I have begun to write fiction again, for the first time in years and years and years. Actually, I cannot remember the last time that I wrote new fiction, so it may have been more recently than that, but I know I have had a nagging feeling every time I set down to write something that I should be writing fiction instead, and that I have been having that feeling for years and years and years. Anyway, it is just a little thing, and not suitable for posting on ME, so it might see the light of day here, or I might just use it in the context it is being developed for.
I decided recently to try the role-playing thing again. Over a year and a half ago, I used to go hang out with my friends every other week at a “live-action-role-playing-game”. I could never really get involved in the “role-playing” part of it. Luckily, there is an entire clan of characters that are basically just artists and people who pretend they are artists, so I created a character who set around drawing and painting the whole time. I somewhat enjoyed spending time with my friends, but often discovered that they were so wrapped up in the politics of the game and in secret meetings or conversely in gigantic, confusing combat scenes that I often spent hours alone.
On one hand, this was good because I ended up forcing myself to work on drawing and painting, and several very good paintings have resulted from things I sketched out there. In fact, one night I arrived with a blank canvas and paints and brushes and nothing pre-conceived, and I role-played painting a painting so well that I not only had completed the painting (it was small, only 16″x20″), but I received extra role-playing experience points for doing so. Now, since I didn’t get involved in power-plays and combat, I didn’t really have anything to spend the points on, but hey. That was the best I ever did at that time.
Eventually I grew bored of the entire scenario. I had less and less friends at the game, and the plot became less and less interesting to me, and I guess it was just too much effort to actually get down there if I wasn’t really going to be playing along anyway. So, I stopped going. I lost touch with the people who were involved, and I pretty much put it out of my mind. Then again recently, I decided that since I wasn’t going to go out dancing anymore, perhaps that would be an interesting way to spend my Saturday nights. I spent the last two games getting a feel for what is going on, and thinking very deeply about the nature of role-playing and contemplating why I had never been able to find myself as involved as these people seemed to be able to get.
I determined that it must be about characters. I have figured out recently (as a reason that I have had difficulty coming up with anything to write, fiction-wise) that the actual story elements of a story are not remotely as important as the characters who are experiencing them. We, as readers, want to be able to identify with the characters, and it is in seeing them in these situations, and recognizing their responses and empathizing with them that we are drawn into a story. With good characters, you can have a very weak story, almost none at all, and just the realistic interaction of the characters will carry a work along. So, what i had to do, if I wanted to become involved in the game to any degree, is come up with a character that I could really care about, one way or another. I needed to develop a character that I could empathize with, even if only a little, so that I could translate that into a worthwhile gaming experience.
So, I decided to come up with a compelling character that will be interesting enough on his own, and even more interesting when interacting with others. I also happened to have an idea for a really interesting new “combo discipline” that I wanted to try to get into the game, and it really began to come together, because I had to try to figure out why someone would end up with this particularly unique skill. The writing I have been doing is background for this character, so probably very few people will ever see it, but I will use it to compel the Storytellers to allow me to have the ability I want, and moreso, to give me a very good idea of where he is coming from.
William H. Macy, in an interview with The Onion A.V. Club, once said that the real core of really good acting was not about trying to emulate an emotion, but instead to go into a scene knowing what it is your character is after. If you know what your character is trying to achieve, then emotions will follow naturally. I believe that that is true, and what I am developing is a good understanding of what this character is after, and the lengths he is willing to go to get it. The story feels very good to me to write, even though it doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense outside of the World of Darkness Role-Playing universe. To people who are aware of that universe, it will be a very compelling story, indeed.