Did you know that Dan Wells, Chuck Wendig and Jim Butcher, three wonderful and wonderfully successful writers, not only are avid gamers but also create roleplaying games?
What is the connection--is there a connection--between between a successful writer and gaming?
Did you know there's a Dresden Files role-playing game? That's right! Jim's also a LARPer and avid role-player. He goes so far as to, at least occasionally, take the his world-building-ideas on a trial run with his weekly gaming group.
Chuck Wendig of Terribleminds needs no introduction. One thing I didn't find out until recently is that he is an avid gamer as well as game designer.
About a year ago Chuck wrote an article entitled Twenty-Sided Troubadours: Why Writers Should Play Roleplaying Games. Trust me on this, even if you would rather try and cross the North Pole naked than try a roleplaying game, his post is a great read. Here are a few highlights:
Writers should playing roleplaying games because:
1. The essence of roleplaying is characters in conflict.
What is at the heart of great storytelling? Character driven conflict.
Pacing is tricky. It's not the easiest thing to get right. Too slow and it'll be easy for your readers to put your book down, too fast and you'll burn them out. As Chuck writes:
Constant action is naught but the electric cacophony of a single guitar chord blasted over and over again.You have to ease off the gas sometimes and let your readers breathe a little.
This becomes abundantly clear at the game table. ... Let the characters talk to one another. Even the tried-and-true “our characters walk into a tavern” schtick reveals this, to some degree: they don’t kick open the door and start throwing punches. A tavern fight starts simple. Drinks. Laughs. A goblin says some shit. A paladin encourages restraint. A warrior gets all up in the goblin’s business. Someone throws a bottle. And then — explode. Spells and swords and shotguns and goblin venom.
3. No Such Thing As Writer's Block
You can't get writer's block when a goblin spits in your face. You have to do something. Anything.
4. You Have A Built In Audience
Gaming is a group activity. You can tell immediately if what you're doing works.
This [gaming] isn’t something you do in isolation. ... You’re in the thick of it. Your words — whether as a player or, more importantly, as the game master — are the central focus. You can tell when you’ve hooked them, and can tell when you’re losing them. You shuck and jive and duck and weave and do any kind of narrative chicanery to keep the momentum going, to ensure that the table doesn’t spiral off into restless side-conversations (“Do you think an Alchemical Exalted would be able to beat Jesus, if Jesus were wearing like, Mecha Armor given to him by the Three Wise Men?”). ....Chuck Wendig prose is definitely not boring.
Your story is the story of the moment, and it reminds you just how important it is to keep the audience in mind — not just your intent as storyteller but their interests, their needs, their attention.
It also reinforces the cardinal rule:
Never be boring.
I encourage you all to go and read Chuck's article. It's great, I love his use of language, sometimes even the spicy bits: Twenty-Sided Troubadours: Why Writers Should Play Roleplaying Games.
Last, but definitely not least, we have Dan Wells. You might know him as a bestselling horror writer, or from WritingExcuses.com, or from his YouTube videos on how to write a short story or, well, the list goes on.
Here's Dan's connection to roleplaying: Dan's 7-point system for how to structure a story was drawn from a Star Trek Roleplaying Game Narrator's Guide.
But that's not all. Dan is designing his own game. (See: My Game Design I Keep Talking About)
Dan has been designing games since he was a kid. He writes:
I consider game design to be very similar to fiction writing, at least in terms of why I do it and what I get out of it. Both are creative outlets that let me tell a story and craft an experience for my audience. If I can get you to feel something while reading my books or playing my games, I’ve done a good job; if I can get you to feel something specific, I’ve done a great job. (My Game Design ...)
Could Roleplaying Games Make Us Better Writers?
Could be! Only one way to find out. :-)
Have you played a roleplaying game? Did it help your writing? Does writing help your gaming?
Other articles you might like:- How To Write A Twitter Story
- The Dark Art Of Critiquing, Part 1: What Makes A Story Good?
- How To Earn A Living As A Self-Published Writer
Photo credit: "fairies never die" by kait jarbeau is in love with you under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.