Interactive story – where YOU are the hero

Well, it’s actually more accurate to say you’re the decision-maker, but that was a bit long for the title. So, this isn’t a post about interactive stories in general. I actually want to start one on this blog. Chenoa Fawn ran a Cadavre Exquis recently on her blog, Sibylline Syllables, which was very popular. Everyone read what had been written so far and then added up to fifty words of their own. The problem I had was that I didn’t know where the story was going and didn’t feel I could properly contribute. The idea itself was fantastic, it was just the execution that didn’t quite work for me. (Which was probably just me, loads of other people loved it.)

So last night I was trying to think of ways to boost my readership. I thought, Kristen Lamb‘s We Are Not Alone (The Writer’s Guide to Social Media) says that we should use social media to build our brand and, for better or worse, the brand that I want to build is Anne-Mhairi Simpson, fantasy writer. So, I had an idea.

I want to build a world on this blog and then write a story based in that world. The difference is that I won’t be doing this alone. Oh no. You will be helping me. In fact, a lot of this world and the subsequent story is going to be down to you.

You see, first we have to build the world. Do you want deserts, mountains, rainforests? All of the above? Do you want huge oceans that people actually travel over? Do you want eight-legged antelopes and knee-high gnus? What’s the weather like? What kind of transport is there? Do people use horses and what do they look like? What kind of people live there? Do they live in cities or villages? Are there nomadic tribes that wander the seas? Do the city people get on with the village people? Do the land people get on with the sea people? Has the whole place gone to hell in a handbasket and it’s up to the hero/heroine to sort out the mess?

And that’s just the basic stuff. What about magic? Are there objects of power? Do swords get put in stones? Do people have to go on a quest? Do they dreamwalk? Are there wizards and witches? Are magic users venerated, hated or ignored? Are there magical animals or races? (By which I mean animals/people that either don’t make sense unless you include the existence of magic or that regularly use magic) What kind of magic do they do and do they get on with non-magic users? Or does everyone have magic and what kind of magic can they do? Can they start fires and find lost objects? Can they throw love spells? Can they manipulate people’s hearts and minds?

You see what I mean? I’ve written a few posts about fantasy world-building and I thought, nothing lets the mind run free quite so much as a lack of responsibility for your creations. Hence me offering you this opportunity to really let fly!

Now, there are obviously some ground rules. I am leaning towards making the hero a heroine, since the majority of my readers (going by the comments) seem to be female. I will, however, be taking votes on this, as with many other aspects of the story, and whichever gender proves most popular is what I’ll go with. Once we have built the world, I will then start the story – episodes will be posted once a week on Tuesdays and there will be three options at the end of each episode. Again, the one that gets the most votes will be the one I base the next episode on. Voting will probably be accepted through the Friday or Saturday following each episode (I’ll make a concrete decision on this closer to the time) and then I will have to close it to give myself time to write the next episode. Depending on how much input I get I’ll decide how long the serial is to be. I think 13 episodes is a good number to aim at, at least for now. If the idea is popular we can always do another one!

Let me know what you think and free your minds – give me all your ideas and I’ll see what I can do with them πŸ˜€ You have until midnight on Sunday California time (don’t ask me to remember the time zone code for any time zone I don’t live in) to get your ideas in because then I will have Monday to write the first episode. πŸ™‚

PS Feel free to comment on other people’s ideas as well – if you particularly like someone else’s suggestion, let me know!

PPS If you can come up with a title I would be very grateful. I suck at titles πŸ˜€


About Mhairi Simpson

Writer, dreamer. Magic, dragons, pink mice, cake. Come say hi!
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22 Responses to Interactive story – where YOU are the hero

  1. I am completely down with a heroine, of course. πŸ™‚

    A long time ago, ie. about 3 months ago, which is forever in my universe, I’d had an idea to do a story about one world which was divided into four elements, so to speak.

    The scientists lived in a sky dome in the clouds and had enslaved dragons (and were using their magic). Consequently, these dragons were periodically sent as a warning to those who lived ‘above ground’ and whose resources the ‘sky people’ used. As a result those who lived above ground saw the dragons as demon gods, and worshipped the element of fire. There were those who rejected that and lived ‘below ground’: an industrious race who were basically builders. And the last race of people controlled the seas: basically pirates/gypsies who spent 99% of their life off-shore on massive ships, and only came on-shore to trade.

    The story was that the dragons were slowly dying and the magic was failing. A girl/boy from the sky had come down on a fledgling dragon and unable to get back was forced to integrate into the ‘above ground’ society. And it was just their adventures across the world… with the goal of bringing an order to the growing chaos.

