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The Historical Documents

Annual Member Conflict-Resolution Empowerment Seminar!

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((This was originally written by our lovely, genius (and former member & BoDette) Laura as 'The First Annual Member Conflict-Resolution Empowerment Seminar'))

One of the biggest challenges to being a BOD member is that, although we'd like to, we can't always know perfectly what's going on in every thread for every character. We try very hard to keep an eye on what's going on to make sure everything runs smoothly, but honestly? We could use some help. After some discussion, it seems to us that the most logical thing to do is to give all of YOU the ability (and permission!) to take a certain amount of problem-solving into your own hands.

Happily, we don't seem to have any major member disagreements. That is to say, all of our writers seem to get along pretty well.

If you do have any issues with another writer, we have two recommendations:

  1. If your complaint against another writer stems from something she did that offended you (posed your character, didn't let you impress the gold, called your mother fat, ran over your dog), your very first and best option is to approach the other writer directly. Let her know that you are upset/offended/confused, and find out if there's anything you can do to make it better. Maybe it's just a misunderstanding. Keep an open mind and remember that we all make mistakes sometimes. If you let things like this fester, they'll only turn into bigger problems later.
  2. If your complaint is the result of a personalty conflict or even difference of writing styles (the member obsessively writes about cats even when it doesn't make sense in context, the member's writing is so bad you can't figure out what's going on), your best option may simply be to avoid IC interaction with that person's characters as much as possible. This may be harder for some characters than others, but interaction is always optional.
When should you bring a conflict with another member to the BOD?

That's a really tough question. If the member isn't breaking any rules, if it's simply a question of you not liking each other or not liking the way the other writes, there isn't much we can do to help you. We'll probably suggest the two options listed above. We can remind people to follow the rules, but we can't make them change who they are or how they write.

Ah, then! What if I DO catch another member breaking the rules?

We appreciate all of you helping us keep an eye on this. Broken rules could include things like plagiarism, blatant and repeated posing of other writers' characters without permission, flaming on the boards, harassment by PM, IM or email, etc. We appreciate your help pointing these things out to us, but remember too - no one likes a tattle tale. Could you approach the member first? Say, "hey, I noticed you had your character toss my character off a cliff last night. What's up with that?" Or, "y'know... I really don't appreciate you calling me a $^#*%&ing @#*&%er in front of all the other members." If the member disregards your attempts to help and the BOD hasn't already noticed, then we do appreciate you sending us a note. Please use the Contact The Bod link to report such issues so that all of us are notified immediately.

If you wish to report an issue anonymously, you may do so by logging out of the forum and then using the link. This might make our job a little more difficult, but we can respect the wish of members to not be identified in some situations.

Now we come to the part where we really want to empower you to help: Conflict Resolution on an IC Level.

You're writing along and all the sudden something happens in the story that you didn't expect, or maybe didn't even want. Perhaps you had your story planned from beginning to end, but one of your co-writers gets derailed and starts taking it another direction. Perhaps a character who wasn't meant to be involved in the story shows up and derails things. Perhaps it is simply a question of a character saying or doing something that seems highly unlikely, or even breaks some IC rules. One of the things we'd very much like to get away from is having to STOP threads in the middle to straighten out a perceived mess. This makes members feel "spanked," causes serious story confusion, and is generally unpleasant for all involved.

First, some suggestions on how to avoid this in the first place.

If you have a story in mind and it MUST go just the way you plan it, consider writing it as a Full Post or Copost. This way, you and the others involved have full control over every happening, and you can edit as you go before the completed item is read by anyone else.

CAUTION! If your Copost takes place in a public location, please keep in mind other characters who may be peripherally involved. By this, I mean that if you have a fist-fight in the infirmary, you'd better expect that some healer is going to notice and - at the VERY least - report what's going on. If your characters get it on in the dining room, chances are someone is going to walk by and see. Keep this in mind when considering the setting for a plot you are trying to control. The healer has every reason to report you to your Wingleader, and the kitchen wherries have every right to start gossiping. If it really needs to be private, make sure your location reflects this.

"But Laura! I have a healer character who is KNOWN for being intolerant of violence. By having a fist fight in the infirmary and doing it as a Copost, they essentially POSED my character by not allowing him to try and break up the fight."

