Sunday, July 25, 2010

Rehab for Roleplayers

Don't worry - this is not about reprogramming roleplayers who have been brainwashed by the Cult of Gygax. It's about writing.

I was brought up by a reading fanatic (hi Mom) who had me reading wheelbarrows full of science fiction and fantasy at a young age. Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Lewis, and Tolkien were on my reading list shortly after I had finished the Seuss books. My first instinct in being whisked away to new worlds was to be just like the authors whose books I so admired.

I drew many Tolkien-esque maps, invented long histories of kings and serfs, and at the age of nine tried to work out whether a planet could rotate around two binary stars in a figure-eight pattern because I had an interesting story idea for the blue-skinned inhabitants of such a world. The biggest problem wasn’t coming up with the ideas - it was actually writing a story.

The first story I worked on - well - it turned out to be a page long list of the monsters that inhabited my world. So much for high drama, but it was a good learning experience. I continued at it, eventually writing ultra-violent espionage short stories that were passed around by my friends in high school, and topping it off after college by writing a full sci-fi epic about a mentally imbalance Islamic computer programmer that attempts to save the galaxy from an invasion of unstoppable space crabs.

I entered the IT field when it eventually sank in that I was going to starve to death trying to make my sole source on income, but I am still rather miffed that I didn't make it as an author. What I write now tends to be only for a small audience - my gaming group. I like to write interludes - short scenes between gaming sessions - to move the plot along and provide information that no one really wants to sit and listen to me drone on about at a table.

An author on DeviantArt that I admire, salshep, recently began posting a parts to an article entitled 'Rehab for Roleplayers.' The title intrigued and confused me, so I had to take a look. The first sentence hit a nerve.

"I can identify a habitual roleplayer from fifty paces. Those who've been spooked by my asking whether they're a roleplayer within ten seconds of reading their fiction will know what I'm talking about. "

Oh great, I thought, she's going to bash role-players. Well, turns outs that poking fun at geeks is not the subject of the article. It's about bad habits and traps that role players get into when trying to write a proper piece of fiction. The article has given me a lot of food for thought. Sure, I have sat down with Strunk and White trying to hunt down crappy prose it my work before, but salshep, well; she really knows role players and goes for the throat. It's like she knows me. Frightening.

So anyway, all of this blathering just to recommend an article. I do recommend it for any writer, but gamers can get the most out of it.

Rehab for Roleplayers, by salshep
Introduction: How to Spot a Drow Illusionist
Part One: Your Syntax Has Been Eaten A Grue
Part Two – If It Walks Like RP and Quacks Like RP, Then It Is Probably Not a Novel.
Part 3 – Echolalia Jones and the Thesaurus of Doom

- Ark

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