When In Doubt, Roleplay!
4 Reasons Why Writers Should Roleplay When Faced With Self-Doubt
If you are a fellow writer, then you know all too well about self-doubt. We sit in front of the computer, our fingers gliding across the keys of a keyboard, pounding out word after word. You think about your character’s motives for an argument or the setting in which a titanic-size battle is staged to take place. The more you think about these things, the slower your typing gets.
At first the doubt is small, about the size of a needle’s eye. Then it grows in the tiniest sliver of your mind. At first you can ignore it. Your deadline is imminent, and you can’t afford the distraction. But the doubt keeps growing, like a dark cloud over a blue horizon.
It chips away at your confidence paragraph by paragraph and sentence by sentence. At first you question what you wrote. Is this character unique enough? Do I really like their name? Is this scene even original?
The doubt then multiplies until you’re even questioning your own ability, your own voice. Questions like:
Why can’t I come up with something original?
Am I self-plagiarizing?
Am I really creative enough out to be a writer?
If this sounds like you, I’m telling you it’s okay.
I know all too well how easily self-doubt can plague fiction writing. I’ve had self doubt several times before and I probably will have several more in the future. What can we do to ease the self-doubt that consumes us?
I’ll tell you what I do. I roleplay.
The roleplaying I’m talking about doesn’t involve using multi-colored polyhedral dice. Just a friend, or several, a computer, and a willingness to try something new. To this day, I still often take part in forums and chatroom settings.
I’m going to give you 4 reasons why you should consider roleplaying in the face of such doubt.
1. Roleplay When You’re Doubting Your Characters
If you doubt your ability to create unique characters, creating new characters may be what you need. Sometimes we forget that creating characters can be as detailed or simplistic as you want. Roleplaying reinforces that belief. It doesn’t require a three-page profile to list every quirk and habit your character has. You don’t need an extensive genealogy of where your character’s family history.
When you’re roleplaying, most times a name, an age, a sex, an ethnicity, and a personality are all you need.
Whenever I’m stuck developing characters, I use roleplaying to get into my characters’ head. It helps me create realistic reactions to situations they may encounter. Some of my best character personas for my fiction writing came from roleplay characters. Because you are living in that moment, a character you thought was stale can quickly feel relatable in ways you couldn’t see before.
2. Roleplay When You’re Doubting Your Worldbuilding
Exploring the world through your character’s eyes starts with a single action sentence. Whether your character is walking into a room or sitting in a coffee shop, the world building begins with an action. I’m not lost in the fine details of creating an entire world. Names of buildings and/or cities are made irrelevant unless the scene calls for it.
When roleplaying, you get to focus on the genre and the characters that interest you. It’s not just about the story you want to tell, it’s the story you want to experience. It’s the one that makes your heart race with excitement and eager to learn and explore more. Before you realize it, what usually might take hours in brainstorming is created in seconds when roleplaying.
3. Roleplay When You’re Doubting Your Storytelling
When you have doubt, it’s even harder to enjoy writing. It weighs you down by your shoulders until you can’t remember why you started writing. We put pressure on ourselves to be original, to put an amazing twist that your reader wouldn’t expect.
There are still times where I’ve doubted the creativity in my storytelling. The hours spent writing and rewriting story outlines and blurbs blur together into a feeling of apathy. The longer I work on a project, the more the idea seemed unoriginal.
Roleplaying allowed me to take a step back and rediscover why I want to tell stories of fictional characters in faraway worlds. I can focus on moving from scene to scene without self-imposed expectations of being profound. I can develop my writing style, my voice.
Roleplaying can help you take a step back and observe where you need to improve when you’re frustrated. To see the plot holes you never noticed before and become a stronger writer for it.
4. Roleplay When You’re Doubting Your Enjoyment
Sometimes we forget to have fun when we’re writing. We get so caught up in becoming masters in our craft that we can forget what inspired us to even start this journey. I became a writer because I had the most fun telling stories to and with others. Roleplaying can often reignite the creative flow. Plot bunnies multiply, the muse comes back and before you know it, our confidence in ourselves steadily rises.
When in Doubt, Roleplay!
If you take nothing else from this blog, please remember that you are not alone with your self-doubt. Roleplaying can be more than just a collaboration between you and a partner, or several partners. When you have self-doubt, roleplaying can give you a new perspective on storytelling. You can discover things about yourself and the way you write. It can be a welcome reprieve from your usual style of writing when you need a break from the monotony.
As part of my 2021 goals, I’m going to roleplay as much as possible whenever I doubt myself. I really think you should try it too. There is a saying that inspiration can come to you from anywhere. Maybe your next masterpiece will sprout from one of your next roleplays.
You never know.
Sabrina K Mercury is a fantasy and paranormal author. You can find her blog at SabrinaKMercury.com.
This post is in conjunction with Books and Quills Magazine, which can be found here.