Sunday, October 26, 2014


Forgotten City

Doom was an unhappy robot that got tired of doing robot stuff and wanted to become human. The problem with that decision was the fact that Doom had no idea about how to be human. Doom tried crying. Doom tried smiling. Doom tried sneezing. Nothing worked. One day, Doom’s neighbor robot Calamity came over for tea. They engaged in a philosophical conversation about human beings and Calamity thought Doom’s ambition of becoming one was utterly horrendous, but Doom wouldn’t give up. Halloween was right around the corner and Doom would be a human, even if only for a few hours.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Take a Walk on the Scary Side

Virtual worlds, in this case Second Life, are an extremely interesting resource for writers. The possibility of being immersed in a variety of environments offers an array of ideas and stimuli that are an important contribution to story writing.

This article aims at showing you how easy it is to draw inspiration from different locations in Second Life. I’ll take you with me through the whole process.

* A few tips

1. Choose a sim from the destination guide or follow one of Camie’s suggestions. If you already have a landmark to a location you’d like to draw inspiration from, double-click the landmark in your inventory to be teleported to the sim.

2. Upon arrival, take a few steps away from the landing point. More people might teleport in and they would land on top of your head!

3. Wait a few seconds for things to rez properly. Depending on what exists at that location and the characteristics of your own computer, the location will rez slower or faster. So, it is worth waiting a little bit.

4. After things have rezzed, start exploring. I usually take a stroll around the sim without really thinking too much about my writing. I just try to enjoy it. Then I take a second walk focusing on details that caught my eye. As I walk along, I take a few snapshots (Ctrl+Shift+S > Save As… > choose location in your computer > rename if needed > Save) that I use when I’m off-world.

5. Sometimes, when you arrive at a location in Second Life, you may feel overwhelmed by so many interesting details and you’ll feel tempted to use as many as possible. However, that can be very distracting once you start writing. Some sims are so rich that it is as important to be able to gather information as it is to be able to discard it. So being selective is imperative, otherwise you’ll end up with a pile of unusable ideas simply because they don’t fit. Start by focusing on three or four aspects you think will be of value to your story regarding the setting, the character(s) and/or the plot.

6. Below you’ll find an example of how virtual-reality can assist you in writing a story. 

* The Process

Camie’s challenge was to visit a location in Second Life related to Halloween, and to write 300-600 words. I decide to visit Screaming Woods, one of the sims suggested in the blog.

I have no characters and I have no plot.

As I start walking through the sim, I notice a bay filled with floating, decaying bodies. What impresses me the most are their hands reaching out of the water, as if trying to grasp the last straw of life.

Another aspect that catches my attention is the few men trying to hold onto a rock; some of them are still wearing ragged pieces of clothing. I decide I have my characters, at least a few of them. I don’t know if, along the path, I will find any more.

I have the beginning of my plot; a group of men arrive at this island, after something terrible happened to them. You’ll see that farther up, there is a destroyed ship; it looks like it survived a storm.

When I turn around, I see a house. Inside, there’s a closet with a child in it; she’s surrounded by spooky red eyes. I cannot see who or what is behind her. Her doll-like figure sharply contrasts with her white dress covered in blood. I can also see a pair of claws either threatening to grab her or keeping her safe. I add her to my list of characters.

I continue to walk up the hill towards the house at the top. The area around it is dark and cramped. As I open the door, the first thing I see is a young girl. She’s in a straitjacket, her hair is shaved and she looks scared. I immediately decide to make her a character in my story.

I venture inside, walking past her, and end up in the room that looks like an operating room or rather the decaying remains of one. Amidst stretchers and other objects, there’s a cage. It’s empty, locked, and padded on the inside. What caught my attention was a candle hanging from the ceiling of that cage; it’s lit. Now why would a candle be burning inside a padded cage?

The beginning of a story is paved with a million questions. Answering those questions becomes the process of writing.

Allow me to go back for a moment. What happened to the men we saw when we arrived at the sim? Who are they? Where did they come from? What is this island they arrived at? Why is the island empty? Why is there an abandoned psychiatric hospital at the top of the hill? And why is a child there? Is she by herself? How does she survive? Why was she left behind? What will happen to the men when they arrive at the hospital? And so on.

As you can see, with only a few elements there are plenty of questions to kick-start your story. It may even happen that some of the questions become irrelevant and you end up discarding them. No problem. They probably triggered more questions that became an important stepping-stone for your plot.

