One of my friends has been trying to explain the ways, methods, and attraction of Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop role playing games (RPGs). We’ve discussed how the game master gets to control certain aspects of the story, and yet the actual plot is left to chance (the dice) and the input and decisions of the other people involved.
And, as I thought about it, I realized this sort of story-telling would drive me nuts. There I’d be, with ideas of characters and plot and pacing, direction and half-envisioned scenes…and be stuck with the whims of other people and some small cubes of plastic.
I think I’d find it very frustrating. I’d either be urging my fellow characters on to certain actions or mentally critiquing them, in all likelihood–I’m sure they’d mean well, but what if my idea of their character and they’re idea of their character collided? What if I felt they did something out of character for that person? Or, if I was the game master, I’d be longing to have certain sequences play out, certain quests get accepted, and all the while, stuck behind the scenes.
This week’s finale of the popular television show Castle reminded me that games aren’t the only creative outlets where you have to deal with other people. The show’s end was brought on, if rumors are to be believed, by cast difficulties. One actor doesn’t like working with another character, and there are troubles with budgets, and thus a story has to wrap up, even if the writers had much more to say.
And again, I don’t think I could handle it. To have to write a story a certain way because one of the characters quit (like in Downton Abbey, where they had to write Matthew and Sybil out of the plot due to the actors) would be so frustrating. I much prefer being the one calling the shots, and even if I allow my characters some leeway to redirect the story and reinterpret their role, if I put my foot down, there’s nothing the characters can do.
But I imagine that writers have to face this problem when dealing with agents, editors, and co-authors. You have one idea, but someone else has another–and who compromises? Who bends their will to another? Or do you argue (or keep looking) until you find people to work with who are willing to do things you’re way?
I suppose it comes down to personality, and whether you can work with other people. Whether you’re so “married” to your ideas that you can’t stand seeing them mishandled, mauled, and misapplied through other people’s actions. Whether you can bear to have another hand in your art.
And it made me wonder if most writers are like me, where we’re drawn to our job partly because of its solitary nature and the ability to make all the decisions about our characters, or if we compartmentalize when dealing with RPGs or group projects. If we don’t let ourselves get too close or care too much about it, because we know the fate is out of our hands.
What about you? As a writer, can you handle creative input from other people? Could you have a co-author? Could you write for television?
Copyright 2016 Andrea Lundgren