A Practical Application (Really!)

The biggest complaint I get from people who don’t participate in my hobbies is that there’s no real-world benefit, or that it’s all escapism. Just as much in writing as in gaming, mind you. (I’ve known some real downers in my time.)

I would like to take this opportunity to thumb my nose at these people. Our hobbies have practical uses too. So neeners.


Now that I’ve satisfied my inner five-year-old, I’ll get to the point. In a roundabout, massively delayed way (yes, the idea was about a month in coming.  It’s been a long month), I actually owe this concept to the writing-blogger shakespearemom, whom I met through our mutual host. She’d written, here, about how much she’d like to be able to just step into another personality for a bit, and detach herself from herself.

Sound familiar to anyone? Non-beer-and-pretzels gamers? Deep-immersion writers? Can I see a show of hands?

Most of you have created characters who aren’t you. I imagine many of you have created characters with qualities you respect: patience, skill in a certain field, confidence, determination, you name it. And a hefty number of you, when writing or playing these characters, have probably found yourselves slipping into their modes and mannerisms. Simple enough, right?

Now imagine you’re in a stressful situation. Maybe you need to perform onstage, or talk to someone you’re not entirely comfortable talking with, for whatever reason. Either way, it’s outside your comfort zone. But what if there’s a character you’re good at falling into mode for who could handle an incident like this—by skill, by confidence, by just not caring enough to worry about failing? Might it not work to slip partway into that character, just enough for the qualities you need?  Calling forth the social monster when the situation demands it, channeling someone with Babysitter Presence when your hyper nephew is up to his usual chaos?

The trick doesn’t stop there, of course. If you find it works for you, why not start leaning your character creation in directions that will give you a useful trait to cherry-pick? They don’t even all have to be admirable; even an antagonist’s overwhelming arrogance can occasionally come in handy. What about creating characters whose interests either are real-world or have real-world parallels, even if they’re not something you-yourself would be into? Wouldn’t it be useful to have a mindset like that for when you have a friend who can’t stop talking about something you know almost nothing about and care less for?

So what do you think? Might this work for you? Is it a practical enough application to get those people who tell us to go out and do something useful to shut up or maybe even start asking productive questions like “So how exactly does this work?”

(Image borrowed from Wikipedia.)

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