Posted in Journal Entries

Roll Initiative: D&D for Writers

It’s another Monday night.

My friend smiles behind his Dungeon Master screen after a player attacks. “Roll initiative,” he says.

The party picks up our twenty sided die, rolling them on the table, in dice boxes, and towers. At the head of the table behind his dragon screen, my friend/DM rolls his own dice. One by one we shout our numbers, taking place in the combat order. The spell casters shuffle through their spell cards, while others prepare their weapons. Someone cracks a joke, and everyone laughs, derailing the game for just a moment.

Dungeons & Dragons is a lot like writing. Something I learned in the near two years I’ve been playing. Authors are DM’s and your characters are the player characters. And as an author/DM, it’s up to you to create a fantasy world and break your cast as much as possible.

When I first started out I was the most quiet player, never really inputting ideas or thoughts, and constantly observing. I still had fun, but I was a little frustrated with how I was playing. My role play has always been shaky and I could never really get involved. It only started getting better after I gave up on my first character: A rogue fairy. No she didn’t die. I just didn’t like playing as her anymore.

Then when it was time to roll my new character I thought, “Why not play as a character I made for a short story?”

That’s when everything clicked and when it became so much more fun. We created Andi, my eight–ten child Bard prodigy, and threw her into party. I thought how she would act in my story, and how I could apply that to our session that night. I roleplayed a little bit better ever since I changed characters. I got to throw childish insults, play on my giant kazoo, shoot lightning, and even run out into a city yelling “WE’RE RICH!”

Writing Andi became so much easier in my short story. She turned from a really unexplored character into a loud, adorable, doesn’t think before she acts kind of character. The more I played as Andi, the more I looked into what she could be. In game, she only knew that her friends were being hurt by bad people or things, so she would hurt them back. She was scared most of the time, but knew if her friends were there, she would be all right. This was something I transferred into my own writing.

If you’ve never played D&D before and you’re a writer, I’d say find a group and try it out. Play as your characters, or invent someone totally new that you can play. Take notes about your character and the interactions you have with NPC’s and your party. Sometime you’ll discover something about your character you would have never seen before! It’ll be fun to read back through and work on your writing later on.

And if you think you can’t commit to a long campaign, there are other table top games out there. Monster of the Week is a really good, bite-sized adventure with few mechanics. And yes, please blame me if you find yourself having the time of your life!



Posted in Journal Entries

Dear Diary: A Story Told by You

When I was a kid, I read many epistolary novels. Most were historical fiction diaries, while others were pen pals and letters. Even though most of the characters were fictional, I believed they were real people. I found their diaries and letters on an adventure by facing off mobs of other treasure seekers and digging up time capsules from long ago. I was to read their stories, and share them with the world. When each Free Book Day came around, I sniffed out new stories, favoring a historical fiction book over the rest.

One day, I was given my first diary. It was a hot pink, hardcover Hello Kitty journal with interchangeable cover pictures and stickers. The perfect early 2000’s journal a Hello Kitty obsessed nine-year-old girl could ever want.

I still have it. With one of my first entries being:


Dear Hello Kitty, 

Today I went to school. When I got home I played with marbles. My dad told me to clean my room. After that, I asked my dad to call a friend, but he said no. I’ll talk to you tomorrow!

Skip ahead 12 years and nine journals later, I’m eager to say it’s been my favorite thing about writing so far. My next journal I got when I was in middle school, and I wrote on and off until the end of my Sophomore year at college. I didn’t start writing every day until I studied abroad in London, where we were required to keep a journal. And I haven’t stopped just yet.

But I don’t want to bore you with all the details about my journaling life. (To be honest, it’s another story for another day!) This is meant to be a more exciting, “Hey you should try this!” kinda deal.

Forget about that cliche scene of a preteen girl sitting on her bed writing secrets about her friends and her crushes in a sparkly notebook. Your own journal holds the story of your past self, memories you may have forgotten, lessons you never knew you learned, and your growth as you find your way through life. If you’ve kept a journal before, you know what it’s like. But if you haven’t, but wanted to, where would you start?

Anywhere. Keeping a journal has endless possibilities, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a classic notebook-and-pen situation. It could be on a computer screen, a video camera, or a sketchbook. No one will ever tell you what to add to your journal, but you can always look for inspiration when you need it.  I like to draw, paint, and write and paste stickers, tickets, cards, letters, and pictures inside my journals.

Fill your journals with big life events you want to remember forever. Sure, you might miss a few details here and there, but the emotion leaps off the pages. Sometimes you’ll find small moments in a big day. You might taken back to a hilarious and vague conversation you once had with a friend while waiting in line for a ride, that day you said you’d never leave home, or even the time you found that dollar bill in your pocket. The best part is you get to decide when you write or record. Scribble something down on the page after an eventful night, and if you forget to write again, no one will judge you. Believe me: writing in your journal will get easier as time passes.

A journal is a friend that doesn’t talk back. It listens as you furiously write your words across pages and pages, but those pages don’t have to stay in there. Rip them out, burn them up, toss them away. It’s your journal. But what happens when you’ve filled it up? What do you do now? That’s all up to you. I still have all  of mine. From my first journal filled with middle school woes, anxiety-ridden high school years, to my newest one packed college memories. I keep them to flip back through and read, because a journal reminds you a past self you may have forgotten about. In mine, I read a story about a young girl who struggled with so many things growing up. I watch as the little moments build up and tell the story of a young girl who had no idea what’s coming for her.

You don’t have to share it to the world; it’s there for you to discover who you are. With each and every word, picture, art you throw down on pages, it reveals more about who you truly are. If your journal is full of hate, pain and unspoken words, throw it into a bonfire. Watch your story burn to a crisp. That was an old you that you never want to see again. But if you don’t want to burn it, hide your journals away in a box under your bed or in your closet. Maybe in a few years, you’ll come back to them and read through your story again.

When your journal is filled from cover to cover, start a new one. It can be anything you want to do. Because once you start a diary or a journal, it’s possible you will be hooked. Take one and fill it with your travels, dreams, hopes, and wishes. Throw down your pain, sorrow, hate, losses, and mistakes. Add your joys, adventures, friends, family, faith, and victories. Don’t forget those moments and days that feel like nothing happened. Something always happens on a “boring” day, like a conversation you overheard or an out of the ordinary scene.

Tell your story,  take time to get to know yourself, and listen to the lessons you learned. Believe me, it’s worth it.