Coming up with new ideas for your character in your roleplaying game can be a challenge. Whether you’re the GM of the game, or just a player, you’ll need to be creative and think up some interesting ideas about what your character does, or what could happen to your character.
As players of roleplaying games, we can get writers block, or simply often struggle to come up with interesting ideas for your posts. Here are some tips for what to do when you can’t think of anything to write, and they might help you come up with something creative.
1. Do something mundane
I wouldn’t normally recommend spending your time doing something boring, but doing something that takes your mind off the worries and stress of your life can be liberating. Some of my best ideas have come when I’ve been doing some small boring jobs that don’t require my full attention. After a while spent doing monotonous tasks (washing, ironing, cleaning, gardening etc) your mind will soon start to wander and you’ll start thinking about story ideas, and ideas for character development.
2. Go on holiday
This might be an expensive solution, but holidays (even a weekend break) away from your normal routine can get your mind thinking creatively. Once you have time to relax, you’ll start to think of new ideas that you wouldn’t do when you’re bogged down with work, school, cleaning the house, etc.
Take a notebook when you go on holiday to jot down some of the cool ideas you have, and even start writing some stories. Even if you’re not able to read the latest posts in your roleplaying game, you can write something that happened to your character in the past, so that you can break this up and show it as a series of flashbacks.
3. Go for a drive
If you spend a lot of time driving every day (to work etc) this is ideal time that you can use to think about your story. I regularly listen to the radio or CDs, but on the times when I turn them off and have absolute silence that’s when my mind starts working and thinking about story ideas. If you spend a long time travelling, that’s all time you could be using thinking on your story.
4. Read short stories
Short stories are a fantastic place to get new ideas. The basic premise is that they get an idea across without being as lengthy as a full novel, so they’re quicker to read. Also because they’re shorter they don’t spend a long time giving you the full details you might need in a novel, making them more concise when delivering the story. There are some really great science fiction and fantasy short stories that are very imaginative and will no doubt stimulate your mind and help you come up with some good ideas.
5. Listen to an audio book/podcast
We spend a long time looking at computer screens, especially if (like me) that’s part of your job and your hobbies. Reading from a book might strain your eyes, so why not try listening to an audio book? If you have an MP3 player you can download some great audio books from iTunes, or if you don’t want to spend any money try downloading podcasts for free. There’s a great podcast called Escape Pod for short scifi stories, Podcastle for fantasy, and Pseudopod for horror stories. Take some time to relax listening to these, close your eyes and let your mind wander as you’re told a story. It might give you some ideas for your own story.
6. When you’re falling asleep
The moments before you’re about to fall asleep are sometimes your most creative. It’s when you’re relaxing for the night, and forgetting the stressful day you’ve just had. Sometimes you might think up some really good ideas for a story just before you surrender to the world of dreams, so you might be wise to keep a notebook next to your bed, in case you can’t remember those story ideas by the time you wake up.
7. Remember your dreams
Some of my best and favourite story ideas have come from wild and fantastical dreams I’ve had. When you’re asleep your mind is very active and your dreams can be very weird and wonderful. Try and remember them after you wake up and you might be able to use them as an idea in your next plot.
8. Ask a child
Children have the most vivid imaginations and are untainted by the normal conventions of storytelling that we learn when we grow up. Sometimes listening to a child making up their bizarre nonsensical stories can give you some really off-the-wall creative ideas. The surreal comic “Axe Cop”came from the imagination of a 5 year old and was written down and created into a comic by his older brother.
9. Watch the news
The news always reports the most dramatic stories from around the world, from wars to poverty and plenty of Human drama. Take any news article (for example a natural disaster) and try and imagine how it would affect you or your characters.
10. Write about your life
It’s always best to write what you know, even if you feel like your life isn’t very interesting. Think back to a dramatic time of your life, and remember how you felt and how you coped with the situation. Imagine what your character would have done in the same situation, would s/he handled things differently? Would the situation have played out the same? Try and put real feelings and emotions into your character.
Hopefully some of the suggestions above will help you to come up with the next winning idea for your character or story.
Written by David Ball, the creator of OngoingWorlds, a website where you can create and run roleplaying games. You can read more of his tips for roleplayers here.