Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Unexpected Writing Exercises

I'm seriously, seriously trying to get back into blogging regularly. My mind's been in about sixty different directions over the last couple of months, so it's been hard. To give you an idea: Pottermania, Portkey (during LeakyCon), Portkey (after LeakyCon), Deathly Hallows Campaign and general HPA staffer stuff, finding an apartment, signing a lease, moving...Dublin Irish Festival and Columbus Feis and upped rehearsal time that comes with those things, Post-Potter Depression, unpacking, trying to get through my TBR pile, writers group, writers group hiatus, diet, revisions, vlogging...identity crises because of Pottermore, then getting over the identity crises...going to funerals and weddings...planning the 20th Anniversary Homecoming alumni band stuff for my high school marching band...starting an agent search...finally finished unpacking, but still trying to buy stuff for the apartment...trying to keep in touch with friends and family...all while trying not to lose my mind. Oh. And now I kinda want a tumblr.

Yeah, it's been a weird summer.

So, please bear with me while I try to get back into the swing of blogging.

My calendar says it's Writing Tuesday. Oh, Writing Tuesday. As I'm taking a small break from serious writing (post-revisions) in favor of researching agents to send my novel to, I had to think for a minute about what to talk about. And then it came to me. Granted, if you watch any of the videos I do on "In the Cardboard Box" (my vlogging project with Emmy), you've heard about this a good three times. Deal. I'm better at talking about things through writing, as opposed to the awkward rambling I do on vlogs.

Have you ever done a round robin story? Where you write the first few lines, then pass it on to the next person to add the next lines? Sometimes it's played by covering the earlier bits of the story up, so you literally end up with one really bizarre story that makes absolutely no sense? I remember we used to do this at the writing camp I went to for a few years when I was younger (yes, I went to a writing camp...it was a day camp and was AMAZING). I think we may have done it in Girl Scouts on a few occasions. It's one of those things that's just really entertaining. But we did it at the writing camp because it's also a great exercise of thinking on your feet. It's basically the writer's version of improv.

When I was in high school, I got introduced to RPGs. Not the WoW kind, but the forum kind. The kind that's a lot like a round robin, because you have your character or characters and you tell the story from their point-of-view, picking up wherever the last person to post left off. I used to be really involved in a Harry Potter RPG over on Darkmark.com, but it died after a few years (I believe Darkmark has a new RPG now, but I don't participate in that one). At first, I kind of got over it--I was probably a little RPG burnt out--but after a year or two, I really missed the whole thing. Bizarre and wonderful friendships sprout from things like that and I missed chatting and plotting with the friends I'd made on RPDM (granted, it was more chatting than plotting, particularly in my case). I also missed writing the character I'd created. I tried to join other RPGs, but I never stayed very long because it wasn't the same. And I never resurrected my character from RPDM, even though she continued to live in the back of my mind, because it felt wrong to put her into a different place, among different people, with a different story.

Until about three months ago.

Three or so months ago is when I got introduced to a very non-traditional RPG. It was almost more of an experiment. It didn't utilize forums. It utilized blog posts in the form of news articles that you could comment on, and Facebook. Called Magic is Might, it was set during the final Harry Potter book...but it looked at everything else that was going on away from the main story we've all read half a dozen times. And, even more interestingly, the timing of it was played out to coincide with the release of Deathly Hallows Part 2. The characters in the RPG would be fighting the Battle of Hogwarts at the same time as the characters on screen, essentially.

I was fascinated. I decided to resurrect my old character and have her play. She started commenting on the news posts and (I shouldn't have been surprised as I was, considering how welcoming a community the Potterheads usually are) she was immediately welcomed into the story. After a few weeks, I created a second, more evil character. Good and evil. Yin and yang. Innocent and a royal pain in the ass. It was fun. Our characters debated, while the players behind them had heartfelt, nerdy conversations out-of-character. And then the movie came out and the Final Battle wrapped up on Facebook, and we mourned.

And once we were done mourning, we created something new, so we could all keep going. We called it Magic Is Might Continues, because that was all our creativity would allow, and we picked up where the story had left off. We decided to figure out what happened after the Battle. What happened in those 19 years between the end of the last chapter in Deathly Hallows and the beginning of the Epilogue?

We've been going for a couple of months now. The friendships have grown tighter, but likewise the plots of grown...more confusing. We're plotting up a storm for our characters. Emails are exchanged all the time and the "evil" characters are being bitter losers and the "good" characters are getting into relationships with each other. And there's drama and Romeo & Juliet and duels with werewolves and arguments and all kinds of insanity.

BUT (and here's where I get to the Writing Tuesday stuff), it's been such a GREAT writing exercise for me. Other than the great friends I've made, I've also been forced to get used to writing some uncomfortable or emotional or intense scenes. I've had to delve into the head of my "evil" character to see what makes her tick that way. I've had to break my "good" character about fifty times, just to fix her again. In the more adventurous scenes, I've had to pick up the action from the previous poster and carry it forward. It makes me think more about character and action and what someone would say in various situations or debates. I've had to argue the negative side of arguments through my "evil" character.

Moral of the story: It's really amazing, the places you can get practice writing.

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