Rachel C. Lightfoot, Sarah L. Parris, Meme Dixon, and Liz Konkel make up Elahmeth: The Roleplayer’s Guild. In Part One: Meet the Guild, the four writers shed light on who they are as a collective and as individuals. Join us as we continue exploring Elahmeth’s thoughts on their journey and expectations.
Yesterday, our readers had the pleasure of meeting each one of you and learning more about your dynamic as a writing guild. With that in mind, what lesson(s) would you say you’ve learned from writing together?
First one that comes to mind – try to have some solution for a seemingly impossible plot problem before you throw your characters into it.
Like Liz said yesterday, our writing style varies greatly between 8pm and 4am. One event we still all joke about comes from our first main campaign, probably somewhere between 4am and 6am. We’d set up camp in my dorm’s 3rd floor lobby, all of us set around the room’s one square table by the power outlet with our laptops. And, for whatever reason (I think Meme and I just got overexcited, do you guys remember?) we ended up deciding to shove our party right in the middle of the Wylde Hunt. It’s a myth that gets tossed around a bit in different fantasy stories, but there really are just a few things you need to know about the Hunt: Once you encounter it, you either join or die, and there’s no physical way to escape the Hunt’s hunting grounds once it’s got its gaze set on you.
We remembered that last bit after we shoved our characters in harm’s way, then had to come up with a believable solution on the fly that didn’t feel like a huge cop out.
Our party lived (and promptly passed out once they were out of harm’s way), the Hunt lost all of its hounds, and we ended up with another character joining our main four’s story, though I don’t think any of us realized he’d become as recurring a character as he is now. He was a throw-away failure in that scene, but now he’s the group’s healer when their misadventures go really bad.
I don’t think any of us regret what we got out of that scene, but at that time of night (and yes, we wrote through until the party was able to pass out)… It’s not pleasant trying to logic out how to keep from killing everyone off in one go. I think we’ve become a lot more cautious about our different scenarios since then, finding solutions before we pass a point of no return, but it also just goes to show in our separate stories that you don’t have to have all the answers before you set out in a story – eventually you and the characters will find a way out because no one involved wants the story to simply end.
That being said, there have still been some close calls with main characters nearly dying!
But I think the big lesson for me is that writing is not a lonesome activity like I thought for so long. It used to be that when I worked on a project I holed up in my room for hours on end, told no one about my story or characters. I wanted my work to be utterly perfect before anyone read it and I feared giving away important spoilers, so I didn’t even bounce ideas off friends.
After this whole adventure where everything is open and mistakes are made on the regular my perspective on writing has changed. Even with us talking and communicating all the time about the story, it still takes twists we don’t expect, and several times the four of us have been drawn to tears during scenes we’d already had planned for months.
I realized that no harm is done when you open your work to your friends, and in fact, my books have been so enriched by having this kind of breathing room, instead of locked away entirely in my own head.
That’s beautiful! ❤ Personally, I think that’s a lesson worth learning for each and every writer.
As you continue writing together, how do you see your writing–or your approach to writing– continue to evolve?
In the beginning we would throw out ideas and take turns sharing them, discussing and plotting, giving positive feedback. Now a lot of times we seem to be on the same page with the direction we want things to go.
Our characters keep forming stronger bonds among themselves and other peripheral characters, and with each new recurring character we have all these thoughts branching out, plot skittering around as both the characters directly affected and those in the circle of influence start thinking about life down the line. This has led to interesting instances of isolated growth. Each of our main characters has to reconcile their pasts and their present situations.
I’m not sure about everyone else, but I know my writing has evolved due to the different influences I have in my life. As I child I would write little stories about animals in my pink sparkling notebook because living on a farm gave me a personal connection to animals, and the books I read were Animal Ark and Animorphs. The older I got the more my writing evolved with the influence of my friends sharing their opinions. I think my writing will continue to grow with me. The more I grow as a person, the more my writing voice will change. Though, I think the biggest evolution on my writing has come from the relationships we have formed through college. Meme and I often find our writing intersecting on tone and voice, because we write together so much.
I grew up reading pretty much the same things Liz did, which is really interesting to me since we both stick our toes in the darker edges of fantasy. I found that I was able to delve into these characters in horrible situations than otherwise. I’m still not super dark but I feel there is poignancy to going into a character losing everyone she has ever known through events set in motion far away from and far beyond her control, forcing her to fully experience the events.
Liz says I like to write about the martyrs, the people who are willing to push themselves to their limits to find what it takes to be a hero. And that’s true. Discovering an individual’s potential is important to me. And it has become more important as I’ve begun to share more of my work and ideas with people other than myself and my mother, who has always been my editor and biggest support system. It’s extremely helpful to go to someone who thinks in ways completely different for your own and get their opinion on a plot point or a scene. But I had never realized how awarding working with people on the same wavelength as you could be; I’ve found that most of the time I prefer working with a partner or three.
We definitely all do get on that kind of wavelength a lot, too. I’ve lost track how many times two or more of us will be typing something while plotting, only to have others beat us to it. Usually we just stop typing mid-sentence and send it on with a note about the wavelength working again. It doesn’t matter how physically distant we are, even now that we’ve graduated – the wavelength remains, helping to guide our plots and characters in a coherent direction.
For me, I know the biggest change in my own writing has just been the sheer amount of backstory and worldbuilding I have to draw upon. When we started this crazy adventure, we decided to use my books’ world as kind of the main backdrop for the first roleplay (and many after that) just because it was generally underdeveloped. Sarah’s compared it to writing in the Holodeck from Star Trek – if you need something, you can just make it appear, and it’ll be there from hence forth. It left us open to explore and put our characters through anything we could dream up, but it also meant we’d be floundering around with things like travel times and distances. Things I’ve had issues with in my novels as well.
Roleplay forced me to solidify a lot of these different elements, and to dig around in character interactions even between my own crew – the three main characters I roleplay as when needed all met before our original party formed. It only made sense they’d reference aspects of that shared past, even if some of them still hold grudges over what happened.
The four of us have decided that there is no difference between roleplay canon and story canon – they’re merely a continuation and interweaving of one another. For me, that means novel stuff is old history for characters in roleplay, but for Liz, that means her characters are simultaneously experiencing the events of their books while going on these crazy “side adventures.” It’s fascinating to see how it all plays out, and I think it’s safe to say what we’ve roleplayed has helped shaped different aspects in our novels. I know I’ve tried to sneak in a reference or two about certain ships, at least.
Yes having decided to make everything in the roleplay canon in the books has definitely helped put my world into focus and adds a layer of depth that I think makes it feel more genuine, more solid. And it gives me a ton of material to play with in future books too!
It leaves so much open, and does add – it makes the ships more relevant somehow? I know my main character struggles with true intimacy, which definitely affects my view of these ships. The decision to make everything a continuation makes the ultimate realization on my character’s part that actual love is in his reach so exciting for me!
Definitely agree with you, Meme. Cementing the ships just feels so right… One of my characters has a really, really rough time in the books. Knowing what lies ahead for him in the roleplays makes that pain easier for me to handle as the writer, even if I know most readers probably won’t know about it. And another ship truly rounds out a very apathetic character, finally giving them a reason to do more than just exist. It just fits so well…
I agree with you Rachel. I know that having a happy ending already known helps get through one my character’s journeys. Because everything he has is very dark and tragic so knowing that he’ll grow and develop strong ties, and an eventual happiness waiting for him (maybe even multiple) makes it easier to tell that story.
We’re all just so connected to these characters, having gone through so much with them. Hurting them really hurts us, so this ray of happiness at the end is crucial, I think.