Role-playing is kind of a controversial thing among writers. Before we continue, let me define this word so y’all are raising your eyebrows at me… Role-playing is basically a conversation between two authors, but they both have at least one character they “write” with. They exchange messages and the story progresses. That simple! It might be a bit like co-authoring, in a way.
Some find it cringe-worthy while many started their writing journey through role-playing and co-authoring. Role-playing is often used for developing your own character, exploring plot ideas, and other things, but in the format of messages. You can start a RP with a total stranger, while you wouldn’t start a co-author novel unless you really knew the person.
So, you might be asking… what’s the point of role-playing?
I’m not here to say role-playing is for everyone. Or that is is a must. This is just a fun, light-hearted post about role-playing and why it can actually help you as a writer. Let’s get started!
ROLE-PLAYING MAKES YOU EVIL. AND SMART!
Backstory: I have been writing since I was very, very tiny, and thus, when I first found the Internet… it was a blast. Other people wrote stories, too? People like me? I’ve role-played for years and I must admit, role-playing has, in a way, helped me develop my evilness.
Hey, I’m never one for mindless angst. If it is one thing role-playing has taught me, is how to string along a reader…. er, role-player. This ability is crucial. Because role-players are fickle people. We don’t have much time: we’re people, we’ve got busy lives, and, mercy, we have our own novels tow rite. Why waste time on a role-play that’s “pointless”?
Because, chances are, role-playing is helping us figure out the finer details of truly hooking a reader/RP partner. Every message counts. Every character counts. Don’t ever waste a second.
IT HELPS YOU THINK OUTSIDE OF THE BOX.
Whether you brainstorm ideas for the RP or you fly through it on the edge of your seat, role-playing with someone can really help exercise your creativity. Because you aren’t in control of the whole cast! This is a reason many authors use role-playing to develop their characters. If you slip one character into a world where someone else’s character is… boom. Things can really come to life. You can be faced with questions about your character you didn’t have answers for. It can help build up characters, or wear them down: a fast way to weed out those characters that just don’t vibe with you. It also is a creative whirlwind to get together with another writer and see what happens. Who knows what tidbits you can tweak and borrow for a novel later?
The ability to think fast and have quick solutions for problems in fiction is a useful tool, and easily honed with role-playing. (And, hey, I get to be super, duper cruel without having a militia of readers yelling at me… mwuahaha.)
IT CAN BE AN INVIGORATING THING.
Sometimes, writers can get too busy in the serious-side of writing, and we forget the fun side. I mean, if you’re like me and have been telling stories since you were young, you know that the Olden Days were plain fun. Did the plot have to make sense when you were young? No! Did you have to build solid characters? Nah! But you still had a blast writing a story. As we grow as artists, we strengthen our skills and focus too much on learning the ‘right’ way. Well, guess what? You can learn about writing while still having fun. You can learn to be better at something without doing it the textbook way.
If you enjoy role-playing, enjoy it. If you don’t, that’s totally cool beans. But if you like it, don’t think it’s a waste of time (assuming you also write your novel, of course, and don’t spend 24 hours a day role-playing… fool)! Take notes of what you learn. Take notes about what you like to see in another role-player: what about their story catches your attention, what part of their story annoys you, what intrigues you about their characters, why do you hate the other characters? It can be easy to learn such things and they’ll come in useful later.
(Also, I said it *can* be fun. I didn’t say it was always fun when I stab/shoot/poison/betray/etc my RP characters. Or kill them. That happens.)
VISUAL AIDS GALORE!
If you’ve ever role-played, you understand how obsessed RPers are with visual aids. I’m talking aesthetic boards, actors cast as their characters, etc etc. I was never huge on finding models for every character (I’m… still pretty terrible at it, though Dylan O’Brien and Bill Skarsgard must play Simon and Gideon if The Infidel Books come into TV existence), but I do enjoy Pinterest boards for my WIPs (here’s my account). If you are a visual writer, then role-playing is a great way to get the imagery!
YOU MEET OTHER WRITERS!
Y’all, this one’s obvious, but in case you didn’t understand this… You’re meeting other writers. And not just smiling, tossing your book into their face, and screaming, “FOLLOW ME AND BUY MY DEBUT!” Oof, right? As an author, we’ve got to build relationships, whether our goal is to inspire other writers or just sell books (hey, people who just want to sell books, who gave you coal on Christmas?).
So, role-playing is a neat way to hook up with other writers, form relationships, and have fun while doing so. I’ve met some dear friends I would not have met if not for role-playing. I’m mega grateful for them!
A lot of authors I know don’t have time for role-playing, and I totally get it, believe me. But it is a nice alternative for boredom, compared to other, less constructive things (*cough*playing Matt Maeson and staring at your ceiling*cough*). So, if you’ve finished your own novel and are waiting for betas to finish their feedback… I love focusing back on RPs then.
While RPs are cool and inspiring, don’t forget to write your novel, too. 😉