Now, let’s get to work. Equipped with images, sounds, questions, ideas and, above all, words, I am ready to write.

* The Story

Black clouds announced a sealed destiny while a ship got mercilessly dismantled by vicious waves.

The small bay was filled with deformed bodies of sailors, rotten and floating aimlessly, struggling to reach the shore, their hands reaching out from under the water. The stench was indescribably horrendous.

Although their bodies were already decaying, they still had hope, that unbroken hope of a dying man scrambling for the last chance to survive. 

The few who survived the storm decided to walk inland in a tight group, desperately looking for signs of life, but knowing that this island was eating them alive. 

There were a few abandoned huts displayed in a circle, but no sign of life was to be seen, no people, no animals, and no food. However, strangely enough, the fire was burning in the middle of these huts.

The small group struggled up the hill, following a narrow path, stumbling on mossy stones and branches of old trees. They weren’t quite sure if it was the result of hunger and thirst, but those branches seemed to be alive, grabbing them by the ankles, slowing their progress.

When they reached the top of the hill, they saw the silhouette of an old building. It looked abandoned and solemnly sad. The men hesitated. Should they go in? Hunger provided them with that last straw of courage that pushed them forward. 

As the door slowly opened, they saw a young girl. The island wasn’t abandoned after all, they thought. Their initial sense of exhilaration rapidly gave place to an ominous feeling of hopelessness though. The girl was in a straitjacket; her head had been shaved bald. Her eyes were filled with fear, an unimaginable fear. 

On the balcony above, someone had tried to write ESCAPE on the wall. Written in a vibrant red, the word was smudged at the end.

A threatening silence began to enclose them. The girl looked transfixed, almost hypnotized, her big green eyes remained wide open. 

As the men entered the hall, hoping for some kind of reaction, she kept still, wrapped in that growingly constrictive straitjacket.

Suddenly, they heard scratching noises coming from a room in the back. They decided to investigate, especially because they were hungry, very hungry, and hunger pushes men to make foolish and hasty decisions.

The room was an old operating room. Rusted surgical tools, a gurney and a few chairs lingered forgotten on the floor. 

In a corner, there was a silent cage. It was locked and empty. Much to the sailors’ surprise, inside the cage, a lit candle was hanging from the ceiling. One of the men muttered “perhaps there is something in there; we just can’t see it”.

The noises grew in intensity and were now followed by anguished shrieks. The men couldn’t figure out where the shrieks came from, until they saw the doors of a closet opening slowly. A chill crept down their backs.

A small child, wearing a white dress, was standing inside the closet. Two pairs of red eyes stood behind her and two clawed hands reached over her shoulders. She looked like she wanted to escape, to run away from an unwilling imprisonment.

Despite the pain they were in, their skin peeling off as if burnt, some of the sailors felt compelled to help. They reached towards her to get her out of the closet but it was like she was stuck inside. The more the men pulled her out, the more her feet sunk in the floor. The small child shrieked in anguish.

The scratching turned into growling, a growling that became louder and louder, a warning no one wanted to pay attention to, a threat as strong and palpable as the inexplicable storm that hit their ship earlier.

Suddenly, the small child’s shrieks turned into a soft, plaintive humming. Before anyone could do anything, all the men were turned into ashes.

As the red eyes closed and the clawed hands retracted, the small child closed the doors of the closet and whispered the words of a lullaby “Lay thee down now and rest, may thy slumber be blessed… Lay thee down now… and rest… may thy slumber be blessed...”

The young girl in the straitjacket left her place by the entrance, walked in the old operating room and into the cage, closing its gate behind her.

Over the next few days, the wooden planks of the ship disappeared under the clear blue water. The fire in the empty village died down. The path up the hill towards the abandoned psychiatric hospital was covered in brittle, orangey leaves. And the dark black clouds parted, giving way to the most beautiful blue sky.

A year later, another ship would be sunk, caring lost and frightened sailors whose skin would be burnt to the flesh. They too would set foot on the island and become hopeful as they see the fire amongst the empty huts. They too would walk up the path, all the way to the psychiatric hospital, to stand before a lost young girl in a tight straitjacket.

And no one would ever escape their destiny. The island would be fed once more, forever keeping those two children as doomed prisoners.

* Conclusion

This story is only an example of what can be done! I have intentionally kept it simple. You can use more elements than the ones I have chosen to use or you can even use less.

