1. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    7,288
    Likes Received:
    7,503
    Location:
    England

    Role playing or fiction writing?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by OurJud, Nov 22, 2017.

    It seems to me, going from the vibe I get from certain threads, that the modern wannabe writer is more interested in world-building and role playing than they are creating good solid fiction.

    When you hear many of the forum members talk about their characters, they do so in a way which suggests they have an existence outside the story being written, where they're merrily going about their 'real' lives. You hear the writer talk about the characters' reactions, should they ever get to hear what they have planned for them in the story, or what kind of person they are in general.

    While I appreciate a good central character has to feel real to the writer, what I'm seeing on the forum goes way beyond that. Yes, any writer will 'know' their characters, but why is it necessary for members here to share those 'lives' with others?

    As the thread title says, I suspect this is more about these members wanting to role play, than it is to write fiction.
     
    jannert likes this.
  2. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Get off my Balzac... Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2017
    Messages:
    6,578
    Likes Received:
    12,956
    Location:
    Rhode Island
    That's a pretty broad brush, but I would definitely agree that there's quite a few who only get into it for the world building and have little consideration for the logistics (or even the most basic functionality) of the prose required. I suspect that most of those will never make it past the outline or a flailing attempt at an opening chapter. My favorite is compendium for a seven-book series of which nary a word has been written yet or likely ever will be.

    Personally, I blame video games with their guise of insta-narrative and quick character build. I mean, how many times have we seen character traits and story ideas that look they've been randomly assigned from a group of presets or rolled from 20-sided dice? Don't get me wrong: I love video games and continue to be impressed (and slightly irked) at the narrative depth modern gaming has added to story-telling. The trouble is that readers (unlike gamers) have no agency, and I think too many aspiring authors conflate being a gamer with being a writer, which they are not. That experience and immersion is much closer to the role of a reader... i.e., the one who the story happens to. Not the role of the one telling the story, despite the choices a gamer may have in the outcome of the "story." I suspect that most writers of said persuasion would rather make video games and only turn to writing because it's something that can be done without a lot of money, equipment, education, and professional collaboration. But, having said that, the proof is still in the pudding and I've got no beef with anyone's creative method so long as it gets result. Far be it for me to tell anyone how they should get down.

    Now, now... let them have their fun. Remember, this is all Internet make-pretend.

    (though I do have a sneaky suspicion that anyone who thinks their characters are real people or more real than real people needs a double shot of humanity and an enema of reality, for which, I will gladly hold the bag)
     
  3. Laurus

    Laurus Disappointed Idealist Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2017
    Messages:
    546
    Likes Received:
    529
    Location:
    Colorado
    I think it's funny that you judge others for being too invested in their characters when you're the one who gets bored of every character he creates.

    Who are these people? Tag them. Let them defend themselves.
     
  4. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    2,464
    Likes Received:
    3,858
    Location:
    SC, USA
    I'd also be interested in who you're talking about / what exact type of talk you're referencing, to be honest.

    I think there are levels to this kind of thing. I used to rp a lot and it was pretty common for us to chat about our characters as if they were hanging out with us (see stuff like the character bar on here). I don't know what to tell you except ... it's fun? I dunno.

    That's more than I get into these days, but I still talk about my characters as if they're real people fairly often - "yeah, he's an asshole" is the common refrain, as if I had no part in the assholery :D Frankly it's just simpler than using distant or clinical language to talk about them. "He's an asshole because his parents abandoned him" is quicker than "I decided I wanted this character to have a defensive, standoffish personality to further X plot, so it made the most sense to make it so his parents abandoned him at a young age to instill in him blah blah blah" - though obviously if I was describing the process then I'd say something more like the latter.

    I try to build my characters as if they're real people, who could continue to exist outside of the limited story I have planned for them, so thinking about them in terms of "how would this work with a real person?" just makes sense. Maybe it's not the method you use, and that's cool, but it seems like a bit disingenuous to claim that people who use these methods are just into worldbuilding and rp as if those things can't be useful for developing 'good solid fiction'.
     
