Roles and Revelations

Thursday, March 18, 2010

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This isn't one of my usual posts. But I was inspired by this post from Lydia Sharp. She reflected on having tried out acting in high school. I kind of wish I had tried acting in high school. I was another one of those very shy types. In college, I discovered live action roleplaying which is a lot like improvisational theater, where the world is the stage and everyone is an actor. The game I participated in was medieval fantasy themed.

My first character was a gypsy healer. It was liberating to try the role of lighthearted flirt. I did more listening/watching than speaking/acting at first, not really knowing what to say most of the time. But I could experiment with personality traits, because it was just a game, just a character, not me. It was safe.

I got to try other roles as well working for the plot team. I've been a dark dwarf looking for a husband, a farm woman seeking adventurers to rescue her husband, a goblin woman wanting to buy pie, a giant ant, a wolf, even a magical tree. Just to name a few.

But I will say, in that game, I also had the WORST case of stage fright I have ever had. Took me by surprise. And having been in marching band and concert band during high school (and jazz and pep band), I've been through many performances.

The king of Stonegate had been recently been rescued from the Dark Horde and was having a festival to honor the thirteen adventurers who'd saved him. I was playing an elven bard (my second character creation). Count Silvertree, played by one of my friends, commissioned a song from my character for the commemoration and kept it secret from the guy playing the king, one of the chapter owners. One of my friends helped me write it out of game. I thought I was all set. An easy song to sing and an audience of people who weren't going to care if it was perfect, just there to have fun and enjoy what happened.

I nearly froze.

There I was surrounded by all those people, most of whom I knew, but still, I was completely encircled. The king sat in front of me only a few feet away. My hands shook, and my heart raced. I was no longer me. I was that bard, facing her king with a song. A huge honor. Somehow I managed to sing, even provided my own drum beat. He was genuinely touched. Shaky as my performance had been, and without having anything close to a professional voice, I brought him nearly to tears. For real. That stunned me as much as the stage fright had.

If I can make a reader believe in my characters as much as I managed that day to make everyone, including myself, believe that I was a bard, then I will be a happy writer.


Brandi G. said...

What an awesome story, Jaleh. People often dismiss role-playing, but I believe that it's one of the most invaluable things to a writer. If you can fit into someone else's skin, then you should never have a shortage of characters or stories. :)

Jai Joshi said...

What a fantastic story about singing to the king. I've had a few experiences like that. There's something about being on a stage infront of a live audience that can be so intense. Unless you've done it before there's no way to understand it.


DL Hammons said...

You will be a successful writer as well!! Thank you for sharing that story.

Jaleh D said...

Aww thank you.

It was certainly intense. I was used to performance nerves and figured I'd have some, but not like that. Who would expect stage fright when there were no consequences for a bad performance? There is a rare quality to performing for an audience you can see and make eye contact with, very different from performing when you have to concentrate on the director and fellow performers, the audience either far away (marching band on the field), in darkness (concert band), or focused on something else (in the stands for football and basketball).

I consider roleplaying to be the primary reason for why I'm trying to be a writer. I was immersed in stories being created every live-action event and tabletop gaming session. I created background histories for my characters. Think about it. History->his story. Or in my case, her story. Revelation, brain flash, light bulb, whatever you want to call it, I realized that writing stories was something I should try. Again.

Someday I will finish those first few stories I attempted. But for now, I have other stories in front of me. I just hope that in the end I can do them justice.

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