Journal

In which I reveal my dorkiness…

Some people know they want to be writers all their lives. I didn’t, at least not right away, even though I dabbled in stories. On the other hand, I always loved reading and some time in high school I happened across the Wheel of Time (WoT) series by Robert Jordan. I was hooked straight away and couldn’t get enough. One day this girl Jenn showed up in homeroom with book 2, and we started talking (We haven’t stopped talking since!).

Jenn introduced me to online text-based role playing*. She was writing at a WoT site, and all her enthusiasm started to rub off. This was back in the days before everyone had internet so I checked out the site on our school library computers, memorized the rules, read what other people were writing, went home, typed up my first post, handed it to Jenn on a 3.5 floppy disk. She had to post it up on the forum for me.

I got dial-up shortly thereafter. Role playing was my first introduction to the online writing community and man, what fun it was dreaming up crazy plots with other writers**. I wrote WoT fanfic for about 3 years, and juggled three characters, at two sites that no longer exist.

But a handful of us were not content to play within the boundaries of WoT canon and decided to set up our own forum. We got the webspace and jointly created a world from scratch (I’ll call it ARC). What resulted was a crazy place complete with dragon worshiping elves, vampires with marionette familiars, an Egyptian inspired society banished to a wet forest, ninja-like imperial spies, giants with skin hard as stone, rune based magic, and bloody politics.

In the meantime, I’d started to enjoy the writing so much that I thought about writing a novel. I amassed a folder of story beginnings, plots, and world building notes that came to nothing. All the while, I continued role playing. We wrote here for 7 more years, and collectively produced 3 complete ARC novels.

Some people question the value of fan fiction and role playing, but here’s my experience: it taught me the ability to write on a deadline (because everyone’s impatient for the continuation of the story), the joy of writing to please both myself and a reader, discovered that you can always write yourself out of a corner, and that the writing community is pretty damned awesome. I made some really great friends that I still keep in touch with today.

So yeah, fan fic. ~coughs~ That’s how I discovered a love of writing, and it’s what kept me writing regularly for more than a decade. I see echoes of ARC in my novel, in the themes it addresses, and the quirkiness of the created world. All those years shaped the way I approach writing. I always start with character, and have faith that there’s a solution to every tricky plot problem.

Jenn and Rook, this is all your fault! THANK YOU!

What/who are your biggest writing influences?


*What is text-based role playing? Every writer creates a character then proceeds to write in turns to progress the story. Some basic rules included: You must create an original character, and you must not killing off another player character(PC) without their consent.

**The right mix of writers makes a big difference. I got lucky and found some immensely talented individuals to write with. I have no doubt that they’ll get published one day if they ever decide to pursue that.

30 Comments

  1. Everybody starts by imitating. That’s true in music, in writing, in everything. How else would you begin and learn?

    Fan fic is at least honest about being based on something else, as opposed to people who start out by writing thinly-disguised versions of Batman or Frodo or whoever.

    I know professionals who are snooty about fan fic, but I figure they’ve earned the right. Me, I find the idea of a bunch of people getting together to create a world (or add to an existing one) to be really interesting.

    I’d be intrigued if somebody wanted to write a story in the world I’ve been creating in my writing, that’s for sure.

    1. T. S. Bazelli Author

      That’s true about music, we learn by studying / playing what’s already been composed.

      I’d be flattered that someone would want to write something set in a world I’ve created, though I can’t really imagine that happening 🙂

  2. Omg, I TOTALLY FORGOT that I did some text-based role-playing too. Well, one game that I never forgot was Modus Operandi, an online RPG (still in existence today, but no longer free — sad face) that I loooooved. You didn’t get to write the story, but you got to create your character and solve mysteries and fight hobos and stuff. Hehe. You also interacted with other characters (who were other real people playing the game).

    BUT YES, I also did some of this shared-world-writing stuff that you’re talking about. I still barely remember it, but I may need to flip through my hard drive and find the old files.

