You know how sometimes you work on a project and it sort of takes over your life (or at least your brain)? This happened to me this week with an RP I am writing with my friend we’ll call Moma.
Warning: MASSIVE Harry Potter spoilers, in case you’re not done with that series or something.
First, to explain: an RP (short for Role Play) is, at it’s core, improv that’s written instead of acted out. Everyone picks character(s), picks a situation, and then writes out their characters actions and reactions in turns. This can be written out in prose or in chat form, and is done in Google docs, notebooks, online forums, texts, messengers such as Facebook or AIM, etc. Some are big, with tons of writers and even more characters; some are small and consists of two people writing back and forth. They can be complex and last years, or simple and last an afternoon. It’s an excellent way to improve your writing, make friends, learn about different writing styles and types of characters, and learn skills like plotting and character development.
I’ve been RPing on and off for about 13 years now, and a few years ago I joined a Harry Potter one that took place in the Marauders era (aka Harry’s parents’ generation). I joined after it had been established and replaced their old Lily Evans. That RP died within a couple of months, but it was revived later under a new name and picked up where it left off. I was Lily Evans in that one as well, but also picked up Barty Crouch Jr. and Amos Diggory for some variety (and Death Eater fun). The plots got very complex: we had dark Order missions involving murder, drugging, and kidnapping, among other things, all of which happened with an undercurrent of your classic emotional teenage drama (the characters were all 14-18). Like, sure, they’d have a fun Halloween party in the Great Hall, but later that night they’d be called upon to break into a Muggle hospital and save a Muggleborn baby and its mother before the Death Eaters got to them first. In any case, we were building to fit into the book canon, and so we all knew that no matter what, Lily and James would get married and have Harry, trust Peter as a Secret Keeper and be betrayed, etc.
This was a very good RP, and despite many hiccups, it lasted about a year and a half (it officially ended in Dec. 2014). Despite this official ending, no one stopped thinking about it, and in the two years since a ton of us have worked together to write everything else that happened between the RP’s end and when our characters died. (For instance, I as Lily could only plan out everything from 1977 to 1981, because obviously she dies; an original character like Miles had his life planned out until his death, which was of old age rather than from war.)
Sometime in 2011 Moma proposed we try a an RP where Voldemort won, I believe partially to try and use one of her original characters in something. I agreed, and while we tried, we didn’t get very far, and it died fairly quickly, partially because I don’t think we had much of a plot lined up.
A month or two ago, Moma brought it up again, and I agreed that it’d be a good idea to have another crack at it. We took those RPs I just told you about and called them our RP’s “canon”, and then just changed the ending so that Voldemort would win. It ended up being really easy: just kill off James before he can marry Lily and have Harry, and voila! No prophecy. No curse backfire. And Voldemort wins. (Note: we worked under the assumption that the prophecy was always meant to refer to Harry and that Neville wasn’t a possible Chosen One.) It also made it really easy to create a backstory and develop everyone’s characters because we had already RPed so much important stuff already. All we had to do was kill some people off and see what happened 8D
We also took something from an even older RP of mine, which I did back in 2009, and shifted it around to make it our own. We had the Ministry kill off the Weasley parents and the older kids, and separate the youngest to be raised by more “appropriate” pureblood families. This separates Fred and George, and they’re raised by different families, never knowing that they were adopted or that they had a twin brother. Moma has Fred; I have George. They, of course, meet in the RP, because why WOULDN’T we want to write out that meeting?? (We’re actually in the middle of RPing this out right now, ahhh~)
We called this the “darkverse”, because it’s the dark version of the universe our RP was in. (There’s also a “brightverse”, where everyone lives and is happy and all is grand, but I’m not in charge of that one.) Some old fellow RPers (such as Miles’s creator) have been giving us input as to what their characters were doing in the darkverse, and Moma and I work around that. Other times, Moma and I decide what we want for ourselves. All in all, it’s a very collaborative story with varying levels of input.
Anyway, this is what I’m currently all caught up in. What makes it extra interesting (other than the characters, because oh my god I am in love with all of them) is the way we’re writing it. We’ve gotten into this (bad?) habit of discussing our characters with each other, which leads to plotting, which in turn leads to RPing scenes in chats instead of our forum – and we’re doing this OUT OF ORDER. Gah?!
Our RP starts with may first meetings: 1) Moma’s Tylor meets the Order and my Naveena, and 2) the Order, including George, meets Fred for the first time. However, in our impatience, we have somehow plotted out the vast majority of Naveena’s personal relationships over her lifetime (she dates Fred for a year, they have a nasty break up, and then she ends up dating and marrying Tylor). And not only have we plotted this, but we have RPed multiple major scenes already, including Tylor’s proposal and Fred and Naveena’s breakup. And not only that, but we RPed Tylor’s proposal BEFORE Fred and Naveena’s last fight, because I don’t know why.
We’ve got entire lifetimes starting to be plotted out, and Fred hasn’t even joined the fucking Order yet in the actual RP thread. xD;
Another thing we seem to have accidentally done is distinguish between the thread and the chat RPs. The chats appear to mostly be about their personal development: who they fall in love with, how their minds work, important conversations that bring characters closer together or further apart, etc. Everything we’ve done in chats fleshes out what made them who they are and who they will be in the future. The thread, however, seems to be the big main battle plot where we focus on the fight against Voldemort. It’s going slower because the chats are faster, more exciting, more emotional, and more impulsive, but all those little scenes all fit around what’s going on in the thread (or is it vice versa at this point?). The thread is the “final” product, in a way, and the chats set up all the pieces.
And yet! Despite all the different locations (the 2 past RPs threads, the current RP thread, Google Docs, and multiple chat windows with multiple people across multiple platforms), we know exactly what’s going on and how it connects to everything else. The narrative is unbroken, and no one is lost.
There is a lot to be said about the teamwork going on here, the strange way we’re processing all this, the effect the characters have on us, the way our headcanons have been changing the way we look at the books, and the way our versions of characters are influenced by the way others play them. However I won’t talk about any of that (not right now, anyway) because then this post would never end.
But if you hear me complaining about a Tylor, a Naveena, a Fred, a George, a Lily, or a Gideon, this is probably why.