he winks, knowingly.

Slightly relieved, I must admit, I try to find out more about the mysterious character(s) of our story waiting to happen. I decide to try the Misaki’s Bakery. The scent of freshly baked bread is irresistible and the coffee, just brewed, is the perfect combination.

I can’t help but noticing that upon opening the door, a bell rings, like in the old days. This is a place created with love. Small details are so important.

While I wait for my coffee and bread, I see a newspaper lying on the counter, the “Second Times”; it states that “speech impediments are the next hottest trend”, according to an expert. Taken aback by this piece of news, I decide that even this detail could be transformed into something useful for the story. One of our characters, perhaps the mechanic/trainmaster will have a lisp.

The owner of the bakery is quite the talkative fellow and I find out that, in fact, the trainmaster and the mechanic are brothers! Their love of anything motorized, including trains, bikes and tractors, had brought them to this remote place more than two decades ago. They had decided to stay after becoming helplessly infatuated by Millie (you’ll decide if this is the right name for your female character when you start writing the story!).

“Millie owns a small farm up the hill, you see,” says the bakery owner. She’s a hard working woman in her mid-thirties. She grows some wheat and raises a few animals as well. The three have become quite inseparable in the past few years, spending hours upon hours by themselves at Millie’s talking the night away.

I suggest that they are friends and friends do enjoy one another’s company. However, that seems not to be the case. A water pump at the back of the farm house had been boarded up and covered with a few rocks. Whenever someone approaches the place, either Millie or one of the men, if Millie is in town visiting relatives, scares unwary visitors away aggressively.

“Whichever the secret the three have, no one else around here knows about it. When asked about that water pump, the three exchange guilty looks amongst themselves and walk away in complete silence to which they would stick for weeks, if not even months,” says the bakery owner.

Curious about this story, I go up to the farm while the place is empty. If there is indeed a secret hidden here, the way it is secured seems quite fragile to me. A few planks and two rocks, two! That is it. Strange.

As I stand at Millie’s farm, overlooking the lake, an eerie feeling invades me. The small fishing shed is empty, a lonely fishing net flowing in the wind. An old row boat sits motionless on the waterbed, strangely motionless. It doesn’t seem to wait for its next fishing trip. It seems… to mark a spot.

A herd of sheep graze peacefully across the lake. A few people sit at the Café and Gallery. The birds chirp merrily. Two ducks swim around, content with how simple life is.

Yet, why do I have the feeling that something terrible has happened? Something only three people know of. Something they have sworn never to tell. Unless…

And this is where I leave you, dear fellow writers. I hand you this mystery, because… there’s a story waiting to happen at Roche.



A Story Waiting to Happen is a series of monthly articles about sims in the virtual world of Second Life®. The goal is to trigger ideas for new stories, new characters and new settings. If you write a story prompted by the following post, do consider leaving it in the comments or a link to it. Thank you.


Disclaimer: Virtual Writers Inc. and I are in no way affiliated with any shop located in the sims featured in this column nor do we intend to promote them.

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