Using Role-Playing to Rein in Your WIP

D&D DiceSo, you’ve been busy writing, I see. That work in progress (WIP) is coming along pretty well. But you just don’t know how your audience will feel about it. Or perhaps you’re ready to throw a new element into your story, but you’re not certain that your world is ready for it. So, you pace to and fro, sipping on a cup of coffee while you think it over. Suddenly an idea pops into your head:

“Hey, maybe I can get someone to be a beta reader!”

Suddenly, a knock sounds at your front door. But isn’t it, like, midnight? You open it, startled, and a bit confused to see a group of people clad in mail crafted from pop-can tabs and dresses woven from bedsheets. And there’s a guy in the back wearing sweats. But it’s okay, he has Cheetos.

“U-uh, hello?”

“Well met, milord!” The frontman hails.

“Quiet! Quiet! You’ll wake the neighbors! Who are you and what do you want?”

“Do you have a moment to learn about our role-playing savior Gary Gygax?”

Of course you do. Why? Because this might just be the opportunity you need to give your WIP a test run! Wait, what about the beta reading? Oh, right, I forgot about that. So should you. (Well, for now!)

The Fun Factor

Lining up beta readers is hard if you don’t have an established group of people who are willing to take time out of their busy lives to sit down for a few hours (or days) to read your work. Which, is kind of a bummer. Plus the whole waiting thing to get their feedback isn’t fun, either.

Fun? You said fun?

Why not set aside a night, and – let’s face it, you’re not THAT busy – sound the horn and gather your closest allies for a night of adventure, exploration, and, dare I say, DEBAUCHERY? Of course I’m talking about good old D&D! C’mon, you can use a night away from the glare of your computer screen!

Not sure that your friends will go for role-playing? Have no fear, the community of Mythic Scribes offers a very active and fun role-playing board with dozens of members for you to join in on.

A Stroll Through Your Imagination

“And how is this going to help my WIP get read exactly?”

Not read. Experienced.

The whole reason this article exists is because I’ve seen the magic that happens when you throw your friends into the world inside your head. They are taking a stroll through your imagination and you get to witness firsthand their reactions to the fantastic things you have created. Every scenario they encounter, every character they meet, every mile they traverse. You get to watch their faces light up with excitement. See if they can figure out what is going on in your story. Take in how they handle the unique aspects of your world in the flesh. If you have the imagination to write that staggering 100k novel, this will be a walk in the park for you.

So, dim the lights, throw a good station on Pandora to set the mood, gather the drinks (and Cheetos), and get ready to set your friends on an adventure through your WIP!

In my opinion, this is just as valuable, if not more (depending on how serious your role-playing companions get), than using beta readers. You get to take in their reactions, not just their words. You get the chance to see how they respond to your WIP, by directly engaging them and their imaginations – without a manuscript. It’s a great chance to test the waters of your work while having a good time.

Not sure if you want to throw a new element into your work? Test it on your friends. See how they respond it. Do they accept it? Do they want to learn more about it? Or did it just make them confused?

See How Everything Fits

Using your WIP as the basis for your role-playing experience is also a prime opportunity to put all that time that you spent worldbuilding to use. Exercise that creative muscle and unleash the arsenal of crazy stuff you’ve made in your head. It’s also a good opportunity to see how well everything fits when you need to conjure a scenario on the spot; you may find that some fine tuning of your world is in order. You might just surprise yourself!

On the flip side, if you aren’t hosting a role-playing session and you find yourself strolling through someone else’s imagination, you now have a prime opportunity to see how well you know your characters. Throw one of the champions of your WIP into someone else’s realm, and play through their shoes. You might just find out a bit about this character that you didn’t know before. This is a fun way to flesh out characters that you’ve created, especially ones you haven’t quite figured out yet.

So, what say you?

Care to let the die roll and give it a shot? Have you ever tried to throw your friends into a WIP, and if so, how did it go for you?

Codey Amprim is an aspiring fantasy author and member of the Mythic Scribes Article Team. He is currently a creative writing undergrad at the California University of Pennsylvania.

9 Responses to Using Role-Playing to Rein in Your WIP

  1. I had fun role-playing on forums and other online interactive platforms. It creates an entire story in itself.

    When I try it in real life, I find myself stumbling on what to say next. But when I pen it down, it becomes crystal-clear to me, the whole atmosphere, the tension and emotion, the details of the plot.

  2. Wow! What a fantastic idea! This would be a great way to really understand the world and characters you’ve developed in your WIP. I don’t know why I haven’t thought of doing this already!

  3. I love this idea! What a great way to exercise creativity while giving yourself a fresh perspective. Very nice article!

  4. Good topic, Codey. There is so much commonality between creating a campaign world for gaming and creating a world for writing. It’s the details in the background that make both the game and the book come alive.

    Like Antonio, I played the main character in Rogue’s Honor for years in a long-standing campaign run mostly by another DM. In fact, most of the main characters in Rogue’s Honor are based on characters (and even a bit on the players) in that campaign. The biggest advantage in this was that I had “ready-made” characters that almost wrote the chapters themselves once I got them started on a viable story-line. However, because there were a few of us beginning to explore the literary aspects of our D&D characters, I was forced to write within certain guidelines (such as not killing off someone else’s character) in order to maintain continuity between their various WIPs. Now if they would just pushlish the writing as well, my discipline will not have been for naught…

  5. I shared this link on FB, adding “Wouldn’t That Be Nice”
    I was a gamemaster back in the 80’s, and created my own “world” in the process. A half dozen of us from work played together for several years.

    In the meantime, I was writing “Seabird” & “Earthbow” and most of “The Gryphon & the Basilisk”–pretty much without beta readers. I couldn’t persuade any of my gamer friends to help me in that way.

    Little did I know… I was gamemaster. I could have steered scenarios in the direction of my literary world and plots, then used my main characters as… NPR, was it? Anyway, non-player characters created by the gamemaster to populate their world.

    Still, fun to think about…

  6. This is something I have always done for my world. It is an amazing way to flesh out areas and lore you didn’t think about and to get a general feel of the people down in the muck.

    I recommend this approach to anyone who wants to fill out their world and understand it at a deeper level. In many instances you are forced to create deeper lore and more fleshed out cultures and societies that you would otherwise overlook.

    • That’s exactly what I’m talking about here. You really get to go down into your world and get to try and create what your roleplayers are seeing. And most of the time, this leads to you fleshing out areas you haven’t put much time into while finding the weak points of your worldbuilding and plot.

  7. I’ve played as two of my characters in different D&D campaigns, run by people other than myself.

    Playing as the characters helped me to get to know them better, and to figure out how they behave in different scenarios.

    I think that this is a great technique for anyone who wants to explore their characters at a deeper level.
    Antonio del Drago recently posted…5 Ways to Build Stronger CharactersMy Profile

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