Almost simultaneously, two of my friends independently approached me about converting two different roleplaying logs into a novel. After some discussion with them, I agreed. “This should be simple,” I thought. “The the bulk of the story is already written. We just need to do some clean up and we’re good to go.”
Famous last words. I discovered both, while very different stories, are having similar issues.
First of all, we had to wrangle what we had written into a reasonable plot. Because what we originally wrote was only meant to be shared for fun within a small circle of contributors, there are plot holes, contradictions, and leaps of logic that we need to fix. Inside jokes, references to television shows, even entire subplots have to be excised and replacement scenes created. We were lucky that there was a workable skeleton of an outline that only needed minor fixes.
Once we had the plot somewhat stable, then we turned our attention to the characters. Some were completely original and only needed minor alterations, but others were based off of roleplaying games or television shows. For those characters, we have to identify the specific intellectual properties and alter those backgrounds. For example, several of my characters were created using the rules for Vampire: the Masquerade. In that system I would say he has two dots of Celerity. I can’t use that term when writing the novel, so I would have to explain that he can move very quickly from place to place.
Right now we have started the process of the actual rewrite. This is where things become interesting. The style of roleplaying game we are using is referred to as play-by-email. It does not involve dice. Instead it was collaborative storytelling. One person would post a thread with their character setting the scene in motion. The next person would have their character react and add a little more. The next person would do the same. It would continue on until everyone had reacted through as many iterations as necessary until the scene was finished and the next one started. Depending on the speed of the players, a lot of words can be generated very quickly. There is a major problem with this writing
Every time you change characters, the point-of-view shifts. I’ve heard it referred to by other people as “head hopping.” Since each of the emails sent out were an average of three paragraphs, you can imagine how many times this happens, and on multi-character threads, how many points-of-view there are. We are dealing with it by deciding whose point-of-view each scene should be in. That character’s player then rewrites the scene, changing the other character’s responses so they do not head hop.
Another problem is that we can’t use content written by other people who participated in the roleplaying games. As stated earlier, we can’t use characters that were based on copyrighted and trademarked media. If they are original characters, we do not have permission to use them. Mostly we are dealing with this by cutting those scenes and replacing them from scratch. Fortunately this isn’t as difficult as I feared it would be. We were able to cut most of the other players scenes without having to write too many bridges in the outline. We will see if that holds up when it comes time to write it.
There is a lesson I have learned from this. Like many things in life, no matter how easy you think it will be, if you want to do it well, you need to put in the time and sweat equity to do it right.