How Joining an RPG Can Change Your Writing (and Your Life!)

close up of female hands on the laptop keyboardTelling someone you role-play can raise some eyebrows and lead to awkward questions. You do what now? To clarify, the type we’re talking about here are RPGs, or Role-Playing Games. RPGs can come in many different forms, such as video games (like World of Warcraft), card games, and text-based websites. Text-based RPGs are typically based on television shows, movies or books. Players create characters and role-play, via text, the lives of their characters. Players collaborate with other players in “threads” where they will post one at a time, their characters interacting. To better discuss how joining a text-based RPG can help a writer grow and develop, staff writers Chelsea and Zoë have agreed to discuss their experiences on an RPG they write and act as staff for, The Hunger Games: the RPG, the largest Hunger Games RPG on the web, a site they’ve both been a part of for several years.

Part of the HGRPG homepage

How did you find this RP-ing site and why did you decide to join?
Zoë: I found this site on good ol’ Google, as I was mid-way through the second Hunger Games book and loved the concept of that world and how fun it would be to write in or about. I constantly wrote short stories in my spare time and had been on several different creative writing forums since I was 12 and loved being a part of all of them – so I joined this site because it seemed like an active, welcoming and developed site where I knew I would get the best benefits and opportunities to write.

Chelsea: Pretty much the same as Zoë. I was in the middle of reading the books and just Googled them one day and found the site. I loved the world created in the books and I also loved writing, but I was still kind of unsure. For days I kind of stalked the site, scoping it out, reading threads — which were great — and reading the live chat box on the site where members would discuss plots and characters and other things. Finally, one day I said “hi” in the chat box and was immediately welcomed into this warm and helpful community. I decided to join because I loved the writing and the people on the site.

What were your first few threads like?
Zoë: Pretty basic – they weren’t awful, per say, but probably a little cringe-worthy. I had decent grammar and spelling, and seemed to have an okay grasp on my characters – probably thanks to my previous 3 or 4 years experience prior to joining. I loved getting the chance to write in different scenarios – from combat in one thread to battling the winter weather in another. If we were to go back to my first ever experience writing online, I wrote about 2 or 3 sentences per post!

Chelsea: We have a joke on the site that basically says you can’t start a thread, as a beginner, without bumping into another character — literally. Honestly, my first few terrible threads began with my character magically turning clumsy every time she came into contact with other characters and literally bumping into them to begin the interaction. I’m so lucky that some of the more experienced writers on the site took a chance on me because they taught me so much and helped me improve from those first terrible threads.

How did you begin to develop your own voice on the site?
Zoë: I guess in terms of being a member (aka ‘ooc’ – meaning out of character) I tried to be chatty, friendly, polite and open with everyone – I feel like that’s the best way to make friends and for others to become familiar with you. Doing so lead me to be able to write with a bunch of different people and gave me more opportunities to write. In-character (or ‘ic’), I tried to write with as many people as possible and establish threads, characters and storylines that I was passionate about. The more opportunities and experience I got, the more I found my voice and developed my style (which is constantly growing, even today).

Chelsea: The great thing about RPs is that you’re exposed to many different writers and really come to know and understand their various styles. In the beginning, with the various characters I developed, I tried out a bunch of different styles, inspired by my fellow writers. I would write from various POVs, put in less detail or more, or change up the dialogue with each new character because each thread is new and unique. Eventually, I settled into my own personal style that felt comfortable to me.

What was something you learned about writing you don’t think you’d learn anywhere else?

Zoë: It seems all too easy to sit down and write a story composed entirely of your own characters, story-lines and dialogue. What I love about the forums is that you get to write as your character with other people’s characters. You’ve always got something to bounce off of and to draw inspiration from – and by reading someone else’s work and having to continue the story, it helps you to stop and think and say ‘How would my character really react to what this character just said/did?’ Also in regards to that, you’ve got members who you can plan story-lines and characters with, so it becomes a team effort and you get to create something with two (or more) voices in the planning and executing process.

Chelsea: Like Zoë said, you’re not creating entirely your own story, but collaborating on a mass story with a bunch of other people. It’s really great when the story takes an unexpected twist and you have to adapt to it. You’re part of a team and you are truly invited into the minds of your teammates which is thrilling (though sometimes scary). You learn how to take lessons from other people and apply it to your own personal style.

