Inspiration Has Flown The Coop

Writing a long story and running a long role-playing campaign have a few things in common.

Obviously, both require a lot of writing.

Both require the creation of characters. The main characters should have interesting personalities and goals. As the story and campaign move along their motivations, goals, and personalities develop. Sometimes main characters move on and minor characters elevate into main characters.

Both should have at one main plot that involves most of the characters. A good long story and role-playing campaign have at least two big plots with sub-plots driven by the characters. The effect is to create a believable environment for the characters to act and the reader/player to engage with.

And from time to time, both wander off course. A role-playing game this happens for a variety of reasons-game master lets the players wander off with no real plan, the game master has no plan, the players refuse to follow the bouncing ball that most game masters set, the players have no clue and are not getting any help from the game master, all the way down to shit happens and a campaign takes a tangent heading for the horizon.

Given my experience with writing long stories is minimal, I was not aware of the above similarities. In fact, until Training of Sara which really is a series of short works of erotica that have the theme of Sara and now Nail Clippers the longest work of fiction has been 5 pages…I think. In other words, I wrote short stories until recently. Short stories are fun and fit with previous work, creating role-playing games.

A short story or scene is great for providing flavor to boring rule books and giving reader/players a better idea of what I had in mind. A favorite layout of mine is to start each chapter with a short story and use scenes to flesh out examples or things that I don’t think rules do well, which is most everything other than inform players how to do something.

A long story as I am finding is closer to a role-playing game with only one player. The characters do their own thing within limits of my imagination and plans, although characters can change those actions. Just part of the writing process. Like a role-playing game, things do go off the rails. In this case, I lost or feel I have lost my way with Nail Clippers. To focused on the minutiae and a character or two who refuse to cooperate. Make them cooperate, you might say, they are figments of your imagination. It doesn’t work that way. Think of this as a modified form of writers block.

Thus, last night for the first time in a long time I sat in front of the screen and nothing happened. I tried to write about other characters, but it did not feel right. Mildly frustrated, I have sent out what I have to other people for their notes, maybe they will see what I am not seeing and can provide me with some inspiration/direction/ideas. Otherwise, hopefully, after a day or two away from the characters things flow. I have


7 thoughts on “Inspiration Has Flown The Coop

  1. “Normally,” when I write long stories, it helps when I see the end of the story before I write it then work toward that end; it helps when I can sit and think for a moment of the characters that’ll be in the story and the personalities I want them to have and, of course, their roles in the story that, in my mind, I’ve already finished writing… now I have to write it.

    I got into the habit of proofreading my work as I go along because while looking for errors, I can find where what I’m writing has gone off the reservation or has become disconnected; now I gotta think about how to get it back on track or, yeah, if I have to, do a complete rewrite where required. I can usually do it… but sometimes I’ll get a story started and it just dies and I’m now asking myself, “Where were you going with this?” and since I can’t answer the question, I’ll just leave it alone until I can answer the question; it might take a few minutes, a few months, or I may never be able to answer it so it never gets published.

    I have one folder on my computer called, “Unfinished Shit” and it’s full of stuff I’ve started but haven’t been able to finish because I couldn’t answer that one question. It’s not a lack of inspiration – writer’s block – but a total loss of focus… and I’d rather have writer’s block. How to overcome it? Relax, think about what you’re writing… but don’t seriously think about it. Go back and re-read what you’ve already written and ask yourself, “Where am I going with this?” and try to answer it and if you can’t, don’t write until you can.

    And if you can’t, well, yeah, it happens… Just as in life itself, a lot of things look good on paper until you try to do them and find out things just ain’t looking that good. Unlike life, you can start a piece of writing all over again if you have to…


    1. Ankoku1331

      Same things happen with role-playing games. One of the reasons I love running them and I am enjoying working on longer material than shorts. I’m taking a break and doing non-related stuff in the hopes that sideways thinking provides me the answers or at least answers that question, “What now?” I too have a folder, actually a 130GB backup drive with lots of unfinished shit or abandoned shit. 🙂


  2. Pingback: Intermission | Scrawlings of a Mad Man

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