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Find Another Tree

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I just finished a re-write for a book I’m working on and I was happy.  Then I started reading it yesterday and I got pissed off and stressed out because I hated the fucking thing.  I hated it before the re-write and I hated it after which is kind of a huge disappointment because I love the concept but I can’t nail the execution.

So we went for a walk because that’s what I like to do when I’m stressed—escape and talk to Ben.

I told him how much I hated the story and that I felt like I was overloading it with details and trying too hard.  I bitched and complained and Ben tried to make me feel better.

  Then we saw a cluster of people huddled around what looked like a small pile of leaves.  It was actually a bat that had fallen from a tree and it was tiny and scared and heartbreaking.

Ben ran back home to consult our wildlife bible and grab our net, gloves and a box just in case we needed to catch the little creature and bring it into the Toronto Wildlife Centre.  I stayed behind to watch over it with a bunch of kind people who were all concerned for its little, furry well-being.

The bat was at the base of a tree and it crawled up to the tree and tried to climb it.  But the problem was the bark on that particular tree was too smooth, so it systematically felt around for hand holds.  It went around the entire base of the tree looking for a way up and when it couldn’t find a way what did it do?  It hurled itself across the grass towards an adjacent tree with rough bark.  It was a harrowing journey for the poor little bat and everyone was cheering it on.  Then, finally, it got to the tree and climbed quickly to the very top, out of reach, and hung upside down to rest.  We all sighed with relief and Ben called to tell me what he had learned about bats from our wildlife bible.*

As I walked home I thought about the bat’s problem solving skills.  It tried that one, smooth-barked tree for a long time and then moved on when it couldn’t make it work.  If that wasn’t a lesson for me I don’t know what is.

Sometimes a story isn’t working, but instead of giving up completely you just need to find another tree.  Find a new path.  Find a completely different way to look at it.  Sometimes you have to let the old way go in order to find the way that actually works for you.

So I’m going to let the lesson of the bat inspire me and crawl away from this old tree as fast as I can.  Because I know there’s a different way to get that story out.  I know there’s a tree out there for this story, one with rough bark and lots of handholds to help me climb all the way to the top.

* Apparently if you find a bat on the ground and you can get near it, it means you should take it in to see a professional for help.  But in this case the bat had managed to get itself to safety so we will just check on it for a few days and if it’s still in the same place we will attempt a rescue or call the TWC to come help us retrieve it.  If you find an injured or orphaned animal please consult professionals as not all animals are in need of rescue and in some cases you might just be taking them away from their homes.

Toronto Wildlife Centre Hotline: 416-631-0662

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Roleplaying – Lessons in Creativity

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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?