Department of Writing Studies:
The Brotherhood offers different writing competitions. You may have already been asked to participate in cooperative writings refered to as “run on” already. Such writings, where several people write different parts of a story, are usually fun and not too time consuming. However, they can also end in utter frustration and chaos, often leaving no real story behind but remnants of erratic writings sometimes not even centered around a common topic.
In most cases, this is due to the participants of the run on ignoring what has been written before and only bothering about including their own characters and their own ideas. If such an incoherent writing is created, it is often refered to as “run away.” You can probably imagine how hard it is for the judge to read such a thing, and it is obvious that it will not score well in any competition.
2—How should a Run-On work?
If you are about to write in a run on, the first thing you have to do is to check where you are in the timeline and progressing of the story. There is a difference in positing at the beginning, in the middle or towards the end of a run on. Usually, if you are among the first 5 people to post, you can consider yourself posting at the beginning, unless there is a fixed number of posts and this number is below 15. Another indication is post length. Some people think a few sentences make a run on post, while others write long paragraphs, going far ahead in the story.
A good post in a run on needs to give good starting/continuing points for other people to write. So you should not just cut off in the middle of an action scene, as this might leave others confused and unsure as to what to write about now. Also, if you intend to continue a certain sequence yourself, you need to say so. The others won’t be able to know not to continue that part if you don’t!
3—Starting a Run-On
Post length should be a minimum of 2 paragraphs with at least 150 words each. A one-sentence post hurts the story more than it helps, and it might cost your party the win even if you get a participation point for it. Many judges do not even count one sentence posts anymore. There usually isn’t anything like a too long run on post. However, anything going beyond 1 1/2 pages Arial size 12 needs to be carefully reviewed. Is there really content in it, or is it mostly babble that does not help the story along? While character developement is very welcome in a run on, it should never be done at the expense of the plot.
If you are the one to start a run on, you need to think about who is supposed to be posting with you, what the run on is about to achieve, aka, the topic and the possible ending, people who will be writing in it etc. As the one to start a cooperative writing, you can and should set basic rules. For example, you can start with a briefing to the characters of the people who will be writing – it ensures their characters are in right away and gives less chances for later disruptions of the story due to the introduction of new characters. Briefings are used very often in run out situations though, and they become boring at one point. If you don’t want to use the briefing aproach, you should still include at least one other character in your post, unless the story really requires your character (or whatever other character you use) to be alone.
You should, as the first poster, at least write half a page of intro/info on the situation. Some topics allow for a shorter intro, but usually, at least half a page (in the standard Arial font size 12, single space) is expected. It can be more, of course, but writing a lot bears the chance of depriving your fellow posters of possiblities to direct the story. This might be a bad thing if the course of the adventure is not previously agreed upon.
If you are posting any other post but the first one, you need to be very careful about consistency and character descriptions. Also, as mentioned before, it does no good to keep introducing characters throughout the story, even if it is your own. As a rule of thumb, after the first 5 – 10 posts, depending on length and already existent plot developement, no new characters should be included unless there is a very good reason. And with very good, it isn’t meant that your character overslept, or was drunk, or he was held up in a space traffic jam or something similar. It must make sense to the story and be of help to the plot.
If you did not get to post early and no one else has included your character, you might feel a bit limited, seeing how you are not supposed to write about who you know best. It is always harder to post about someone else and stay in character. When you are in doubts about how another member’s persona might behave, ask. Better to bother them now than later finding out it did not fit. Also, by reading the story up to now very carefully, you will most likely pick up ideas, common reactions (such as a returning phrase someone uses) and likely reactions. Something that is generally a no-no is introducing character traits or physical attributes (emotional reactions, phobias, silly jokes, allergies, hair color, make them lose an arm etc) to someone else’s persona unless you’ve been given direct permission. Ask yourself “What if someone would do that with my character?” Even if you aren’t an RPG person, you would most likely not like it if someone messes up the way your character usually acts, or worse, changes his or her physical appearance.
Now there is the subject of plotlines. For some reason, it is often thought cool to introduce new plot elements to the run ons, sometimes complete side stories that are or are not (and more often the latter) connected to the main topic. For example, the run on is supposed to be about going to a certain planet and bring home an injured Phyle member. What happens is that the story has the rescue party visit several other planets, two people develope a romantic relationship, a pirate attack happens and an old friend of someone showing up before they even get to the designated planet. This developements continues throughout the run on. It totally distracts from the main goal – telling about the rescue operation. What is worse, in most of such run aways side plots don’t even have closure. Many open ends make a writing look unfinished, even if you write “The End” under it.
As with characters, very often every writer in a run on wants to add his own ideas and plotlines, more often than not paying no attention to what other people are trying to achieve. Thus, the story will come out like a collection of stories randomly thrown together. This is not a pleasant thing to read and won’t get any good placings. If you want to do your own thing, don’t write in run ons. There are lots of other competitions to do for a single writer activity. Run ons are called cooperative writings for a reason.
As with character consistency, consistency with the plot is important. It is, in fact, the most important thing for your run on. If you write about Jedi XX getting killed in the 4th post and he is suddenly alive again in post #10, then not many readers will take the story serious anymore. When QUA YY is on board of your ship in post #5 and you write about him being