What do you think is the hardest thing about RP-ing?
Zoë: I think the commitment to threads and storylines is the hardest thing – for me personally, at least. It’s easy to get carried away and before you know it you’re writing 10 different threads with 8 different characters, and cranking out post after post can get exhausting sometimes.

Chelsea: Sometimes it can be hard to keep momentum up in a thread. As soon as it begins to drag, you may not even finish it. In these moments, it’s always helpful to reach out to your RP partner and see if there’s anything you can do to shake up the thread a little bit and keep it going.

What’s an “RP Problem” you’ve encountered or are guilty of?
Zoë: I’ve never been one to proofread my work, even as a kid in school, so there’s one! I most definitely tend to over-use commas and punctuation and have run-along sentences. (Which could probably be solved if I proofread my work!) As mentioned above, I’m pretty guilty of forgetting how many pieces of writing I owe people or saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity or offer to write – and on top of that, I’ve encountered bountiful amounts of writers block that have sometimes lasted 2 or more months at a time.

Chelsea: My problem is that if I’m not sure I’ll just throw the comma in anyway. I can also be a bit “glacial” which is what writers who fail to answer their threads for a long time are known as. Right now, I’m guilty of dragging out a thread that has been in existence since 2012.

Are you ever ashamed to admit you RP?

Zoë: I think the term ‘role-playing’ has a negative connotation to it, often associated with ‘nerdy’ things in society, so I tend to say ‘creative writing’ instead, since people’s first reaction to “role playing” is to think that I like to dress up and wave a sword around! I have found that it’s much easier to explain to someone who’s never heard of the term or know that text-based RPGs exist to just say ‘creative writing forum’. I’m a pretty private person, so admitting that I write for fun is quite scary! I’ve found that the most common reaction after hearing I write is to ask ‘Can I read some of your writing?’ and that freaks me out. I’m quite critical of my work and don’t like my friends and family to read my writing because I become extremely embarrassed, but I think that’s because I often pour my heart and soul into my writing and it’s a bit like opening up your brain for the whole world to see!

Chelsea: Role-playing can definitely be seen as a “weirder” hobby. It’s totally easier to just call it “writing.” I also tend to preface everything I write with, “Oh, but it’s not that good.” Admitting I RP is admitting that I write which is admitting I have writing online that people I know can potentially read and judge which can make me feel quite vulnerable. I wouldn’t even tell my boyfriend for a long time—but when I finally did, I was actually really glad. In the RP world, there’s often a lot to think about, like whose character just died or had a baby, which writer you’d like to write with next or a new character you’re currently working on, so finally having someone outside of the world to talk all about it to is nice. And honestly, writers are their own worst critics, so having another opinion to boost you up is helpful.

What would you say to someone who is interested in RP-ing?

Zoë: I would say go for it! I have gained some wonderful friends from all around the world through writing, and I’ve most definitely grown as a writer over the past 7 years. I’ve written dozens of different things that I’m proud of, created stories with others that I still hold dear to my heart, and my school work has definitely benefited from all the extra writing practice. If you’re passionate about writing or just want to give it a go, know that you’ll be joining a community full of people who are just as passionate and eager to write as you are – no matter what level of writing you may be at. Don’t try and compare yourself to others – you will grow into yourself as a writer before you know it.

Chelsea: My writing definitely wouldn’t be where it is today without joining an RPG. Adapting to writing with other people, the opportunity for feedback, and the sense of community is absolutely wonderful and I would honestly recommend that all writers try it out at some point. Find a fandom you like — you don’t even have to particularly love it because you’re merely bouncing off of it to create your own story. So, definitely go for it! You won’t regret it.

Photo Credit: Cover, 1, 2, 3

Are you part of an RPG? Do you have any advice, experience or thoughts you’d like to share on role-playing? Let us know in the comments!


4 thoughts on “How Joining an RPG Can Change Your Writing (and Your Life!)

  1. I didn’t really get good at writing characters until I started doing text-based RPs. I’ve been at it for close to 5 years, and my style of writing had evolved immensely. I think interacting with other people is a great way to get know your writing style. It’s also good motivation to keep going.

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