At the time I started RhiReading I was actually the owner and co-creator of a very popular PbP forum (not all PbP groups use dice, I've never been in one that did) and seriously thought I was the only book geek to come from that kind of thing. I'm sure Allison would join me in encouraging readers who love to write just for fun to seek out a PbP forum or group. Which is why I asked her to introduce you guys a bit to how she made the transition from roleplaying to writing a novel. Please read on and enjoy! -- Rhi
Role Playing to Writing
I’ve always been a pretty hardcore gamer – mostly within RPG and MMO realms, though I don’t have as much time to play these days as I’d like. However, one of the things that got me into writing was playing in online RPG games – also known as PbP (Play by Post games). Similar to table-top D&D games, PbP games involve characters and dice-rolling…but their main focus is on writing and character interaction.
From a writing perspective it’s great training. You learn to think on your feet, for one thing. Unlike a story which you control solely, you’re dependent on what other people do or say – and you have to react accordingly, while staying within the rules of the game.
Which is really short-hand for saying “Don’t play too far ahead.” There’s nothing quite so frustrating as having a complete character arc in your head, just to see it all go down the drain when another character does something you weren’t planning on. On the other hand, when that *does* happen, it gives you a chance to stretch your creative muscles. Writing a novel often includes twists and turns you don’t plan on, and PbP is much the same way. (Only you’re usually on a bit of a time crunch, so you don’t get to waffle for three months while you figure it out. So you write the best possible option and see what happens. It’s fun, because people can surprise you in the most wonderful of ways and can lead your writing down pathways you weren’t looking for.)
PbP writing also lets you write with people of varying degrees of talent. This is both challenging and rewarding (and sometimes frustrating), but since the overall point of PbP is to have fun, just getting the exposure of so many different styles of writing can be a bonus in its own right.
One of the things I enjoy most about PbP writing is the act of co-writing. Although many posts are individual posts by individual writers, often a scene or scenario allows for two or more writers to weave their characters together (often in a round-robin fashion.) Sometimes this doesn’t always work, but when the writers mesh their writing styles, it’s probably one of the most awesome things about the whole PbP concept. There’s a lovely give-and-take with this form of collaboration that allows for experimentation without the pressure of a larger project. (And it actually spun off into several personal collaboration stories between me and a few other writers.)
Now, there are some pitfalls to watch out for. There’s a big difference in writing PbP games for fun and writing for publication and it’s very possible to pick up some bad habits. One of the biggest is head-hopping. When everyone is throwing their characters into the mix, head-hopping is to be expected and no one cares much. But head-hopping in a novel can be a trickier thing – the last thing you want to do is confuse your reader. This was one of the things I had to unlearn, along with that of PoV.
Again, in a gaming scenario, many of us describe scenes from varying PoV – and I personally fell into the trap of describing things the character couldn’t actually see. (I.e. the way the top of said character’s head gleamed in the rain, for example. Fine if someone else observes it, but said character can’t SEE the top of his/her own head, so it doesn’t work.)
These are small issues here and there, but definitely something to watch out for if you’re moving between the two mediums. And I did find that as I started writing for publication and unlearning some of those habits, my writing in the PbP games became tighter and improved as well.
A marine biologist in a former life, Allison Pang turned to a life of crime to finance her wild spending habits and need to collect Faberge eggs. A cat thief of notable repute, she spends her days sleeping and nights scaling walls and wooing dancing boys….Well, at least the marine biology part is true. But she was taloned by a hawk once. She also loves Hello Kitty, sparkly shoes, and gorgeous violinists.
She spends her days in Northern Virginia working as a cube grunt and her nights waiting on her kids and cats, punctuated by the occasional husbandly serenade. Sometimes she even manages to write. Mostly she just makes it up as she goes.
Connect with Allison Pang
Just when her new life as a TouchStone – a mortal bound to help OtherFolk cross between Faery and human worlds – seems to be settling down, Abby Sinclair is left in charge when the Protectorate, Moira, leaves for the Faery Court. And when the Protectorate’s away…let’s just say things spiral out of control when a spell on Abby backfires and the Faery Queen declares the Doors between their worlds officially closed.
The results are disastrous for both sides: OtherFolk trapped in the mortal world are beginning to fade, while Faerie is on the brink of war with the daemons of Hell. Along with her brooding eleven prince Talivar and sexy incubus Brystion, Abby ventures to the CrossRoads in an attempt to override the Queen’s magic. But nothing in this beautiful, dangerous realm will compare to the discoveries she’s making about her past, her destiny, and what she will sacrifice for those she loves.
“Who’s my little man?” The unicorn crooned at Benjamin and then winced when a hank of beard became the baby’s newest form of entertainment.
“Keep that up and you’ll be a baldy chin,” I retorted. “And I don’t recall asking your opinion. Not that that’s ever stopped you before. Talivar around?”
“Nope, burned the coffee again. Ran out to get more.” A snort escaped him. “He’s even worse at it then you are.”
“Probably something about being a prince and not having to actually cook for himself. At least he’s trying. More than I can say for you.” I stooped to search for my Crocs, pushing through dust bunnies and clumps of what suspiciously looked like unicorn droppings. “Christ, Phin, use the toilet or go outside or something.” I snatched my hand away.
“That’s not me. I think you’ve got mice.” His tone became wheedling.
“I’ll bet. Just clean it up.”
“With what? Gonna turn my tail into a broom?” The furred tuft in question flicked as if to make the point.
“I’m sure you’ll come up with something. Besides, aren’t unicorn horns proof against poison? Purifying water, that sort of thing? Surely something that can bring a dead man back to life can disinfect like Lysol?”
You can pick up the Abby Sinclair series at Amazon.com and other book retailers:
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