A few years ago, I remember receiving a book as a birthday gift. It touched on a number of ways an aspiring writer can learn to create better fiction. As far as I was concerned, the guy was published, therefore he had to be a master at knowing and understanding how the written word worked. To this day, I don’t doubt that he is/was successful. The majority of his advice was sound: write what you know, brainstorm, edit. I could agree with all his advice without a problem. But as I read a little further, I stumbled across one line that sadly turned me away from the rest.
“Writing fanfiction does not help to improve a writer’s skill.”
I’ve since forgotten the title of the book and the author’s name, so the quote is only to the best of my recollection. Needless to say, I disagreed. In fact, not only do I encourage beginners to start by writing fanfiction, I urge them to dive into the mind of as many canon characters they can think of. AKA? Roleplay.
Undoubtedly, that book’s author would be opposed to the idea, but I find roleplay helps the creative process. From the age of thirteen and on, I’ve tinkered with not only fanfiction but roleplay as well. Aside from some key differences, the two have the potential to work hand in hand. Admittedly, there are pros and cons, but I’m of the opinion that the good vastly outweighs the bad.
Here are a few that come to mind:
In-Depth Character Analysis
It can be intimidating to juggle so many characters in fanfiction. Because they are canon, it’s safe to say that most of them already have a given personality. A fanfiction writer’s job is to emulate and expand on that personality. If you fail, the core of the story goes downhill fast. With online roleplay, you’re given the chance to tinker with small character details, since you experience them on a more personal level. For a short while, you live their life and explore their likes and dislikes, all while interacting with other characters. I’ve found that this has helped me to better capture a character’s general attitude or disposition.
Exposure to New Writing Styles
Writing fanfiction can be a solitary activity, so one nice thing about roleplay is the number of people you get to interact with throughout the process. Unlike fanfiction, roleplay relies on the blended writing styles of multiple people. Exposing yourself to other writing styles can be beneficial in the gradual sculpting of your own. We learn by immersing ourselves in things. Writing is no exception.
We’ve all heard the phrase “Two heads are better than one,” right? In the world of roleplay and fiction, this saying is gold. As much as I’d like to think of myself as a decently creative person, I’ve found that when paired up with the right roleplay partner, I feel more inspired. For example, a fluffy RP scene created for two can easily be reworked into a one-shot chapter. Just remember to always ask before borrowing someone else’s ideas.
It’s unfortunate, but online roleplay runs the risk of lulling writers into a comfortable, almost formulaic style. It’s not a serious issue, but it can be annoying to deal with when attempting to transition back into regular fiction writing. Online roleplay works through stream of consciousness which may sometimes water down the usual rules of storytelling. You may find yourself relying on dangling modifiers or abrupt sentences.
Single Character Development
Focusing on one character at a time does have its downfalls. It’s not the quickest process. You forego the development of other characters in favor of one. In addition, roleplay requires a writer to have a highly active interest in the character they’re playing. So chances are, if you don’t like them enough, you won’t go through the trouble.
You can sometimes run the risk of falling into a less-than-stellar storyline. With so many active ideas running around everyone’s head, you’re bound to fall into a slew of scenarios that either don’t make sense or seem disinteresting. It’s sadly a hit-or-miss situation.
Roleplay isn’t for everyone. Some prefer to go the solo route which is completely understandable. I’ve known a handful of writers that choose to keep to themselves, and they get along just fine. But for those that like to mingle and partake in writing exercises, I urge you to try out some good old fashioned RP.
For those interested, I recommend RP Haven. Message boards and sites such as Tumblr and Litphoria are also popular with the roleplaying community. It depends on your personal tastes and pacing. Try a few out to see which one works best for you. If you can handle the pesky downsides to roleplaying, I believe you’ll find it a helpful exercise in crafting future fanfiction. Happy writing!