Category Archives: Library Life

Dungeons and Dragons and Creative Writing

Over the next few months, I’ll be running workshops that connect Dungeons and Dragons to writing creatively.

Writing Your Story Dungeons and Dragons-style

Whether you write contemporary tales or fantasy epics, the popular game of Dungeons and Dragons can make you a better writer. See how modern writers have been influenced through creating characters, maps, and collaborative storytelling to work through tough plot points!

At the end of this workshop, you’ll have the tools to say goodbye to writer’s block forever and get that novel written and polished.

What does that mean, exactly?

When I was 14 years old, I ran a weekly D&D game with my friends and had to come up with stories–sometimes on the fly. The purpose of D&D is that you have a storyteller, known as the Dungeon Master, who narrates the story to the players. This includes the setting, plot, and non-essential characters. The players are the ones who tell the Dungeon Master what the essential characters do–and as any writer knows, your characters can often screw up your intentions for the plot.

So now, many years later, I have been playing D&D 5th edition as a player and messing up the well-thought out plot my Dungeon Master has created. For the last month, I have been running my own game at the library as storyteller for a group of teens who continuously challenge me as a writer. There has not been a game where the teens haven’t forced me to rewrite the story and to accept the path the characters (whom they play) want to take.

20180227_190153
The teen D&D game uses apps.
20180227_211030
We also use 3D printed characters!

How does this translate into writing?

To create a story as a Dungeon Master, I had to write and create the following things:

(1) A map of the world where the story takes place.
(2) Maps of all the towns the characters may visit.
(3) Histories of the world and of the towns. Plus, of the spaces the characters may travel between towns.
(4) A plot that would get the characters (acted out by the players) to want to go from Point A to Point Z.
(5) Sub-plots that those characters would experience along the way. (Points B to Y.)
(6) Non-essential characters (played out by me) that would challenge the players. Some are friends, some are foes. Some who are friends, turn out to be foes. Some who are thought to be foes, turn out to be friends (the players had quite a bad turn here when they thought they were rescuing a farmer’s daughter from cultists, only to discover they were freeing an evil werewolf’s daughter from a group of warriors and wizards who could have saved her. Notice the past tense there…)
(7) Constant writing and rewriting of the plot week-to-week, and sometimes during the game, when other ideas surface either through the players or through my own ideas.

20180206_185210
The adults also play D&D at my library!

Those seven steps are essentially what it takes to write a book. And I’ve used this technique to write several books of urban fantasy, apocalypse, and contemporary tales.

IMG_5517
Last of these covers for Rancour and One-Eyed King!

I’ve taught workshops before where we played D&D to inspire our stories. I even created my own “Apocalypse Survival” role-playing game for classrooms, which I did for a few years while the apocalypse still seemed like a far-fetched idea.

How about you? Do you use Dungeons and Dragons (or other role-playing games) to inspire your writing? If so, I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017 in Review

2017 had a pretty rough start for me, but it finished extremely strong. When I look back on the year I feel pretty happy about the accomplishments I have made. I’m almost done my lib tech course, I began learning the ukulele, adopted a dog, took some road trips, wrote a new book, started submitting my work to publishers, and I met a really amazing woman.

Here’s a list of my top 12 events. Some have links to longer blog posts or to other sites of interest.

  1. Manresa Castle in Port Townsend.

That time I spent a night in a haunted hotel, and woke up the next day with the entire town dressed in steampunk costumes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

2. Grinfinn the Pekingese.

That time I met a dog, and he chose me to be his caretaker.

20170616_132356

3. Friday Harbor, WA

That time I took a ferry to a town in the San Juan Islands, and met a couple at a cafe who turned out to be a good friend’s uncle and aunt.

48

4. Leavenworth, WA

That time I went camping in a town that does Christmas all year long.

20170620_175725

5. The Steampunk Festival in Belligham, WA

That time I went to a steampunk festival and wished that I was in a costume.

20170722_122748

6. Coupeville, WA

That time I discovered the beauty of just sitting by the ocean with a cup of coffee, a dog at my feet, and a notebook on my lap.

20170728_140148

7. Arlington, WA

I wound up here by accident after taking a wrong turn. Then, after a second wrong turn, wound up finding the BEST homemade ice cream place I’ve ever discovered.

20170825_13321520170825_133154

8. First book signing since Flying Feet!

That time Denise Jaden and Eileen Cook asked me to be a part of their summer signing.

YASummer

9. Digital Services Tech at Richmond Public Library.

That time a part of my job was to create a digitization station for digitizing VHS, LPs, and cassettes. (It now does SO MUCH MORE!)

20170721_134917

10. Chosen to be a part of the literacy quilt.

The quilt was 50 feet from my station, and it still took me weeks and weeks to notice I was on it. In fact, it was a patron who asked, “Are you the James McCann that’s on the literacy quilt?” And then when the quilt travelled to another library, I got an email from a coworker who realized I was the author of one of her favourite books as a teen.

20170720_130742

20170720_130752

11. Family came to visit.

My sister and mom came in July, and my nephew came in September. We took many road trips together and had an absolute blast.

DSC05470
My sister, Grinfinn, and I in Horseshoe Bay on our way to Whistler.

Hell’s Gate was one of the many trips my nephew and I took.

20170906_151726
My nephew, Justin, in Hell’s Gate, BC

12. Had a Nice Surprise

If you follow my Instagram, you may have noticed I’ve been spending a lot of time with a special someone, Jessica. Here we are writing at the Penny, a really cool cafe in Mission. You can read Jessica’s work on Wattpad.

JessieJames

 

And, I started learning the ukulele (as in actual lessons). I (almost always) end my blog posts with a song that fits the moment–so, here’s me playing the ukulele on week four.

Jeremy Tankard’s Hungry Bird Booklaunch

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing long-time friend Jeremy Tankard launch his newest creation, Hungry Bird, at Vancouver Kidsbooks. As a library tech who does storytimes with preschoolers, I’m familiar with his other books. A favourite with the kids is Grumpy Bird, as you can read the book as an interactive with the kids acting out the animals plus you can discuss how you know when someone is angry and what we can do when we’re angry.

hungry

Along comes Hungry Bird, also a familiar feeling for the young and old. “Who brought me something to eat?” is the theme of this book, and again this will be an amazing picturebook for storytimes and early education. You can buy a copy from any retailer.

Congratulation, Jeremy, on an amazing book!

 

 

tankard