First, an explanation of roleplaying
Roleplaying, in short, is when usually when you and another author (or other authors) put your characters together in a situation and see what happens and how the characters react and interact. There are two main ways that roleplaying is done. One is more like you’re writing a story together; it’s written like a story and you simply take turns writing out scenes from your character’s POV (in third person, so it doesn’t get confusing). The other way, which I personally prefer because it’s looser, is to write it more like the character interviews I do here on the blog, where things are written in a more conversational style with the character indicated by their name before an action or piece of dialogue and actions within asterisks.
To show these more clearly, a line from Roleplay Type A would look like this:
Bren walked up to Orian, punching him in the nose. “How dare you! My parents did nothing wrong! You darn faeries are the problem, with all your stuffy rules and intolerance of anyone else. You’re in no position to demean me or my family.”
While Roleplay Type B would look like this:
Bren: *walks up to Orian and punches him in the nose* How dare you! My parents did nothing wrong! You darn faeries are the problem, with all your stuffy rules and intolerance of anyone else. You’re in no position to demean me or my family.
And usually Type B has more dialogue and less description, while Type A has roughly the same balance as a novel. Like I said, I prefer Type B because it’s looser and there’s not usually an ongoing story that you’re going to mess up if you don’t have time to RP a lot or have to go in the middle of a scene, you can simply make your character vanish and you’re good to go. Given that this is the style I’m more accustomed to, this is the one I’ll be using in this post.
How roleplaying helps character development.
I used to roleplay more than I do now, as several of the members of my NaNoWriMo writing group can tell you. I’ve pegged it as a time-suck (which, to some extent, it is) and decided that “real writing” is more important. But given the fact that A) it’s more useful than you might think and B) I procrastinate like heck on my writing anyway, I should probably get back into it at least for briefer spans of time, because it’s great for character development. How is that?
When you roleplay, you’re throwing your characters into a (usually fairly random) scenario, sometimes in a type of setting they’ve never even seen before, much less interacted with. For instance, throwing a high fantasy character into a modern-day mall. Culture shock much? Since there are so few limitations, you can see how your characters interact in various places and learn about their character through that. Plus, they may find that they love cream soda or jellybean burritos.
In addition to a new setting, your roleplay characters interact with a myriad of new characters, which is always interesting. Some of them decide they want to kill each other, some fall in love, some become good friends… It’s really interesting to see the interplay between the characters, and it gives you a lot of insight into your own characters when you find out that, “Oh, that one character who doesn’t show a like or dislike of anyone is a lot looser when she’s only with a pet,” or “Oh, that character can actually flirt. (Who knew?)” Plus, sometimes your characters become looser with other roleplay characters than they are with you, and then you find out how tragic their backstory really is, or that they’re actually a huge softie under all that calculating logic, or that they like to tinker with watches.
Roleplaying just overall brings out a lot of character that would otherwise be hidden, and you can learn a lot of fun stuff about your characters and their voices. So see if you can find a friend to RP with and have fun letting your characters surprise you. :) (P.S. It’s even more fun if you can RP with characters you aren’t familiar with, because then you learn about those characters at the same time, and you’re less likely to let your knowledge of them decide how your characters react.)