If there’s one cardinal rule of writing that I’ve learned from every source I’ve encountered, it’s that in order to become a better writer, you must read a lot. Lately I’ve been trying to keep up a routine of reading articles every day, as well as books. While I know the idea is that you read fiction for style and nonfiction for information, at the same time, you read everything for inspiration.
And in truth, I find I’m most inspired by sources other than books.
Take my semi-failed fantasy/adventure collection, The 9 to 5 Adventurer Project, for example. My biggest sources of inspiration there were movies like The Hunger Games, The Avengers and The Lord of the Rings. The novel I’m currently kinda-sorta-not-really writing is largely inspired by the video game World of Warcraft, and I briefly entertained the idea of a short-ish story inspired by a recurring character in the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona video game franchise. What can I say? I’m a geek, so my ideas come from geeky places.
One of my biggest sources of inspiration is the classic tabletop role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons. While I’m not as familiar as I wish I was with the canon story and characters of the game, I’m enamored with its concept and mechanics. Marcellus the Warrior wouldn’t exist if I wasn’t so focused on the idea of D&D party composition as a model of team building. And as a model, it works. It’s a great way to build a functioning team, and grants the writer the opportunity to experiment and play with party dynamics, relationships, conflicts, and hierarchies.
I find party compositions so fun that Alex and I have actually started writing our own tabletop RPGs. This has been a unique experience that really challenges the imagination. I’ve never been a Dungeon Master before, so I’m enjoying the entire process of constructing the world, designing encounters, and anticipating how players will interact with the situations we’ve created.
Our first RPG, Heroes of Villainy, is half written and ready for a play test. Since it’s more linear than a lot of RPGs, I’m curious to see how players with receive and interact with it (hence the playtesting prior to completion). In the meantime, we’re also developing Heroes of History. This process has shown me in a unique light how important it is to be fully versed in your characters and setting before moving on to writing scenes and encounters. I’ll have to remember that if I ever go back to writing normal fiction.