The Benefits of RPG Writing

Long before I started writing novels or world-building alternate universes, I was drawn into the world of RPG. More specifically: forum-based, post-by-post role-play. For those who aren’t sure what this is, here’s how it works:

Post-by-post role-play is written on a forum alongside dozens—sometimes hundreds—of other writers (handlers). The forum embraces a core theme or universe where the community story takes place. Each thread is a story, and it’s told one post at a time from a character’s perspective.

Signs of a Strong RPG Community:

  1. Active Engagement. Some communities host anywhere from a dozen writers to thousands of accounts. However, the number of users doesn’t matter—the activity does. Peek at the latest posts and the dates they went live. How often are users writing? When was the most recent post put up? Is only one person writing dozens of posts, or are there several characters actively engaging on the site?
  2. One theme to rule them all. I’ve found that if the site has one core universe (i.e. Lord of the Rings) vs. several hosted universes, there’s a lot more activity within the community.
  3. Many characters make light work. If any RPG site says only one character allowed per writer, turn back. Characters are hard work. Sometimes they take off right away and become a community favorite, though usually it takes a lot of time and diligence. And they don’t always succeed. Writers need the chance to try their hand at different personalities, quirks, sexes and genders, and discover how unique each one can be. Strong RPG communities always encourage multiple characters.

When I first began writing RPG, it was an escape, much like a story is to a reader. A chance to set aside real life and explore an alternate world through the eyes of another. Yet, I also had a mission with RPG: learn how to create character depth.

Somewhere in the dark recesses of my old computer files, there’s the beginning of a fiction story I wrote about an alternate earth history. It’s pure dumpster slog, but the worst part is every character is the same apart from a few visual details. I had zero idea how to dig into the nitty gritty, strengths and weaknesses, or explore action vs. reaction. To learn this skill, I found a community that overwhelmed the hell out of me. It was HUGE! Tons of guidelines, tons of writers, and so many forums I wasn’t sure where to start.

Not wanting to appear like the newbie idiot, I spent nearly a week reading around the site, what people were writing, rules, procedures, almost to the point where I could recite them blindfolded. Then I took the plunge… making a mistake right off the bat. Nothing major and easily fixed, but I still felt as small as a bug. Since I had no idea how to create a character, I put together a female inside the life I wanted to have for myself. Mistake #2 – trying to be the character. However, my small mistakes become the biggest learning assets. I kept at it, getting my character involved in plots and classes, and super proud of my 1-3 sentence posts.

Yikes.

What I didn’t realize until I made the leap from RPGs to novels, is how much I’d grow as a writer. Those cookie cutter characters I first created transmogrified into beautiful entities with generations of family history, strengths and weaknesses, quirks, reactive buttons, and a depth of richness through the steps of their lives.

RPG writing taught me a plethora of writing skills.

  1. I wrote every day. When you’re involved with RPG, you’re accountable to other writers. Whether I was just answering spammy PMs, or banging out a dozen posts, I logged in every day and wrote something.
  2. Operating within limits. Everyone wants their character to be the hero, and in novel writing we get a chance to fulfill this destiny. But what about all the other characters? Writing against others helps you to learn how to operate not only inside the parameters of a fictional universe, but within the limits of a character’s physical and emotional limitations. The same applies in novels, or you’d have 100 Harry Potters no one else of note.
  3. Learning close POV. As authors, we get the chance to control all the characters’ actions. In RPG… you don’t. Every post is done through the eyes of that character, and they must act & react without telling what the other character is going to do. This opens up the opportunity to focus on what your character is seeing, smelling, tasting, and how they will act/react to others.
  4. Polish & hone your grammar. The more you write, the more mistakes you learn to catch. I’ve watched young writers with barely a grasp of the English language grow from broken sentences with no punctuation to beautifully-crafted posts. Because they watched other writers, kept writing, and soon things like proper punctuation and capitalization became second nature.
  5. Meet other writers. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s true. Most RPG writers aren’t novelists, but they’re still writers. From medical and technical papers, to media content to university theses and poetry… these folks are peers who can challenge you as a writer, and torment the heck out of your characters. 😉

So, if you’re searching for new and innovative ways to hone your writing skills, or a playful way to escape from life, I highly recommend post-by-post role-play. Search out different communities, their themes, and see if any are a good fit for you and your writing style. You may be surprised at who you meet and how exponentially your writing skills grow.

