A Beginners Guide to Starting Virtual Series

Let’s assume that you have a brilliant Idea. Let’s say a sitcom about a group of different people living under the same roof. Or a story about a police unit who dedicate their lives to solving crimes. Or maybe some other equally original idea that demonstrates how creative and innovative sort of a person you are.

Now, let’s continue by assuming that you’d want to make it as a virtual series with a staff of writers and producers and you want to release scripts in regular intervals.

This is all very nice and all, but you might not have an idea as to how to do it. Well, this is where I tell you one way of doing it. —T. Henrik Anttonen A Beginners Guide to Starting Virtual Series (Voice Over)

An interesting article about organizing a team of writers to produce scripts for a non-existent TV series. Writing is hard work; some of those who wanted to do it for fun gave up when they looked at the schedule. But whether you are hoping to hone your skills for a shot at a professional job, or you simply have a passion for using words to create, an exercise like this would be a tremendous experience.

I used to participate in a collaborative epistolatory science fiction epic, at the suggestion of my high school friend Gilbert Stack. We started off writing letters to each other in-character, but I started supplying one- or two-page fictional treatments to contextualize the letters (sometimes showing what the character chose NOT to put in the letter), and soon some of us were writing mock newspapers and scripts. Steve Spishak (a Medievalist and the drummer for the cheesy 80s cover band “Gonzo’s Nose”) wrote an entry in blank verse… I still remember one of the lines… “This churlish syntax burns my English tongue” (spoken as a blank verse aside, but referring to an unpleasant prose interaction with a minor character). Another friend, Christine Heath, and my brother, John Jerz, were also regular contributors. I also remember contributions from Chris Park, Carol Johnson, Sarah McLeod… This was in the late 80s, and we did it all through snail mail. I still have several thick 3-ring binders, and I keep telling myself that some day I’ll turn my corner of that universe into an interactive fiction game.

While our interactive literary work doesn’t quite have the style of existing as tattoos or stickers, it really helped focus my writing energies in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to do if I were merely writing for myself, without any sense of an audience or people who were sometimes writing against what I wanted to happen in our shared fictional universe. I kept an encyclopedia of technology and culture and a timeline; I think someone else created a map showing travel routes and distances. God, was I a geek… but I really loved it. My old files simply called this “MAIL Game.”

The point of my nostalgic trip: I am so glad that, when I was young and frequently bored, I spent enough time away from the TV and the joystick to create something that meant something to me and my friends. I wouldn’t have the time to start something like that today. Of course, I write all the time, in my blog, in e-mail, in the margins of student papers… but I’ve been feeling the draw of creative writing again. I’m kicking around an idea for a somewhat quirky academic paper, but I’m also hoping that I’ll get back into writing interactive fiction.

3 thoughts on “A Beginners Guide to Starting Virtual Series

  1. Dennis,
    I learned a tremendous amount about writing from the MAIL game. It may have been my idea to start it, but it was your creative genius that turned it into something special. You wrote the first newspaper, you wrote the first short story, and so on.

    By the end of the game, I was really beginning to find my voice as a writer. Thank you. It’s quite possible I wouldn’t be getting my stories published in “Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine” today if you hadn’t agreed to give the MAIL game a try and thrown so much energy into it. I miss that game, but like you I don’t know when I’d find time for it now. If you ever do the interactive game, please let me know. I’d like to play it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *