Dealing with Other People’s Creativity #amwriting

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.

DSCF3229 by myristica

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?

lRhpk7CV by 5demayo

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

Photo by myristica and 5demayo, Creative Commons

7 thoughts on “Dealing with Other People’s Creativity #amwriting

  1. This is a topic of interest, as when I was in high school I actually took part in a role-playing group where our decisions were anything but what the game master planned. And some people not only love, but thrive, on that randomness. It certainly makes for a fun time, provided you allow the joy to come from the social interactions rather than seeing a meticulous plot-line getting played out.

    I am enough of a pantser that I think I could handle co-authoring the right story with the right author. It could be a lot of fun, and the collaboration could be an unique experience. But I would never write for television, because I would be devastated if my show went the route of Firefly…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, first of all I am sorry I missed this comment earlier! Second, Firefly was the best TV show ever made and you would be doing yourself a mighty fine favor to watch it on Netflix in the near future. It is only one season long, 13 episodes, but it is the greatest Science Fiction show out there.

        The problem with Firefly is that there was only the one season! There were many reasons: poor promotion by the TV station (they promoted it as a Sci-Fi Western, but really it is something far better than that), they aired the episodes out of order (including skipping the pilot episode that, while a little slow in the action, really introduces all nine of the characters and lets you get to know them), and other mistakes. So when I say that I wouldn’t want it to go the way of Firefly, I am meaning that I wouldn’t want to see it die before really getting a chance to hit its stride and have the full life that is envisioned for such a project.

        To this day, many Firefly fans are still holding out for a Season 2 to be made. Almost 15 years later…… least they got a movie out of the deal…


  2. My last “collaborator” and I fought until it ended the relationship, but that was in junior high. Since then, I’ve been more of a solitary writer. On the other extreme, though, I did get to work with a writer who would work out the tricky parts of her plots by getting friends together to role-play the various characters. She’d put you in the role of the character she thought you were most like, and then you’d work on a scene. It usually got her unstuck in the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is such a cool method for dealing with writer’s block! It’d save so much time, too, and you wouldn’t be creatively exhausted after trying all the different versions because you’d had help. I may have to try that someday. 🙂


  3. A subject dear to my heart! I’ve never played Dungeons and Dragons, but my main characters, and their background stories, were born from an online roleplaying game (Ultima Online). I wasn’t expecting to get a cohesive novel out of the experience–though ultimately that’s what happened–but I did learn a whole lot about character development. I even wrote an article about this for my blog a while back.

    There is no better way to slip into your character’s shoes, or boots, and figure out who they really are when tested by the unknown. After all, we don’t control real life. Unexpected things come at us–people do boneheaded things that affect our lives; our relationships change us, or the way we think. Roleplaying allows our characters to develop under that same kind of uncertainty and pressure. You have to figure out in real time, how will my character react to that? Will it reinforce who they are, or change them for the better or worse? Will they regret their reaction? Will it alter the course they were previously headed on and take them someplace new?

    There were some other players whose influence really helped me evolve Morganne and Elowyn to the real characters they came to be, as their stories mixed in with mine to make something unique. All these years later I’m still grateful for that. Maybe the difference is in the perspective–what you expect to get out of a roleplaying experience.

    For some, it really is just a way to be social, and a form of entertainment. For those of us who are chronic writers, it is more like an interactive writing prompt than the novel writing process, where everything is meticulously planned out and we’re in total control. Roleplaying is the background work, the character sketching, the notes and ideas scribbled in the margins, or the brainstorming behind the scenes. Go into it with that in mind, and roleplaying becomes an endless source of creative ideas that never dries up. You can still gather all of that amazing richness together and take control of it outside of the game, writing exactly what you want without any other interference.


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