Cheers! 🙂


Original article posted on Hàlön Chronicles.

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Write What You Love

Ever hear this little tidbit of advice everywhere on the internet? 🙂 I’ve seen it several times in regards to fiction novels, a great encouragement for authors who get bogged down by editing, rejections, bad reviews, or even when work in progress is torn apart by CPs. It’s natural to crawl in a hole and shield oneself against the negativity (or in my case sharpen a knife and sink my teeth into editing).

But… even I have days where I glare at my laptop and bury myself in Netflix shows. As I realign my year and writer goals, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about this: write what you love. Then I stumbled upon an article by Joseph Finder and found a fantastic quote.

“The most successful writers aren’t the most talented.

They’re the most stubborn.”

If you ask my husband whether or not I’m stubborn, he’ll laugh and laugh and laugh. I’m not sure which of us is worse, but that’s a story for another day. It’s about loving the words I lay down, the whole that comes from within, and the final product I can grip in my hands. As I thought about all these things, I realized that while I’m still writing what I love, I’ve also left behind other pieces of my heart.

1. Role-Play Writing
I’ve been writing forum-based role-play stories for so many years that my characters span generations. I’m not sure it exactly crosses into the world of true fan fiction, but it’s set in another author’s universe. What I love about role-play is you’re up against other writers. You only get control of your character and the setting, and often times it turns into a game of who can trigger the other character’s anger and amp up the tension. Yet, it’s also a fantastic training ground for characterization, drafting a strong flow for your sentences, and holding your character’s power within the stress and limitations of the world they live in. i.e. No deus ex-machina to save the day.  Read more >

Why I’m So Quiet These Days

Hi everyone! 🙂

I’ve been a bit on the silent side the last few weeks, both on social media and with any non-work related emails. It started out as a writer break (the first I’ve taken in over a year) to give my brain a rest. From there, the avalanche of life decided to take some hard left turns. Normally at such junctions, I go outside and enjoy the sunshine, work in my garden, do some active exploration to get my head clear. Of course, Washington State decided to give spring and summer a miss this year and head straight into fall, so there is no warmth or sunshine to go outside and play in.

Or, there wasn’t until a few days ago. I digress…

Taking a break had the reverse effect I was hoping for. Instead of resting my brain and getting centered again, those pesky writer demons started a war, and they were merciless. To the point where I started questioning why I was writing, what was the point, then assessing that words and I are pretty much enemies.

Then… imposter syndrome rode into this battle and took a jab (several in fact). Sprinkle in some super obscure family stuff, physical weirdocrities happening, and you have my life. We’re talking an Everest Avalanche and I’m somewhere under the pile of snow freezing my ass off.  Read more >

Top Ten Of The Most Unique Books I’ve Read

Alright, I’ve never done one of these Top Ten Tuesday posts from The Broke and the Bookish, but I figured this week would be a nice lead-in to get started. No promises that I’ll keep it up every week, but then again, you never know. 😉

You can also view the original post on my real blog site. ^_^

These are in no particular order. In fact, I have no idea what’s going to end up on this list, so let’s hop on over to my Goodreads list and see what I’ve got buried there.

1. THE AXE AND THE THRONE

This book is killing me. Dark, gritty, strong prose, really right up my alley. What’s unique is that there’s at least 7 different POVs in the first 15% of the book. I’m a little bit past there and there’s more. Some killed off after 1 chapter through their eyes. While 2-3 POVs is my personal preference, I’m definitely enjoying the story. I think this author may kill more characters than George R. R. Martin.

