Friday, November 6, 2009

Nerd Alert!

I haven't posted on the blog in awhile. Let me tell you, life can throw some crazy stuff at you that makes it hard to find time to write (and make dinner), let alone write a blog entry!

The past month or so, my husband and I have been attempting to adopt a dog. Adopting a dog, if you're just taking a trip down to your local SPCA, apparently has a very similar process to adopting a kid. I'm talking personal references, interviews, home visits, ten page applications...these rescues were doing it all! Pair all that work on our end with the fact that all these rescues are run by volunteers who, while I'm sure are lovely and clearly do very good work, don't always have the time to do things like get back to you. Like, at all. OR they do things like email you saying "We aren't accepting out of state applications" despite the fact it says on their website that they do, or email you saying "We don't accept applications from people without fenced in yards." ?! Le sigh.

But, in the end, it all worked out, and we're now the proud parents of Huck the puppy (named, of course, after Huck Finn, as well as the ultimate frisbee term "to huck"), who is wonderful and quite the handful.

On top of all this puppy business, I hadn't been feeling well for the past two weeks, which finally manifested into some flu-swine flu-virus-plague type illness which had me groaning and feverish on the couch for five days. I'm still recovering, but it's a process.

So that's why I haven't been around. BUT, that is not the point of this post.

Here's the point. Our last post featured a question from one of our followers, about what book inspired us to write. (You can see my answer in the comments on that post.)

It got me thinking about my history & love for Tamora Pierce and her books, and how that love lead me to two things that I feel get a bad rap a lot of the time. Fanfiction and online roleplaying.

I know, I know. NERD ALERT. But stay with me! Let's take a trip back in time, back to 1998, when I am in 8th grade and have recently been given my own AOL screename (back in the days when AOL was *the* way to connect to the internet). Through AOL, I found two Tamora Pierce fan forums, both of which were run by this thing called The Official! Tamora Pierce Roleplaying and Fan Club. (The exclamation point was essential to the name.)

The Club (as us insiders knew it as) consisted of about 30 or so people, ranging from about ten to fifteen years old, who all had a vested interest in Tamora Pierce and the worlds she created. A lot of it was forum posting--chatting about her books and characters on the "Tortall" boards, and talking about IRL (in real life, for those non-nerds out there) stuff on the "Circle" boards. Then, on Friday nights (can you tell how cool we were, all online on a Friday evening?) there were roleplays.

Now, you might think roleplay and think Everquest or one of those massive multiplayer online games, with the crazy graphics and the dragons and the whatnot. This was not exactly to that scale. This was more on the create an AOL chatroom and everyone goes into it sort of scale. All text based. Everyone had characters (pre-created, approved by the club's admins), but they were original characters, as the club RPed (roleplayed, again, for the non-nerds) in Tamora Pierce's world, but not with her characters--we set ours about 100 years after her books. And that was it. We picked a general setting--tavern, ball, town square, etc.--and just went to it. No prompts. nothing. And we'd RP for hours, sometimes five or six hours straight. (Again, check out the coolness factor is roleplaying for five hours on a Friday night.)

Eventually, as my characters became involved in other characters' lives, I began co-authoring stories about them with the other players. We wrote HUGE stories--hundreds of pages long, grammatically questionable and overly epic, but awesome nonetheless.

And what happened was I began to intrisically learn a lot of the skills that I now use in all my writing--world-building, dialogue, how to drive a story forward, collaboration--and probably most of all, characterization. Because when I roleplayed, I wasn't just reading or writing about a character, I needed to BE them. Think like them. Talk like them. I had a character who was hilarious--she was so much funnier than I am in real life, but they were jokes I could only come up with when I played as her.

The point is, all of this roleplaying and fanfiction, aside from making me an even bigger nerd than I already was, made me so much stronger as a writer. I won't lie, making the switch from fanfiction to totally original fiction is hard. I spent a lot of time knowing I wanted to write fantasy, but Tamora Pierce's world had worked so well for me in the past, it was hard trying to break out of that mold and come up with my own world. I wrote a lot of half-finished stories where the setting basically went like this: "There's this Land, and there's STUFF in it. Now let me tell you about my character's lovely purple dress and how she does magic and talks to cats!" I had all these awesome characters, all floating around in stuff.

My WIP actually started as a fanfiction piece, set in Tamora Pierce's Tortall world. When I revisited it during my Writing for Children class in grad school, I realized that if I wanted to pursue the story, that it was really time to build my own world. And it was still hard, but having spent so many years RPing and fanfiction-ing and understanding how important detail was, I was able to do it.

It was also really hard transitioning my characters out of RP world to my world. There were a lot of constructs--sense of time, family, relationships--that made sense in RP world that just weren't possible in my own world, and it was hard to reimagine my characters in my world rather than in Tamora Pierce's world. The FNC can attest to that, considering the many many drafts they've seen of Aranelle's story.

But in the end, it definitely made me a better writer, and I wouldn't give it up for anything.

To prove to you both my AWESOME nerdiness and the almighty power of the RP, I will leave you with a link. It's a livejournal community with a timeline. A 230 year timeline, created by a fellow RP friend of mine and myself. It chronicles the many characters we created together. If you look closely, you'll be able to spot the MC of my WIP, Aranelle. The scary thing about this timeline (or cool, maybe), is that I still remember details about almost ALL these characters lives. So the way I see it, all that roleplaying I did between the ages of 12 and 16 has me pretty much set, plotline wise, for life.


1 comment:

  1. "The point is, all of this roleplaying and fanfiction, aside from making me an even bigger nerd than I already was, made me so much stronger as a writer."

    Those are my thoughts EXACTLY. I fan-fictioned my little heart out in high school. (We must be about the same age, by the way--I'm turning 25 next Friday.) I wrote stories based on Xena and Labyrinth. Though I OD-ed on Tammy's books at the time too I never wrote stories based on books I read. Not sure why! But writing fan-fiction was perfect for practicing dialogue and plotting without having to form whole new worlds and characters from scratch. Though I didn't think of it as practice at the time. It was just plain fun!

    Where are you with your WIP right now? Email me at rhi.hart at, I'd love so much to hear about it.

    Oh lordy, just looking at the livejournal timeline now. Epic!!

    There's been a resurgence of Tammy-love with us twenty-ish bloggers recently which makes me so happy. I hope today's teens are picking up some of her older books. I'm rereading Wild Magic right now. So many happy memories!


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