Ravyn Freewrites: Seriously, Why Don’t I….?

Today, I actually thought about something that’s been at the back of my mind for a long time. I want a game in which I’m playing one of those really in-depth characters, the ones for whom I both can and will (and in fact feel obligated to) come up with a strong backstory for, and whose backstories grow and grow as I work with them and try to push their quirks into some pattern, or as my GM asks, “hey, about this aspect you haven’t really covered…” The ones who are products of their world and theirs alone, who arc in interesting and fascinating ways, who…

But this time I caught myself with another thought. If what I’m asking for is all that, aren’t I just hoping to write a story? Why don’t I just write a story? After all, I’ve been trying to get myself to do that for ages.

Right. Why don’t I write a story? I game just fine. I blog just fine. I crash and burn with fiction.

I think part of it is that my stories aren’t a social obligation in the way my games are. I have to show up for session. I have to have at least a couple ideas if I want things to go well (even if I do often get them at the time rather than beforehand). On my stories, I really don’t have much by way of deadlines.

Game session comes with an anti-block feature in the form of my fellow players (and GM, if I’m not running); when writing a story, though, I’m completely on my own. I can ask for help, but it’s harder for the people involved; even if they’ve been reading what I’ve got so far, they aren’t living in/internalizing the world or characters in the same way that players would be.

The blog (okay, sometimes) comes with more feedback. Unless I want to post a story immediately, I’m not likely to see much by way of comment. (Granted, I don’t see much by way of comment anyway, except on the things where I said something highly personal and probably technically incorrect when experience I don’t have is taken into account, and the fact that I tend not to look at the admin panel on skip-days doesn’t help, but I do still see enough to know that people are here and are reading.)

I sometimes worry that I don’t really have a strong enough idea of what’s possible and what isn’t, at least when looking at my own world. My early characters had everything under control. They were cunning, decently powerful—they might’ve been good at kicking the ball into their own fields, but since they never seemed to end up against anything that didn’t play to their specialties, that part didn’t really matter. They could, well, do anything I needed them to. Was that realistic? Around college, I started worrying about that. Put simply, it made it a lot harder to write.

And in most of my games, I don’t have to bring the world—I think that’s the part of writing a story that scares me the most. Let’s face it, in the stories I did finish, the world-building was one of the weakest links… as was the plot… okay, let’s put it this way, there’s a reason why I never published my age-16 magnum opus.

Why don’t I write now? I don’t know. It seems like there are more important things, and never enough energy left. It’s worth looking into.

Maybe when the rush has settled.


  1. Michael says:

    Good luck! I really hope that you do manage to get a story finished.

  2. UZ says:

    Ah! We have something in common after all. Writing is easy… we want to write *and have someone care*, and this is suddenly very difficult.

    I feel for you. When people say that strategies do not survive contact with the enemy, the same is largely true for fiction and the audience. You basically have to want their adulation but not care what they think, which is difficult at best and not something I’ve ever managed to do.

    I should mention that my 17-year-old magnum opus (I was a late bloomer) didn’t die on the vine from neglect. Rather, the idea literally became dated, something which still vaguely horrifies me… but anyway…

    Take solace in the fact that other writers will understand, and that you can bring your writings to us and find us both largely praiseful and also mostly incapable of serious criticism. We’re softhearted, you see, we love our own stories too.

    And since the greatest challenge is to finish the thing, and most people find this almost impossible, that’s the real goal.

  3. Ravyn says:

    Michael: Thanks!

    UZ: *grins* Yeah, I’m thinking (once library school slows down, anyway, and I get used to my new week) of seeing if I can get together a group and get us weekly-deadlining our way through our stories and critique of each other’s. Maybe basing on an online wiki or something.

    Though I’d like to have what Seanan McGuire calls a machete squad: people who will, in fact, take my stuff apart. I’ve done the working with a softhearted editor thing, and while it’s good for my ego, I don’t really feel like I learn anything.

  4. UZ says:

    Online wiki? Sounds interesting…

  5. Ravyn says:

    Yeah. I figure if it works for (slightly messy) play-by-posts, and it works for tracking my game, it should work pretty well for letting people collaborate over their writing. The fact that it tracks changes should help a lot; it’d be pretty easy to tell who’s done or suggested what.

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