It goes without saying that the elements you decide to include in your story are merely a source of inspiration. As you’ll see, if you visit the sim, the closet with the spooky small child is not in the hospital! So, you can, and should, use anything you collect according to what you need and what your story dictates.

(Source: Screenshot from NaNoWriMo @ Second Life)

The ideas you draw from different locations in Second Life will provide your story with the depth it needs to grow into a coherent, interesting and often daring story.

Above all, have fun!

*Blogged at NaNoWriMo @ Second Life.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


Gehena Vampire Clan

Peter hated his nickname and he didn’t understand why they called him Skeleton at school. In the eyes of everyone else, he couldn’t care less about skulls, bones or skeletons. He spent days digging in his grandmother’s backyard where he found bones of many animals, yes, but the kids didn’t know that. They most definitely didn’t know about those bones his grandmother buried in the barn. Peter simply couldn’t understand the other kids... The night was too warm and he couldn’t sleep. He got out of bed and went for a walk in the neighboring cemetery. He enjoyed the quietness.
100 Word Stories

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Writing Resources 2014

I've gathered here some of the resources I use often when I'm writing. More will be added as I stumble upon them. I'll keep this list uncluttered though, I promise. During the November frenzy, there's no time to test and wonder and ponder and... well, 1700 words a day says it all!

* Thesaurus
* Dictionary - English/English

* Grammarist - English Usage
* Bartleby - English Usage

* Plot Generator
Seventh Sanctum - Generators
* RanGen - Plot Generator by Genre
* Writing Exercises - Plot generator - Main Character, Character 2, Setting, Situation,
                                                           Theme, Character Action
* DonJon - Generators (especially Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Weird Fiction,
                                                            but useful for other genres)

* Symbols

Word Counter
* Word Counter Tool with typing speedometer!
* Write or Die
* Goal Calculator, in case you fall behind and need to redefine your writing goals

* NaNoWriMo Platform
NaNoWriMo Blog

* Gibberish Translator, in case you don't want to copy/paste your novel as-is into the NaNoWriMo website for validation

*Rewards! NaNoWriMo Offers for NaNo participants and winners.

Interviewed by NaNoWriMo @ Second Life

Photo by Lizzie
Editing by Camie

Camie Rembrandt, a fellow Second Life resident and writer, interviewed me for her blog NaNoWriMo @ Second Life

In this short email interview, I shared a bit about my path as a writer immersed in a virtual world, the experiences I went through and the benefits immersive writing brought to my stories. 

Read the whole interview here.


Quoted from the website mentioned above:

1. How long have you been using Second Life®?

The first avatar I created was back in 2007. In 2008, I created Lizzie who is now my main avatar and my Second Life (SL) identity.

2. When did Second Life® become important to your creative writing? (Was it something that happened immediately after starting using this virtual world? Or did you have to wait a few months, maybe even years, before incorporating SL into your writing routine?)

Back in 2009, I took part in a Poetry Quest and I ended up winning it! Participants were instructed to go to the organizer's SIM every day for 30 days and collect a task card. In the notecard, the organizer explained which type of poetry we were expected to write and the SIM we should visit to draw inspiration from. I believe this was the very first time I realized how big an impact SL could have on my stories.

Then life happened! I dropped my writing for about 3 years, but continued to enjoy SL, developing other activities unrelated to writing.

In 2012, I came across Crap Mariner's weekly writing challenge and started taking part I it regularly. It was clear to me though that writing once a week was simply not enough.

The Virtual Writer's Inc. daily prompts then became the perfect opportunity to write more often. I couldn't be in-world at the time of the daily write-ins, but I did write something offline every day for more than a year, mostly very short-fiction.

It was also in 2012 that I opened my blog, a virtual off-world office. However, it was not only a workplace, my blog also made me visible and many people started noticing and enjoying my stories.

In 2013, I was invited to become a resident writer for iRez, a website that deals with matters related to Identity and Virtuality. It was then that I decided to write longer pieces. It was time for a few short-stories.

This year, I was invited to become a guest writer for the Virtual Writers Inc.; I have a monthly column there especially for writers called "A Story Waiting to Happen".

So, as you can see, it was a process that lasted a few years!

3. Tell us a bit about what you do in Second Life®, as a writer: do you write in-world, attend events, maybe host some of them, do you mentor other writers?

