XR Writing Tutorial
Created by Magdalena Somerset aka "Maggie Locke" on Mon Jun 10th, 2013 @ 2:08pm
OOC activity has dropped off lately and yet my hot little ears are abuzz that many people are asking around for ideas about how to get their characters going and how to figure out what their powers are. Never you fear, comic bunnies! For XR: OOC (also known as the ReAwakening Chat room) is here to help. For one – why ask one person when you can ask the whole frickin' sim for help? We're ALL here to help each other and we're all warm and fuz-z-z-y types (don't mind the lint). Trust me, we don't bite unless you give us good damned reason or you ask us very, very nicely. Now, here's the scoop, so pay attention. There will be a quiz later.
XR is difficult for the new writer to grasp in the beginning because hell, most people who join the group say "Hey, an X-men group! I can put on a spandex costume and wave my willy in public for the betterment of mankind!!!" (okay, so maybe not all of you said that – AHEM) You're immediately tossed into this weird-assed situation where you have no powers at all and little support from the hubba-hubba Headmistress (input shameless sucking-up plug here). You stand there scratching your head. When you ask the hubba-hubba Headmistress for help (c.f. shameless sucking-up plug) she is even more evasive and vague. ARGH!!! WTF? What are you supposed to frickin' DO?!?
Been there... done that... painted the #@$#%#$^% t-shirt.
Here's what you do.
First, you get it clear in your head just what kind of sim you're writing in. If you've ever read a good X-men comic then you know that what makes X-men so good is that it is a story about people. X-men have lives and problems of their own in addition to their costumed identities. These poor schmoes are sacrificing a lot in the name of their beliefs and that makes for juicy reading for us sadistic and voyeuristic readers. Because of this X-men ReAwakening is less about powers and more about your characters. We are writing the journey of discovery of a bunch of normal people who find themselves suddenly cut off from the world they know. They are trying to figure out whom and what they've become, gain control over their abilities, and rebuild their lives – all the while fighting assholes that are out to make life miserable for everyone. A tall bill to order? You bet. Seemingly insurmountable? Yep, why else would our characters be called "super heroes"? A hell of a lot of fun? YEAH! A word of caution and I cannot stress this enough. If you don't like writing the daily lives of your heroes, if you prefer to skip over "superfluous interpersonal bullshit" and get to the head-smashing? You are in the wrong place.
Since this is a story about real people with real lives, X-goddess the Headmistress (input shameless plug here) requires that every new writer present a character with a rich, interesting background. This is vital to your sanity and your character's lasting power – make a story you relate to and enjoy writing! Your job at first is to delve into your character's normal, mundane life. What is your character's job? Does he have a job or a career? Does he have a love interest? Who are his family? How well does he get along with them? Who are his friends and enemies? What are his dreams and aspirations? How does he feel about the Mutant Debate? The more detail you go into, the better off you'll be. Make your character come alive. You write your story as if that was all you were ever doing and nothing would change. Completely forget about powers. When Gorgeous Gams of Geniality the Headmistress (c.f. shameless sucking-up plug) is ready, she will contact you and give you hints about how your mutant powers begin to manifest. That is when the fun begins!
After the Headmistress gives you hints about your powers, you write how those powers come into your character's life. How does he react to what happens? What does he do about it? This "Holy shit!" stage of the character's life can be the most fun you'll ever have so milk it for everything you can. Now, this next step is where most writers get stuck. The Headmistress will only give you hints when you write your character into situations where the mutant power might come into play.
Okay, let's say the first thing that happens is your character sprouts tiny feathers in his hair. Okay, feathers = birds and what do birds do? Well, they shit on statues but who wants to write "Target Shitting" on his superhero resume? Birds fly, okay, so now you write your character into a position where he might have to use flight. You, the writer, come up with something: have your character fall off a roof or he goes skydiving and his chute fails to open – whatever you can dream up. You can also go another route and put your character into a position where his new power might help him in an emergency: there is a burning building with a little old lady trapped on a balcony. If only you could fly! Hey, wait...
