The trouble with RPG characters

A published writer friend ( of mine told she started my manuscript. I, reasonably enough, asked what she thought so far. She said, “Your writing style sounds a little Dresdenish.” I laughed and said, “Well, the narrator was born a Dresden character.”

Not Dresden like Germany. Dresden like Harry; like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. Well, like the Dresden Files role-playing game, specifically. I know this is a problem. It’s something I’ve stressed over since the first page back in November.

There are a number of things to be resolved, I know. I’ve got to do some world-building, or world-destroying, or world-fixing, or something. I’ve known that all along. I’ve had good feedback so far, but I’m glad I’ve got someone who’s read Butcher’s stuff so they can slap me around a little and say, Hey, you know this sounds like fanfic, right?

And that’s the trouble with writing “original” stories about RPG characters. It’s so tempting – there they are, totally yours, with stats and backstory and personalities already determined; you know how fast they run, jump, swim, and fire an arrow; you know how long it takes them to heal a major wound; you know how they’d react against vampires, trolls, Johns, whomever. It’s already such a well-developed character, especially at the end of a campaign, that why wouldn’t you write about them?

Because they’ve been created in the context of someone else’s world. Olivia Monck, the Dresden character, is a White Court Vampire. Olivia Monck, the narrator, is a succubus. But what is a succubus? Why is that important to the character? How can I do this without turning her into a sex vampire straight out of the Dresdenverse? Or, rather, how can I turn her into something besides that?

I know the tone is going to sound like noir fantasy, because that’s what it is. And I have no problem crediting Mr. Butcher with my re-entry into the world of writing last August. In fact, I’d stopped reading for pleasure, on a large scale, until a friend of mine thrust these books in my face and said, Here. READ THESE. And I did – twelve of them in about six weeks – and I haven’t stopped since. And that’s great. I’ve devoured every urban fantasy series I’ve been able to lay my hands on, even the questionable ones. Laurell K. Hamilton, Patricia Briggs, Richard Kadrey, Rob Thurman, Simon R. Green, Kat Richardson; and some of them are great. Some of them, not so much. But I’ve read them. And let’s be honest about the genre: they’re all more or less modeled on noir detective fiction, a la Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. And why wouldn’t they be? Those are excellent stories. So is my tone Butcher-esque? Or is it generally in keeping with the genre, which is dark and gritty, where your narrator gets their ass handed to them on a regular basis, and there’s a leggy reporter who sasses you while you grind your teeth on a cigarette, the cold rain pelting your hunched shoulders under your trench coat and running off the front of your fedora in a steady stream?

Right. I don’t know if this is a post warning against the dangers of fictionalizing RPG characters or defending my position of having a Dresdenesque character. Which isn’t fair, because the narrators of all the authors I mentioned earlier? They’re all noir detectives. Some are more noir than others – Cal Leandros, for instance, more so than Mercy Thompson. John Taylor more than Harper Blaine. Jimmy Stark (Sandman Slim) more than almost anyone else. But they all are. That’s where the inspiration comes from. And I suppose Harry Dresden is just one of the best-known, so he’s at the forefront of inspiration.

Also, because I made her specifically for the Dresdenverse. So now, the task remains to remake her. And it’s less daunting than it seems.

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