Of Stories, Writers and a Virtual World

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes —

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Milk Wood, the Virtual Writers sim in SL

It’s raining. After a few months of wintry landscapes, Second Life’s snow is slowly melting away. There’s an unspoken urge amongst the residents for warm weather and sunnier days. You can sense that, here and there.

Role-playing the approach of spring and falling in to that same urge, I found myself deleting the snow emitters at my place and reducing the areas covered by mounds of white, feeling surprisingly content in doing so.

Some places are gearing up for St. Valentine’s. Snow will soon be replaced by little red hearts and the whiteness by an overload of pink.

Virtual reality (and I speak of Second Life, in this case, considering it’s the one I know the best and navigate in) offers a writer the inestimable power of reaching farther, of immersing oneself in a world of order and in a tempting world of disorder.

This parallel universe hosting extraordinary and often unexpected traits of such familiar, comforting evocations is a source of invaluable material since this familiarity is something you can fully enjoy. As every writer knows, stimuli such as landscape, ambiance, sound, are fundamental to the labor of writing an enticing story. Virtual worlds give us the possibility of drawing words, ideas, sentences, hesitations and a whole lot of determination from sims of all flavors.

Within virtual reality, writers are also given the possibility of being selective, a much appreciated option, considering that every writer is a victim of merciless deadlines.

Recently, I found myself struggling with an extremely demanding deadline, the NaNoWriMo. Almost unexpectedly (and I say almost, because in reality I had been toying with the idea of undergoing that torture… I mean, experience, for quite some time), I trapped myself in this compromise that would last a month. And I am stubborn enough to know that I would complete this challenge even if it were the last thing I did… in writing!

All writers have lives, of course, and although mine is fortunately fairly placid and uneventful, coming up with almost 3000 words a day is a bit of a stretch for anyone, even for those who, as is my case, do have a slightly longer amount of time to write than the regular working (wo)man. So, I plunged into it, head first, as befits a true adventurer, and I geared up my arsenal, I mean writing tools, a few notes here and there (yes, in hindsight I should have prepared things in a slightly more detailed fashion!), a word processor and my favorite spot.

I never really debated whether my share of daily writing should take place exclusively within a word processor or immersed in my Second Life home, surrounded by books and cats and odd bits and pieces with a view to the cherry tree that stands guard to my greenhouse and my swimming pool overshadowed by a few temperamental palm trees that argue constantly with two circling seagulls about things we shall not discuss here for the sake of good taste. The playful weasels laugh at these arguments and tease the butterflies, trying to catch them, and a story starts brewing in my mind, a story about weasels and palm trees and seagulls and a greenhouse where something will happen that…

Oh, wait a second! That’s not the point! The point is that I would park Lizzie, the avatar, in front of her typewriter with a brewing, beautifully flavored cup of coffee right next to her and have the word processor opened in a separate window, resized, so I could have the best of those two worlds. I was certain of it. And that seemed like the right thing to do. Why? I don’t know. I do have a pretty nice desk in Real Life. Nevertheless, it just did seem right and that’s where Lizzie sat to write.

Sometimes though, I needed a change of scenery. The book I wrote was a thriller with a bit of suspense and mystery, plus a crime obviously (private joke to my regular readers; I do tend to kill a few, cough… a lot of the characters). You cannot feel the pulse to a darker frame of mind if you’re sitting in your favorite spot, now, can you?

And that’s why writers are hoarders and never throw anything away! So, I resorted to my folder containing an array of locations in Second Life that I visited and enjoyed in the past. I fished one out that seemed appropriate, I teleported to that sim and voilá, a whole new world, a whole new set of ideas, a whole new range of vocabulary that I could juggle and play with.

Every now and then (or more often, when I chose to), I stumbled upon other tortured souls… I mean writers, doing the NaNoWriMo or any other writing challenge. I sat down, I shared ideas, and we encouraged one another. Suddenly, writing a book, what seemed like a decision taken in a moment of utter lunacy, becomes a possibility, a reality even.

The NaNoWriMo is long over and new challenges have already emerged, challenges I’ll embrace with the same sense of (in)sanity as I did the NaNoWriMo. However, this time, I have a renewed certainty that I will write more and hopefully better, drawing from the richness that a virtual world offers, both in spaces and in people.

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3 Responses to “Of Stories, Writers and a Virtual World”

  1. Vanessa Anne Blaylock
    2014/01/13 at 23:37 #

    Congratulations on the NaNoWriMo Lizzie! Do you know what you’ll do with this manuscript now? Publish? Online syndicate?

    That’s so interesting that you went to different virtual places to facilitate your writing. As you know, many authors do crazy amounts of research for a book (I’m sure some don’t, but many do) including living in the place they write about, eating all the food, etc, etc.

    Just as research today doesn’t necessarily mean a physical trip to the library, so “site research” doesn’t necessarily mean leaving your RL house! 😀

    I also think the flash-writing you’ve done in the past is really interesting. I like the idea of being inspired by a place and BOOM, a story is born. Once the LEA sims get rolling again, it’d be interesting to take the 20 LEA-AIR sims and do a flash-writing piece at each of them (or a subset)

  2. Vanessa Blaylock
    2014/01/14 at 15:47 #

    PS: I apologize for being so MIA during your wonderful “It Took a While” series. I was deep in multi-MOOC space. I’ve just gone back and updated your “Story Sidebar” adding the chapters of “It Took a While” to it and then applying it to all of your content. Hope you like it! 🙂

    • lizziegudkov
      2014/01/17 at 12:57 #

      No worries, Van! Thanks for your comments and for the “Story Sidebar” update. 😀 Will keep the LEA suggestion in mind.