CT: Rory! I finally got a chance this afternoon to catch up on your recent updates on Legacies of the Sims. That story is so compelling! Hey, are you hungry? Since we’re both vegetarians, I’ve made salad.
CT: I’ve been looking forward to talking with you. You’ve got this enthusiasm that I find so inspiring. You know, you just dove in and tackled the whole project of setting up your first blog. It’s really a beautiful and inspiring project.
RG: Thank you so much for having me this evening, Cathy Tea. I’m bursting with excitement!
CT: Me, too! Ok! Let’s get this conversation started! How long ago was it that you first opened your WordPress account?
RG: I created my WordPress account on May 19th and made a post to the Sims Forums that I was diving into the writing pool. Then, quite honestly, the site sat there untouched for four whole days. I was just terrified of it. It was this huge overwhelming beast that I didn’t know how to tame.
CT: The beast of a blog! I remember your messages at the forum from that time. It was like you were both so excited and so… sort of terrified at the same time! Is that how you felt?
RG: I was overwhelmed. I kept thinking, what did I start here? I wanted to walk away so many times. But then I would watch more Let’s Plays and read more blogs and wish I could write as well. It was a tough cycle.
CT: What gave you the confidence to proceed?
RG: It was a combination of a few things. For months I had been reading all of the amazing stories on the forums, blogs, and even watching Let’s Plays of my favorite Youtubers who interject a back story into their game play. I just sat behind the safety of my computer screen always wishing I could do the same thing. Then out of curiosity (or maybe the five cups of coffee spurred me on), I sent messages to my favorite writers. I thought, what could it hurt? I will just ask how ask how they got started and if they had any advice. They let me pick their brains. The support of the community is amazing. That was what made me take the leap and dive in.
CT: I remember a few comments of yours at the EA Forums where it sounded like the whole process of setting up your blog felt so frustrating at times in the early stages. What strategies did you develop to help yourself work through that frustration?
RG: I went to every single one of my favorite writers’ blogs and watched tons of Let’s Plays on YouTube and took notes on what I liked. I already had a story in mind and how I wanted to present it. Doing research of what I liked about their techniques made me write down what I wanted and how I could make my blog special.
CT: That’s a great idea!
RG: Then I would get so excited, sit down at the computer, and then the dread would creep in. I would get so frustrated because I couldn’t figure out the website. I would post how frustrated I was on the forums. I got some great feedback, but then a sweet Rose came along. Aroseinbloom and I had been messaging back and forth for a while. She could see how frustrated I was. She took an afternoon, well, multiple afternoons, and walked me through every single button on the WordPress site. She was so patient. I took copious notes on how to do things. I still ask her how to do things.
CT: Rosey! What an incredible friend she is! So talented, and such an amazing source of support.
RG: She is just amazing. Another thing that helped me through the frustration was the advice I had received from the Forum you created, “The Writers Lounge.” There are so many others who were in my same boat. All paddling like crazy to figure out how to dive in and start a writing blog. Pros came in and brought amazing insight and answered every question we had. It’s a wonderful gathering place. I feel safe there. Like I can ask any question, no matter how dumb it may sound to me, and I can always get an answer there.
CT: Yeah, I’m inspired by that “Writers’ Lounge: For New and Old” thread at the Forums. It’s just taken off! I don’t think of it as my thread. It was friendsfan367’s idea–she wanted a place where any question could be asked about writing and blogging, and the credit for the success of the thread goes to her. She created this welcoming space where anybody can ask anything, and where everybody treats others with kindness. This is the one thread at the Forums where I don’t get wilty-flower after posting. I know even if I say something silly or goofball-like, no one will mind! We don’t even mind spam. Or chats about kittens. Or cupcakes, natch.
CT: It is a really great place for people to go if they want to get started and want some help. It’s also a great place to go if you want readers. Just show up there, say something like, “Hey, I’ve got a new blog. Would you check it out?” and people will respond.
Back to your story, I love the potential that you established so early on. And the way you started it, introducing the characters and the town first, is so effective for drawing us in, and also creating room for our imaginations to kick in and start spinning out possibilities, which is such an important storytelling technique in terms of engaging your listeners. How did you decide to use this approach, rather than a more traditional chapter approach for the beginning?
RG: That’s exactly what I was hoping to go for with this approach. I want readers to see so many possibilities of things that can happen. Writing a serial drama, I want the readers’ imaginations to run wild because anything can happen, and will. I have so much in store for all of these characters. You will be so shocked.
CT: One of my personal favorite features of your story is that you include the town and specific buildings as characters. Some of my favorite novels do this: Eliot’s Middlemarch and John Berger’s Pig Earth (which I so recommend, if you haven’t read it). And certainly novels by Faulkner and Louise Erdrich. It provides such a rich construction of seeming reality when the villagers and the town are involved as perspectives through which we see the story. How did you come up with this idea?
RG: Oh wow. To have a technique compared to classic writers is pretty neat. I want the readers to have a realistic sense of what the characters are experiencing. Building the town and adding them in as characters gives the story an added depth as to why characters are the way they are. Also, these places will be revisited down the line. If readers are familiar with why the characters are acting the way they are, it helps to give the story a history. Like we are experiencing the emotions right along with these characters. It brings it all life.
CT: I really do feel that your blog is more like a world to explore and discover than a two-dimensional piece of literature. Have you mapped out all the plot, or will you be developing it as you go along?
RG: I have everything all mapped out. Charts, maps, notes, sticky post-its, emails of notes I send myself while I try to sleep at night, a binder… I needed to. With so many plot twists and surprises coming, I really needed to have everything in order.
CT: How does game-play fit into where you’re taking your story?
RG: Game-play is interesting. I actually don’t play the game traditionally at all with this story. The characters are simply there for me to pose and take pictures. Before I started, I did a test family just to see how far you can push individual Sims of all ages. I played with death cheats, emotional buffs, and cheats that unlock game play items. I actually ended up having a baby taken away and everyone died. Then I got the actual Game Over screen. I now know how far I can push these guys. And this information will add to the story in so many ways.
CT: Very cool. I’ll tell you a funny secret: I actually plan the time when I will read your blog. I won’t just pop over any old time, or the moment there’s an update, like I do with some blogs. With yours, it’s like I’m planning for a trip, because your blog feels like a place to me. I am not much of a traveler, except in my imagination. So even when I read your blog–since it’s starting to feel more real than imaginary to me now–I need to prepare for a trip because I feel like I am traveling to a new place when I go there to explore and discover.
CT: Readers are in for a treat with all the hidden treasures and interactive features that you’ve placed throughout your blog!
I also hope that readers will find your work inspiring–just like you’ve been inspired by the works of others. And I hope that they feel like diving in and giving expression to their dreams! There’s so much help around–just ask any of us. If we don’t know, or if we’re momentarily busy, we’ll be happy to share resources and suggestions for others who might help.
RG: That’s something that I’ve noticed just starting out as a writer. The Sims community is amazing. It’s so supportive and encouraging. Just by reaching out about how to get started, I’ve made so many great friends. I’m so happy I reached out and got started!
RG: Thank you for having me, CathyTea! I loved talking with you. And thank you for the awesome dinner!