Collaboration in Creative Writing: Role-playing

By December 6, 2016Writing about Writing

Have you ever  written a story with someone?

Now I’m not talking about brainstorming with the author of the story and reviewing their work on a daily basis as each new draft and new chapter is written; that is indeed an important part of working with someone.

When I say writing a story with someone, I mean actually writing the story with them.

You do one post, I do one post.

This is your character, this is mine.

Together, we are creating our story.

This is the basis of what “role-playing” is—or, at least, the type of role-playing that I have participated in online. It’s all about collaboratively writing stories by doing a paragraph or two—however much is deemed necessary to keep the prompt alive between you and your partner. A turn-based method of writing, and one of the rarer and lesser-known ones. Together, you work on the idea, the characters, the setting, and the plot. You may even come up with more as you continue through your process of writing together.

There are many different kinds of role-playing.

There’s script style (which is written in the form of a screenplay), paragraph style (which is written in paragraph form, very similar to the standard, traditional story), LARPing (which stands for Live-Action-Role-Play and can be seen in that episode of Supernatural) and role-play through video games. They all incorporate the same ideas of collaboratively working together with partners—whether one, two, three, or ten.

The basic definition of role-playing that I’ll be working with is the one used to describe role-play games: “a game in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting. Players take responsibility for acting out these roles within a narrative, either through literal acting or through a process of structured decision-making or character development” (Wikipedia). In the context of what I’ve done over the years, role-playing in writing calls for you to choose the characters you would like to assume the role of in the plot you and your partner(s) have devised.

My Own Experience Role-playing.

I began collaboratively writing stories with others via a social platform called DeviantArt.  DeviantArt is a website that allows users to upload original content (i.e. works they’ve drawn, written, animated, etc).  The website also offers a “group” and “chatroom” feature where users can interact in one central location.

DeviantArt has been around for a good 15 or so years, and of those 15 years I’ve been a member for approximately 8. Over the years, role-playing groups have become more and more common across DeviantArt. Users create characters that can be used in the group for a specific setting, plot or purpose. Most of these role-plays (which I will begin to refer to as “RPs” for short) were written in a script-style format: “Me: *typing furiously at my desk*”. These script-style RPs were the most common form of role-playing/writing characters interacting with one another in different scenarios.

Collaboration between writers is an important part of role-playing.

Similar to building rapport between writer and tutor, it is equally important to build rapport between writer and writer as partners. Writers need to have trust between each other, and Role-playing involves partnership and respect for one another’s ideas, and feedback. You and your RP partner are coming up with worlds, characters, settings and conflicts together. The only thing each writer is independently responsible for is the written portion of their own character. Everything else requires collaboration between the writers.

Aside from making friends, there are more reasons in which RPing can be helpful to our writing field:

  • RPing allows you to keep things fresh, especially considering suggestions are a large part of the story-creation process. The brainstorming process is essential to the overall development of the piece.
  • It also teaches you how to work with other writers’ styles; people write differently from you and always will. Your style is unique to you as a writer. The way you order words, the attention to detail you put in something—these are the choices you make as your own writer. When you collaboratively write with someone, not only will you find ways to blend your styles together while incorporating what makes each of your styles unique, but you can also learn new tricks from one another—either concerning sentence structure or perhaps a skill that they have more experience with, such as crafting details, characters or setting atmosphere.

To my Creative Writers,

I wonder what sorts of tricks you could pick up through taking the time to find a writer and come up with a collaborative story together. Communication is a critical skill developed through RP writing, and while not exactly the easiest thing to get used to, it isn’t so bad once you get the hang of it!

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Kate H. says:

    I’m a fellow creative writing major, but I had no idea there was a whole world of role-playing in story telling out there. I think this must be an amazing way to really hone in your own writing skills and be able to directly compare and contrast your personal writing voice with others. Super cool, thanks for sharing! 🙂