    Now, I wouldn’t say there was a lot of originality to any of that… as it’s a mish-mash of lots of fantasy but just thought it might give others some nice ideas to play off of, or develop further….

  2. The follwoing description is an idea taken from the series Merlin: Dragonlord is a term given to a warlock who possess a very rare ability – they are able to talk to, tame and kill dragons, along with being able to control Wyvern, the animal-like distant cousins of dragons. According to the Old Religion, dragonlords are brothers to dragons through a connection of the soul. The powers of a dragonlord are passed on from father to son when the father dies, but dragonlords only know if they have truly inherited the power when they face their first dragon.

    It would be cool to have some of those in your world.

  3. Ryan says:

    Magic system is always a tough choice, it has to be powerful enough to use but not so powerful that its wielders are invincible.

    Something i have always thought might be good is a magic system based on masks. But instead of the typical “we have all these masks made in an ancient time that we dont know how to understand” i would like to see it set in a time where the great minds are creating masks for their own purpose.

    I am thinking that the masks fashioned by different elements do different things, but only when worn. Each masks demands something from the wearer in order to perform the task it was designed for, usually a part of their soul.

    The floating islands in the sky could actually be floating because deep inside the island a person has sacrificed their life by wearing a mask of levitation until their soul has been used up. When the persons soul runs out, they musy be immediately replaced or the island will fall out of the sky. There is a priesthood dedicated to keeping the island afloat

  4. Oh, I like the floating islands part – that would be really cool (plus, I’m in that section of WoW right now, so it’s relevant to my interests ;P). I tend to like a lot more low-key fantasy stuff, where only one or two things are different from the normal world, but I’ll think on some things that are a little more extravagant and come back πŸ™‚

  5. ditchmonkette says:

    I’m loving the sea-people/land-people idea. It has a lot of dramatic potential. As a thought to the magic mask idea, I had an idea years ago. It involved normal everyday everything, with a steampunk twist, but the power source for everything was living souls. Their essence is transferred into a special type of stone/gem and it powers basic things (cars, televisions, etc) just as a hydroelectric dam would. Unfortunately, it has such a nasty effect on the body, causing them to slowly turn stone, so it’s only used in criminal punishment. It turns out, however, the truly major power sources from antiquity were made using the souls of “mythical” creatures, specifically dragons.

  6. Ruth Fanshaw says:

    This is a great idea, Anne-Mhairi! I shall follow it with interest! πŸ™‚

    I like all the ideas so far, and I definitely vote for a heroine! πŸ™‚ How about if the ‘dragon lord’ thing passed from mother to daughter? Or if it passed from father to son, but a daughter somehow inherited it and no-one knew how or why? πŸ™‚

    The idea of people’s souls being used up to work magic is intriguing too, especially for the ethical questions it raises… πŸ™‚

  7. Ryan says:

    Ok now to type properly on a laptop instead of on my phone. I’m starting to think about refining the magic system a little. I think general consensus is a soul based magic system. People need to transfer part of their soul from their body into some piece of material in order to perform magic. Different materials, different combinations of materials will allow the caster to perform different types of magic. The caster must be touching the material in order to cast magic, and so most materials were fashioned in to masks because it allowed you to be touching the material while keeping your hands free to do other things. I think we would need to restrict the materials to rare materials (hey we now have a fetch quest…) or maybe restrict it to different types of woods.

    I see a lot of ideas forming with the wood, perhaps the wooden material can only channel power if the tree it came from is still living (lets say its because of the tree’s connections with the earth). I like the idea that every different tree allows for different forms of magic, the common trees (forests etc.) provide either weak useless magic, or maybe weak healing magic (made strong through the volume of trees). There are some trees that provide very very strong forms of magic, but these trees are very rare. Cities form around these rare trees or forests, they must protect the trees to maintain their magic. Everything seems to be a state of balance, no cities attack each other because that would leave their city open to attack from another city, putting their home tree at risk. It is a balance created out of fear, each city keeps to themselves, wanderers/strangers are treated with utmost suspicion and rarely given access to a foreign city.

    Of course that is not a problem for the sea people, they have no fear of losing their trees because they are safe underwater. The sea people are weakened on land and their underwater trees are not terribly powerful (or maybe they are starting to die for some reason). The land people will have nothing to do with them and refuse the sea peoples requests for help, so they are slowly building their numbers for a land invasion so that they capture some of the powerful/healthy land trees and replant them under the sea.