An interesting point. Before you PM the offender or the BOD, however, try and decide if there are any options to explain this IC. Perhaps your character wasn't working that shift? Perhaps your character was elbow-deep in a bloody surgery? If I can think of reasons he wouldn't have been able to stop the fight, I bet you can too. Does that mean your character can't still react? Sure he can. He can come up to the fighters later and give them a piece of his mind. He can report them to the Wingleader, or even send them a bill for equipment they broke during their scuffle.

Be open to change! Roll with the punches! Use unexpected occurrences to make your stories more interesting!

So let's say you've decided not to Copost, which leaves your story open for possible uninvited intrusion. Let's assume you still have plans for a story to reach a certain conclusion, and someone jumps in with an action that causes the conclusion to become very difficult to reach. Maybe your character was going to steal someone's diamond necklace, starting an inter-hold feud that is supposed to last for the next decade. You started your story under the premise that the necklace is on a dresser in someone's bedroom, guarded by a man you were going to actually kill, adding to the feud and causing all sorts of additional mayhem. Wheeee!

But crap! Here comes Lady Smorgasboard WEARING the necklace just in time to dodge in front of her ill-fated son, taking the knife strike that was meant to kill him and totally ruining your plot.

You have two options.
  1. Send a polite PM to Lady Smorgasboard's writer explaining that it's really really important for your story to go as planned, and would she mind terribly saving the Lady's entrance until just after the deed is done?
  2. Try and plot around it. So now Lady Smorgasboard is wounded, the necklace isn't where you thought it was, and there is a witness to the crime. Maybe a kidnapping is in order? Maybe her ill-fated son can still bite it trying to prevent the kidnapping? Then you've got the Lady AND the necklace, and a whole new set of plotting fun. Of course, you'd have to clear this with Lady Smorgasboard's writer first, and if she's not okay with that, maybe you need to revert back to Option 1.
Of course, no example I can dream up with could cover every possibility, so it's up to each of you to be creative when needed.

If you're on the receiving end of a request to change something one of your characters has done, it is important to try and be graceful about it. Yes, maybe whatever you wrote was brilliant, but someone else had a brilliant idea too, and a little backpeddling is okay once in awhile.

"But Laura! I don't want to be spanked by the BOD for stepping on someone's toes if 'fixing' a situation requires me to do something unusual with my characters or makes the other writer mad!"

Good point! You do have to be careful when fixing problems that you don't cause any new ones yourself. Ask yourself:
  1. Do my characters know as much as I know about the situation? You don't want them to wind up being psychic.
  2. Does my character have the authority to react OR am I willing to have my character face consequences for going against authority?
  3. Is there another character (written by me or someone else) in a better situation to handle this IC?
And ssh, don't tell the rest of the BOD I said this, but sometimes it IS better to start something without having the plot checked out first. [img]/wink.gif[/img] As long as you've checked with yourself to make sure your reaction to the situation is logical and non-psychic, it is usually best to keep a story going rather than drag the BOD in to make sure your solution is okay. If it turns into a real disaster, don't worry - we'll get dragged in anyway. Scenes that grow organically are often the most interesting.

Also, we must all remember at all times that IC Actions = IC Consequences. We strive to live in a realistic world. You can't sass the Weyrlingmaster without getting punishment detail. You can't skip wing drills without getting punishment detail AND being banned from the next Fall. You can't go between three times a week every week of your life and expect to get pregnant. If you do want your character to get away with something that maybe he shouldn't, you may need to make special arrangements before hand. If not - well, don't be surprised when he's demoted, divorced by his weyrmate, or eaten by the Sea Monster.

Problems also sometimes arise as the result of one writer not knowing the full story.

Let's face it - we are a BUSY club. We generate hundreds of posts every day. Most of us have lives outside the game, and for most of us, it simply isn't possible to read every single post in a timely fashion - or at all! So first, be patient with someone if she misses a plot point and posts something inaccurate as a result. "Hello Chachamunga! Nice to see you today!" Oops. Chachamunga died in threadfall last week. This may be next to impossible to solve IC, so a gentle PM is a great way to go. Or a case of mistaken identity.

