I’ve been role playing, or RPing, for about three years now. For anyone who’s not familiar, it’s a type of collaborative writing, where one person writes the point of view of one character or set of characters, and another person writes the point of view of another character or set of characters. The writing is done in a back-and-forth way, with each reply being a reaction and furtherance of the last.
A lot of times, role playing is like another form of fan fiction (self explanatory, fiction written by fans of a published work, using the original characters in stories either set in canon or alternate universes. Fun stuff.) It’s relaxing, it’s a great way to engage in fandom, and most of all, it’s a wonderful tool to help budding writers.
- Learning to Write on the Fly
I don’t know about anyone else, but I have a terrible habit of editing while I write. Now, a general re-read of previously written material is good when you’re picking back up from the previous day’s writing. Doing complete editing and re-writing when you’ve barely gotten out of the first chapter? You don’t really get anywhere with habits like that (trust me, I know.) One of the great things about role playing, is that it teaches you to just write. Get it on the paper. Push it out. The story can’t continue until you do, after all, considering your partner won’t have any material to go off of if you sit at your desk staring at a document. Forever.
Plotting is something that I struggle with sometimes, because I’m always sure of where I want a story to go, but rarely ever certain of how I’m going to get there. What will be interesting? What twists and turns will/should the story take? What struggles should I give my characters and how will they develop from beginning to end?Role playing, being a collaborative effort, forces you to actively think about your character’s actions, the setting, the other characters, and how those interact to get from point A to B — and then C, D, and E. I’ve plotted out… I’d say a decent sixty plus role plays, some with original characters and some not. It’s made it exceedingly easier for me to plot in my own solo writing, especially now that I ghost write and have to pop out a new short story or two every week.
And speaking of original characters-
- Role Playing Encourages Character Creation
I had never been more enthusiastic about writing my own characters than after I had gotten used to writing other people’s characters. Which… sounds strange when you think about it, but it’s true. A lot of times a role play requires an original character, whether for plot reasons or simply because you need a character that the others don’t necessarily fit. The more you toy with original characters, the more you just get used to it and start enjoying – eventually getting to a point where creating your own characters with their own backgrounds and stories becomes second nature.
Let’s face it. As with traditional fan fiction, we can’t get our role plays (unless they’re original in their entirety) published. Aside from those few lucky people who’ve managed to turn their fan fiction into best sellers – no matter how… questionably – it’s not likely. But, that doesn’t mean that role playing is entirely useless. It’s still writing, and one of the cardinal things about being a writer is that you have to, you know, write. Practice makes improvement, and role playing is a great way to improve. The more you write, the more you see what works within your writing and what doesn’t. It also gives you consistent insight to other people’s writing – what things work for your partner’s writing and what doesn’t? What about their writing do you want to have in your own? Is there anything you notice you’re doing that they’re not that makes the difference between ‘well that was ok’ and ‘wow, I’d read that again?’ and vice versa?
I have written so many genres role playing it’s hard to keep track. Anything from pure self-indulgent smut to things about sirens and dragons, to science fiction, to vampire stories, to slice of life to slow-burn angsty romance… The list goes on (and continues to grow.) It’s all sitting on my computer in neat little files, written all pretty and ready either for revisions or replies or to be re-worked elsewhere. There are very few genres I haven’t written for or at least tried yet (pretty sure I haven’t tackled historical fiction, but there’s always a first time for everything.)
Point is, role playing is a good way to test the waters and see what genres you like, which ones you’re good at, and which ones you want to improve in. I’ve come to find that I’m not all that great at western-themed writing, but I excel at fantasy.
It’s all about getting your hands in, well, anything and everything and see how you do.