Writers & Roleplayers, Part 3

Writers & Roleplayers: Pitfalls, Hindrances, & Bad Habits

So in my previous post as well as in my brief history lesson, I had a lot of good to say about roleplaying. One might even call it “gushing.”

I definitely stand by everything I said, but nothing is all good. I mentioned before that those who have condemned roleplaying have their points. As much as I love it, I’ve also got to be honest. As much wonderful experience that I’ve gotten, I’ve also picked up my fair share of bad habits.

Now that I’ve defended probably my favorite pastime, it’s time to dig into the dark underbelly.

Let’s start off gently, shall we? Continue reading

Writers & Roleplayers, Part 2

Writers & Roleplayers : The Benefits of Collaborative Storytelling

I mentioned in my introduction that roleplaying, or any form of collaborative storytelling, often gets a lot of flack from the writing community. I’ve seen it painted as an exercise in infantilism that will hobble a writer’s ability by miring it into strict amateurism. That it’s a childish game at best, a crutch at worst.

Really, I find any writer taking a high horse on “playing pretend,” as so many are quick to call it, hilariously hypocritical. At the end of the day, every writer is just playing with dolls in a world of make-believe and transcribing the events. It doesn’t really matter if we fancy it up by calling the components “characters” and “setting.” It is what it is.

Sort of demystifies the whole process a little, doesn’t it?

That said, I don’t really see what’s so very different about inviting a friend and telling them to bring their dolls along so you can play together. There are a lot of benefits to adding another perspective to your writing; if there weren’t, there’d be no advice concerning beta-readers, critiques, or editors.

But what does bringing someone (or multiple people) along do to benefit your writing? Well, in no particular order, let’s begin.

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Writers & Roleplayers, Part 1

Writers & Roleplayers: A Little History

Dungeons & Dragons passed its 40th Anniversary just last year. Although I’m willing to bet that human beings have been “roleplaying” as a form of entertainment in one way or another since the dawn of time, D&D certainly brought it to the mainstream consciousness in a way that it hadn’t ever been before.

If anyone is at all familiar with the fantasy genre, I’m sure you’re well and truly familiar with the surge in books that were quite blatantly the writer’s D&D campaign that they thought was too cool not to share. But I’m not going to talk about that here.

No, in those four decades, a lot has changed in the world of roleplay—and one of the biggest catalysts to those changes has been none other than the internet.

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How, then, am I mad?

The Unreliable Narrator

In my humble opinion, one of the most powerful tools in storytelling is the also the most intrinsically human: the unreliable narrator.

People have biases, and those biases color their entire world. No matter how open-minded or educated an individual is, they simply cannot have the whole picture of an event. Individuals are not omniscient.

Narratives that are in third personeven a limited third personinherently offer us an outsider’s perspective. When the prose speaks of “he” or “she” or “they,” we may have the illusion that the one recounting the tale has a certain level of detachment. In that, the reader has an expectation that it’s more or less unbiased.

But in a first person narrative? This presumed detachment is shattered, and can be used to incredibly powerful effect.

Some of the most celebrated works of the modern era are written in first person for this very reason: The Great Gatsby, which has the distinction of being told from Nick’s perspective and not Gatsby’s, crisscrossing preference and prejudice between the two; Huckleberry Finn, whose puckish voice ties together a story of outsiders; and, of course, the most notorious example of the unreliable narrator: Nabokov’s Lolita, a novel that has arguably changed the landscape of literature and language.

I love the unreliable narrator. I love that how, coded between every line, sleeps some of the very bones of what it means to be human. It celebrates the fact that every story has multiple sides. It makes us question our own motivations and understanding. It allows us to settle into the skin of another mind, see the world as they see it, and become intimately (and sometimes uncomfortably) familiar with their skewed perceptions, blind spots, and convictions.

