Storytelling: Move

Posted on June 22, 2011


I play role-playing games – usually, but not always, some edition of Dungeons & Dragons. I’ve been playing since about 1978, and I’m usually the Dungeon Master (or DM). Role-playing games are a form of cooperative storytelling.

A story is a character in a context with a conflict, and plot is how the character deals with the conflict. In an RPG, the DM provides context and conflict. Players provide character and plot.

I somehow stumbled into the opportunity to write Dungeons & Dragons for a few years (along with a number of other games), and I worked for the publisher in other roles for much longer. As a result, I met many other DMs, and we often compared techniques. Sometimes we even had seminars on how to be a great DM.

A recurring theme of those seminars was acting – a great DM experience involves making faces, moving around the table, using different voices for background characters, and even creating brief tableaux to inspire your players’ imaginations.

I find this helps me as a fiction writer, too. Sometimes I have to say the dialogue out loud, or pace around the room (that’s a slightly different, and longer, column). Reading aloud to a writer’s group, or to an audience at a convention, can also help you hear bad dialogue, unconvincing or incomplete descriptions, or just where your story went off the rails.

Storytelling is more than just a mental or verbal exercise. Movement entertains, and entertainment is the ultimate purpose of storytelling.

Posted in: Self-Reference