Roleplaying – Lessons in Creativity


This was inspired by a blog post by Darius I read on I Believe in Story.  I typed a whole long response into the comments and then something happened and I lost it all, so I thought I would reiterate it here and add in some more.  If you haven’t read Darius’s post yet, I suggest you do that first, because he explains roleplaying beautifully (for those unfamiliar).  So because he covered the intro I’m just going to dive right in.

I’m currently actively playing three roleplaying games and so I have three different characters:

Dixie the Pixie – an all time favourite of mine, Dixie is precocious as hell and powerful to boot.  She can fly, turn invisible and change into any creature between the size of a mouse and a hippo at will.  She’s short and cute and she’ll press any button in her path, or use any magic item she can get her hands on with no thought for the consequence because she’s just a crazy kind of gal.

Nectar Sweetums – Nectar is a sixteen year-old paladin halfling.  She fights for freedom from oppression and lives for adventure.  Her mother was an adventurer (now retired) and Nectar is taking up the banner and venturing out in the world.  She tries to do what’s right and makes mistakes along the way, but like any good paladin she will fight the good fight until her dying breath.

Ophelia – she’s a dark, mysterious, broody teenager who pretends she lives in the graveyard when she really lives in her parent’s mansion and is a secret bronie.  She’s selfish and obsessed with the dark power (demon) who gives her anything she asks for…for a price…

Three characters, three personalities, a million different choices.

What I love about roleplaying is that it’s liberating.  For the hour (or six) you are playing, you can be someone else entirely.  You are transported to a rich, exciting world of the imagination and you get to occupy someone else’s head space…sound familiar?

I guess I love roleplaying so much because I love writing.  I love trying out different characters, exploring their choices and mistakes and ultimately (usually) helping them overcome and grow into heroes.

Because I have a rudimentary grasp on the concept of story arcs and character development, I find that the lessons I take from roleplaying aren’t so much technical as emotional.

Ideas aren’t finite

The first and most important lesson for me is about concept development.  When I’m playing a character I’m often asked to describe a scene or a person by the DM (Dungeon Master).  This helps me feel involved in co-building the world, but sometimes it makes me panic.  What if I don’t have a clue what a place looks like?  What if I create one great character and I’m never able to create another one again?  This is similar to the process I go through with my writing.  I’m always terrified that I’ll run out of ideas, that my most recently penned story was the last and I’ll never have a good idea again.  Obvious nonsense, but still it plagues me and that’s where I find roleplaying helpful.  I’m asked to make choices so instantaneously that I don’t have time to think (or more specifically panic) and the ideas just flow.  Roleplaying helps me to remember that ideas aren’t a finite commodity, I’m actually full of them.

Saying yes is best

Sometimes it’s easier to say no.  No to adventure, no to risk.  Maybe in real life there’s a reason, but saying no in a game just doesn’t make as much sense.  So what if the guy you met on the road to the next kingdom looks a little shady, doesn’t it make the story better to follow him into the woods?  So what if that woman crying in the distant hills might be a trap?  Aren’t you just a little curious?  I find roleplaying teaches me the art of saying yes and that starts to translate into my fiction too.  What would happen if I let me characters say yes more often?  It doesn’t just apply to writing either.  How many more interesting experiences would you have had if you just said yes instead of no?  There are limits obviously, but emotionally I find roleplaying cracks me open and makes me more of a yes girl, which is a state I like to be in when writing, playing or sometimes even living!

Do you role play and write?

What emotional (or technical) lessons have you learned?


My Year in Writing

It’s been a crazy year.

I was shocked the other day when I checked the date I made the first document for the first draft of my first novel because it was March 2013—not even a year ago.

Starting A Girl Out There for me meant committing to being a writer.  I had written some stuff before then of course, fiddled around with it and loved it from a distance, but I had never actually said: ‘I want to be a writer’ out loud or even in my head.

So when I sat down in March to write my first book, I said: ‘I’m going to do this, I’m gonna be a fucking writer.’  And here I am…a writer.