  5. Not Ready to Say

    Not Ready to Say Active Member

    Joined:
    May 19, 2017
    Messages:
    160
    Likes Received:
    42
    Location:
    In a small room, on a computer
    I rp as my characters to try and develop a personality or style of talking. It's more to practice dialogue then anything, at least for me personally. My personal opinion, it can help someone make a character real or more believable. I think of it like getting to know someone, at first you don't know them entirely, but as you "talk" to them, you understand who they are better.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  6. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2015
    Messages:
    694
    Likes Received:
    575
    Location:
    The middle of the UK
    I see this sometimes, but couldn't give a toss if you paid me. They're doing what they like, so fuck it.
     
    Simpson17866 and Laurus like this.
  7. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    7,288
    Likes Received:
    7,503
    Location:
    England
    @Homer Potvin - yes, to everything you said, apart from the parts where you don't agree with me.
     
    Simpson17866 and Homer Potvin like this.
  8. KevinMcCormack

    KevinMcCormack Senior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2014
    Messages:
    351
    Likes Received:
    208
    Location:
    Vancouver
    I'm trying to understand the distinction. Maybe it's the way I write, but I strive to develop characters that can connect with the reader. I try to do this by making them pretty complete. I build a character sheet of sorts, with backstory, even if that backstory doesn't end up in the novel, so I find the distinction between role playing versus writing pretty fuzzy.

    But I think I see where you're going: are these writers over-investing their time in the character model and just never getting around to building a plot for them to react in? Yeah, that's not great. It's the mirror image of writers who start from a 'neat concept' or setting, and write a hurried story with wooden, inaccessible, characters. Both these approaches feel incomplete to me.

    I'm not sure it's an attraction to role playing so much as it's probably a sign of a beginning writer. Writing is cobbling together multiple elements, and it's rare to be enthusiastic or skilled at all of them right from the start. I think it's appropriate at these early stages to have stories that are a little heavy on one element versus another. Some of us start from plot, some from concept, some from character, some from setting, and so on. After a few years of this, I'm getting better balanced in those aformentioned elements, and have turned my attention to my rubbish pacing.

    Regarding worldbuilding... I feel that's more a description of attention to setting. There's something called "world building disease" which seems similar to what you describe for character: a writer who overinvests time and energy in the setting, writing a novel that suffers from anemic plotting. Interesting enough, the examples of world building disease I've read typically actually have disappointing character development too. Fifty incredibly complex and fascinating species on a planet with a rich history, and the story is about the MC going grocery shopping.
     
  9. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    7,288
    Likes Received:
    7,503
    Location:
    England
    Well, this is where I see it differently. You can hear, in the way certain members talk about their characters, that role-playing is precisely what they're doing. When they start to talk about their central character in posts (what type of a person they are, how they would react to a situation - when these things are pretty much irrelevant to any of the points being made in the thread) is when it becomes role-play.

    When I'm writing I know my characters well enough to know how they would react to any given situation within the story, and I write it accordingly. My character doesn't exist outside the story, and I certainly don't discuss with others what they're doing from day to day in the 'real' world.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2017
  10. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2016
    Messages:
    2,373
    Likes Received:
    3,789
    This is definitely the approach I take, especially since my characters are contemporary/realistic and more than anything I want readers to be able to relate to them as a person who could actually exist. I have a lot of details and backstory for mine that never make it into my stories, but knowing those things sometimes helps me to be able to quickly understand how they would act if I come up with an unexpected situation or plot point.

    But most of all, I want to write the kind of characters I like to read, and as a reader my favorite characters are the ones that I wish were actually real people so I could meet and hang out with them. If I find myself randomly thinking "What would it be like to have Dominic as my new co-worker?" then I know the author has done a bang-up job on the characterization.
     
  11. John-Wayne

    John-Wayne Madman Extradinor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2017
    Messages:
    3,189
    Likes Received:
    4,978
    Location:
    Badlands
    Damn...... o_O
     
  12. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    2,464
    Likes Received:
    3,858
    Location:
    SC, USA
    You got your start writing fanfic, right? (My bad if I'm thinking of someone else but that association is what made me think of the rest of this post so ... I'm gonna keep talking.) I've always struggled to read fanfic because I get really pissy particular about characterization, and when I perceive someone as being written out of character it breaks the immersion for me. On the other hand, when a writer really nails that characterization, it's fantastic (and I've never really written fanfic because I know I can't pull it off!).

