A different kind of webfiction venue

2 years ago | Dean Hammer (Member)

Hello writers,

I've been enjoying reading the forums - especially the "I like seeing you guys..." thread most recently. (btw I tried out r/webfiction but that subreddit isn't getting much action at the moment.)

Anyway, I would be interested in your thoughts - as writers - on my site:

http://www.psyhigh.com

It's a place for serialized, first-person, medium-form speculative fiction. Maybe you could call it "casual webfiction."

It differs greatly from other places to write online - primarily because your byline is fictional. Meaning, the writers are essentially anonymous. Nor is there anywhere for direct feedback or comments. It is interactive, but only in terms of creating fiction - not talking about it.

As writers - is that kind of writing interesting to you? As writers, do you have the brain-space or desire to engage in that kind of writing?

Now that it's running (with small features added regularly), I'm trying to figure out exactly WHO would enjoy writing on it. And I figured this would be an interesting place to ask.

Thanks for your consideration!

Dean

Psychic High School - http://psyhigh.com

Read responses...

Responses

  1. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    I don't know if I really get it. It looks like a roleplay crossed with writing, while retaining the more inconvenient aspects of each. A pre-defined setting, oversight, but no apparent group or interaction. I looked at two entries and couldn't really make head or tails of them. They weren't fun to read or engaging.

  2. Oniwasabi (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    I just spent 20 minutes clicking around, and I'm mostly confused. I'm not sure what the overall goal is here, it feels like a weird online RP thing only where no one has told me the rules. The site seems well made from my brief perusal, but I don't think that this is something for me.

    cmh-fiction.com
    A place for me to inflict my writings upon an unprepared and unsuspecting world!
  3. Billy Higgins Peery (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    Yeah, this definitely strikes me as a roleplaying thing with a slight webfic bent. Actually, that could be interesting. It's not something I'd be interested in writing, but a webfic like this could lead to deep involvement/immersion, as well as a well-developed ensemble.

    The thing is, you need to have an OOC page. Preferably the OOC page would also be the home/landing page. That would the reader to understand the world, understand how they might roleplay in that world, and in this case understand how they might go about reading the material of the world.

    This page has a lot of what I'm talking about: http://www.roleplayerguild.com/forums/14

    You're asking people to intuit things before you've grabbed their interest, when we need to have some idea of what we're looking at before we decide to pay attention to it.

    "Any number of hitlers, are still not my problem." -Tempest
  4. Dean Hammer (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    Hey everybody,

    Absolutely great feedback. Exactly what I am looking for.

    I'm not clued in (at all) to roleplay culture, and hadn't really thought about its relationship to "writing," but I notice there are roleplay forums on fanfiction.net.

    Are roleplay and fanfiction related? How much do people in roleplay put emphasis on their writing?

    Fanfiction is something I've definitely thought might be related to Psychic High School, in that you do have a somewhat predefined "world," but you're writing your own character (rather than someone else's). But if you're inventing your own characters, is it fanfiction? I suppose new characters can be introduced in purely fanfic environments...

    Regarding BillyHiggins' mention of OOC (which I had to look up!) aspects, that is something that is definitely not there by design. However, if not having it truly makes it a giant confusing question mark for people, then it's something I should certainly address.

    Oniwasabi - your comment that it is "a weird online RP thing only where no one has told me the rules" is really spot on... for better or for worse. ;) But the lack of OOC is meant to give it a more immediate, "trans-media" kind of aspect, in that it doesn't directly deny that it us "real." But, it seems that might be more confusing than anything?

    And Wildbow - re: the engagement level of the content... Totally get you. Is there something inherent in the framing that adds to that, or do you think the right writers would make you more engaged?

    All of these comments are helping me figure out both about site tweaks but also who exactly would *want* to write on psyhigh. Roleplayers? Fanfiction writers? People who don't consider themselves "writers" at all?

    Psychic High School - http://psyhigh.com
  5. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    In roleplaying online it isn't uncommon for someone to, say, make a thread on a forum and say "This is my idea, I'm taking applicants/anyone can join if they're interested." Then you usually have a dynamic where the game master and the others are all involved and there's interaction and that interaction can take the story in unique directions.

    In collaborative writing, you often have a bunch of authors getting together and talking about ideas and creating and they build something together. Ideas play off each other and build to become something greater. Different people fill the blanks and you can get something expansive and fleshed out.

    I guess the vibe I get, if I have to put a finger on it, is that it's sort of like, "I came up with this setting idea I'm really pumped for. Now I want other people to write my idea." - the interaction is minimal (see the mention of an OOC forum - this would make the exchanges of ideas possible) and there's no real explanation or information about how the world might be built. So you've got this isolated, low-interaction place where you submit stories, try to figure out if it fits how the world works and some faceless figure decides whether they pass muster and then that's it. It's fanfiction without the fan, roleplaying without the playing around, collaborative writing without collaboration... but it's not fiction and it's not quite writing, either.

