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.