Dice, Dice, Baby: How Gaming Helped Me As A Writer

I fully admit to being a nerd and doing very nerdy things. One of which includes table top RPG. What is a table top RPG you ask? For those of you not as big of a nerd as me, I'll explain.

My shinies!

Basically, you create characters utilizing a concept for a character that you come up with as well as their formal system of rules and guidelines, in our case, the almighty World of Darkness and Vampire: The Requiem rule books.

Once your character is created, the StoryTeller (in other gaming systems such as D&D its Game Master/GM) plops you down into a story/quest/situation of their choosing, and then it is up to you and the other players on how your character proceeds.

It is not LARPing (Live Action Role Play) mind you. We generally don't get up and act out actions such as fights etc (it has happened on occasion after a few drinks), but you DO speak as your character and describe the actions you are taking. There is also dice rolling.

In the World of Darkness system, you use 10-sided dice, and based on your character sheet (what you used to create their abilities/skills/vices/strengths) for certain actions, such as throwing a punch, dodging a bullet, or successfully driving backwards whilst firing a shotgun (I  imagine that one might be a 1 dice chance roll though). There are many rules to follow in the game, but there is also a HUGE amount of creativity from both the players and the Storyteller that really build the game up and make it a successful and fun gaming session.

I actually started playing this back when I was in a writing slump. It is a fun distraction from the stresses of every day life and a good time with great friends that has caused MANY hilarious inside jokes that NOBODY else will ever understand. But it also has helped me immensely in getting to really dig in deep with my characters in my stories.

When you spend several hours a week as a fictional character YOU created, you are able to think how they would think, answer questions how they would, and speak in a way they would speak. There is quite literally a shift in my voice, posture, and attitude when I am speaking in character.  Most my gaming characters have some aspects of me, but they are very much different, yet I could still tell you what they would say or do without really questioning it.

I personally would NOT use my wily charms and exceptional beauty to make people do what I want.  *Bats eyelashes*

But my vampire character, Verona, most certainly would. In fact, it's actually a power she possesses.

I generally am nice and ask please and say "thank you," when I need  a favor. It generally works and I don't need to roll dice to do it.

Now, when I write, I find that while I still use an outline, if I am following a certain character's POV, it takes over and dictates what I write. This happened so many times while writing Possess. Some scenes went completely the opposite way I had originally planned, but once written, it seemed that was exactly how they should have gone.

Other times, when writing out character dialogue, especially with the bad guys, I actually cringed at the horrible things they could say.

But that was them talking, NOT ME! Yes...that sounds crazy, but if you really know how your characters think and the things they would say, then you know exactly where I am coming from. And if a bad guy makes you cringe with his words, that gives you more reason to root for the hero, now doesn't it?

When I was nearing the ending of Possess, I figured out I had to revamp a huge part. Why?

Simply put, my main character is not that stupid. I'd come to know her very well, and I knew I couldn't trick her into doing something she wouldn't do. The reader would spot it a mile away. The original ending had her doing something she would not do. She simply refused to  fall for the trap I tried to lay out.

Plot and character are equally important, but getting to know your character and being able to think as they do can really strengthen that plot and drive the story. At first I was a little annoyed that the story kept shifting, but I finally realized that sometimes, just like in game, you can say what you plan to do but ultimately the dice will fall where they are meant to. If you really know your characters, that isn't a bad thing.

 

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