See? It's that simple. If your "guess" about the power is accurate then the ungodly georgios Headmistress (c.f. shameless sucking-up plug) contacts you with the next step in the Awakening of your power. If you're off-the-mark then don't worry about it – if you can't fly when your parachute fails to open, it is a sure bet that your real power will come out REALLY quick. Fear of dying is an excellent impetus for evolution. Either way it happens, you enter a little dance with the scrumptious Headmistress (c.f. shameless sucking-up plug) whereby she feeds you clues and you write your character into situations to make more happen. This goes back and forth until your character's powers fully Awaken. How will you know when your power fully Awakens? Beyond being suitably spectacular, it usually involves massive real estate damage and a visit from the uber-sexy Headmistress' in-story alter-ego, Cameo Somerset or one of the other player characters (c.f. shameless sucking-up plug). Cameo usually offers the hard sell of a lifetime: a free education in luxury in exchange for your character becoming a hated outcast from society. Free food? I'm so there! Go to the school and you're ready for the next step.
The game of dishing out clues and your making "guesses" in your writing does not stop, ever. The objectives get more focused and the information more specific. Once you are at Academy-X you have two objectives. One: write how these changes affect your character's life. What about his family, his friends, his job? How does he react to becoming a mutant? You deal with the important personal issues while moving on to testing. At this stage your character has full access to testing facilities and instructors who are experts in mutant physiology and psychology. [You have access to the D-room (short for "Dimension Room" but it is more popularly known as the "Danger Room"), a place where you can push your powers without killing anybody or doing massive property damage.] Instead of setting up accidents, you write your character exercising and testing his abilities. O Mighty Headmistress(c.f. shameless sucking-up plug) then answers with a post giving you the results of your testing. You keep at this training; it never ends even after you know everything about your power. Training becomes a major crux of the new social life you build with your fellow mutants. [Get used to the D-room; your character will see a lot of it.]
Many writers become confused because they expect the Heavenly Headmistress (c.f. shameless sucking-up plug) to spoon feed information about powers. She won't, so forget it. You get information when you take her clues and write your character into situations where more information about your power can surface. This is a sim about self-discovery. How can you journey to discover if everything is handed to you? Have fun dreaming up crazy situations or training scenarios. Get bold and creative. After you meet your fellow students, get together with them and come up with training sessions [in the D-room.] The idea is to mingle with your fellow students and compare notes. Do it all in-character, too. This is the one place where you can "chat" about your powers through your characters.
Let's go back to our fine feathered friend from my earlier example. He discovered that he had tiny feathers growing in his hair. He decided to hide it because he was afraid doctors would dissect him in the name of science. He worries about it in silence, not telling his sweet old Aunt Betsy when she asks him about it. He is training to become a pilot and – omigosh – he's late for class! He dashes over to the airport, heedless at the ominous clouds on the horizon. He goes up in the plane with his instructor ready to forget his cares for the afternoon. Suddenly, the instructor keels over with a heart attack! Your character tries to take the wheel but it is too late. Even if he knew how to pull the plane out of the dive, it is too low to the ground to succeed. You have only one chance, so you grab the instructor and bail out of the plane. You pull the ripcord and the chute deploys. Something is wrong though – you're still falling too fast. It must be the weight of two people on the chute! You pull the now unconscious instructor's ripcord and his chute tangles in yours, causing you both to fall like stones. You don't want to die! You cover your face and prepare for the final "splat" when you stop abruptly. You open your eyes and find yourself surrounded by some kind of light. You gasp and the light fades. You fall again – AHH!!! Splash! You were only ten feet over a retention pond. Boy, you were lucky to get down in one piece! It was a good thing that freak wind blew your parachute. Yeah, right, a freak wind. That's the ticket.
