Over the past couple years, I have gotten heavily involved in playing Dungeons and Dragons. Currently, I am part of three different groups, two of which play online. For obvious reasons, this involves writing, which, to some extent, makes playing the game easier for me. It gives me a little bit more time to think about what I want to do or say, rather than needing to come up with something almost instantaneously.
My written roleplay skills have obviously shone through.
Last night, in one of my two online games, we spent the entire session mourning a fallen companion and deciding how to bury him. With all the characters originating from different worlds, this became slightly problematic, because we had to find a way to combine the different funeral rites in order to please us all. It became especially difficult since we didn’t know how our fallen companion’s people handled deaths.
This gave me the opportunity to get more creative with things. While everyone else debated whether or not we should burn him or bury him, I found myself on Wikipedia looking up different forms of burial, in order to create something that would seem both realistic and unique. I didn’t want to be just another “burn him!” or “bury him!” voice. And so I created a new ritual for my character’s people and her world. The deceased’s loved ones would take tufts of his hair and weave it into necklaces that they wore as a reminder and as a (perhaps superstitious) form of protection. They would also offer a sacrifice to the gods of whatever it was that killed the deceased, whether that be the pack of wolves that mauled him, the disease that attacked his body, or simply old age that took him in his sleep.
These rituals of course went hand in hand with spoken words, as such things typically do. As I typed out my words and submitted it to the rest of the group to see, I received feedback. I had apparently made one of my fellow players cry. And before I could get to a response, our Dungeon Master, the man in charge of running the game, quickly typed out: She’s a writer.
Which, admittedly, was exactly the response that I had been meaning to give.
Funny how that works. When someone’s words touch or move or disturb someone, the first place we go is their profession. Often times, the person works in some field that requires the mincing of words, the stringing of words together to form just the right response. And that becomes our response, our excuse, to why their words had such an effect.
I call it “the writerly excuse.”