Being someone with a creative mind, finding an initial spark of creative inspiration happens fairly easily. It always has. Nurturing that spark into a raging bonfire is much harder. Sometimes the ideas are like the flashes of burning metal flake that pop from a lit sparkler. It looks great (and a little scary), but the flakes disintegrate before they have a chance to burn your hand.
I find myself storing up ideas that don’t have enough substance to go anywhere, always hoping to discover the mother lode of inspiration around the next curve. Once you start writing and piecing together stories or poems you will find that your brain starts organizing things you experience, overhear, and randomly think of into a more creative substrate for later use. It’s up to you to take an idea, arrange it on a little of that experience material, then coax it to life. Feeding it takes an effort. Sticking with it takes another kind of effort. Not giving up when, despite all of your efforts, the thing fizzles out — that’s the hardest part.
How do you keep going? You get back out there and you start collecting more inspiration. You look within. You look at the external world from the cosmos to the petri dish to the results of super colliding particles. You talk to people, eavesdrop on their public conversations, read the comments on a web article. You become the intrepid reporter, the spy, the naturalist, the sailor, the Girl Friday, the archeologist, or the historian.
Recently, I’ve found a fount of inspiration in playing D&D. I honestly can’t support whatever delay that kept me away from RPGs for all these years. As a writer, this is the best exercise ever. I love creating a character to play as and imagining her backstory. The game creators encourage players to really dig deep, offering tables of background archetypes and options of ideals, flaws, and motivators to go with the standard race, profession, and weapons. If writers consistently chose these traits for the characters in stories and stuck to their structure, we would see such an improvement in the quality of fictional characters.
So far I have created two D&D characters that I really like. The adventures they go on during gameplay don’t just add to treasure totals and experience points as they do with video game characters, they are an opportunity to really get inside the character and see what decisions she will make.
My first character, Gossamer, is a Drow who adopted the life of a bard after spending a good hundred plus years as a pirate in the Underdark and topside around Waterdeep. Being a Drow (a kind of dark elf that lives underground in a matriarchal society) Gossamer is hated, feared, and distrusted wherever she travels topside, though the bad reputation she earned as a pirate keeps the haters from disrupting her travels too much. She is a lover of chaos, a stealthy pick-pocket, and would have made an excellent Rogue had the magic of the drums not called to her.
While adventuring with the racially diverse crew she happened upon after a compelling dream of dragons, Gossamer has had some good times in the way of tavern brawls and satisfying monster kills. Still, she longs for the day when the dream will stop plaguing her and the treasure will amount to the cost of a ship of her own. One day she will sail away from the men who believe they are in charge and find a first mate with a spirit to match that of her beloved friend Caldeth for whom she still grieves.
As part of those rules I was talking about earlier, I try to remember while playing that Gossamer is a Drow. Her people are treacherous and Machiavellian. She is not jovial, as you might expect a bard to be. The only time she grins is when the plate she flings across a crowded tavern hits its mark and all hell breaks loose. Gossamer is not inclined to help townsfolk to stay safe from an attacking horde unless there is a weighty bag of coin involved. Though she eagerly helps the thieves guild when they have a politician who needs realignment. That’s not to say she doesn’t still require the bag of coin, just that she gets to enjoy her task that day.
As I play the game character, I find myself thinking about other characters I’ve created on paper. Have I spent as much time trying to understand them? Or have I forced them to conform to my whim as the words of their story flow from my fingers? How many times have I flouted the internal structure I gave my fictional character for the sake of telling their story my way?
Talk to me about your character’s infrastructure and how hard or easy it is for you to stick to plan? Have you ever played a role-playing game? Talk to me about your experience and your favorite character.
#gowrite for our week three topic in the “Can You Elaborate” theme.
There’s a voting poll just waiting for your input. Read what the writers came up with for week two. Today is the last day. #goread #govoteflames #commentlove