I’ve Been Godmodding
A few months back I decided to try my hand at online roleplaying. I didn’t get involved with any of the really serious sites out there that have tons of people and really strict rules. In fact, there are only four of us in our roleplay at the moment, including myself, but it’s still pretty fun.
Basically, we each have a character or two that we control, and it’s like writing pieces of a story from that/those character’s/s’ perspective (s). So I might write about how my character is writing a letter to her parents and narrate everything she writes and where she is and what she’s thinking about, and then on her way to send that letter she might run into someone else’s character. At that point, I might write that my character says, “hi”, and then I have to wait for the person who controls that character to write from his or her perspective and continue the conversation.
Anyway, as you can see, since no one person controls all the characters, no one person can control all the events and happenings either. When a bunch of people are working together to create a story like this, you need to have rules and guidelines to set the boundaries of what each participant is allowed to do and to keep everything working the way it should. Since roleplaying is a well-established activity, it has some universal terms to refer to specific types of rulebreaking that every roleplayer should know about.
One of these is godmodding, which is basically making your character invincible. If something attacks them, they defeat it effortlessly. If they get into a sticky situation, they emerge without a scratch. Basically, it’s one participant trying to manipulate the roleplay so that everything turns out the way they want it to, and they’ll twist the situation in any way they can to make it happen. Quite understandably, this is the single most annoying thing that a roleplayer can do because it leaves everyone else’s characters in the dust. You can read more about it here, on this page that I used to learn about it: What is God Modding and Why is it Annoying?
What About Me?
Well, of course, in my roleplaying, I follow all the rules to the letter. I never control other people’s characters, I keep track of what my character knows and what she doesn’t, and I try my best to keep her words and actions consistent with her character and personality and abilities. I would never want to annoy or upset my fellow roleplayers by bending the rules in my favor.
A few days ago, however, I realized something. It had been a while since I’d written anything new in my novel, and I was considering where to pick back up when I realized that if I continued as I had planned, I would have a problem on my hands. You see, I was working on a few revisions to the latest section that I’d written, planning to change a bit here and there before having it meet back up with the point where I’d left off. But I realized that once I made these changes, it would take a lot of work to get the story back to the original track. I wanted this certain thing to happen, but if things stood as they were, I would have to really force it.
And that’s when I stopped and asked myself what would happen if I let the characters take their natural course, each one acting and reacting according to their situation and character traits. The answer spelled trouble for one of the main characters, and my immediate thought was, “I can’t let that happen to her.” Cue the alarm bells: I’ve been godmodding in my own novel!
And so I discovered a weakness of mine as a writer. I’m a nice person and I really like my main characters so it’s natural for me to want good things for them, but that becomes a definite problem when it starts to interfere with the plot. I’m not stupid enough to have taken it to extremes, of course. I do have my characters go through problems and hardships just like all characters should, but I never want anything TOO bad to happen to them.
I realized that in the last part I had written, I had gotten them out of trouble way too fast. I was 17,000 words in, and, although the plot had escalated up to that point, I’d just dropped it back down nearly to the bottom of the diagram with one move.
Plots are meant to get progressively worse and worse, increasing tension and suspense until the climax, where the situation is resolved for better or worse.
I chalk it up to a rookie mistake, but I do find it fascinating that it was online roleplaying that brought it out into the light. I suppose it really is any type of writing that can help you hone your skills: roleplaying, writing fanfiction, blogging… I hope so, anyway. 😉