Robinquest is a fantasy story that is being written in turns by a group of friends. Each person contributes 1-5 pages of content that helps move the story forward. Nobody knows what the next person will write. It is like a TV show where you get to pick what happens next, but you can still get hit by surprises and plot twists you didn’t see coming.

A good round-robin style story exists in a precarious balance. Every author has their own idiosyncratic style, favorite characters, picture of the world, etc… So it is easy for a story to fall off track, neglect certain characters, overfocus on certain others and in general just become a confused mess. In the interests of keeping things as neat as possible while still allowing for maximum fun, there are a few ground rules:

Rule 1: Have fun with the story.

There’s no point in contributing if you aren’t enjoying yourself. Write the story you would want to read.

Rule 1(a): Caveat

Quality is very important, too. It is better to sacrifice a small amount of fun if it means a more enjoyable/understandable/identifiable product for the reader.

Rule 2: Nothing is canon until it is written down.

It doesn’t matter if you have drawn a fantasy map of the region, or worked out a character’s backstory to the fiftieth decimal place in your head. If it isn’t in black and white in the main body of the story, it’s all fluid. Bear this in mind particularly when adding characters, they will grow beyond your control, sometimes into something you might not have wanted. A good author will work with these curveballs and make a good story anyway.

Rule 3: Story should conform as closely as possible to the laws of narrative causality.

Don’t write anything down that you could not reasonably see happening (bearing the genre of the book in mind). Not just from a real world cause and effect standpoint but from a storytelling standpoint as well. I.E. Don’t just suddenly shift the cast into dimension X because you felt like writing a science fiction story about battling flying cars. If you want to write a different story, go and write it… just somewhere else. Another good example: romantic entanglements don’t just happen. If you want to ship two characters, start the set up early or feed off established evidence. Or make them drink a love potion, I dunno, but make it work.

Rule 4: The cast is flexible.

Bearing in mind the laws of narrative causality (rule 3). New characters are welcome and even encouraged. More than that, other characters -even those you didn’t create (gasp)- can die, become injured, sick, or leave the narrative etc…

Rule 5: Remember that when you are writing, you control everything.

Some of us may have favorite characters or characters we don’t know what to do with. Do not be intimidated into feeling that another characters is “someone else’s” and avoid writing for them. When it is your turn, all the characters and the situations are yours.

Rule 6: There is no default narrative position.

Shift from third person omniscient to first person prejudiced and in between or all over as you see fit. Tell the story the way you tell it best. The different parts of the story should merge together, but there is no requirement for contributions to merge stylistically. In fact, the whole point of a round robin story is to see the different styles interact.

Rule 7: Try to make contributions no less than 1 page and not much more than 5.

Pretty straightforward. 10 pages is right out.

Rule 8: Try to be prompt.

Waiting for the muse to move you is all well and good, but think on the five other people whose muses are chomping at the bit. 3 days is a reasonable deadline per turn.


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