Games: A metaphor for the Silent Partner of Writers

I took the weekend off, and perhaps I shouldn’t have but it had been a busy week so I felt guilt free.  On Sunday a couple of my mates came round and I ran a game of Vampire the Masquerade for them.  If you are unfamiliar with this game all you need to know is it is a role-play game where a storyteller (me) presents a narrative to the players who take on the roles of characters; it is their job to respond to the scenarios that arise from this narrative.

vtm

The game is fun, and creative;  I don’t feel like I am squandering time when I am preparing for it.  And the actual running of it, whilst exhausting, is also quite exhilarating.  Arguably it also helps my spontaneity when it comes to the creative process, as the players usually manage to find ways to do things in the most unexpected or unusual way possible.  This is also fun for me, as if they simply followed the clues I left lying around for them, there are very few surprises.

As it happens, I run two games with two groups of players.  They are both participating in the same basic story, so I don’t need to double up on too much work.  What I found interesting is a recent encounter both groups had.

Long story short, they were tasked to find someone who had been abducted.  The entire second act of the plot actually hinged on that.  (Technically the second act would still happen, but the players would be a tad busy dealing with fallout).  Here is where I get to the point.  Both groups found the missing person and abductors with ease.  However one group talked the guy down, whilst the other group brutally slaughtered the abductors, capturing only one alive.

It got me thinking.  Two groups of people are presented with the same basic scenario.  One group sees one path through.  The second group sees another, and the result is two different stories.

Remove the game from the situation.  And change it to a book, or a short story or whatever.  Your words leave the page and are caught by the reader’s awareness somewhere in between page and brain.  The reader’s own awareness imposes some kind of meaning on your words and co-creates your story with you.  Your silent partner in the creative process.  And, if the reader is a silent partner, then every different reader will naturally have a different story experience.

So what?  Big deal you might say.  People have different viewpoints and therefore obviously have different experiences.  It isn’t rocket science.  A useless piece of information.

No.  It isn’t.  It is all about the audience.  It is about knowing who is reading your work.  And it is knowing how they respond to it.  So, for example, a fan of fantasy may well enjoy quest narratives.  That doesn’t mean that you immediately run off and write a story about a group of six adventurers, each with different skills, off to find some artifact of power or evil with the intent to claim it/destroy it.  But you could realise that many story types are quest narratives, and write your entirely original piece with this in mind.

Truthfully, I am aware this is a tad abstract and difficult to explain exactly what you would do in any one particular situation.  All I can say is, if you know who you are writing for, you can estimate what will appeal to them and you can win your silent partner.

All that from a role-play game.

All the best

John

 

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