What RPGs taught me about writing

As I network through Twitter and blogs, it has come to my attention that quite a few writers out there got their start, or at least a substantial boost, through online role-playing games.  I used to be a bit embarrassed by it, but you know what, that part of my life played a significant role in my growth process.  Let’s celebrate what we learn from: the good, the bad, and the mildly embarrassing.

My first RPG was based on The Lord of the Rings.  I was what you might call an obsessed fan at the time (16 and the movies were just coming out), so it’s no surprise that my first epic fantasy novel was a borderline plagiarism of Tolkien’s epic work.  Anyway, the RPG was set several years after The Return of the King, and followed an unlikely assortment of heroes on their quest to rescue Prince Eldarion from some unnamed evil.  For a young writer with an imagination itching to express itself, this was a lot of fun for me.  But I also learned from it.

RPGs taught me diligence and sustainability.  You had to post periodically throughout the week, sometimes even once a day, if you didn’t want to be left behind in the story.  (Although, the moderators eventually had to implement daily posting limits because some of us [cough] were getting a bit carried away.)  Taking time to read and write every day was my first exercise in multitasking and balancing other responsibilities (like homework and chores).  It also taught sustainability, how to keep those creative gears turning when you think you’ve run out of ideas.  (Of course, back then the solution to writer’s block was to throw in a surprise attack and battle.  I have since learned to make events relevant to the plot, and not just clash swords for the heck of it.)

Oh, and this was where I got my reputation as being a gruesome sadist when it came to my characters.  Honestly, I’ll never live it down.  Blood, guts, knife wounds, poison…(sigh).

I’ll always remember my first character.  She also became the protagonist in my first novel (a book that even after six major revisions will never see the light of day).  Her name was Feanna, and as is common with the antihero background, she was an orphan, abandoned in the forest as a child, and raised by wolves–whom she coincidentally could talk to.  😀  Her best friend?  A white wolf.

I stayed involved in that RPG community for five or six years.  It helped me develop my own personal style of writing and story crafting.  I quickly climbed the ranks to moderator and then admin, becoming an RPG leader myself.  As everyone grew (this community was completely created and run by high school homeschoolers), we eventually branched out, creating non-LoTR story lines and worlds.

I’ve come a long way since then.  My character types have changed, my genre has slightly changed, and even my style has changed.  But that’s the great thing about progress, knowing where you’ve come from, knowing where you are, and having high hopes for where you’re going.

Did you get started writing in RPGs?  What were the stories?  Check out Becka Enzor’s blog post about her start in My Little Pony RPGs!