(Incidentally, mistaken identity is also a great way to solve the problem of someone posing your character as being in a location he/she wouldn't be at a given time. )

Of course, we also sincerely encourage everyone to try and keep up with the highlights of major plots, even if you can't read all the individual posts. Our news forums are a great place to get a crash course on recent happenings. Also, our Search function is very useful. You can search individual character names to see what they've been up to recently, or search Dates to see what other events are happening on a day that you might be considering starting a post. Or, if in doubt, ask another member for a quick update.

"Yes, Laura, but CindyMae is ALWAYS out of the loop. Her characters constantly say things that indicate she obviously doesn't know what's going on."

The key word here is "say." Things that characters say or think are always subject to interpretation. T'tom carries on and on about what a bastard his wingleader is, about how his mother beat him when he was little, and how the weather yesterday was just terrible. In reality, T'tom's wingleader is one of the most respected men in the Weyr, his mother was practically a saint, and the weather yesterday was as beautiful as it's ever been. T'tom was either lying or confused. This is okay. It is T'tom's right. This is also why it is important not to take what characters say or think as actual fact. Before you or your character get your panties in a knot, ask yourself whether what's going on is fact, or a question of perception. That's important. Even if the writer really DOESN'T know what's going on, the fact that what the character says can be chalked up to a shortcoming in the character's information is usually enough that it isn't a problem. Sometimes it even starts good plots!

So when SHOULD I bring a character problem to the BOD?

If there's no way to solve a situation IC, if polite PMs directly to the member are ignored or a good compromise can't be reached, then please, let us know what's going on and we'll see if we can arbitrate. We do want to help, that is what we're here for. Primarily, we just want you to know that you MAY take the initiative to solve IC or OOC conflicts on your own, as long as you adhere to the rules of logic, politeness, and club policies.

Who's the Boss of my characters?

Why you are, of course! You are ultimately responsible for all their actions, good and bad. If someone PMs you and asks you to change something and you're not comfortable with the change, don't force the character to do something they wouldn't do. Perhaps you can compromise with the other writer, or find a different direction to go with the plot. You have every bit as much right to defend the integrity of your characters as you do to defend the integrity of your plots. As always, just be polite about it.

And remember that all of us have different levels of comfort with degrees of posing and plot manipulation, so it is your job to mind YOUR characters, and let everyone else do the same for their own. If you think you spot a member posing someone else's character, give them a little time to sort it out themselves. Maybe Writer A gave Writer B permission for the posing and simply failed to note that in the post. (PS - making a note when you have permission to pose is always a good thing!) Otherwise, Writer A is the one responsible for talking to Writer B. If this happens in a round-robin where there are several writers involved, you may want to wait to continue the story until you find out if it's okay. If waiting would be difficult (too many writers involved?) you could always shoot Writer A a PM or IM to let her know you think there might be a problem. The point is, if we each watch out for our own characters, we should be fine.

What if my complaint is against a BOD member, Club Policies, or the way the BOD is handling something?

We need to know about these issues probably more than any other sort of issue. This club is meant to be fun, it's meant to be easy to play, and we want everyone to be happy (as far as possible without it being a scary free-for-all.) PLEASE tell us when you have a question or issue with something we are or aren't doing. If you never share your concerns, we have no way of knowing when things need to be fixed. As long as you are diplomatic, we will listen to what you have to say and come up with solutions whenever possible. This is important to the health and happiness of our club. If you let your question or resentment fester, it'll just blow up later down the road, and then we'll all be unhappy.

The best thing is to send the whole BOD a note through the Contact link or Submissions link. If you air a complaint one-on-one with a certain BODette via PM or IM, we are likely to simply consider that a venting session and may not actually do anything to cause a change. Submitting your issue formally is the best way to go. This also avoids "he said/she said" problem and gets us information directly from the source, rather than third hand. Again, this can be done anonymously by logging out of the forum before using the Contact link.

Whew. Am I done yet?

Yes! I know this has been really long and that most of you probably already know all this, but I think it's good to remind everyone once in awhile of how much authority you do have to solve problems. Your characters are part of you, and you are the first line of defense to make sure they are used and treated the way you want them to be.

Please, feel free to discuss and offer other suggestions for problem-solving techniques. We are an awesome club with awesome members and we're going to stay that way.