Playing nice with others

Because of my autism, I don’t always play nice with others, I have to admit. I won’t play unless I understand and accept the rules as fair. I will only play by the rules (so if the rules change, I have to be OK with that up front) and I will call anyone not playing by the rules on it every time. I’m hardwired to be a spoilsport–and it doesn’t matter if I’m “winning” or “losing”. Rules are rules and are there to make the playing field more level and keep the game honest.

The writing world is usually a solo game. It’s my world, my story, my characters, my rules. I don’t have to think anything about anyone else wanting to play, because there won’t be anyone else who does. Period. No discussion. So my characters can be as kick-ass as I can dream. The world can be as wild, goofy, cool, whatever. The only limitations lie in what I can sell the reader on and how well I can write it.

And then there’s things like Children of the Vortex. It was created specifically to play nice with others. There’s other writers involved even if I’m the only one writing the story because the world interconnects everyone’s characters. What I write will ripple out and affect a lot of other characters. Nothing here happens in a vacuum. Not that I have to get everyone’s approval for whatever I want to write, mind you, but we all need to be aware and we all can kibitz–and some of that kibitzing has to be considered in the story building process.

So when creating a story line for COTV, even creating a character, that has to be considered. We want big, dramatic stories for the series, events that will redefine life as the characters know it. We want characters who will face the challenges of those stories and be interesting whether they succeed or fail. But there’s a balance to doing that, and that takes a very different mindset than when I know I’m just going to be (pardon the expression) playing with myself.

 In my novel, Legend’s End, Drais is one of the heroes. He is the son of two gods and is slowly becoming a god in his own right. Drais is the legendary Immortal Warrior. He’s a master of every form of combat, every weapon ever devised, and he will not stay dead long. He has a magical talent that no one can counter and is absolutely devastating to opponents. Gods will answer his call for aid. Drais is a BAMF, pure and simple, and he carries a good portion of Legend’s End‘s story and conflict.

 However a character like Drais would completely overshadow everything in COTV. There’s a war brewing, and if our heroes in Florant have Drais on their side–why would anyone else need to fight? I mean, seriously. All other characters become sidebar sidekicks and, frankly, that’s no fun to write for anyone. A character like that makes the entire series unwriteable.

 So when creating characters for COTV, it’s not that they can’t be superlative in some way. They can. I love superlative characters, however it’s a single, smaller, thing they’re superlative in, not something overarching that spoils that general thing for everyone else.

For instance, Riccavier Fleureaux is counted as one of the best swordsmen in the Ducal Lands at the age of 21. Doesn’t mean you can’t beat him in a swordfight, but your odds of doing so aren’t great. However, give the man a pistol or a musket or even challenge him to a game of cards, and he’s kinda average. LLucin, the terex (think dragon-bird) who Claims Riccavier’s sister, has been studying magic his entire life and is one of the best scholars on general magic in Florant, however his practical experience is pretty much nil at this point. Guion Laurens is, hands-down, the luckiest SOB to have been born in a century. The man could fall in a sewer and not only come up smelling of roses, but bottle it to sell for a hefty profit (as my grandmother would say).

That doesn’t just go for characters. While most of us like to write serious, dramatic stories, there’s got to be room for completely over-the-top comedy too. The first issue has a story where Riccavier judges a cook-off between a visiting chef and his father’s favorite horse, for instance. There’s a barony in Florant where magic doesn’t work at all, the baronial colors are rainbow (with sequins!) and well, let’s just say that if anyone is losing their mind, they’re on the way to Arc–it’s the most insane place in the Ducal Lands. And yet, it totally fits that Arc is the way it is, it belongs and everyone can have fun with it (or just laugh from a safe distance).

Each of these things (and not all of those are mine, mind you–though I wish Arc was–I adore Arc) are superlative without casting such a huge shadow that no other writer can have fun with what they want to do. Shavonet can be a talented Flame cavalier (fire wizard), but that doesn’t impede on Sevien being the BAMF Stone cavalier, or Anjounette having a different talent in Flame spectrum. And they all have their own foibles and weaknesses that allow strong teams and friendships–and rivalries–to form.

It’s one of the problems I’ve always had with DC’s Justice League, y’know? If you’ve got Superman, why do you need any of the rest of them? Superman is just so blasted good at everything, why bother with Batman, Wonder Woman, or any of the rest of them? Give me a team like the X-men where they all have something they’re really great at, but none of them–not even Wolverine (and I do adore him) can stand alone better than he can with everyone around him.

That’s pretty much what we’re shooting for–that teamwork, both in the story and in the writing. Those of us involved in COTV all bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table. Theoretically, we can all write to our strengths, and the strengths of our fellows will help shadow our vulnerabilities. In theory, it’s a win-win situation for us and readers. But like any situation, we all have to remember our manners and play nice with others.

This kind of writing isn’t natural for a lot of writers–this writing novel-sized big stories with “smaller than novel” characters. Or the flip side, those writers accustomed to “smaller than novel” characters (short story or fanfic writers) having to scale up the stories is equally difficult. But that’s part of the object of this project, though–finding that middle ground and having fun with it.’

We’re still trying to find the right rules to help us do it, since we’re just starting out. We’re still figuring out what will play fair for everyone. And that’s a little frightening for this rule-bound mind of mine. But these are my very good friends. I’ve known all of them for well over 15 years each and I want COTV to last for a very, very long time. We’ll figure it out. We’ll make it work. After all, it’s our game and our rules.

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1 Comment

  1. This sounds very challenging. I have to do a lot of collaboration in my freelance, educational publishing work. I don’t think I’d be up for it in my fiction as well. But it’s an interesting process to read about.


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