    And yes to fanfic too. I wrote Star Trek, Sailor Moon, JAG, Fushigi Yuugi, and Mission Impossible fanfic. (Sounds like a lot, but I was more about dabbling than depth.) Fanfic really DOES teach you — I mean, any writing does — and it has the added benefit of letting you focus on story and character without having to BUILD everything from the ground up. It’s like getting to sit at the writer’s table in a booster seat. You’re young and still developing, BUT YOU ARE THERE.

    I wouldn’t say any of those things contributed to my desire to write, though. For me it was the other way around. I wanted to write, and those were my early opportunities.

    Love this post for the nostalgia factor, though. And the nerd factor.

    Sorry for rambling all over your comments. 😛

    1. “it has the added benefit of letting you focus on story and character without having to BUILD everything from the ground up. It’s like getting to sit at the writer’s table in a booster seat.”

      Kristan, this is a great analogy. I hadn’t thought it through like this, l but I think you’ve nailed it.

    2. T. S. Bazelli Author

      I completely forgot about those online RPG’s! I dabbled in a few too, and man did it up my typing speed. You had to be fast to get a word in edgewise hehe. A mystery world sounds like a lot of fun, but I think I hung out at fantasy type places.

      Oh you know, rambling’s welcome round these here parts. I’m kinda embarrassed to admit I was also a Sailor Moon fangirl (I named my cat after Sailor Venus hee hee)

      I also agree with Anthony, on the analogy!

  3. Adam

    I think my biggest influence on writing was Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, first the film, then the book. At least when I saw the movie and began to read the book, that was when I started writing stories, so they were awful Tolkien-imitations, of course. 😛 I still have my first “novel” somewhere in a box… in a place where nobody will find it. xD

    Not long after that came the text-based roleplaying sites. Oh, they are so much fun, if you find a good company to play with. 🙂 I really miss them sometimes, although at least half of the Hungarian RPG-community is rather… well… interesting.

    It’s funny, though, that I’ve never read or wrote fanfiction – I didn’t know about its existence for a long time, and when I did, I found it hard to use some other writer’s characters and write authentic stories with them. Although, if I think about it better, it’s not that different from playing on a non-original RPG-site, which I did really often. Huh.

    Nowadays Terry Pratchett has the biggest influence on my writing, especially his humour, since I really like to read and create stories with good humour, and I think he’s one of those authors from whom you can learn a lot.

    Oh, well, sorry for the long comment. It was a great post. 🙂

    1. T. S. Bazelli Author

      I miss the good company of the role playing sometimes. Blogging’s the closest I get to that kind of interaction these days. Hehe I think writers can be a very strange bunch, no matter where in the world LOL

      I haven’t read Pratchett in years! I should pick up some. Humor’s been lacking from my reading pile of late, and I really could use some 🙂

      And no worries! Great to hear from you.

  4. You were a WOT fangirl, eh? How did I not know that? That’s wonderful. I’ve enjoyed that series for a good many years, as has been clear on my blog.

    I’ve never written fanfiction, though, myself. Which is not to say that I didn’t do the whole “imitation” thing. I’ve written about my history as a novelist before: about how I was first inspired by Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain books in my early youth. I was 7 or 8 at the time when I first started writing, and the influence came through very strongly: important cities and towns were called “Caer” (the same Welsh word that Alexander uses), my main character’s name was an anagram for “Taran”, the hero of the Prydain books, and he lived in very parallel living conditions. In fact, the parallels between the earliest version of my novel-that-I’ve-been-writing-since-forever with the Prydain books are too numerous to count.

    I did a lot of chat/IRC-based role-playing through college, with rules that were largely similar. More often than not, though, I was the GM. I remember one time that I boasted I could make an interesting world to role-play in with a minimal amount of input. I asked my group to give me 5 random words to start with (not a sentence 5 words long, but 5 randomly thematic words), and based on those 5 words, the next day I had the basic framework for a role-playing world worked out… It was actually a pretty neat idea, even then… The game in that world didn’t last long, but it was a fun exercise.

    1. T. S. Bazelli Author

      I don’t think I ever mentioned it, but yes total fangirl!

      Oh yeah IRC chat haha, I did that as well, but not as much because was always too slow on my feet. I think that’s valuable too. It’s interactive story telling, much like D&D, where you have a general idea, but still have room to change/make things up as you go. That falls very much is in line with oral storytelling traditions.