2. THE COMPANIONS

My absolute favorite, most unique thing about this book is what Tepper does with the flora of her world. Without giving away too many spoilers, when Jewel arrives on Moss World, she and the other scientists discover that the mosses have a language of their own. Kind of makes you side-eye your garden plants.

3. THE ROGUE RETRIEVAL

This story blends Vegas-style magic and fantasy world magic. I wasn’t sure what to make of this story when I first picked it up, since anything Vegas makes me want to retreat to a quiet corner and ignore the world. However, as I dove into the pages, seeing an illusionist get his first real taste of magic made me think why has no one thought of this before? It’s a great blending of two worlds that made me want to never leave Alissia.

4. CONFESSIONS OF A FREELANCE PEN MONKEY

I always thought that to understand dog behavior a little better, I’d need to finish vet school. Or at least start (which I did years ago, but that’s another tale). Nope, if you ever want to know why dogs circle the yard 5,000 times and how it connects with the earth’s energy ley lines when they poop, this is the book for you. Or, you know, if you want to be a writer. Warning: I laughed so hard through most of this, some of my clothing might be forever soiled.

5. THE BOOK OF BUNNY SUICIDES

Just in case you were ever wondering if ‘Murder by Book’ was possible… it is. I read this set of comics on a flight from Seattle to Calgary years ago and nearly peed myself so many times. It’s now a permanent resident on my bookshelf.

6. SPHERE

I can’t tell you how many times I picked up this book to read it, got a few pages in, and fell asleep. Not kidding. The whole beginning is so dry, and then BAM! You can’t put the damn thing down. What’s unique about this story is not only the premise, but the fact that this book and I had a war of wills. Let’s just say somewhere around 1am I was starving and had to pee. I backed out of my bedroom, side-eyeing the book with a very stern glare. The frickin’ book won. As soon as it was out of sight, I raced back in to finish it. Get to the good stuff and you won’t be disappointed. Ignore the movie. 😛

7. THE BOOK OF D’NI

Although based on a video game I spent far too many hours glaring at, this whole series is near and dear to my heart. However, this particular book of the three is AMAZING. The world-building puts you right in an alien land with all the problems of modern society. Beauty and wealth meet the eyes everywhere you go, but as Atrus and his wife Catherine start to consider the possibility of taking up permanent residence, they discover D’ni society has a very dark and gritty underbelly.

8. THE EYES OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS

Everything about this book is so unique. From the beauty of Jayvee 9, to the horrors that lie lurking in the cryo chambers, to the fuzzy pyramids and their rote song. I’ve never met a book that so beautifully combined anthropology, science fiction and horror into such a well-crafted tale that will leave you on the edge of your seat.

9. THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES

I’m not really a fan of YA books in general (and will avoid that section in bookstores whenever I can for the most part :P). However, this tale is near and dear to my heart and so well done. My absolute favorite unique thing about this story is how Lily’s father is handled. Instead of painting him as a jackass and letting it ride, there’s an evolution of discovery for the reader. By the end of this story, you feel almost sorry for the man as anger, grief and circumstance turn said jackass into a father who’s on the losing end of his own debilitating set of battles.

10. THE MORGAINE CYCLE

I read this in my early twenties and really liked each tale in the series. However, when I read it again as an adult, I saw a depth of world-building I hadn’t even noticed before. Cherryh blends science fiction and fantasy in a whole new way. While the story itself is rooted in fantasy, the reader gets glimpses of technology that far surpasses our own. And each time the characters jump through another gate, there is no revival. No turning back. Each time feels like the death of a world as you move onto the next, and yet you can’t stop wanting to see more of everything these gates have to offer.

Sheesh, don’t ever let me go through my book list. I want to read everything all over again. 🙂

And yet, I’m glad I did. Can’t tell I like science fiction and fantasy, can you? This was fun to do! If you do your own Top Ten list today, leave me a link in the comment section. I’d love to compare lists. ^_^