    I think the fact that someone can make up a fake person that's so much like a real one that I can plausibly go "psshhh, Tony Stark would never say that" is absolutely magical, to be real cheesy about it. One of my goals is totally to have characters that you can conceive of existing in real world contexts (even though I write a lot of far-future sci-fi and fantasy junk), and I think that conceiving of them as if they're real in the first place has got to be one of the most straightforward ways of doing that, at least, eh?
     
  13. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2016
    Messages:
    2,373
    Likes Received:
    3,789
    I did - I'm a proud card-carrying member of the Former Fanfic Writers Club! I actually think it's one of the reasons I don't find it weird to come up with all kinds of non-cannon "what if x happened to x" scenarios and stories. What if Kurt never went to Dalton? What if Dave joined New Directions instead of switching schools? What if Sebastian's parents cut him off and he had to get a job? Keeping the characterization spot on while putting the characters in totally new circumstances that were never even touched on in the show was the best part of my fanfic days for me.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  14. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    2,464
    Likes Received:
    3,858
    Location:
    SC, USA
    That makes a lot of sense! The creativity it takes to make transformative works that still feel like they could be canon probably does a ton to train you for making original characters who behave in consistent, realistic ways.

    I know I make a lot of au scenarios for my own stuff, and it's mostly just messing around, but sometimes I come across a chain of events I like so much that I actually decide to make canon :D Even when I don't, though - it's fun messing around.
     
  15. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    1,606
    Likes Received:
    1,677
    Seems like rping with characters is pretty natural. RPing is a popular hobby and writing short, dramatic scenes, brain storming, and outlining with almost immediate sharing and feedback?

    It's like eating cake.
     
    Simpson17866 and John-Wayne like this.
  16. KevinMcCormack

    KevinMcCormack Senior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2014
    Messages:
    351
    Likes Received:
    208
    Location:
    Vancouver
    Possibly, although, I have to repeat that that's how I write a character. It may just be a writing system. Just for example, the MC in my first novel of a trilogy will be dead and historical by the 2nd novel. Yet, in the world of that 2nd novel he is an historical figure, so I need to elaborate on what his life was like before and after the 1st novel. In fact, I had so much additional material that I was able to write a 12 short story anthology of his exploits that took place in brief period between the 1st and 2nd novels.

    As a writer, that rich character was a well I could go to over and over again, to irrigate additional stories.

    I'd like to dig a bit on your statement that your character doesn't exist outIt side the story. Obviously, no character exists in the real world, if that's what you mean. But if the complaint is that people write character bios that include content that's omitted from the final published novel, I think it's an unjustified concern. I know my MCs were born, that they died, and have a general high level sketch of what that looked like. The idea is that it infuses the characters with additional realism and thus reader accessibility.

    As to the 2nd part (how does my imaginary character react to current real world events), yeah, ok, if I'm working on that at the expense of cranking out more publishable text, maybe I'm doing something pretty specific, not novel writing.

    But that's OK too - some people are role playing, and they're developing the skill of role-playing, which I can't help but notice is suddenly in high demand and short supply, so in some ways I wish that was me. Here I am slogging away at long form fiction when there's an explosion of interest in D&D. (thank you, Stranger Things!)

    My interpretation of the phrase "A writer writes" is that 'writing' is a general skill, and those of us who do it are all writers. Novelists are writing. Poets are writing. Penthouse Letters (1) submitters are writing. Billboard ad composers are writing. RPG developers are writing. Maybe an obsessive approach demonstrates dedication to the craft and higher probability of success.


    (1) Is there still such a thing? I'm 49 years old... did the Intertubes kill Penthouse Letters? Because that was fiction at its finest, IMO.
     
