(mood post – will write more later about the gap in posting. Thank you for still being here!)
Do you miss role-playing as badly as I do? I never understood until this moment how much a game or a pattern can sink into your subconscious enough to hinder real life. I am a writer who misses my RPG group.
I finished a book. I spent the last two years since the death of my mother trying to do skillful edits on my book. I never had family support in my writing and never needed it. I had friends who played games with me, talked out scenes in RPG and stepped up to the lines of battles hand in hand, blood in blood – so to speak. My stories took everything over. Watch a TV show, and interject my characters at will. One of my characters burned Chef Gordon Ramsey’s risotto. Another one slapped Derek from E.R. for being a weak man in the truth of his convictions. My world and imagination can fuel settings and history for a whole other world, what it can’t do is fuel the interaction that RPG gave me.
Role-playing gives you an element of unpredictable beauty disguised as a team sport. Is your character stuck? Well, roll the dice and see if you kill a king, or step into a bog. Want to kick the guy who grabbed your character in the bar? When you roll 5D6 and get all 6’s, nothing relieves the tension as all the men in the group groaning in sympathetic pain, or looking at you in mock horror that you would kick a guy there in RPG or real life. Nothing will make you feel better than having someone there – through it all when you defeat the big bad of the campaign, laugh at the character follies, or run the gauntlet of a fantasy world and barely live to tell the tale.
Others in your RPG group have characters who are just as important as yours, and often do things that will mess you up, rethink your position, and have to adjust to that unknown element. You think you can write a simple story from RPG but its not just you in the scene, it’s them as well. Over the years of RPG I participated in, I relied on others filling in that element of my fun. After a time, it reached the point where the others in the group didn’t quite have the imagination that I did, never had their characters do anything clever or unexpected, and couldn’t see how creativity was part of the fun.
One of my last campaigns had my boyfriend, Ben, as the moderator – read storyteller or game master. There were eight people in the group, and it was my first time playing in that system. I played similar settings and games before, but this was Mage, not Vampire and something I was unfamiliar with. I agonized over the character sheet for weeks before and expected the others to lend some help or provide a lead I could follow. Instead, my inexperienced character was the only one who came through the session without nightmarish trauma and death awaiting injuries. It’s a no-brainer to me that if you have mind magic, use it to strengthen your mind before you go into battle, as the mind and heart will fail you long before your sword arm will. Ben and I realized that the others had an experience, but lack of thinking on their new character’s feet. They weren’t awful, but they waited for the storyteller to prompt them every way and ended up missing opportunities and more sessions later. We were both disappointed enough that we have not gone back to that game since.
Writing – like RPG – is that same place to me. I don’t just have one character in my head, I have dozens. I don’t just feel one emotion, or watch one thing happening. My writing is a layout of research and mental planning that would spew forth a whole saga of slight incoherent tales in days if I let it. Outlines don’t work for me. I think till I am done then just type until my head feels lighter. It’s 99% in order and 1% interchangeable. I figure either people will like it or not.
However, my writing is missing the same thing the last RPG session missed – the random element of other people. Not necessarily a need to co-author with someone, but my writing lacks the unexpected element of having to adjust to more than just my way of thinking. There are no characters controlled by anyone else, there is nobody in my head seeing, hearing or feeling the same things I do, and there’s nobody but myself, who can appreciate how close I am or how I feel when something comes from my fingertips. The fear, excitement, trepidation, curiosity and scope of the project, for now, is a lonely road bordered with my fear, anxiety, depression and shyness.
To be honest, the problem is a combination of not having daily friends, and how busy the world has become. Those who can commiserate with me often write themselves. They don’t have an hour per day to just talk about where I’m stuck, or what I have planned – or to explain to me that I am doing something wrong. Nobody has the time or patience to help me work through the conflict of 1st vs 3rd person, as I have now written the novel in both. Nobody is around to tell me that character wouldn’t say something, or spew pizza on the keyboard when a funny line comes out of a combat scene.
Don’t cast Ben in a dark shadow over this issue. He is a writer of fan-fiction, and if we talk to each other about our projects, we get lost. Difficult to talk about Japanese Animation when your thoughts are stuck on how bloody split skin is against the hard rubber of a tire, or wondering how to integrate an emissary of a religious order into a branch office of the F.B.I. for one scene. (read here- fictional story only. I have no designs or plans on real life politics or police works, too hard on the happy imagination.)
Some authors have assistants, who fill these gaps at times. I wish I had one, but can’t afford one. It’s unrealistic of me to ask someone to spend an hour of their day every day talking about my story or writing plans. It’s also, perhaps, dangerous for me to ask anyone to step into my world. A word that haunts my dreams, distorts my reality often, and fills me up with a static horizon only I can see. Stories that tread through my life, real or imagined, without pause or care as long as they are told.
Yes, I miss my RPG group while writing. My worlds rip through me raw, aching from salt shaken, and bitter when swallowed. Until I find a balance, there is no release that satisfies the buildup of years of imagination, and nobody to have a drink with afterwords and relish in a campaign well done, or listen to the plan for the next one.