Monday, June 8, 2015

How To Be a Better Writer: LARPing

Today I would like to take you on a journey that has nothing and yet everything to do with writing. Leave your judgment at the door and embrace your inner artist, for today I take you to the magical world of LARP, an often misrepresented 'geek hobby'. And I'll show you why LARP is perfect for writers, and why as a creative person you should give it a try!

WHAT LARP ACTUALLY IS (photo credit: omnitographer)

LARP stands for Live Action Role Play. A world is created by writers for you to play in, and you create a character to fit into (or maybe not!) that world.  Some people who dismiss it or misunderstand it often assume (thanks TV and movies!) that it's a bunch of people running around in bed sheets and foam weapons screaming at each other in an attempt to escape reality. And you know what? That's true sometimes. But everyone escapes reality. Its why we read, watch movies, listen to music, and buy obscene amount of clothes when we don't like something happening in our life. But LARP is different. LARP isn't always an 'escape'. It's an amazing and interactive way to understand your feelings, to grow, to learn, to create.

And no LARP is created equal. There are all kinds to fit every person! Zombies, fantasy, dark fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk, werewolves, vampires, name it, you can be it! Now I'm talking to you writers. Do you ever act out a scene? Or answer questions as your character? If you do, you are more than half way to being a LARPer. LARP isn't about weapons. LARP is about being an aspect of yourself that maybe you've always wanted to be, or a character you've always wanted to play. Most LARPs rely on, and incorporate heavily, costumes, acting, in-game politics, racism, religion, power struggles, and life and death in their worlds and stories. You aren't in Kansas any more Toto--and you aren't wearing a bed sheet.

But this is not a post about all the ways LARP is wonderful. Perhaps I'll write a post about the benefits and what its like to be in one in another post. But for now, let me tell you why, as a writer, you should REALLY try LARPing, even if its just one game.

Why yes, that is me! photo credit to omnitograph

1) It can help you understand your characters: Are you having problems identifying with your main character? Or even minor ones? Do you not understand them or why they do what they do? Then put them into a LARP. Seriously. Be your character. You will be put in situations where your character must make an action or a decision that you yourself would probably never make. But in that moment you are your character and you'll suddenly realize the reasons for their thoughts. Or perhaps you love your main character and really wish he/she could be real. Well my writing friends, here's your chance! 

A character from the LARP Rendalir Remembered. (photo credit to omnitographer)

2) You can unleash your other talents: Do you like crafting? Awesome! Not only can you act like your character, you get LOOK like them. If you sew, knit, do metal work, sing, or play an instrument, then LARP can help those crafts flourish as well! When you make your costume a lot of thought goes into the process. Why did your character chose those colors and fabrics? Do they care if they get dirty or not? Why? Suddenly you have to understand your character in all the little ways that make them, them. And if you love acting but hate the stage or being in front of a camera, this is perfect! There are no cameras, no audience. Just you and a whole bunch of other creative people creating together and there's no judgment from anyone!

Are you seeing that detail!? He made it all himself! (credit: omnitographer)

3) You actually have to write: That's right. LARPing isn't just about acting. You are given a world in which to thrive or die. To become good or evil. To save a land or let perish. And if you love writing (which I hope you do, since you're a writer!) then I'm here to tell you: you must write. Your character needs a background and the World Creators need to know it so they can throw things in your character's way so they'll grow and change. You must be creative. You must go to places you didn't think you could go. When I have writers block, I write a LARP character. It gets my mind off of my book but keeps me writing and inventing, and usually it helps me unravel said nasty writers block!

4) It helps your imagination grow: When you join a LARP you're privy to a whole world some one has created for you to live in. You get to see some one else's ideas, and other people's characters. It often sparks ideas for books like nobodies business. Or sometimes when you meet another character in game, it may remind you of a character in your book you'd had a problem understanding, but now do! Voila!

Rendalir Remembered. The LARP I play in. photo credit: omnitograph)

5) You meet like minded people: Lets face it, being a writer is surprisingly lonely. Sure, you have friends and/or family, but for the most part you're not interacting with a lot of people everyday. You consider it a social day if you talked to the cashier at the supermarket. When you go to LARP you meet other people like you. And people completely different. At a single LARP I have met (and become good friends with) Writers, actors, physicists, doctors, lawyers, singers, and costume designers. My god writers, DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY THINGS YOU CAN LEARN!?!? How many interesting friends you could make!? How big your social and artistic world will grow!?

And the main reason you should try LARP if you're a writer? These people understand you. They understand you're not crazy when you talk about the 'voices in your head'. They understand the pain of writers block, or the agony of creating worlds or characters that you're trying to make and can't seem to get to work. They don't laugh at you and ask what your 'real job is' after you say you're a writer. These people are like finding an entire civilization where the common language is art and you were stolen as a baby from this magical land and finally found your way back! Welcome home!

I've been in the LARP community for six years and I can safely say that I have never met a more interesting, compassionate, open minded, creative, talented lot. They support you when your creatively frustrated, they cheer for you and encourage you. So if you need a creative boost to your writing, or an outlet other than writing, and you enjoy acting and art of any form and a diverse group of people, then I really recommend going to a LARP. I think you'd be very surprised at what you'll find.

These people understand you! (photo credit: omnitograph)
***NOTE: Here are a few LARPS that you can get involved in here in Southern California! I personally am involved in Rendalir Remembered and Dystopian Rising, a nation wide LARP that can be found in dozens of states!

Rendalir Remembered (Southern California)

Dystopian Rising (Southern California Chapter) and their Main Site where you can look up a local chapters in your State.

Seventh Kingdom (New Jersey)

Nero  (this LARP is all over the east coast as well as midwest!! You can find which is closest to you by clicking 'find closest chapter'.)

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