Storyteller, Not Only Writer

Past Adventures In The Court Of The Faceless Tyrant

People—especially other writers—often ask me why I run a roleplaying game (and have been for many years) when prep for the game takes up some of my writing time. Last Sunday’s game demonstrated one reason.  I’m still grinning at the memory as I type this.

Sunday night I sprang a plot twist on my players. It was terrific watching eyes widen as, one by one, people caught the implications of what was unfolding.

Dominique, the unwitting foil for my revelation, did a brilliant job of playing her part as Persephone who, daring to hope for a very special Midwinter gift from her long-time crush, instead realizes that he’s proposing to her – in the form of inviting her to join a conspiracy.

I had no idea what Dominique/Persephone would do or say.  Being ready to react appropriately was definitely an adrenaline high.  She gave me a lot to work with.  After everyone left, Jim said he half-expected Dominique to really burst into tears. It was improv theater at its best.

My fiction-writing self usually waits years to see how a novel will be received. Often, I never hear.  Worse, when I do hear, most responses are not about what I wrote, but about what I didn’t write.  By contrast, my game master self gets to see the response in real time.

Running my weekly game jazzes me for my daily writing, maybe because my players are such excellent collaborators.  Nonetheless, I have no desire to reveal a novel until it’s done. Why?  Different type of storytelling, I guess.

I often define myself as a storyteller, not a writer.  I realize that’s not precisely true.  I am a writer.  I love the process of finding the right words to portray a character or describe a setting.  I love refining these elements until they’re as close to perfect as I can get them.

My earliest stories were told aloud, mostly to my two younger sisters.  Later, I daydreamed elaborate plots with only me as an audience.  My current two favorite forms of storytelling are descendants of those early experiences.

Now I’m off to be my prose writer self, who has been busily scribbling all over the manuscript of Wolf’s Soul in a quest for the perfect words and cadence.  Nonetheless, my oral storyteller self is already anticipating next week’s game when…  Well, we’ll just need to see!

6 Responses to “Storyteller, Not Only Writer”

  1. King Ben's Grandma Says:

    The adrenaline rush and gratification of the game vs working on a novel seems like the difference between live theater and movies.

    I’m very excited to see what Firekeeper and Blind Seer have been getting into.

    The best is still up in the peak of the eaves, but I haven’t seen any activity around it. I don’t know if I’m missing it or if the best had been abandoned. I think getting the ladder out might be a terrible idea for my clumsy self. My best guess, from memory of the bird, and shape of the nest, is a Black Phoebe.

    • janelindskold Says:

      I need to look the Phoebe up…

      I like the comparison between live theater and movies. Interesting!

    • DreamForge Says:

      I like that comparison too. The improv nature of role-playing is definitely like playing off other actors in a theatre setting – with audience reaction too. Movies are less spontaneous – and those actors don’t get the immediate feedback either.

  2. simonepdx Says:

    I love both kinds of storytelling in different ways, but my gaming and game-mastering definitely jazz my creative brain in a way that carries over well into my writing. I just wish I had time and energy for both more, because they feed into each other with I do have that energy, but when I don’t they steal from one another.

    After meeting you a long time ago at AmberCon in Michigan, I hope I get to game with you again some day.

    • janelindskold Says:

      Anything is possible… I’m glad to meet someone else for whom gaming/writing isn’t either/or or who needs to justify gaming as a place to try out fiction ideas.

  3. Harried Harry Says:


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