Those who are character-focused, say that the character is making the story; those who are story-focused, like me, say that the story can’t go on without certain characters. And both of us are right in our way.
The problem of missed opportunities has troubled me for a long time too.
There are people who post only once in a blue moon, or who have problems and have to take time out. It happens. But their characters need no time out, by contrary. A story can’t wait for those who remain behind by their own will; it has to go on, for the sake of those who work together in crafting it. Ultimately, the story is collective, so those who miss their opportunity… have a possibility to take it back when they can, if they want. If they don’t want to dwell in the details, they are in the story anyway, and the story goes on, with or without their active participation. But it is still a pity that they chose not to participate actively, not to enrich the story more.
The characters are there, in the ship roster/ civilian census/ character masterlist, and, therefore, in the story; they have great potential to affect any of the threads. (I see each thread as a story chapter). What about the missed opportunities, just because a writer:
– is in hiatus
– lacks muse (despite me highlighting the several opportunities)
– can’t post consistently, but only once in a blue moon
– complains about being in too many topics
– is focused only on 1-2 of the many characters she has, neglecting the others, who have their distinct part in the other side of the story?
I should remain indifferent, I know… only that I am writing because I have a story to tell, and all these missed opportunities hurt terribly. I don’t know why some people are focused only on a character or two. I love all the characters, and I am focused on the whole story’s “overview“ – this is why it hurts.
I have always been like this since I joined my first RPG, 4 years ago. That one was one year old already, and in the first days I read the whole archives, because I needed to know the whole story so far, to have the exact picture in my mind. (And when I became a moderator of that site, one of my first concerns was organizing properly the archives, for easy reading/ finding).
The characters are in the roster, and they should be in the story too. Acting bravely, protectively, cowardly or recklessly, but there, involved in the story, making their mark. Silence and leaving some things to imagination is far too often painfully frustrating.
Do you want examples of missed opportunities which would have been great to be explored? Brothers of different allegiances meeting; the interaction of certain characters, together with their crewmates, when stranded on a desert island with opposite factions ships; presence in other threads where they had the chance to change the story and leave their own mark…
If their presence is needed and they aren’t writing, besides warning them (which isn’t effective when they are really busy or ill), the only solution is NPC-ing the characters along, in order to be still in the story when the other can pick it up. By having them kept in the story, some things are considered to have happened offscreen, and the story can go on until the other comes back to write.
And these missed opportunities also interfere, sometimes, with my enjoyment of writing and my inspiration, because from a ship full of men, some threads which should be exciting, are carried out only in a handful of characters and NPCs, ie in 2-3 writing partners only. Who, at their turn, might have inspiration or not.
Yes, I know also that you would say it means my creative resources and imagination are put more to use in order to find creative solutions for damage control. To write in 2-3 for a ship full or 2… This was one of the reasons why for the (still unopened, unfortunately) Viking site I arrived to this concept, meant to solve a lot of missed opportunities problems.
I am doing what I can: leaving hints that others might follow or not, having my characters’ journals or dialogues mentioning things which happened offscreen because nobody bothered to write them, etc. These are my attempts at restoring the normal opportunities, besides writing around the missing characters and slightly NPC-ing them in the threads where they are needed.
But how can one overcome frustration and regret?
Yes, I know, one would say “be happy with what you have/ actually is, instead of focusing on what you don’t have/ what should have been“. But is it so easy?
We do have some amazing stories going on “Before the Mast“. But they could have been better, and I can’t escape this thought.
There are threads which are going on in 3-6 characters and NPCs, written by 1-2 people, when they should have involved 10+ characters and NPCs, written by 5-6 people, just because there are people who keep away their characters from threads where it would be natural for them to be a part of (or post 1-2 times then vanish). Their characters whom they keep away from the story won’t leave a mark on it, when for the character’s personality and/ or role in the story it would have been normal to do it.
Nevertheless, even if they aren’t explicitly involved, they still are involved “somewhere in the background”, ie passively the outcome of the story the writers didn’t want to introduce them into will affect them too. If the whole ship is taken prisoner, they would be numbered among the prisoners, as long it isn’t written that (and how) they have succeeded to escape believably. They can’t be two days later happily chatting in a tavern scene, as if nothing had occurred. One doesn’t live in a time bubble.
But most often, they aren’t chatting two days later. Those who are counting their number of threads and don’t take more, even if it would have made sense for their characters to be involved, at least are good at keeping track of what happened and this doesn’t happen. What happens more frequently is that a writer’s hiatus (or vanishing without words) is usually lasting longer, and the characters are nowhere to be found when they are needed. I keep imagining how the ongoing adventure threads would sound if everybody was there, as they should have been, and it makes even lonelier the endeavour of writing it alone or with only one writing partner.
And the “It shouldn’t have been this way!” gives a bitter taste to stories I actually enjoy, the taste of the the frustrating missed opportunities. (Then others come and say that roleplaying is an activity which should have been done with others, not alone… as if I preferred it alone vs. with others!)
I keep wondering how to deal with it… How not to think anymore at how the story should have been developed and what chances the others were missing.