How Role Playing Made Me A Better Writer

Howdy howdy!  A friend of mine from the Yahoo chatroom days has been talking about “the old days” (hard to believe it was ten years ago) when we stayed up all night talking and (usually) participating in multiple role playing scenarios.  Not MMORPGs or Magic or D&D or any of that.  We mostly stuck with the chatrooms and a few forums.  Stuff like that.  I admit I wasn’t a hardcore RPer.  I didn’t know all of the rules and different styles (single lines versus paragraphs and all that), but there were a few worlds I enjoyed hanging out in.  Anyway, I got to thinking about those days too and realized that they helped turn me into the writer I am today.  Here are the three main ways RPing helped make me a better writer:

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And better at faking my way through adulthood.

1.  The fact that it actually made me write.  I’ve never been very good about writing without deadlines, so I didn’t write much when I wasn’t in classes.  Rping with people forced me to exercise the creative parts of my brain on a regular basis even outside of school.  We built worlds and characters with words.  Then, we put those characters through hell.  And we usually invented a bunch of disgusting weapons to push everything even further.

2.  It taught me a lot about character and world building.  There was nothing worse than getting into a scenario and having a character “magically” beat the crap out of someone they should’ve been pulverized by.  No, your character did NOT spontaneously gain the ability to shoot fire from her palms with no lead up to it.  Take your beating like a man.  Then there were the people who randomly put hiding places in already established open areas with no cover.  Really?  The importance of adhering to established world rules and character attributes was not lost on me back then.

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An old character of mine.  Drawn by the aforementioned friend and colored by me.

 3.  I think the most important aspect of RPing is that it’s collaborative.  I’m still not big on group projects, but it taught me how to work with other creators to make a world that combined our ideas.  We had to work together or else everything fell apart due to petty bickering.  Or, if we managed to create a world, but we didn’t agree on things, wild inconsistencies would pop up in the stories.  We didn’t have to stifle our individual voices, we just had to blend them together.  It makes the whole idea of future collaborations a lot less repulsive.

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Like “Didn’t we just go over that?”

 So yeah, RPing really did help me become a better writer.  I keep telling my friend that, while I miss the chatroom days, I still kind of RP, I just do it solo now.  That’s what writing is: building worlds and characters, then putting them through hell.  A solo RP.

What about you?  Did you ever RP?  Do you still do it?  What would you say it taught you about writing?  Feel free to share your thoughts on the subject here or on one of my social media pages!

Until next time!

Educators Who Changed My Life

Howdy, howdy!  Lately, I’ve been seeing things floating around Facebook land with captions like “tag a teacher who changed your life” and all that.  I haven’t actually participated in these memes, but I’ve seen them.  And, recently, a teacher of mine from elementary school (and later high school) retired.  It all got me thinking about how I always ramble on about Stonecoast and even my SMU professors, but I have yet to talk much about anything before college.  I don’t even think I’ve mentioned my years at Eastfield (the community college I got my AA from).  So, today I want to introduce you to a few of my favorite teachers from elementary through high school.

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These things!

The first thing you need to know is that I don’t remember many of my teachers after fourth grade, because I was homebound.  It’s a little different from homeschooling in that the school district sent a teacher to my house (she would bring my work from the school I was registered at, teach me whatever I needed help with, then take my work back to the school).  I had a course list and was assigned to specific classes just like everyone else, except I did the work at home through a middleman.  It wasn’t great, but my mom was afraid being around everyone would mean I’d get sick, so that’s how we did things.  Honestly, it was fine.  If I had gone to school, I wouldn’t have met Debbie Christian and Anita Wesley (two of the teachers who changed my life).

Ms. C. (Debbie Christian), was my second homebound teacher.  I had her for sixth through ninth grade, I believe.  She became a member of the family over the years and we still talk and have dinner occasionally.  She’s moving soon to be closer to her grandkids, but that just means we (Dad and I) will have an excuse to do a little traveling to visit her.  One of my favorite memories from her teaching days was when we were doing one of those “invisible ink” experiments where you wrote in lemon juice or milk or something, then held it up to a flame to brown the juice.  The paper caught on fire and she tried to run it to the sink, but it broke off and fell on the floor.  She was kind of panicking and Mom (who had come in to see what the commotion was) and I were laughing.  Our kitchen floor was tile and at the time there was nothing flammable in the vicinity of the fire.  It was hilarious.

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Ms. C. and I on prom night.

My next homebound teacher, Anita Wesley, had me from tenth grade through graduation.  She was a super sweet lady.  Her husband is a pastor (he officiated Mom’s memorial service), so she was a little more religious than I was used to at the time.  If I’m being completely honest, I wasn’t sure we were going to be a good fit at first.  But she turned out to be wonderful.  She always goes the extra mile for her students.  I recently heard that she put together an award ceremony for a homebound student after the school made a fluke.  That’s the kind of person she is.  My favorite memory with Mrs. Wesley is an unexpected one.  As an early graduation gift, she got me a Bible (not the kind of thing I’m used to receiving).  The thing was, she wanted to get it personalized with my name in silver and all that fancy stuff, but before she did it, she asked if it would be something I would like.  She didn’t force it on me or make me feel obligated to accept.  We read from it and she was willing to talk about the things I didn’t get or that I found to be contradictory to other passages.  I’m still not a religious person (in fact, I’ve probably only opened that Bible once since I graduated high school), but I still have it and I’m glad that I do.

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See below to understand the relevance of this.

Another teacher from those years who made a difference in my life was Loreta Peebles.  She recently retired, so you can blame her for this stroll down memory lane.  I had her in fifth or sixth grade, then again in high school for my AP English classes.  She was one of the only teachers I was assigned to who reached out to me despite my being homebound.  She helped organize a couple of parties at my house with my high school English classes and even had me participate in class via instant messenger (this was before Skype or she probably would’ve had me do that instead).  But my favorite memory comes from the elementary school class.  She had us  mummify a Cornish game hen.  Everything from ripping out its insides to salting it to wrapping it.  I even had to decorate a shoe box sarcophagus for it.  It’s buried underneath the slab to our shed.  She was one of those weird teachers who could make just about anything fun.  And we’re still friends.

Wow, this post turned out much longer than usual.  Sorry, not sorry.  I think I’ll wrap it up here.  See you next week!