Thursday, March 24, 2011

An OOC Moment: The Uncut Interview With @BecomingTruebie

The very lovely @BecomingTruebie humbled me so much by asking to interview me back in February, that I only thought it right to post the resulting interview on my blog as well. Be sure to check out her blog as well, at


What made you want to get started? And why Sookie?

When I discovered twitter RP, I’d already been RPing for about six years. I’d RPed mostly in threads on forums, but the conversational nature of twitter RP really appealed to me. I loved that you could get a real time, immediate response, so I decided to try it out. I initially started with a much more obscure character, Halleigh, and eventually took on a few original characters before trying Sookie out. I think it’s her inner light that really appealed to me. She has this ability to be strong and optimistic no matter what she’s faced with, often to her detriment—that whole white candle in a coal mine image.

Did you have RPing or twitter experience before you started?

Yes, six years give or take a couple months, all of it threading on forums, most of which I ran along with the same RP partner and real life boyfriend I’ve had for over five years now, @SheriffNorthman. It was definitely a strange transition going from thousand word posts to 140 character ones, but it’s been so much fun.

About how many hours a week do you spend on Twitter?

I can’t say I’ve ever really counted. It’s never something I sit and do exclusively, so there’s no time I set aside for tweeting specifically. My characters do tend to demand a lot of my attention though, definitely, but it’s something I get to do with my friends and my boyfriend, so I don’t really count the hours.

Your RL name and life is a secret from your followers. Is this aspect of your life a secret from friends and family?

Yeah, I’d say it is, at least to an extent. My family’s had no idea what I was talking about when I’ve tried explaining it to them, and it’s a part of my life I keep separate from my friends. It’d be pretty strange if the two worlds collided. My sister tried RPing a few years back, and it was too weird for both of us. It’s hard to pretend that someone you’ve known since birth is someone else. Years ago I RPed with some friends I went to school with. It was strange.

How do you compare to Sookie's character? What about her can her identify with? What do you like about her? Dislike?

Big picture, we’re really not that similar. I’m not telepathic, I’ve never worked as a waitress, I’m not from the South, I still have both my parents, I went to college, I don’t have a brother, and I’ve very unfortunately never met a vampire.

I identify more with the smaller details. I have an amazing relationship with my grandmother, and I respect her more than almost anyone else in the world, so I can identify with Sookie’s relationship with her Gran. I felt like a total outcast all through high school (who doesn’t), and I really can’t identify with most of the people in my hometown, so I understand feeling somewhat out of place where I grew up. Sookie and I have mostly the same taste in movies, and I gave her my taste in food since it was never really outlined. We’re both romantics, even though we’ve been seriously burned in the past. She has so many insecurities to wrestle; I think we can all relate to that. She has a lot of faith in people, and I love that about her.

I admire her strength, her generosity, her open-mindedness, and the way she remains mostly untainted and hopeful despite the things she’s been through. I think Sookie has her flaws like everyone else, though. She has a tendency to mistake strength and independence for isolation and detachment, when they’re really not the same thing. She’s incredibly money-phobic, which causes a lot of arguments. She doesn’t like being taken care of, especially financially, and sees weakness in it, despite wanting to take care of others. They’re definite faults, but she’s working on them, as we all work on the things we don’t like about ourselves.

Why do you think people follow you? What is the role of the follower in the Twitter roleplay? How do they get involved?

I genuinely have no idea why anyone follows me. Sometimes I think it’s because I follow a lot of people, and they think it’s polite to follow back. I’m beyond humbled and flattered that anyone does. I truly enjoy RPing, and my best guess and hope would be that it comes across in my writing. Beyond that, it’s not about me. I work with a fantastic group that comes up with amazing stories. I’m lucky to be a part of those plots. If I weren’t in them, I’d be following them too.

I think every new follower is a new opportunity of someone I could possibly interact with in the future. I absolutely love reading what other RPers come up with, so for me it’s another story I get to watch develop, which is a lot of fun. I’ve always been an avid reader, so getting to read everyone’s storylines is sort of like getting to read a bunch of books all at once. I love it. It’s obviously nearly impossible to accomplish, but I try, and I’m always looking for new RPers to follow.

