Top 5 Ways Roleplaying Games Can Help Your Writing

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Anyone that follows my Twitter account probably already understands that I’m a hardcore nerd and VERY proud of it. I mean, you’re reading the ramblings of a girl who used to carry around a Dalek purse! One of the things I’ve gotten really into lately is Dungeon and Dragons. We have a game night once (or twice, sometimes) a week with a small group of friends. When I was first approached about joining with my husband, I was less than excited. It just seemed so…not me. Especially when I found out I was going to have to roleplay with a few strangers. But after discussing it with my husband, we decided to give it a try so that we would have a little bit of social interaction every week.

But I wasn’t excited about it.

I get enough action out of writing stories. But they are private. I have time to perfect the scene before anyone gets to look at it. I’m always so much more impressive ten hours after something has happened in my head, after I’ve had time to think of THE PERFECT COMEBACK. How was I supposed to do that in real time?

The first few sessions confirmed my fears. I wasn’t very good on my toes and there were so many rules to learn. But by the time we started our next campaign, something happened that I never expected. I created a character that I feel in love with, wanted to write about and daydream being in her life. And I realized then that D&D also helped me with my writing. So here are 5 ways roleplaying games can help with your writing:

1) You become the character– When writing, my favorite thing about starting a new novel is getting to know the new characters I’m creating. You get to do this in roleplaying games when you come up with your character’s personality and background. But what I’ve found that’s really helped me in my writing is that I’m forced to figure out how my D&D character would react to situations in real time. There is no stopping, no coming back to that scene later. There is only the moment things are happening and then we move on. After spending time at a session, when I pick up my writing, it’s much easier to dig a little deeper and make the characters in my book active instead of passive. It’s also becomes easier to figure out how they react in different situations and to trust my gut since I’ve already faced being in character in real time. Bonus points if you decide to roleplay a character from your current WIP!

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2) You learn to collaborate– This is a big one. While we started the current game I’m playing, I was also hard at work editing GARDEN to be released. During the first few weeks, I had to create a character, shape her life before the game and carve out her personality and then I had to relinquish control of her over to my game master, let him tell me facts about her past and give him the power to keep secrets from me about my own character. This reflected so perfectly the relationship I had with my editor or beta readers or other writer friends who read my work. I got to write my novel but after other eyes were on it, I had to give up a bit of control and understand that I’m not always right. During both of these processes, I learned how much fun it can be to have others takes your ideas and elevate them, asking you to look at them in ways you never imagined before.

3) Seeing situations from other perspectives– Some many times when I’m writing, I get stuck in one perspective. I can only see it one way. Which is fine when you only have one character in a scene but the odds of that happening all the time are pretty slim. That’s why I was really surprised when I first started playing D&D and we’d debate for a good hour on what to do when something seemed pretty obvious to me. I’d speak my piece and wait, sure that they would see it my way. Then someone else would talk, shedding an entirely new light on the situation because they knew a piece of information that I didn’t. When I went back to writing, I started forcing myself to think about what information or experiences the other characters in a scene might have that would inform their actions. Suddenly there was so much more conflict and those secondary characters didn’t seem so flat on the page anymore.

4) Roleplaying helps you describe action– I’ve done a ton of research on how to describe action scenes. You can’t write fantasy without getting into a few fights and you can’t write fiction without describing what the characters are doing.Since D&D is all about imagination, it is oftentimes necessary to describe what  your character looks like, how she is acting, etc for the others in your group to pick up on. For instance, when my group was getting ready to go through a portal, I told the group that my character takes an involuntary step back from the portal even though she was one of the main people in the party to vote for going to the selected destination. They had no idea she had voted to return to her home or that she had been running from her past. One of the people picked up on this queue and questioned me on. Because I described my character’s hesitation with an action, instead of just outright saying “I’m nervous” we were able to have a brief conversation and she gained a bit of insight. Take these lessons and apply them to your next book!

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5) You get to have fun– Yeah, okay, this one is kind of cheap. I get it. But I’m being serious! So many times when I open up my manuscript, I feel intimidated because I’m in charge of it all. With roleplaying games, I’m only in charge of my character’s actions and I find the idea of not knowing, especially since I’m a strict plotter, exhilarating. I’m able to take this excitement and channel it into what I’m writing. In the game, I get very little control, in my story, I have it all. It’s really the best of both worlds!

Do you play anything that has helped you with your writing?

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