Since writing A Girl Out There I have written three other books (A Memory in the Shape of Delilah, What it Means to be a Man & By Any Other Name) as well as getting a good start on my fifth book (Nil).  I’ve published a short story (in Grim Corps) as well as being a winner of the Fringe contest for Eden Mills Writer’s Festival for which I was asked to read on a gorgeous stage at the festival with a bubbling brook and a heron flying majestically by behind me.  I joined and quit one writing group and joined and stayed in two (Ashdale Writers Group & Eggs).  I’ve submitted a load of stories and received a bunch of rejections (which I’m told is a big part of writing).  I’ve written some websites for corporate clients and I’ve met a director who wants to make one of my short stories into a short film (coming soon).  And finally (and possibly most excitingly) I’ve recently had a promising phone call with an agent.

So in short, I’m a fucking writer.  Yeehaw!

So in this very short and very sweet burst of time what have I learned?

Let’s see…

Make Time

I love writing and when you find something you love, you just have to grab onto it and rock it.  I’m kind of an all or nothing gal.  I like to pour every bit of myself into what I love, whether it’s a relationship, an activity or in this case a new career.  I have noticed a lot of articles on writing websites talking about making time for writing and I have to say that’s one of the most important things I have done this year.  I just crammed everything else around the edges and wrote like there was no tomorrow and thanks to that I’ve come out of the year with a bunch of different projects under my belt.

Learn To Let Go

There have been a couple of times this year when I have started projects that fizzled out miserably because I just wasn’t feeling them.  Although I’m loathe to let things go unfinished sometimes you just have to admit you hate a book’s guts and toss it to the side.  And frankly, the sooner the better.  Why waste time on shit you hate?  You should…

Be Passionate About Your Project

If you like pulling teeth, go be a dentist.  Sure, sometimes there are hiccoughs, moments where you loose clarity.  But if the passion is gone ask yourself: was it ever there in the first place?  Some projects just suck the life out of you and seriously…what’s the point?  If you don’t feel excited about your story it’s very unlikely your story is going to feel excited about you writing it.  If it doesn’t set you on fire (or at least light a little flame) then toss it to the curb and find something that does!

Take A Break, But Always Go Back

I have two problems:

1) I am impatient
2) I like to finish things and move on (and not look back)

In some ways these things benefit me, because they allow me to slam through things.  But in other ways it makes going back really hard.  I like things to be neat and tidy—then gone.  So going back to my first novel was a bit painful in the beginning.  I was tempted to erase and re-write the whole damn thing.  But that wouldn’t do, so I had to take it slower than I usually do.  The key here is that taking a break from the story really helped my look back with perspective (especially after having written a bunch of other stuff in the meantime).

So definitely take a break, walk away and do something else, but never be afraid to go back and take a fresh look.

Really Listen To Feedback

Feedback is awesome.  Just release the ego (I know it’s there, but try to ignore that asshole for a bit) and get to the listening.  Find some people who give good advice and let them have at your work—the more the merrier.  You are ultimately the final arbiter of your own words, but listening to others will give you a whole new outlook you didn’t know you had and if you can just get over yourself for long enough to listen it will help you.  Really.

Love It

Every single day I feel so lucky to have found something I love so much and to be allowed to do it.  I never, ever take it for granted.  Life is short and I wish everyone, everywhere could have the opportunity to do what they are passionate about because it’s just awesome.

I’ve heard a diverse range of opinions about writing as I’ve explored websites and forums and had different discussions with writers.  From time to time I come across people who bitch about writing, say how hard it is and how they hate it but just ‘have to do it’ and I want to shake them.

As a writer I feel privileged to be able to compose every sentence and share my words with people (hopefully sometime soon to lots of people) and I can’t imagine hating it.  If I did, I’m sure I would do something else because what’s the point if you don’t love what you do?

I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m lucky and I think it would behoove all writers to stop for a moment and consider how lucky they are too.  I love writing because I feel I have something important to say and I have finally found a way to say it.

Why do you love it?

Happy New Year!