    Then you have the dragon riders living on their islands in the sky. Nobody can reach their trees so they are safe. I like the idea that dragons can also transfer parts of their soul into wood to perform magic. Need to work on how this creates a bond with a dragon rider. I still like that the islands in the sky (skylands?) are kept in the air by someone who channels their soul into a levitation wood, being immediately replaced by a fresh person when their soul runs out (normally 5 years?). The problem is that over the years, people souls have started diminishing faster, to the point where now a person keeping the islands aloft will only last for one month before their soul runs out (connecting to the failing magic of the sea people?). This is really becoming a problem because the villages are starting to dwindle, their population growth cannot match the pace at which people are being required to sacrifice themselves to keep the islands aloft. So the dragon riders are starting to fly down and kidnap ground people forcing them to use the magic to keep the islands aloft. I am already picturing an incredible scene where one of the islands loses its last person and it just falls from the sky, the horror of the ground people as they see this massive island plummeting out of the sky towards their city. Something is obviously wrong with the magic and if they dont figure it out islands will continue to fall from the sky destroying their cities…

    Let me know if im going a little to fast or if im trying to do too much.

    • I like your ideas!

      To go completely scientific – maybe the land people are fertilizing their trees with nitrogen/phosphorus and it’s causing algea blooms that are taking the nutrients from the underwater trees? That would give the sea people MORE reason to go after the land people’s trees. Not only do the sea people need the resources (always a good plot), but they are also taking a little bit of revenge and you can’t help but sympathize with both (because the land people are just trying to keep their trees alive).

      It could also contribute to the skyland people loosing their magic because that stuff gets transfered into the air when the water evaporates. So the trees/souls above are also suffering!

      • Ryan says:

        I was thinking that maybe those forests of “weak” trees actually help to sustain magic. So as the ground people start expanding, they start clearing the forests and that weakens the magic. The problem with that is that fixing the magic will take years and years of regrowing a forest which would be boring

  8. This is all great and I just want to say thank you for getting on board so quickly.

    The land people are going to have to be the bad guys, as it were. As Ryan says, they have their reasons but they’re not acting with anyone else’s best interests at heart (forgoing real life comparisons). Now, if we take it that they are mainly interested in expansion, what if one of the land cities got hold of one of the levitation masks from the islands? Say from the island that crashed? To their mind they could use it to levitate their city and thereby travel around to invade other cities without having to worry that someone would invade their city while they were off invading. Then they could get more trees AND a slave populace to power the mask(s).

  9. Ryan says:

    Ooo now we are getting dark and sinister plots coming in. It might be hard to just levitate a city thats already established on the ground. And the ground people would be subject to the same problems of the sky people when it comes to keeping a city afloat so i dont know if they would be able to keep their city in the sky for the time it would take for world domination… The ground people using a levitation mask is a great idea, provided the levitation tree survived the crash (unless the levitation tree is somewhere else). What i think we need is a way to link the bad guys to the failing magic… I lile the idea of portable trees, what if someone figured out how to do magic without the use of living trees, and that new magic is causing tree magic to fail?

    • I suppose, if originally part of a person’s soul was used to power the masks, conceivably you could throw a lot of souls at a mask at once (mass sacrifice) to give it the necessary power. And the tree could definitely survive the crash – all you would necessarily need is a small part which you could then graft onto another tree… Then one city gets more than one kind of magic – OUCH!!! I didn’t actually anticipate them keeping their city in the sky indefinitely, just to lift it up and go and raid other cities, really.

      Bonsai trees are portable, but not particularly productive in terms of enough wood to make a mask. But saplings are certainly portable – garden centres have them essentially in large plastic bags.

      I like Liza’s idea of the fertilizer used by the land people being behind the failure of the sea and sky people’s trees and therefore their magic.

      Need to think about how the dragons come into this – as Robert suggested, dragons would have a bond with their rider. I think they should maybe be linked to the levitation tree – a small piece inserted under their skin and that of their rider, perhaps? Or maybe the rider has a mask and a small piece of that goes into the dragon…

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  11. ann simon says:

    Instead of masks (okay, I know everyone’s going with that), I’d like to see only the dragons having magic. The people channel the magic through the dragons. That means that — depending on if one is able to access one or more dragons a — a person has power. BUT no human has reliable power on his or her own. Varying the types of dragons would also0 make power variable. I hate it when magic stories feature magic that is simply a matter of learning and talent; that reduces the magic to learning math in school. I love it when stories feature hard science las stickeynotes suggested.
    This sounds like fun!

    • That’s an excellent idea – you’ve actually got me thinking, what if all the people channel their magic in different ways? So the sky people use dragons, the land people masks (the trees only grown on land) and the sea people through… something else? Their ships, maybe? Then you could have the land people channeling earth magic, the sky people air magic, etc. We could even go back to the original idea which also involved an underground people who could channel fire magic from geothermal sources underground…

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