Nathaniel Ballard

"Joining a writing circle in Second Life might be easier for some people than joining a real one, which might involve going to somebody’s home, or meeting with strangers in a church hall, things that might be difficult if you are a little shy."

Nathaniel Ballard aka BenBold Resident
(Picture by Raindrops/Gwen Enchanted)

Interview with Nathaniel Ballard

Camie Rembrandt: How long have you been using Second Life?

Nathaniel Ballard: I started in July 2011, so at the time of writing, a little over four years. A long-time Internet friend who had been writing vampire stories with me for ages started playing in a vampire-oriented SIM and persuaded me to come and have a go. Things escalated from there.

Camie Rembrandt: When did Second Life become important to your creative writing? Was it something that happened immediately after starting using this virtual world? Or did you have to wait a few months, maybe even years, before incorporating SL into your writing routine?

Nathaniel Ballard: At first, I was just there for the role-playing. I had been a table-top role-player for some 20 years before that, so Second Life was just an extension of that. Even so, I have always been more interesting in telling a story through role-play, rather than racking up the count of orcs killed and ‘levelling up’ (I was never one for just rolling 6 dice, looking at the numbers and saying, ok, this one is a cleric). I really enjoy the process of creating a character and giving them an interesting history and background, so creating the character of Nathaniel Ballard was creative writing. As was the role-play itself – I think of it as collaborative storytelling.

Later, I had the idea of turning Nathaniel’s IC diary into a blog, which is when the writing really took off, because I was writing each story twice – once as it happened in the mostly spontaneous RP and then later in terms of Nathaniel’s reflections on the day’s events and general ruminations on his life. Since Nathaniel, as a character, has an interest in writing, it also gave me the opportunity to experiment by stepping into Nathaniel’s shoes and writing as he would, rather than as I would. I also have blogs for some of my alt characters, but, like Nathaniel’s they have been somewhat neglected of late, due to lack of time.

Some while after that, I got involved with the Virtual Writers group on SL and became a regular at the Daily Dash in Milk Wood. There, I could be partaking in Second Life, by being at the Dash, and at the same time, developing writing projects that were not related to Second Life. In that respect, it has become an important part of my daily writing routine. Even if I otherwise have a busy day, I almost always try to make the Dash and do some writing.

Camie Rembrandt: Tell us a bit about what you do in Second Life, as a writer: do you write in-world, attend events, maybe host some of them, do you mentor other writers?

Nathaniel Ballard: I role-play as several different characters. My main is Nathaniel Ballard. He started out in a SIM called Legacies 1891. I started as a player character, then I got involved in being a greeter – hanging around at the hub to help new players and eventually was put in charge of the greeters. Later, I was invited to be a StoryTeller there, supervising scenes between other players, mentoring them, giving classes etc. When Legacies closed, I found a way to continue Nathaniel’s story, in other SIMs. I am on the StoryTeller team in the current one, as well as managing the SIM’s website. My other characters play in a World of Darkness SIM called Tavnoc by Night, where I quickly became a mentor and then StoryTeller.

I spend a lot of time role-playing, but also guiding the role-play of others, helping new players get started, developing and running story threads etc. One of the things I really enjoy doing is coaching players who may not have writing skills in how to create a good back story and to role-play that character effectively.

Outside of role-play, I take part regularly in the Daily Dash – a 15 minute writing exercise with a one-word prompt – sometimes twice a day. I started by just writing one-off short pieces, but then I started working on longer pieces, picking up projects I had put aside for lack of time and developing those. When I can, I get to other writing events in the same place. An important part of the Daily Dash is sharing our work after and giving and receiving constructive criticism.

Camie Rembrandt: Is there any SIM/virtual island/region that you find particularly inspirational, the kind of place every writer should visit?

Nathaniel Ballard: I already mentioned the places I role-play. I find them inspirational, both in the setting and the with the other players. The Virtual Writers’ group in Milk Wood is definitely a place to visit. There is always something going on, and even if there isn’t, you can park yourself at the table in the Writers’ camp and more often than not, somebody will turn up and say hi. The Daily Dashes and other exercises are good for a bit of writing discipline, mutual encouragement, feedback etc. Sometimes, I just go there for the company, or wander around until I find a spot with a nice view and take my cue from that.

Camie Rembrandt: In what ways do you find Second Life helpful for someone interested in writing?

Nathaniel Ballard: Writing can be a very lonely way to spend time, even if you enjoy the company of your characters. In Second Life, you get to meet a whole variety of people and their characters. You can share experiences, bounce ideas off each other, or just hang out and be sociable.
Joining a writing circle in Second Life might be easier for some people than joining a real one, which might involve going to somebody’s home, or meeting with strangers in a church hall, things that might be difficult if you are a little shy.

Events and exercises like the Daily Dash are a good place to get feedback from other writers. And, with such a wide variety of people, you might even find somebody who can answer a question about this poison, that handgun, the other obscure aspect of Czech society when Google fails you.


Nathaniel Ballard was a Victorian accountant who went to sea as a ship’s purser on a merchant vessel. While abroad, he became a vampire as a result of an unfortunate incident with his mistress in that port. Since then, he spent some time trying to find her again and through a series of improbable adventures, now finds himself in charge of a human (mostly) village in the faerie realms and married to the Seelie Queen.

Nathaniel’s writer is British and lives in the New Forest (we call it the NEW Forest because it was only declared a royal hunting ground in 1072). He works part-time in the retail part of an international charity, but would love to get paid some day for all the words he writes. Sometimes, he spends the weekend dressed in medieval garb in real life as part of an SCA event. He is very fond of cats, and should anybody wish to buy him a bottle of a decent single malt, he wouldn’t say no. - sadly much neglected of late…

(BenBold Resident in SL)