Thursday, March 29, 2012

Collaborative Writing Part 2: letter games

All while writing my post last week about collaborative writing in the form of real-time collaborative writing, I was thinking about my original collaborative writing project: letter games.

It all started when I came across a book by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. 

The authors wrote the book entirely by sending letters to each other from the point of view of their characters. The picked a setting ahead of time… and then were not allowed to discuss plot at all, just let it develop naturally. And yes, it has to be real letters. Or else it's not quite so fun to get the story in the mail.

The idea of not knowing where my plot is going today makes me want to hide under the kitchen table with a mug of hot cocoa and a flamethrower to use on anyone who tries to take my outlining away. But five years ago, when I was young and carefree, it seemed like a bold adventure.  So I roped in my good friend and fellow writer Teri, and we got to work.

Teri and I ended up working on two letter games. The second never quite finished, which is entirely my fault, unfortunately. But it was amazing to watch how these letters and the plots involved.

Even then, I tried to plan and steer the plot certain ways. But Teri, living thousands of miles away in North Queensland, Australia, often failed to heed my attempted psychic transmissions on how to shape the story. She'd end up taking the plot somewhere fantastic but entirely different. And thus I was forced to abandon my supposedly brilliant plan and come up with something else - which invariably turned out to be better than my original idea.

I love the places you can go from writing a generic letter from an interesting character. And thus, a headstrong businesswoman in future LA and a colleague in Australia turned into an international conspiracy of government magicians, mysterious pendants, and an epic showdown in a South American jungle. AND, I got one of my first published stories out of Sasha, my character (in combination with a Hatrack Contest). The story, called "Tacos of the Apocalypse" was published at the (appropriately titled)

For the second game, a young woman in a convent and her roving warrior lover turned into the ultimate battle of good and evil featuring elves, dragons, and a game with the devil itself. That's the one we didn’t finish, even though I came up with the Best Ending Ever for the game Sage plays with the devil).

I do miss the letter games, particularly Sasha. Sasha was hilarious, and a very easy voice to slip into. I suppose she's a little bit of a clich├ęd character too – her hardass quality is rather overdone. But maybe I need to worry less about characters being a teeny bit of a caricature, because a strong voice is more important? What do you guys think of that?

And despite silly statements about me and flamethrowers, I do miss letter games. Maybe I should go write that last letter in the second game now. We'll see if Teri forgives me for the three year break.


  1. Awesome idea, Sabrina. I bet that's a blast.

    What I like best about it, is that you wouldn't be able to go back and change the choices you made, or over-analyze and over-edit. Plus you would have two distinct character voices, which is tricky sometimes, at least for me.

    If any proser, or Proser wants to play a writing game with me, give me an email. It would be cool to collaborate on a story for Nanowrimo.

    Although I can see how that would be fraught with problems...

    Still, I'd be up for it.

  2. Sabrina, it sounds like you have too much fun. :)

    Sheena, if only there were more hours in the day, I'd play. Although I'm a bit of a control freak, need-an-outline or at-least-a-general-idea-where-the-story-is-going type of writer. So I'm not sure how good I'd be at collaborating.

  3. That is such a fun idea, I'm completely giddy at the thought of trying something like that.
    Sheena, if you're still interested...!
    Sabrina, you have the coolest ideas. Thanks!

  4. I'd be up for another letter game too. :) I don't know if a three way letter game would be at all feasible... but if anyone else is interested, let me know too. Or if anyone wants to play more than one letter game... if they have time...
    (Plus, I'd be so honored to have a chance to write with Melanie OR Sheena.) :D

  5. I'll catch up with both of you on facebook.

  6. Dear World...this post lead to

    Alchemy launches October 11.

  7. Dear World...this post lead to

    Alchemy launches October 11.


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