FL/RPGWW/NANOWRIMO- or How I Bit Off More Than I Can Chew

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Its NaNoWriMo time.

For those readers not familiar with this acronym, this is – National Novel Writing Month. An annual event lasting the whole of November for writers to encourage us to attempt 50,000 words in a month – no research, no editing, no worries – just write.

This is my third year of taking part. Previous  years I wrote a sci-fi story and a historical/magical realism story. This year it’s fantasy.

Plus…

It’s RPG Writer Workshop month. A new pilot programme being run by Ashley Warren to help gamers write a ‘one-shot-game’ before the first week in December. Game writers range from absolute beginners; never played TTRPG (Table Top Role Playing Games), to those who have already had work published and sold.

This is the first time -obviously – and although I’ve played Dungeons & Dragons for around 30 years or so, I am WAY behind with the changes that have taken place in this scene. Plus, it’s all online, so digital comms, chat rooms, etc are a challenge!

Plus…

FutureLearn  is currently running a course title, Understanding Depression and Low Mood in Young People. It’s running throughout November only and it’s something that will be useful for the job I am employed in – Learning Support Assistant.

This is probably the easiest of the three as I need no tools, except my laptop to access the course.

I have to say, I do not know how many people are on each of these courses, but combined, it’s thousands – NaNoWriMo itself gets around 500,000 writers enrolling. As someone who is not au faix with Discord, or chat rooms, or, let’s be honest, any digital technology beyond TV’s before the advent of the remote control, I do struggle, but people are so helpful. Really. The number of times I’ve posted in the wrong place, been unable to find something, couldn’t do whatever needed to be done – someone has ALWAYS come to my rescue.

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Things were getting heated in the chatroom. 

However…

I hadn’t really thought this through when I signed up for all these online courses. In previous months; the build up and promotion of these courses, I had paid very little attention to the time they all took place.

Of course, I just had to do NaNo again. And wouldn’t it be cool as a writer to be able to design/write games and sell them? Yup – sign me up for that too. And what opportunities are there for what essentially boils down to free training?! Most industries provide staff training, but that little extra you do yourself always goes down well. So, yeah, I’ll do another course to help me do my job better.

So I find myself now, a mere 9 days into November, staring at blank docs. A kind of numb terror creeping up on me….how am I ever going to get 50,000 words written before the months end? How can I read a whole new rule-set for games and make a decision. How do I complete ‘Thinking Diary’ when my brain is turning to cheese? How can I go to work and give my best to those who rely on me? I know, thinks I, I’ll write my blog – as if I don’t already have enough writing to do -but the folks will be waiting for something, some pearls of wisdom, some amazing insight into creativity and gardening – phtuh! – no pearls here folks – brain, cheese = panic…

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What if I get some hideous cross-over like in a 50’s B-movie!!

Characters from the RPG workshop sneaking into the NaNo story and developing depression!

The low mood student wends his/her way into the game writing and ruins the jolly humour!

My NaNo protagonists burst free and run amok amongst the comments section of well-meaning, kind-hearted people studying on FutureLearn, swords flailing, and continue the charge into the RPG workshop, dog-lock pistols ablaze – there’s bullets and documents flying…people fling their laptops aside as a black-eyed soldier leers from a video of a gentle soul telling his tale…nascent character ideas from the minds of newbie gamers are quickly laid to rest by a swift and smartly placed stiletto blade…and the Dark Order find an in-road during all the mayhem and the seeds of disorder are planted and then the NPC’s take over and…and…

Genre Mashups. Image from Indiereader.com

but that’s never going to happen!!!!

Or is it…

Oh, hey, remember that pearl of wisdom? Let me know if you find it! Right, I’m off to dig a hole and scream into it.

 

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An Exercise To Develop Character Outlines

I am currently studying ‘An Introduction to Screen-writing‘( University of East Anglia) with FutureLearn – an online digital education platform. For me, being able to continue to learn and develop is as important as eating and bathing. This course is FREE! Many of the courses are free and are well designed, presented and are engaging.

Prior to this week, we have been learning about the Five Fingered Pitch and then extending into Ten fingers, or, Two Hand Pitch. I had an idea for a story which I thought might work well on the screen, so I pitched that. So today, we have been asked to do an exercise in developing character outlines. It is part of the the process of character development. We are to ‘create an outline for a character from a film that you’ve recently seen or use it as an opportunity to develop a character of your own.

I’m choosing to stick with my own story, in the hope that this exercise will help me to develop Reg – who currently doesn’t even have a surname!

  • List the character’s major actions. Start from the end and work backwards. (Don’t analyse how or why; just create a list of actions.)

    Saves his neighbourhood. Scares the drug dealers half to death. Accepts help. Falls into despondency. Discovers son has drugs. Asks new neighbours to be more respectful.

  • Analyse the list to reveal the character’s wants and needs. Is the character aware of what they want?

    Reg wants things to be like they used to be, he wants his family safe, and a quiet life. Reg feels impotent, he initially pleads for peace but is disregarded, in Reg’s eyes, his son has been tainted by the badness of the world. Finally realising that others feel the same, Reg is persuaded to join forces, under the ‘guidance’ of an archetypal mentor. They set about scaring off the dealers and thugs. Reg is aware of what he wants – a peaceful life – but the invading force (new neighbours) paralyse him.

  • Describe how the character thinks and look at his or her basic psychology. Intelligent? Intellectually engaged? Cognitive Biases? Impulsive? Cautious?

    Reg is a thoughtful considerate father and husband. His wife thinks he’s ‘too vanilla’. He is rare amongst his peers in that he has a college education. He listens to reggae, classical and jazz music. He reads history books and sporting fiction. He learnt to play the piano and violin at school, but parents could never afford instruments of their own. Wanted to be a jazz musician, but ended up working at the local steel yard. He enjoys the simple things in life; a pint with his pals at the weekend, a game of pool, football in the park with 10 and 12 year old kids on Saturday, sex on Sunday. Reg is quite philosophical about where his life is in comparison to original plans.

  • Describe the character’s superficial affect. How might a casual acquaintance describe them?

    A nice guy.

  • List any important physical characteristics

    None. Just your average dad.

This is just an outline, so stick to that format and make lists; avoid long prose descriptions.

So this is my character outline for Reg, aka; Reginald, Reggie, or Barnsey (because he looks like a young John Barnes; footballer).

The working title for the story/script is ‘Regilante’!!

This is something I have never done before in my story writing; plan the character, and this course is helping me look at writing in quite a different way. I have also stepped out of my comfort zone – writing from a male POV and a Black Comedy – I have never written comedy before and do not know if I am even up to the task!