As a writer in SL, I do a bit of all the activities you've mentioned.

Last year during the NaNoWriMo, I hosted a scrimmage on Twitter for the Virtual Writers and attended the write-ins at Milk Wood. I succeeded in completing NaNoWriMo and I have no doubt whatsoever that it was due to the possibility of being immersed in SL!

Now I'm especially fond of the 500 Word Writing Challenge I host Saturdays, noon SLT (8pm Lisbon time), at the Milk Wood SIM, home of the Virtual Writers Inc. group. The aim of this event is to write 500 words in 30 minutes. A prompt is provided if the participants need one to trigger ideas, but using it is not compulsory.

Getting work done on the story we are creating, writing something new, revising, blogging, anything goes. The time limit and word count add a bit of pressure so that we stop procrastinating, something writers are very good at!

I have been a mentor for new residents in SL, officially and now informally, for many years. As a result, one of the most important aspects of hosting a write-in for me is to provide the support and encouragement, the tools and the opportunity for writers to grow in their trade.

I was recently very happy to see the enthusiasm and commitment of a new writer who went from writing drabbles (100 words) to achieving the 500-word mark in half an hour! A word of praise and/or a constructive suggestion in the right moment can do wonders!

4. Is there any SIM/virtual island/region that you find particularly inspirational, the kind of place every writer should visit?

I found many examples of inspirational SIMs in SL. It's impossible to choose one. For my column "A Story Waiting to Happen", I visit a different SIM every month and drop ideas for writers to use as inspiration for their own stories. So, I invite you to check my suggestions there and visit one of those locations. They are all impressive!

5. In what ways do you find Second Life® helpful for someone interested in writing?

I think it's particularly helpful to be immersed in a context that might trigger an array of varied options writers can then choose from (ambiance, sounds, colors, objects, movement even).

Before SL, I was collecting clippings from newspapers, magazines, postcards, online sites and old photos of people, anything I could get my hands on. We all still do that. But walking throughout a SIM, sitting somewhere and just "soaking in" everything that surrounds you makes it a lot easier to come up with ideas. Stories become richer and more detailed.

I also find it very interesting that SL has a multitude of different types of destinations (check the Destination Guide). Looking for and finding a specific environment, going there and drawing the visual information you need for your story is fairly easy.

Curiously enough, when I look at my avatar typing away furiously my writing pace increases!

I am a firm believer that writers strongly benefit from what virtual worlds, in this case SL, have to offer. More ideas, detail-rich stories and a faster writing pace are a great plus when you’re a writer!


Sunday, October 12, 2014



“Zero resistance. And…ahm… that’s it, ladies and gentlemen.”

The large audience was perplexed. That’s it? They paid for an overpriced two-hour long seminar.

The abrupt uproar of indignation caught the speaker running away as fast as he could.

Two members of the audience hurried behind him. When they reached the back exit, there was no sign of him.

Later that night, a cleaning lady touched a small round disk and she too disappeared mysteriously. 

Like so many before, she returned decades later to say “zero resistance”, right before the Great Surrender. Earth became a popular destination, but… not for humans.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Immersive Writing

Milk Wood

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! 
Read more here.

Sunday, October 5, 2014



A year of planning and a 10-hour drive didn’t discourage Gene. He was used to hardship. Well, he was used to corporate hardship mostly, being the CEO of one of the biggest oil companies. His stress levels had been building up dramatically. So, the retreat would be an intense spiritual experience. At the end of his stay, Gene was feeling great. The problem was when this guy drove into the back of his car on the local country road. Gene was definitely not ready for this kind of hardship. He ended up at the bottom of a hole, intensely dead.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Story Waiting to Happen

Toshigi Japan Cibercity

... Toshigi Japan Cybercity (click here for full text).

This post is part of a series of monthly articles for the Virtual Writers about sims in Second Life that could be the source of inspiration for writers. My goal is to trigger ideas for new stories, new characters and new settings. Enjoy!

Note: One of the characteristics of Second Life is the fact that it's constantly and rapidly changing. Sims come and go; others look quite different, as time goes by. Do take that into consideration when using the links provided. 


Toshigi Japan Cybercity

Amidst the growing hustle and bustle that precedes the NaNoWriMo and a wrist stress injury (take breaks when you’re writing, seriously… especially if you’re doing the NaNo), I have decided to escape the imminent Halloween craze and take you to Toshigi Japan Cibercity.

