Co-Author vs Role Playing (An Observance on the Subject)

Co-author or a role play partner? What's the difference?

Over the... goodness... 10 years of writing and role playing online with others, I've noticed that not many people fully understand the difference between the two. I've written stories with authors who take their stories more like a role play, I've also written role plays that feel more like stories. There are also was a very rare time I wrote a story with a friend where it was meant to be one continual story (ie without specific chapters of swapping, just our writing merging into one piece of work). So, what is the difference between these bodies of work?

I've done research on the subject in the past and even through my own experiences found some interesting things. On the thought about one continual work... in a way this is how most movies, TV shows, and graphic novels get written. When you read in the credits that a script was created by more than one person that means they worked together to create one piece. Some parts of the script may ultimately be from one individual, but media like movies and TV shows are always a group effort. You have the vision of the directors, writers, producers, and actors all working together to bring out the product. The great thing is that it works! Team work makes the dream work after all.

Same thing happens when you have a comic book with the writer and illustrator. I remember going to a convention panel earlier this year where a graphic novel writer told about his experiences with creating his comics. He said that finding an artist is like dating. You have to have the right chemistry and work well together in order to create a work that both individuals are happy with. You can't have a writer who wants to create a story about zombies and then an artist who can't draw that. That's part of the fun of creating picture books and comic books, you've got to pair the right people together.

Fiction, I've come to find out, is a little different. When writing a fictional story that is meant to just be a novel or read online, you don't normally see two authors creating one work together like a media or comic does. Normally, what you will see is a book authored by two individuals and inside that book the authors swap every other chapter. Sometimes there are two completely different stories going on, other times it's the same story just from two different points of view. Role playing is similar where on a forum or Google Docs you'll have individuals writing back and forth as their character or characters (if doubling). I've found that both types can get very detailed and could get very long. There's role plays out there I've seen on line that the writer can easily write a full chapter's worth of information in their post. The problem of this, unlike co-authorship in novel writing, is that then the fellow writer or writers will then have to match this with their own character's information.

I've personally enjoyed sticking with small "semi-lit" role plays where really all you need is a few paragraphs of information. It may be short, but then it's easier to "match" your other writers. Also far less reading you have to catch up on. This is a fun type of writing because it gets interaction going and conversations between two writers and their characters... however this is where the story and world can go thin. Why? Because of the unspoken rule of role playing: <b>Don't mess with my character</b>.

People can get mad if you disregard what they wrote in their posts. For example if you wrote that your villain character tied up the hero character but then the hero character responds with them breaking free, this can cause some friction. Or then there's the ever popular moving the other character around the scene to fit the next point the writer wants. I've seen interactions of people apologizing back and forth to each other or flat out arguing about what is going on with the story since there are two different visions going on. I remember too getting annoyed when other rp partners would do this but normally I would just go with it to keep the story moving. Ultimately, the characters created for a role play are a bit like puppets to move around, or maybe more like actors waiting for their next line.

Now don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with this kind of writing. I still love to role play online since it really just as a hobby and I have ideas that I want out of my head. It's just a different kind of writing. It can be a complicated writing process especially when you have two or more different visions going on at the same time. Though when done right, and "plotted" well, there can be some great stories that come from role plays.

Co-authorship I've found to be far different. In a co-authored novel or story, the writers work together a lot like in media or comic making to really plot out the story or world to make it unified. The main thing I've noticed is that the co-authorship story means that both authors have free range to every single character and every single event in the world. In the co-author's story, there isn't a stop and wait for a response, both authors have control of both main characters so the story still continues. This gets fun when you have large casts of characters and all of them are working together or when you are just flipping between two characters point of view.

I've only read a small handful of published novels written by co-authors and the main one I think of is a bit of a poor example of this writing. Granted, I could just not like the story, but I could really tell when another author was writing between the chapters. There wasn't a true "unified voice". If I took time to study it maybe I could explain why... if it was just grammatical differences or just how each author describes the internal thoughts of characters, but for some reason I just didn't enjoy the book as much. It's still sitting on my shelf unfinished. The co-author stories I've written with my favorite writing buddy always felt that they were on the same wave length (at least same reading level). She always wrote great love stories and relationships... I always wrote the weird stuff or brought out the drama to keep plot moving. I've always felt it was a good mix and some of our stories have been extremely successful due to our working together.

Over all, there's not really a wrong way to write with others. The traditional ways would obviously be the media, comic, or novel co-writing, but even experimental role playing or online writing can also be successful. I personally believe that no matter what kind of writing one creates with others (especially online), they really should talk about what is the type story they are creating. Is this something where you just don't touch my character and I don't touch yours? Or is this an immersive world where all characters are working together? By establishing this it will make plotting and planning a whole lot better. In a way that's kind of why I like Mibba, it gave me an opportunity in the past when I was a whole lot more active to really establish that this was more of a co-author platform rather than a strict role playing platform like forum websites.

I hope in a way that my rambling and thoughts about the subject have helped someone a little bit upon the subject of co-author vs role playing stories. Writing is very fun to do with others so I hope you too find a great co-author or fellow role player who will be a perfect creative match for you!
May 14th, 2018 at 02:06am