I’d say followers can get involved any time there’s any sort of open RP going on, which would be any interaction taking place in a public space where others don’t mind you getting involved. My classic example of this is whenever I have Sookie working at Merlotte’s, or out shopping, or suffering through a visit to Fangtasia, that sort of thing. As a general rule, I usually feel that if a character’s in a public space, it’s okay to approach them unless they’re having some serious, private conversation. If they’re in a private space, like a house, then it’s always polite to ask first. You never go into someone’s home without knocking; it’s just good manners. It’s always good to know what a character is doing and where they are before you start talking to them, and if they’re already involved in a narrative, it’s a good idea to ask first. A friend of mine wrote a really great article on this:

What are the challenges of twitter RP? How is it different/better/worse than other forms of RPing (threads in forums etc.)?

I think the most obvious challenge of twitter RP is trying to get anything at all said in 140 characters or less. It’s definitely taught me to be concise, which I guess is a good thing. Before twitter RP, I had years and years of experience RPing in threads on forums. I wouldn’t say it’s better or worse, just different. I love both. With forum RP, I think you have a greater opportunity to get into the thought process of your characters, to really flesh out the details of your stories and take the time to paint exactly the picture you want. With twitter RP, the challenge is to do exactly that, only with way fewer words. I prefer the immediate response of twitter RP, and the real time progression of plots to the slower, more drawn out style of forum RP, where a thread that takes a month to finish is really only a few hours in your character’s life. I’ve supplemented my twitter RP with blogging as Sookie, which I think fills in some of the details from her story that just aren’t expressed in 140 characters or less, and I’ve really enjoyed that. My background is in forum writing, so I’m always going to be a little detail-oriented, but there’s absolutely no substitute or comparison for the amount of interactivity you get on twitter. It’s a much bigger world for your character to live and thrive in, and while there are definite complexities to navigate and overcome, there’s also a much greater pool of opportunities and talent.

Any advice for Twitter RP newbies?

Read before you leap, probably. If you’re trying to get involved with a plot or even a discussion with another character, make sure you’ve read a little bit of their back story, even just their bio or their most recent tweets. It’s awkward to have someone trying to shake your hand while your character’s showering. Originality, creativity, and respect all go a long way in all RPing, not just on twitter. Listen to those around you, and keep an open mind.

Many of the RPers are affiliated with a group they tweet with. Did you start Yield To Me? How is it different from other fan communities?

Yeah, absolutely. I tend to see groups basically as a cast of characters. It helps keep plots organized to know that, if you’re in this group, this is your Sookie, your Alcide, your Sam. That’s all a group is, really, the cast you work with. SheriffNorthman and I started Yield To Me as a message board back in September of 2009. I definitely can’t speak for other fan communities or groups out there, and there are some absolutely terrific ones that I enjoy following myself, but what we try to do is come up with lots of new and original material while still staying true to the spirit of the books and show. We’ll use a lot of the elements given to us by both and try to find ways to do new things with them, to try stuff we haven’t seen done before. It’s a lot of fun.

You have a lot to draw your story from with the books, tv series, short stories, comics etc. How do you manage the timeline of the books vs tv show? With Sookie's story being in two different places (and all the characters on twitter), how do you decide the kinds of interactions you have with Bill, Eric, Alcide, and Quinn?

There really is a ton of material to work from, but that’s such an advantage. It gives us so much material to pull from and mold into something original, and I love that. When we started our boards, we started right after season two aired, so that’s where we picked up. We took off from Living Dead in Dallas and started doing our own thing from there, with the inclusion of some elements of season two, like Jessica turning and Lafayette’s survival. As the seasons progress and new books come out, the gap between my Sookie’s plot and show-Sookie or book-Sookie’s plot widens (not that those two Sookies have similar plots anyway), but we try to incorporate new elements from the show and the books as they’re introduced, typically in some unusual ways.

