How RPGs Made Me a Better Writer

For those who may not know, “RPG” stands for “role-playing game.” There are several variations of this concept in the world, from tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons to online games like World of Warcraft, but the one I am referring to here is the one hosted on message boards and in email chains: the text-based RPG.

Text-based RPGs are, in a very big way, the reason I finished writing an 80,000 word novel ( Hollow Thunder .) They are, essentially, huge living stories that you write with other people. As a writer’s training tool, they’re extremely useful because you must achieve certain things in order for other people to want to reply to your posts.

You must:

  • create interesting, flawed, motivated characters that have compelling backstories and goals
  • develop a writing style/voice that makes others want to read and reply to what you write
  • be willing to adjust your ideas around the feedback/replies of others in order to keep the story going
  • conceptualize story arcs and plots, some of which may involve one or two characters but others which encompass the entire group and could carry other small stories along with them
  • collaborate with others to further develop your own characters based on how they interact with others’

And there’s so much more that I probably didn’t even consider when this realization hit me. All of these qualities of text-based RPGs made me a stronger writer, which got me on the track to becoming a published author, even if I didn’t recognize it at the time.

The last RPG message board I participated on had a unique requirement for posts that made me capable of writing an 80,000 word novel: word count requirements. There wasn’t a set minimum for each post; rather, you had to match or exceed the word count of the post to which you replied. That requirement eliminated short posts that didn’t do anything to move the story along, and it also made each writer really stretch those brain muscles. At that point, the people I was playing/writing with were good enough that they realized the word count couldn’t just be fluff-filled. It had to be important and meaningful.

I highly encourage anyone who wants to be a writer to get involved in some RPGs. Even if it isn’t text-based, go hang out with the LARP nerds or the D&D geeks and try the story out. (For reference, I use the words “nerds” and “geeks” with love and belonging.) You’ll find yourself improvising in the mind-set of your character and delving into those story-building qualities before you even know it.

Williamsburg Book Festival

Exciting news on the authorly front! I have been invited to attend my third year as an author featured in the Williamsburg Book Festival. Come to think of it, I don’t know if I’ve actually paid my table fee yet. BUT I WILL! And, dear readers (all 16 of you) you should come to the festival!

Here’s a link with the pertinents:

I’ll have plenty of signed copies of Hollow Thunder, The Loyalty of Dew, AND Civil Dusk available for sale. I’ll also have plenty of pens (like, one or two should be fine?) to sign books you may already have!

CES Jr Summer Update!

For those of you that are enjoying the garden updates, this one’s for you!

CES Jr (Camellia effing sinensis junior, for folks new to the story) approves of her treatment this year. You’ll remember that last winter I brought her in to the garage for the cold nights, to avoid the frost damage that killed my original CES. This spring/summer I have mostly left her alone in her pot on the sunny backyard stoop, with the exception of practically daily waterings because HOLY SHIT Virginia Beach doesn’t know what RAIN is. So THAT’s been fun.

The other day (read: last week-ish, or could be a few weeks ago, my internal calendar is so utterly fucked right now) my fiance noticed there were new baby leaves on CES Jr. THAT, dear readers, besides the fact that she FLOWERED in spring, assures me that this one is maybeprobablyhopefully gonna make it.

Here’s a photo for you non-believers:CESjr I didn’t say it was a GOOD photo. However, it shows you the new baby leaves, PLUS a veritable shit ton of buds for another round of delightfully fluffy floweres! Flowerers! FLOWERS! (There is wine involved in this post.)

SO, ZONE 8, make note! You want to overwinter CES (or “tea plant”) in your attached garage. The frost here is sneaky and it will dive in without warning, and we all know DAMN WELL you can’t trust the temperature predictions. However, if you overwinter appropriately, CES will manage all sorts of new growth.

Our next step with this particular plant is to murder and pull out the useless, thorny, wasp-harboring rose bushes just visible at the top of the picture, and plant CES Jr in their place. I am marginally concerned about this process because did-I-mention-the-THORNS, and also because the last time I had Miss Utility out they indicated some fucking yellow flags just next to the roses, which means gas line. Sooooo I’m going to get them to come again before we go digging, because NOBODY wants that update.

This won’t be til Fall though, probably October or November at the earliest. Check back!