    Simpson17866, OurJud and John-Wayne like this.
  17. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    7,288
    Likes Received:
    7,503
    Location:
    England
    No, I obviously don't mean the real world in the true sense. What I meant is that I don't think about my characters when I'm not writing. I don't write bios, not even the basics. I don't need to know their history because all that comes to me almost instinctively during the writing process, when and if required. All I need on a character before I write them, is their gender and a name, sometimes not even a name.

    My characters are puppets in a play - nothing more.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2017
  18. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    15,345
    Likes Received:
    13,069
    If that works for you, that's fine. But this thread sounds like you're scolding people for being any other way. I don't write bios or character sheets or anything else, either, but I certainly think about my characters when I'm not writing--most of my ideas for scenes come when I'm not actually at the keyboard.
     
  19. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    7,288
    Likes Received:
    7,503
    Location:
    England
    Not at all. As my title suggests, I was merely wondering if young, aspiring authors were attracted more to the idea of role-playing through their characters, than to writing good, solid fiction.
     
  20. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    15,345
    Likes Received:
    13,069
    Yes, and that implies that good, solid fiction is incompatible with thinking about your characters while not actually writing.
     
  21. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    7,288
    Likes Received:
    7,503
    Location:
    England
    So, it's not at all possible that some aspiring writers may prefer RP their character to actually writing a coherent story?
     
  22. KevinMcCormack

    KevinMcCormack Senior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2014
    Messages:
    351
    Likes Received:
    208
    Location:
    Vancouver
    And that may be what's confusing some of us... I consider role playing to be "good, solid fiction", so not grasping what you mean exactly. To me, roleplaying is just a different type than long form prose. I'm getting the impression that you favour long form fiction to the point of demoting others considerably, which is different than the way I see writing as a general skill with infinite applications and specializations.

    What role playing isn't is it's not long form prose, or short form prose, or poetry, or screenplays... all which I would describe as other categories of fiction. It might qualify as performance art, which is arguably another type of fiction.

    Here's a fascinating example of good solid fiction that isn't long form prose: when I was a kid, I was fascinated by ManWoman. He did this performance art called Mr. Death where he constructed a styrofoam skull costume that was so huge it made him essentially a walking skull with a tophat. Then, he'd walk around town (he lived in Nelson, BC) approaching smokers at random on the street, point in a friendly way and say, "Catch you later!" Effing brilliant, the man was basically incorporating a fictional character in the real world, dynamically adapting with audience interactions. Improvisors like this are storytellers of good solid fiction, even if the story is a short dialogue or establishment scene, never recorded, surviving only in the audience's memories.
     
    Simpson17866, NoGoodNobu and izzybot like this.
  23. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    15,345
    Likes Received:
    13,069
    I have a couple of angles of response.

    First, sure, some writers may prefer RP to writing standard written fiction. Some writers may prefer playing poker or baking souffles to writing standard written fiction. But that doesn't mean that those activities are incompatible with one another, beyond the fact that of course a single person has time for only so many activities.

    Second, roleplaying can be a coherent story. It can also be vignettes or moments, but when I ran Call of Cthulhu, a few decades ago, the adventures that I wrote and ran were certainly coherent stories. I didn't know for sure how they would end, but that just increased my obligations in writing them--I needed to be prepared for any number of possible branches.

    Third, I'm still confused about the problem with thinking about characters when not writing. You're surely not saying that writers who study their coffee in Starbuck's thinking, "So, how would John react to the robbery? Would that be enough to push him over the edge?" are doing something wrong just because they're not actively writing sentences in that moment?
     
  24. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    3,414
    Likes Received:
    2,920
    Interesting response.
    • OurJud: "Everyone who talks about what their characters are like as people would rather role-play than tell an actual story."
    • ChickenFreak: "Some people do this would rather role-play than tell a story, but for other people, this is their process for writing a story."
    • OurJud: "Are you saying that nobody who talks about what their characters are like as people would rather role-play than tell an actual story?"
    Am I misunderstanding?
     
  25. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Messages:
    7,288
    Likes Received:
    7,503
    Location:
    England
    Probably. I think we all are.

    Why on earth has it accredited that quote to @ChickenFreak :confused:
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice