Some Scattered Thoughts

General discussion about Extend-A-Story.

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Some Scattered Thoughts

Post by Anableps » Fri Apr 22, 2016 9:29 am

I think that one of the things that makes the site work is that it has the right number of authors working on stories at a given time. If a single author makes a contribution and nobody responds, the site dies. If there were suddenly an influx of one hundred authors, our moderator would be overwhelmed, and the new authors wouldn't understand the culture. (Example - pornography is not at all desirable, but Astra's struggles with her wardrobe are just good clean fun. We all know where the line is, but someone coming here for the first time might not understand that.) The ideal would be a few more active and talented authors than are contributing now.

Collaborative stories are something that is difficult to do, which is why you don't see them more often. I remember reading Thieve's World some years ago. If I remember correctly, each author came up with the outline of a character and his or her back story, and gave it to the other authors, and then each author wrote a story, using the other author's characters as well as their own. It was an interesting experiment. I am not sure whether or not there was a round where they reviewed the stories to smooth out inconsistencies before publishing. One would get a different impression of a character as one moved from one story to the other. I remember one character, Jubal, who would be hard but have his own code of honor in one story, but would be more malicious and cheat in another story. This isn't always bad - in real life, two people may have a different impression of third person based on their prejudices and past dealings with that person.

Another limitation of a collaborative story like Extend-A-Story is that it is difficult to structure it to work up to a surprise, as the collaborators are also the readers. So for example, if I had an idea for a story line that the dragon that Astra is hunting hoards something other than gold, I would have to mention it in the episode or privately e-mail the active collaborator, so that they don't write an episode that contradicts that. I find that my imagination outstrips my ability to actually get the words down on - well, not paper, but on the disk of whatever server that Sir Toby is using.

There are compensations. The one good thing about Extend-A-Story is that a collaborator will throw something in that I am not expecting. Sometimes I will think "I can't work with that," but other times trying to come with an explanation for the unexpected makes for a much better story. For example, I had formed the idea that one character, Checkers, was incapable of magic, but her presence would foul up attempts to work some forms of magic. One of my collaborators wrote an episode where she did work magic. I liked the contribution, and it allowed me the thought experiment of what it would be like to lived in a culture that denied and derided magic, and then to find out that you suddenly had those powers. There have been any number of new episodes that have been like that over the years. (And what other website would inspire me to look up the Blue Penny Stamp Museum?)

The two essential things for this site are a good administrator and a good moderator. I would like to thank Sir Toby for his work over the years keeping this site up. I would also like to thank JH for his efforts to keep the continuity of the stories consistent. This is the key thing in making a story readable - when there are changes in point of view or verb tense, it makes the stories hard to follow. I think that most collaborative story sites either need heavy moderation and less spontaneity, or just die off, for that reason.

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Post by JH » Fri Apr 22, 2016 3:40 pm


I agree that having too many writers could in theory be a problem, but it's not one that we've ever had in the past and it seems unlikely that it will happen in the future. The rare occasions in the past when moderating has become burdensome for a short while have been due to a single new author writing a whole load of porn or being a deliberate vandal, or when the addventure has been targeted by a spambot.

I'd guess that the most writers that we've ever had contributing fairly frequently at any one time has been around eight or so, and I'd like to see us get back to that number again. It's been too quiet over the last four or five years.

The one good thing about Extend-A-Story is that a collaborator will throw something in that I am not expecting.

That is certainly the biggest attraction of addventure for me. There's nothing better than when an episode takes off in a completely unexpected direction, but one that nevertheless follows perfectly logically from the story up to that point.

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