Hello, everyone! Today Ruth’s (un)Officially Wacky BoolpropChallenge is one year old, and for your reading pleasure andgeneral edification, I am pleased to present a special featureabout my writing process! The example used will actually beChapter 1, since that is probably the chapter where the moststeps happened consciously. (Actually, Myrna probablyhappened even more consciously, but I’m still trying to forgethow difficult that was.)The pictures don’t all relate to what I’m talking about – manyof them are just there for visual interest.
I decided more or less arbitrarily when she was a child thatRuth Shankel was going to start an OWBC. She and her familywere all kinda dull, and I wanted to try one. Rather than add yetanother family to the rotation, I thought it would be efficient tocombine the two.
I figure that an OWBC needs a plot, especially since if Ruthwas interesting enough to be wacky on her own, she wouldn’tneed to be officially wacky. Unfortunately, I couldn’t plot myway out of a paper bag.You know who could plot, though? W. S. Gilbert of Gilbert &Sullivan. Their work was referred to as “topsy turvy,” and youknow what that means: wacky.I decided that I would rip off Gilbert’s plots wholesale payloving homage to Gilbert’s creative genius by appropriatingsome of his plots. (Mainly for my college chapters. College isboring and Gilbert & Sullivan usually involves many romanticcomplications.) So that this would not come as a completeshock, I gave Ruth an interest in Gilbert & Sullivan.
Alas, there was no plot that really fit Ruth. Princess Ida takesplace at a women-only college, The Gondoliers is too male-centered, The Sorcerer is too hard to stage and takes place at awedding anyway…So I decided that Ruth would simply be in a number of Gilbert& Sullivan shows, to sort of set the mood. But which shows?The Mikado, of course – I love that one, and it’s set in Japan, soI can do the costumes with no problem. I don’t use any customcontent for fear of viruses. (shudders in horror at the verythought) Ruth could be Katisha in The Mikado, since Katisha ishands-down my favorite character and I would totally play herif I got the chance.
So: Katisha in Mikado, and she can be Ruth in Pirates becausethat’s the same vocal part and there’s that female Maxis pirateoutfit. And then Little Buttercup in Pinafore, because I’veheard recordings of the same woman singing all three parts andI can maybe use that yellow and white dress with the yellowshrug, maybe that will look period enough if I crop it right. Andfor the last one – Mad Margaret from Ruddigore. She’s mad, soshe can wear pretty much whatever, and I can give her funkyhair and maybe use a smustle pic.Good, that’s settled. On to the next steps.
With those goals in mind, I wrote down some dialog.I always carry around a notebook to jot down things I want toremember – dialog, grocery lists, whatever. I’m also very intothe whole reduce-reuse-recycle thing, and as you can see, thisnotebook started life as an address book.As you can also see, I change my mind a lot.
(It was at about this point that Ruth’s former crush, who wasn’tinterested as a Teen, decided that he was interested after all, sothat had to be factored in.)
One of the things I do with my writing is make sure that anyreal information I provide is accurate, and that any made-upinformation is internally consistent. So the first thing I did wascheck to be sure that Katisha, Ruth, Little Buttercup, and MadMargaret are all written for the same range.Nope.Mad Margaret’s a mezzo-soprano, while the other three arecontraltos. (Contraltos are lower.) I know most people don’tcare, but what if Professor Butters reads this? She knowsGilbert & Sullivan.I’d die of shame.
Okay, so who’s the contralto in Ruddigore? Dame Hannah?Dame Hannah is boring. She does have any good lines, andanyway, I can’t dress her using Maxis wear. What othercontraltos are there?Can’t costume Princess Ida or Patience – and anyway, I mightneed the plot of Patience. Can’t remember the contralto inIolanthe or Sorcerer. Haven’t seen Grand Duke. I might wantthe plot of Yeomen, and that contralto’s boring too. Hey, theDuchess of Plazatoro’s a contralto. I don’t want the plot ofGondoliers, and she does get off a zinger in the second act, plusI can use a Maxis outfit. The Duchess it is.Now I’ve got the roles picked out, what’s next?
Costuming and sets, I think. This is a bit tricky. Mikado can justlook generically Eastern, and there are Maxis kimonos that willwork. I can even use a blond or red hairdo because someproductions do that and then the line “The lady who dyes achemical yellow/Or stains her grey hair puce” takes on an extralayer of funny. (I’ve also seen “red” stretched to fit the meter.)I’ll need a gray “wig” for the Duchess, and I’ll use the theaterlobby as sort of somewhere generically grand since I don’tremember where the characters are supposed to be standing. I’llneed a different gray “wig” for Pirates Ruth, plus I’ll need tohave a set that looks rather like a mausoleum. As forPinafore… Ay yi yi.
The yellow shrug doesn’t really look period, no matter whatangle you use, and I need something that looks sort of like thedeck of a ship. Not the real deck of a ship, because then I couldjust use the pirate ship that came with Bon Voyage, but like atheater set made to look like the deck of a ship, and there’s noway I can do that without custom content. And much betterdesign skills than I possess. Plus, I think I might want the plot.Maybe I should just forget Pinafore and pick another show?No, because that’s one of the only ones where the contralto canlogically kiss someone – they tend to get the plain-older-womanroles in G&S – and I want that for my plot. So they’ll be inrehearsal. She’ll look a little funny, but people will just have togo with that.