Toshigi, owned by Neos Klaar, is an urban environment with a strong sci-fi feel to it.

I have been to this sim several times and I do believe some Roleplaying (RP) is taking place, although I have not seen that explicitly stated anywhere. For that reason, just in case, I ask you to visit this location taking into consideration that residents are possibly RP’ing.

So far, to find ideas for our stories, we have visited whole sims, we have combined several specific areas of a simand we have visited one single plot.

Considering that time is ticking away, that I’m running helplessly late with this month’s column and that many of us do have some heavy outlining to do before November catches us off-guard, this time we will consider one single area within a sim. I’ll take you with me to Toshigi’s cybercafé.

As I walk in, it’s impossible to miss the police “Keep Out” line. It blocks the way into an empty back lot. I perk up to see if I can spot anything unusual, but I notice nothing from here. So, I decide to go inside the cybercafé and check through the side windows. I still see nothing out of the ordinary.

While sitting at a computer, I can’t seem to shake off the feeling that this cybercafé is eerily empty for a reason. What happened here?

I decide to look around. Perhaps our story will be about spies, cyber spies. Or perhaps it’ll be about hackers who sit in silence, side by side, and create irreparable havoc throughout the world from this seemingly placid place. Maybe our hackers get entangled in a messy situation and are forced to become spies for a government, for a corporation or even for a crime organization.

Three computer screens flicker with frantic lines of code on the left side of the room. A few pots with plants contrast sharply with the Spartan display of chair, screen, keyboard, mouse, a balanced repetition linked by two single cables that cross the room.

The ominous bluish tone engulfs me and the immersive sounds of the city promise a fragile sense of anonymity which might be the reason for the growing boldness of our hackers.

On the counter, the open tray of the register reveals an interesting amount of money, perhaps too big an amount for this type of venue. Where does the money come from? What is it used for?

Next to the register, a line of books draws my attention. These could be a few stories by themselves. It’s a curious mix and match of titles that sparkles a strong suspicion in me. Tales of Cupid, North American Indians, Pictorial Life of Washington, Poems by W.B. Yeats, Wheels of Change and Harry Potter.

Now, why would a cybercafé have paper copies of such a diverse array of books? Nostalgia? I seriously doubt it. Maybe the owner of the cybercafé hates computers. Well, that’s an interesting possibility. Or perhaps these books are used for some old-school cryptography.

It’s intriguing (for the sake of our story) that there are several copies of each book on the shelves. Why would more than one copy be needed? Does each hacker have his own specific copy to work with? Have the books been modified somehow? Are they only the covers?!

Another intriguing detail is the fact that there is a newspaper vendor at the cybercafé. It might be just a vendor, yet this apparently innocent anachronism could be, in reality, a mailbox. Yes, let’s make it the place where payments are dropped. It’s also the place where any exchanges that need to be made under the radar are made, especially when the hackers realize they are being hacked themselves!

Suddenly, I’m very hungry. Across the street, the pink neon sign of Clair de Lune is tempting. I can almost smell fresh croissants from here.

I don’t think I’ll come across any hackers there. Hackers aren’t into pink too much! Although… That red sports car parked in front of the coffee shop is slightly suspicious. The place looks like a family business run by a sweet granny. What is that luxury car doing there? Perhaps the granny is not that sweet. Perhaps she has something to do with the comings and goings at the cybercafé.

I peek through the windows of the cybercafé. I promised I’d take you with me to one single area in Toshigi, but I’m already looking beyond it, a storm of ideas threatening to make me break my promise. It’s a writer’s thing. We are hopeless, aren’t we? It reminds me of that saying. Curiosity killed the cat.

And with this soothing thought in mind, that our lives might be in constant danger, I wrap up this month’s column. We’ll come back to this sim looking for more stories soon, because… there’s a story waiting to happen at Toshigi Japan Cybercity!

One final note, this column will be put on hold in November. I’ll attempt, once more, to complete the NaNoWriMo and that will be quite a task. To write a novel at least 50.000 words long in 30 days is the goal. Crazy? Yes, absolutely. Nevertheless, one thing is for sure. Virtual Reality is an extraordinary resource for writers. Its immersive features provide an endless amount of ideas for our stories.

Good luck to any NaNoWriMos out there and see you again in December!



Disclaimer: Virtual Writers Inc. and I are in no way affiliated with any shop located in the sims featured in this column nor do we intend to promote them.