Virtual characters help build real stories

Virtual worlds are providing a new and exciting, interactive landscape for writers. One such place is Nara’s Nook, an OpenSim grid on which which authors gather weekly to discuss their projects and to share or promote published work.

Magic Storybook in Greyville. (Image courtesy Nara Malone.)

Magic Storybook in Greyville. (Image courtesy Nara Malone.)

But grid owner Nara Malone takes this a step further. She actually develops fictional characters for her stories on the grid.

“When I am ready to write a new book, I create the characters and the settings in-world,” she told Hypergrid Business. “Once the world starts to feel real to me, the story starts to unfold in my mind.”

She isn’t alone.

“I think all the authors here find the virtual helps them do the writing and discover new angles to the stories they might not have otherwise,” she said.

Mixing idea spaces and technology, the creative landscape of virtual realities is helping to develop creative ideas. And this trend isn’t limited to just OpenSim.

“We are seeing a move toward interactive fiction in the publishing world,” said Malone. “Transmedia storytelling is an exciting and challenging way to tell stories.

Characters come to live

The authors use a feature called NPCs — non-player characters — which came to OpenSim three years ago as a result of a bounty by Birmingham, U.K.-based Daden Ltd., which needed these automated characters, or bots, to create training simulations.

These NPCs, or chatbots, have a store of information that they can use to interact with visitors, such as the werewolf telling her story in the video below:

“I use many NPCs around the colony,” Malone said, referring to the Greyville Colony area of the grid. “They help us get a clear vision of characters.”

Community effort

Malone didn’t build Nara’s Nook all on her own. Two other authors, Tina Glasneck and Siobhan Muir, are also part of the project. Three three met virtually.

Now the team is reaching out to other writers who are interesting in exploring virtuality.

“If you are brand new, get in touch with us and we will help you get started,” she said.

One place to begin is with her post An Author’s Guide to the Metaverse & How to visit Greyville Colony., which covers the basics of installing a viewer and logging in to Nara’s Nook for the first time.

Writers can also follow Malone via her Facebook page or her Google Plus account.

“They can message me and I will arrange to meet them inworld and walk them through getting around,” she said. “If you join the Metaverse Authors group on Google Plus or on Facebook — you do not have to be an author to join us — you will find our crew there ready to answer your questions and actively engaging in discussions about virtual life.”

Yantri Bherga

Yantri Bherga is a freelance writer and poet based in Western Massachusetts.