Thursday, October 18, 2018

Writing in a Virtual World,Tips and Tricks!

Milk Wood

NaNoWriMo Trepidation

November is right around the corner and an increasing trepidation amongst WriMos is quite palpable. We now have less than a month to prepare for the writing marathon.

50.000 words, 1600 words a day (I suggest you aim higher, 2000 would be good, 2500 would be better), seems to be a daunting effort, and it sure is.

However, there are ways to minimize the stress! One of those ways is to make use of the resources virtual reality offers. I will refer myself to one virtual world in particular, Second Life® (SL).

A disclaimer, before I continue. I'm, in no way, affiliated with Linden Lab, the company that owns SL, nor have I been asked or paid to promote it. The only reason why I use SL as an example is because I have been a resident there since 2007 and I know it well.

Finding what we need

Visit a location with high traffic. The more traffic one sim has, the most interesting it must be. Well, no, not necessarily. There are many reasons for people to park their main and their secondary avatars at a sim. Long story! So, be cautious about this option.

Check SL blogs. This is interesting, because all travel blogs post pictures. Many of those pictures are heavily edited, true, but still. You can get an idea of what the place looks like.

Read Profiles. People's profiles are a great source of information. Usually, residents place their favorite locations in the Picks section of their Profiles. It always involves a bit of leg-work to find the sim that fits your needs, but it can be done, especially if checking Profiles becomes something you do on a regular basis. You just might stumble onto something useful. Keep the SLurls handy, and add a short annotation to it after visiting the place.

Look for Roleplay (RP) sims. This is my favorite option.

Second Life's DestinationGuide is a good place to start. It has a specific section for RP sims – Vampire, Steampunk, Fantasy, Historical, Pirates, Sci-Fi, Urban Noir.

Many sims are not interesting as writing resources/writing prompts. The About Land snapshot looks promising, but when you teleport there, everything looks bad. The textures are wrong, the buildings are boxy and not well built, the landscaping is chaotic, there's no terraforming whatsoever, everything is very flat and boring.

On the other hand, most RP regions I have visited are very well built. Their owners pride themselves in creating an impeccable landscape, realistic buildings and the proper ambiance to fit the type of RP.

This suggestion may be tricky though. I have heard several SL writers say that they don't feel welcomed at RP sims and that they have had really bad experiences. RPers get nervous when a new face shows up, especially when the visitor is not RP'ing. They are wary of griefers. And they simply don't enjoy seeing people they don't know walking all over the place, and interrupting their immersive RP. Everyone can relate to that. We always get a bit suspicious when a stranger appears in our neighborhood, don't we?

What can we do to make our presence accepted and even welcomed at RP sims?

Ground Rules

I have never had any problems at RP sims. I always felt welcomed, and was never ejected or banned. I don't know why, but I do have a few ground rules each time I visit an RP region.

Before the visit:
  1. I make writing-related Groups and Picks visible in my profile. Some of us hide a few groups, or even all, for many different reasons. However, it's important that anyone who checks your profile understands that your goal is to write. Picks are also a quick way to send the same message.
  2. I always respect the dress code. If I know the sim will be a Medieval sim, I try to dress in a Medieval way.
  3. I wear the tag of a writing group. One of the first things RPers see when you enter the sim (and they will zoom in on you and check, believe me!) is your name plus the tag you're wearing. Writing is something RPers can relate to. Creating characters and stories is something familiar.
  4. I wear a “Visitor” floating text. On top of the writing group tag, I wear an invisible prim with a floating text that says “Visitor”. This will send out a clear message. You are not there to cause any trouble. I'm a Visitor who wants to write.

Upon arrival:
  1. I react slowly. Nope, I'm not crazy! I have a pretty good computer. Rezzing is fast. As a result, I can start walking about fairly quickly. But I don't. I step away from the LP (Landing Point) and wait. This will give the residents of the sim (owners, moderators, anyone in charge, …) time to check my profile. That's when they'll see the writing groups and the writing picks.
  2. In the meantime, I check if there are any sim rules. A notecard (NC) is often dropped automatically in your inventory. Other times, there's an object with a floating text saying “click for sim rules” or something similar. I always make it a point of reading the NC thoroughly. Sometimes, these NCs are quite long. But I read them anyway because they mention important things like the dress code, if there's an OCC (Out of Character) tag provided by the sim (in this case, I remove my “Visitor” tag and wear the sim one), if visitors must remove weapons (usually scripted ones; mine are not scripted, but I remove them anyway if necessary).
  3. RP sims often have an avatar monitoring arrivals. If I am asked to leave, I do it. No argument. No hassle. I never forget that I am a visitor. It's not my sim!

During the visit:
  1. I walk the line. This means something obvious. I use the pathways, the roads, the streets, and never enter private property. Anything with a closed door... I don't go inside. I don't even click the door to open it.
  2. I don't talk to RPers unless I am talked to. This was an advice a longtime RPer gave me many years ago. And it makes perfect sense. In Real Life (RL), you don't talk to everyone you come across in the street if you don't know them. If someone greets me, I greet them back and move on (to let them continue their RP).
  3. If someone IMs me and asks me “what do you want?” (sometimes the first approach can be a bit testy), I don't take it personally. I calmly and briefly explain the reason for my visit. Usually, the reaction is then positive, sometimes even volunteering help in case I have any questions.
  4. If someone invites me for a beer, I accept it! RPers are proud of their sims. They are also eager to share them with anyone who appreciates their work. I once had a very surreal but extremely interesting chat with a horse (!!) who invited me to have a beer and a bit of a chat. Then the said horse volunteered to give me a tour of the sim, which led me to visit places that could only be accessed by a restricted list of people in the RP.

After the visit:
  1. I send an NC or an IM to the owner of the sim. I thank him/her for having such an inspiring sim open to the SL community. If I have talked to anyone in the sim, I mention the fact that I was welcomed and that everyone was very friendly. Most of the time, the reply says “do come back anytime”.
  2. Finally, if I write a story using the sim I visited as an inspiration, I send the owners a link, if the story is posted in my blog.

Virtual Reality in general and RP sims in particular are important resources for writers. They are packed with ideas for us to use – ambiances, sounds, names, etc. And they provide something absolutely fundamental, which is immersiveness. You can look everything up online, true. Yet, nothing beats walking through a snowstorm in a virtual world to understand what it feels like, especially if, like me, you live in a sunny land with no snowstorms.

Happy writing and good luck for NaNoWriMo!


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