In that example above, this is how it would happen in XR. All-knowing Headmistress (c.f. shameless sucking-up plug) tells you about the feathers and you suspect the power is flight. You write a post setting up the flight school and the plane going down. You close your post at that "what now" moment and poke the Omnipotent Headmistress about what power could manifest. She tells you a few more clues. She says your character stops ten feet over a retention pond. He sees a glowing blue light surrounding him and he can carry his unconscious instructor as if he weighed next to nothing. A-ha! You didn't grow wings like you expected but you were right about flight. There is a new clue, too – you're stronger than you were before. How to figure out how strong you are? That is your next challenge, faithful believer – get to writing!
Let's say you set your character up to lift a car off of your best friend when it falls off the jack. Awesome Headmistress reads this and she knows your character is not strong enough to lift a car. She opts to have Cameo Somerset pop in, lift the car with shadows, and introduce you to Academy-X. Welcome aboard, noob. You made it to the school and now you can write your character lifting weights to find out exactly how strong he is. You can do flight simulations [in the D-room] to find out how to control your flight power and find out how fast you are. Your feathers grow into a full fledged mane and tufts grow off the tips of your elbows. Illustrious Headmistress (c.f. shameless sucking-up plug) tells you that you get pissed and yell during a test. You're stunned when a sonic blast trashes the [D-]room – whoa, new power! Now you write your character doing more sound tests to figure out just how powerful this sonic scream is. You guess that you might be able to do other things with it so you write your character learning to do impressions and sing. Your fellow students think you are awesome so you start a band, "Firefly." Your story continues.
Here are some smaller tips:
Don't be afraid to do daring things! Not everyone gets along. Clashing beliefs and personalities make for fascinating reading. One of the best characters I've seen in this sim was a womanizing hothead who shot off his mouth about everything. He was sure to keep everyone stirred up but he had great potential for growth and development. Remember, our favorite clawed maniac from Canada is no charmer in conversation. Just make sure to keep your conflicts to a dull roar. If characters get so nasty that they can't be in the same room, then how can they help each other in a fight? Keep in mind that we're a team. Clash, yes, but don't go overboard.
Loners tend to be sexy and angsty. They are attractive but dang, why won't anyone write with you? Because you're a LONER! XR is a group sim in a social environment. If you want to write loners then give them reason to want to hang out with this particular group. If you have a loner and he stays to himself, the other writers will have a difficult time working with you. You'll also make it difficult for the Happy Headmistress (c.f. shameless sucking-up plug) to offer you juicy story ideas. When in a group sim, work with the group or else be happy with isolation.
I have seen writers fall on their faces when they make people who are "too normal." XR is about ordinary people who rise up and do extraordinary things. Your character is exceptional even if he doesn't look like it at first. If you make a character that won't stand up to danger, who won't take action when he has the power to make a difference, then you're crippled. Your character will basically learn about his powers and go back to a relatively normal life.
Make your character's personal life rich in details. The worst thing you can do is limit him to the academy with nothing else to do. Your character's life doesn't end just because he is a mutant. Even if he loses his job, he can get another one once his power is stabilized. Keep up with friends and family. The love life is the great staple of any serial drama. Create background characters who can present interesting challenges after your Awakening. Maybe grandma passes out anti-mutant flyers at church? Maybe your boyfriend is a doctor working at a secret government lab? You will be falling back on your character's personal life when you have breaks in the action, so make sure you make something interesting and fun for you.
That's it, I hope this helps. The biggest misconception in XR is expecting the Headmistress of Love (c.f. shameless sucking-up plug) to tell you everything. She won't, not even out of character. Her place in the sim is to give out clues, oversee stories, and mediate disputes. If you go to her, she is going to think you have a dispute and seek to adjudicate. Let me make this perfectly clear (Sorry, I had a Nixon moment): You do the bulk of the writing. You do the exploring. You write how it affects your character's life. If you want ideas? Don't go to the Headmistress, come to us! XR - OOC and chat exists as a writer forum. Here you can say "I don't know what to do, help!" and we'll jump in with ideas and suggestions. Hell, you might be able to help somebody else who is stuck like you. Don't hesitate to ask questions here, this is your club too. That said, I'll wrap up and see you next time.
XR- OOC Moderator
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