    What's the fun in that?

    I can't help but think of Whateley canon. A bunch of authors from a series of transgender sites wrote some superhero stories in a collaborative world. I didn't get that into the stories (of which there's something like ten million words worth of content) but I was interested in the creative process. They have a 'bible' with all the info and spoilers and details and anyone that joins their selective group gets access to the bible. They are (or were? I think it died) interacting very frequently and discussing ideas. It might be a model worth following, and the traps they fell into might be traps you might want to watch for.

  6. Dean Hammer (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    So the main thing I'm hearing here is a desire for structure made explicit?

    What I'd *been* going for was more of a "Yes, and..." dynamic - where people just... make stuff up, which could (if they liked) involve bits of story props laid out in the few backstory pages, or by other writers, but I'd much people just make something amusing up than follow any kind of rules or bible. I'd figured the "school for gifted/psychic/magic youth" trope was wide open and familiar enough that people could feel comfortable creating within it...

    But, it sounds like that's either a) not a great idea to begin with or b) the psyhigh site isn't getting that across or c) the content on psyhigh now isn't interesting enough to make you want to?

    I'd love to get that idea across without an OOC callout.

    Also, Wildbow, thanks for the "faceless figure deciding what passes muster" note. I'm betting you got that feeling from text that had been here: http://www.psyhigh.com/stories.php - I just now changed that, as the ability for users to directly connect their posts and make stories was just added last week and that text hadn't reflected that.

    Ultimately, the plan has been for psyhigh to have *no* oversight (short of scrubbing out outright spam or other evil badness), and that - with the right kind of interested users - story "control" and "direction" would be self governing - but purely through the actual act of writing and creating content - not "talking" about it OOC. So, back to that "Yes, And.." improv comedy dynamic... so the "play" is in the writing itself, and the "collaboration" is in the writing itself...

    Psychic High School - http://psyhigh.com
  7. mathtans (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    I think I see what you're going for here. Kind of a text based version of a MUD (Multi-User Dungeon) or MOO (MUD, Object Oriented), where people with a common interest (like a particular fan fiction universe) could log in and come together to act out stories. Hence the natural connection people make to role-play. I participated in this sort of thing (back in the 90s, woohoo), where one could take on the character of Giles (from Buffy) or Sailor Mercury (from Sailor Moon) -- or simply be a generic person living in town, as my Alison Vunderlande character was. Yeah, I played as all 3 of those.

    There's also a strong link here to the "Play-By-Email" format (which I did in the 2000s), where a bunch of people (with powers, or in a universe of some sort) email back and forth as coordinated by a GameMaster, who would guide the plot - and call for die rolls as needed. (We all had character sheets, so to some degree our successes and failures were random.)

    Based on that, I see two main problems with the website:
    1. The Structural/Out-Of-Character problem people have pointed out. If you're taking on a role, what you say as a character may be different from how you feel as an author. For instance, good stories usually need a villain, but would anyone ever want to play the villain forever? It's also all too easy to take something personally, particularly if someone starts perceiving you as a villain character and you're sitting there going "I... didn't mean it that way at all... wow, sorry..." Related to this is having no oversight. Am I allowed to write that I beat you up? What if the person on the other end of the keyboard is a woman in an abusive relationship? Am I allowed to power pose you into a tree? What if you hate heights? We just don't know, which (at least for me) is dodgy enough to me away, because I'm the sort to worry if I'm doing the wrong thing - and "wrong" is different for everyone. The original MUDs had the "OOC" rooms - or at the least a +finger command where you could write something like "if you power pose me, we're never playing together again". Also, if someone has a Real Life emergency, and has to stop playing for a few weeks - they have to make up a reason for their character to be away too?

    2. Attrition. An easy counter argument to "1" is that a person merely has to read the back logs, and then they WILL know how to act with the various other people, and that they'll have a sense of people's triggers and who to interact with. But the longer a site like this goes on, the more back logs that creates, and the longer it will take until a person can immerse themselves in the game. (I also notice that to read the stories, I have to scroll down to the bottom and read up. This makes sense for something ongoing, but is awkward.) Aha, you say, but a new student is fine, and they don't have to know everything. Highlighting particular stories, as you did, is a good idea. But when you get a new person every couple weeks, doesn't that wear down a bit on the regulars? The ones who have already been through that, and here we go again? Cliques forming is kind of inevitable. And that can also make it difficult for newbies.

    Don't get me wrong, it's not necessarily a bad idea, but I'm not sold on the format. Then again, I'm referencing 90s stuff, so guess I'm kind of old-school.

    Writing a Time Travel serial: http://mathtans.wordpress.com
    Writer of the personification of math serial: http://www.mathtans.ca
  8. Dean Hammer (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    Thank you mathtans! More excellent insight into roleplay culture.

    Dean

    Psychic High School - http://psyhigh.com

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