  5. Haha, that’s hardcore role-playing, right there! Glad I’m not the only one who got into writing by starting there. (I was into Star Wars, myself. It’s a wonder how I got into outlandish fantasy!) Personally, I don’t get the snooty attitudes towards fanfic. Everyone starts (writing) somewhere. Doesn’t matter how you get to where you’re going. Heck, some people write just for fun anyways and have no plans to get published, let alone write something beyond fanfic! Nothing wrong with that.

    (Another thing about writing fanfic: I don’t necessarily see it as “imitation” so much as “reimagination.” It’s like when a new actor comes in to fill in the role of a character that was previously played by a different actor. Many don’t set out to rehash or “imitate” what’s already been done before; instead, they set out to interpret it in their own way. And most of what writers come up with is going to be reimagination anyway. As they say, there’s nothing new under the sun…)

    Biggest writing influences? Heck, I think everything and everyone I come across influence in me in ways I’ll probably never fully realize, but for biggest or most influential I’d have to say…

    – Martha Wells
    – Frank Moorhouse
    – and whoever all the writers were for the Mass Effect games and the Star Wars games and movies, haha.

    Odd combination, but I admire them all immensely for various reasons. And there are plenty more, of course, but that could go on forever.

    1. T. S. Bazelli Author

      I know plenty of writers who just write for fun, and don’t intend to be published, which is a choice I completely respect 🙂 Star Wars, really? How did you end up getting into Steampunk?

      There are plenty of different flavors of role-playing. The kind I did was explicit about not using the author’s characters. We had to create our own. This allowed for a lot more freedom, I think, to interact with the author’s world in a new way. But you’re right, either which way it’s more of a re-imagining than an exact imitation. Oh and tie-in novels are exactly like paid fanfic! hehe

      I’m glad you mentioned video games to! Final Fantasy rocked my world in terms of story. The BioWare folk (Mass Effect, Dragon Age) are also quite good. That reminds me of your dialogue post. The background chatter of the characters in Dragon Age is a lot of fun. Quite often I’d find myself wandering aimlessly just to hear my party members take shots at each other LOL.

      1. Star Wars is totally steampunk ;P

        But seriously… Video games. They’ve come a long way, and the quality these days is just getting better and better. I wish I was up-to-date on some of them (I’m so behind in my videogame fandom). I’ve done a fare amount of Final Fantasy, and I loved the Myst games (at least the first 3, which I’ve played). (Myst, by the way: total Steampunk.)

      2. Yes. “Everything is Steampunk” shall be my new mantra.

        I’ve seen that Star Wars Steampunk crossover art before, but it’s been a long time. Thanks for bringing it back to my attention. 🙂

      3. I really don’t know how I got into steampunk, lol!

        And yeah, that’s funny about Bioware and their characters. They have a knack for creating entertaining side conversations and dialogue. (I love the little “elevator chats” in Mass Effect. Most are pretty good. Or Ashely, when she says: “Why is it whenever someone says ‘with all due respect,’ they really mean ‘kiss my ass?'” Haha. Bioware has its moments.)

        I have a friend who is obsessed with the FF games. Oh, man… I guess I just never jumped on that bandwagon myself, heh.

  6. I roleplayed on AOL for years in my teens. It was a great way to avoid going outside, and a positive social experience for an exhausted, sick boy. I met a couple of friends through that with whom I’m still close today, over a decade later. I agree that such writing gets one more comfortable with language, and comfort is essential to getting language to do what you want in prose or prosody.

    Some do look down on it. I doubt, though, if I were to scrutinize their teens, that I would endorse everything they did.

  7. Sad to say, it seems that my first tastes of being a professional writer came when I was rather young, and I wanted a free laptop. However—that is a story to be saved for another day. lol 😀

  8. WOW! I have never heard of text-based role playing before. It sounds like something my brother would love to do — he’s an aspiring fiction writer. =)

    I didn’t discover writing as a passion until late last year! Coming to Peru made all the difference because I actually took the time to just sit, be and think without people judging or commenting on how I was wasting my time and that I should be more productive. =P

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