What are your thoughts on the changes Alan Ball has made to the book series? (eg. the additions of Jessica and Godric, the changed storylines of Lafayette and Tara etc) How do these changes affect your RPing?

He certainly is creative. I think some of the additions and changes are genius, and I can’t imagine what he was thinking when he’s made others, but any interpretation of a story is going to be just that, an interpretation. Since we don’t all live in Charlaine Harris’s head, we’re all going to interpret the stories differently, and they’re going to hold different meanings for all of us. The fusion of and conflict between these interpretations is part of what makes RPing so interesting.

Do you plan narratives with other RPers? Or is it all improv?

There’s definitely a mixture of both. For bigger plots involving more people, we tend to plan things out, at least in outline form, so everyone knows what’s going on and no one gets lost in the mix. Big plots can be an organizational nightmare, so there’s some element of planning, but within a very open framework, there’s a lot of improv. We’ve never had any sort of scripts or anything more than a basic outline, and then only for bigger storylines involving more people. For smaller narratives or just day-to-day interactions, it’s all improv. That’s usually what ends up leading to the plots. The smallest comments or jokes can spark whole storylines that can go on for months, and it’s always a wild ride.

What other fan activities are you involved with? (fanfic, fanart, fanblogs, forums, podcasts, etc)

Yield to Me started as a forum, so we were very much involved with that world, but now it’s almost entirely twitter. A bunch of us have blogs, if those count as fanblogs, but otherwise that’s it for the moment, at least for me.

Unlike many RPers, your Sookie is not visually represented by actress, Anna Paquin. Why did you make this change?

It was a personal decision of mine that I made a while back. I just never felt a connection with her. If I'm going spend hours a day writing as a person, I've got feel some sort of connection, or it's just awkward. I tried out using my current face back in March of 2010 on a message board, and I just felt like it clicked. I came to think of her as "my" Sookie... and I liked that.

It was actually a pretty tough decision to decide to switch to her on Twitter. My Sookie has always been pretty original, since I follow a mix of the books, the show, and my own spin on her based on YTM plot... mostly the first and last. I was worried she wouldn't be accepted as a "real" Sookie, since every other Sookie on Twitter used Anna Paquin at the time, but people seemed pretty receptive, so it turned out my hesitation was for nothing, and I'm real grateful for that. I try to stay faithful to the spirit of Sookie, if not the actress chosen to portray her, and I hope I'm doing a good job!

Ultimately I feel like the actors chosen to portray Charlaine Harris' characters is just the opinion of one group of people, though a group that really knows what they're doing, I'm sure. To me, it's more important to pick someone you personally feel captures the spirit of the character, and it's pretty rewarding to be original with it and see those characters come to life for yourself.

I noticed the YTM RP group features many original characters. How do these new characters interact with cannon characters?

We do, we’re very lucky to have lots of original characters, and they’re a fantastic addition to our group. It’s really never been a problem integrating them with canon characters. The books and even the show only give us small snapshots of the Sookieverse, so it’s easy to imagine that there are many, many more characters living within it. I love the creative original characters to our group. I think they bring a real richness and versatility to the group that we might not otherwise have. Really, though, the original characters are no different from canon characters. We get such a small glimpse of these characters and their lives that so much is left to the imagination of the people who play them. It’s up to the person behind that character to add to what’s in the books or the show in order to make that canon character grow, and really flesh them out to give them a well-rounded life and personality. Every character should be an original character, just for some, the history is already written and the personality already outlined.

How do you keep track of such a big group?

Our group really has gotten so big, and I’m always so flattered to be a part of it. I think a big part of keeping track of such a big group is staying in communication with the members. I talk to everyone when they join and try to help them work out how they fit into the group. I keep in touch with a lot of the members through IM, DM, email, or anything in between. There are very few I don’t get to talk to in some way on a semi-regular basis. Aside from group plots or parties, stuff like that, everyone sort of does their own thing and develops their own storylines, and I try to keep track of those and tell others about them from the group account and on our website.