Which is what I did.DIRECTOR #2: Okay, Rafe and Josephine: “Oh bliss, ohrapture!” and then kiss followed by Captain Corcoran andLittle Buttercup: “Oh rapture, oh bliss!” and then kiss.RUTH: It’s not scripted that they kiss, is it?DIRECTOR #2: No, but I like the symmetry. Let’s –“SIR JOSEPH”: Sir Joseph doesn’t have to kiss Cousin Hebe,do I? Only you’ve got Philip playing her, and I don’t like himlike that.
Plus, that gave me an excuse to have Ryan-the-indecisive-suitorkiss Ruth.RYAN: You okay?RUTH: Little Buttercup has to kiss Captain Corcoran.RYAN: I thought there wasn’t any kissing.RUTH: There is now.
I can’t make a mausoleum set without custom content either, soI’m going to make it a generic outdoor set and show Ruth in theaudience afterwards. Professional theater companies don’t dothat, but they did where I went to college. After the show, theactors would all come down off the stage and greet their friendsin the audience. And that gives me a chance to develop Ryanand Ruth’s relationship.RYAN: Wow, Ruth, you were great! I mean, I know we wentover everything a million times, but you were really good upthere. And the costume is really something.RUTH: Aw, you just like it because it’s revealing.RYAN: Not as revealing as what you usually wear.RUTH: Point. And you can buy me dinner for noticing.
But I have to be careful about camera angles, because thereactually isn’t a pirate outfit for the YA age group, and myhomemade custom content came out kind of funky. (See thebackside and the boots? The front of the boots are even worse.)I’m not too good at making custom content.
While costuming and sets were going on, there was also thematter of plot. Previously in the story, Ryan had been prettydefinite in his rejection of Ruth, even attempting to date anothergirl. Now, for some inexplicable programming reason, theyhave two bolts and he will autonomously Leap Into Arms. Ineed answers.1. Why does Ryan like Ruth now?2. He had his reasons for the rejection. All of a sudden, theydon’t matter?3. How is he going to break the ice?4. Ruth was aware that Ryan was uninterested. How is shegoing to take this 180?
I decided that question #1 didn’t necessarily need an answerspelled out. I already had a pretty good picture and sometimespeople really do look at people they’ve known for a long timethrough new eyes. Especially when said someone is in theirjammies. (I later decided that the re-evaluation was promptedby Ruth’s not wearing a bra under her jammies.)
To answer question #2, Ryan had a chat with Ruth’s cousinSimon.(Technically, Ryan is first cousin once removed to both Simonand Ruth, but it’s by adoption, the game doesn’t recognize therelationship, it’s legal in all 50 states, and relatively few peoplecould name their parent’s cousins anyway, so I’m not worried.It’s only incest if you’re too closely related to legally marry.)RYAN: So, Simon… What do you think of Ruth?SIMON: She’s my cousin. I don’t.RYAN: No, not like that. I mean… She’s weird, right?SIMON: Ruth? Weird? Nah.
To answer question #3, I figure Ryan would start by expressinginterest in something Ruth liked or was doing. It’s the sort ofthing that you’d do with anyone you wanted to get to knowbetter. And since his rejection was in no small part based on herbeing so into Gilbert & Sullivan, why not have him expressinterest in one of their works?RYAN: This is by those opera guys you’re into, right?RUTH: Gilbert & Sullivan, yup.
And for question #4, I thought that Ruth would probably berather like me: slow to realize that things had changed andunwilling to believe it once she did.RYAN: I, uh, haven’t seen you in a while.RUTH: How’s Lucy? Weren’t you two dating?RYAN: I, uh, not exactly…RUTH: Gee, that’s too bad.RUTH: I – You – But Lucy’s at school now! Aren’t you going tostart dating her again?
Now I have everything figured out, the only thing left to do isplay. Sometimes the pictures come before the words (Ryan andSimon playing catch; I just thought that would be a logical spotto put that conversation), and sometimes the words come beforethe pictures (Ryan kissing Ruth), but the hard part is over.
Or so I thought. Then some shots that should have been easy toget became very very difficult. For the “Miyasama” number, Ineeded a controllable Mikado and Ruth doing something thatlooked like singing. I had an easy answer for this: move in anextra Sim, just for the shots.Nope. I already had eight in the dorm, and the game refused toadd number nine.
Okay, okay, I can work around this. I’ll just put one of theregulars in a Mikado costume and crop carefully. I don’t havethe funny hat for the Mikado, but probably nobody has madethat, and anyway, I play without custom content.This is Mifune Sanders as the Mikado. Pretty obviously MifuneSanders as the Mikado, unfortunately. Also, Katisha has towear a terribly un-Japanese hairdo because I haven’t gotanything else that works. All the red and yellow hairstyles makeher look too young and pretty. Fine. I can only do what I cando, right?I’ll have Ruth Freestyle – that gives some good faces and handgestures, and with a little cropping, it should be good, right?
Except that when you tell someone to Freestyle on acommunity lot, everyone and their grandmother rushes over tojoin in.And then complains about having to go to the bathroom –which, by the way, is what I had told them to do before theytook it into their little pixilated heads to run up on stage!I was lucky to get one useable shot.
I didn’t want that to happen with the all-important proposalscene, especially since you only get one try at that. So I took abunch of pictures, just to be sure. Here you see about half ofthem.I ended up using seven.And that, boys and girls, is how I write my stories.(Sometimes.)
I hope you enjoyed this special feature, brought to you by StoryAnniversaries.Story Anniversaries: Delaying proper chapters since 2009.We will return to our regularly scheduled programming nexttime. Until then, Happy Simming!