But the first person narrative has come under strict scrutiny these last few years. For one reason or another, it has become a popular choice for the Young Adult market. Whether I agree or not, this has condemned it to the realms of “amateurish,” prone to romanticizing self-important and self-absorbed teenagers all the while flouncing a complete lack of self-awareness.

In this onslaught of criticism, I’m forced to wonder one thing: are the authors aware of their character’s inherent fallibly?

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The Last Unicorn Screening Tour: Support Peter S. Beagle

Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn is not just one of my favorite books of all time. It, more than anything else, colored my world.

Before I was even old enough to read, I watched the animated movie obsessively. By the time I was seven, I could quote large sections of it with surprising accuracy, particularly considering the fact I never had a very good auditory memory. To say that it was “my favorite” simply doesn’t begin cover it. Then, once chapter books were finally within in my grasp, I devoured the original. Again. And again.

Before I really even fully understood what it meant to be alive, The Last Unicorn largely informed my perceptions of mortality. To this very day, I am still convinced that there is no immortality but a tree’s love, and I tell my beloved that I will keep the color of his eyes when no other in the world remembers his name.

The unicorn’s sorrow soothed my lonesomeness when I felt there was no other like me in the world.

When I felt like a failure, I would think of Schmendrick, so-called Nikos’s Folly, and remember: it was within his profound ineptitude that slept a greater power than any other magician had ever known. All it took was time, and persistence.

And I certainly have never, ever run from anything immortal.

For as long as I’ve had my own money, I’ve collected the movie and book in multiples. Point in fact? The above image is only a part of my collection. (Missing is the DVD, and I’m pretty positive I have the VHS, a second DVD, and at least one more book in boxes somewhere.)

Without The Last Unicorn, I wouldn’t be the writer I am now. Honestly, I can pretty safely say that, without it, I wouldn’t be the person I am now.

So, when I heard that in 2006 Peter Beagle was barely living above the poverty line because he was not being paid royalties and it took five long years to settle the dispute, my heart broke.

At least now Peter Beagle is getting the royalties he deserves, and has been given permission sell copies of his books, the DVD, and assorted merchandise on Conlan Press, where he’ll be guaranteed his fair cut if you buy from him directly. Not to mention, you can get a signed copy for the price you’d likely pay in a store.

And now, to top it off, The Last Unicorn is being taken on a brand-new screening tour across the world all throughout 2015 and 2016!

This is a huge opportunity, for both Beagle and fans alike. Not only can we support one of the most influential fantasy writers of our generation, but we have the chance to experience the story as a real community event.

Many of us grew up watching The Last Unicorn, and now we can see it on the big screen for the first time. And did I mention that Peter Beagle himself is going to be at every showing? Because he is!

As a big fan of Peter Beagle, I want to do what I can to get word out, even with my own meager resources. Along with this post, at the end of every month, I’ll put up a notice on my Tumblr and Twitter with a heads-up to where the tour is going next. That way, anyone who’s interested can get a little reminder so they don’t miss a showing.

For any of you in New York state, I’ll see you at a screening in November—with a bit of luck, I should even be in my own Schmendrick cosplay. Because who’s surprised that he’s my favorite.

One last time, here are the official links for anyone interested:

Devil’s Advocate: “Originality” Isn’t Important

(Image inspired by Quote Investigator: Originality Is Undetected Plagiarism)

Originality. It’s a word that is used as the highest song of praise or the sharpest dismissal of any creative work.

The modern age is obsessed with the idea of what is and isn’t “original.” More than once I’ve heard it referred to as “the cult of originality,” and I feel there is no better description.

To be completely honest, I think the whole thing is ridiculous.

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Soundtrack to Creativity

I’m always surprised to hear that some people write in complete silence. This has always sounded a bit like sensory deprivation to me. More than perhaps anything else, I require music to write.

In a lot of ways, music is one of my greatest influences; not only do I need it when I actually sit down to draft and edit, but it’s a cornerstone to the very conception of nearly all of my stories.

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