Immersive Writing

Milk Wood, Second Life

As NaNoWriMo threatens to sneak up on us, I return to iRez to share a bit of my experience as a fiction writer in a virtual world. Believe me. It was nothing like what I expected!

I logged in Second Life (SL) for the first time back in 2007. I had heard of this platform before, but had never felt the urge to investigate it beyond the random and sporadic browser search.

I won’t go into the details of who and why, but what was a sudden, totally unplanned and completely disorganized approach to my first SL identity (in the form of a female human avatar now discontinued), turned into something far more important than I thought. It went from being a mere hobby that had absolutely nothing to do with writing into becoming a never ending spring of writing resources.

The fact that virtual reality is used for storytelling is not new. Role-players have been doing that for years. More recently, I have come across a growing number of projects in the field of education involving students creating an avatar and their life-stories within a virtual context.

Having written fiction since I was a teenager, I am old-school. My first drafts were typed on an old type-writer; someone had the brilliant idea of switching the order of the keys so no one else felt inclined to get too familiar with it. When I upgraded to an electrical typewriter, I had to learn the QWERTY keyboard and typing was a bit of an uphill climb at the beginning.

The computer opened a whole new world. Writing became faster and easier.

You now understand why, when I first thought of going in SL, I was far from thinking it could be a resource for my writing as well. Writing was something done on a blank piece of paper, using physical resources I gathered throughout time.

I firmly believe that anyone interested in writing is a potential, if not already, full-blown hoarder. Ideas, songs, photos, newspaper clippings, diaries, notepads, a mix and match of different objects and, of course, books.

The idea of having all this available at the reach of a click is quite extraordinary. Objects, sounds, environments, people, clothing styles, furniture, music, seasons, to mention only a few, can be accessed anytime.

For example, you need to write a scene taking place during winter. However, it’s summer. Temperatures sky-rocket and you’re boiling. You can look at photos of wintery sceneries, you can look at those clippings you’ve so strenuously collected thinking about your scene. Or you can log in a virtual world, visit a winter sim and immerse yourself in falling snow, the sounds of your footsteps breaking the ice, the chilly wind blowing away a handful of leaves while bare trees stand motionless along a pathway leading up to a frozen lake.

A virtual world provides more than the “physical” resources. It provides groups you can join, dedicated to writing events (I’m active at the Virtual Writers Inc. located at Milk Wood). These are especially frequent during the month of November due to the NaNoWriMo. There are also many write-ins and impromptu gatherings for writers to encourage and motivate one another to continue to write. This is extremely important in a solitary activity such as writing. It makes us catch the momentum and push ourselves beyond that tempting procrastination.

To conclude, being immersed in a virtual world made my writing a lot easier and, curiously enough, it increased my writing pace.

Whether you’ll take up the NaNoWriMo challenge or not, and if you’re looking for that extra push to feel motivated to work on your stories or to start a new project, do consider making use of the enormous array of resources available in a virtual world.

Feel free to drop me a line in SL, if you need any help. My name there is Lizzie Gudkov too. And good luck with your writing!

Lisbon, Portugal -- I am a former educator who became a writer. My fascination for people's intricacies and my love for words drive me to write stories. These appear in the format of flash-fiction, short stories and poetry, stubbornly and imprudently!

2 thoughts on “Immersive Writing

  1. Fantastic Lizzie! Your stories are so amazing the way they breath rich, deep life into the vistas & vignettes of virtual space.

    Your idea of Writer as Hoarder is really interesting! I’ve been thinking a lot about Cornell Boxes for a while now:

    and in a way a “Cornell Box” is sort of hoarding bounded in a delicious, small, tactile, “capsule.” You think about all this as resources for writers. I’ve thought about it as touchstones in a serendipitous box, each offering a little journey for the seeker.

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