My Greywater Chronicles books are a relatively normal exploration of friendship and love. There are no monsters and no one gets stuck in a dungeon with orcs or evil sorcerers (not that I don’t want to write that book someday). But I definitely used the traditions of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) while writing my first novel.
- Get them all in a dungeon: Before the action even starts in Mistakes Were Made, Jules breaks both her ankles. This allowed me to keep her stuck in a recovery center–Misty Forests–for the first section of the book. Similar to how exploring a dungeon keeps role playing characters from wandering off from the intended quest, Misty Forests keeps the action and characters under control.
My second book, Best Laid Plans, uses a different kind of limitation with the structure of the book (two chapter a season with alternating point of view). This was much more challenging and not nearly as much fun, but did force me to really try to see things through the eyes of both of my protagonists. Misty Forests was more fun, though!
- Alignment: a quick shorthand for the moral code that governs characters behavior in D&D, this is a fun way to think about how my characters in novels approach life. On the lawful-neutral-chaotic scale, most of my characters are in the lawful to neutral range, but I have two who tend to me closer to chaotic. On the good-neutral-evil scale, I have one brother who behaves pretty poorly, but even he is not firmly in the evil camp. And yes, the D&D Classes (or Jungian archetypes) are also helpful!
- Fighting when stakes are low: some of the most amusing moments in D&D can happen when the stakes are incredibly low–who drank the last goblet of ale? why are my tights stretched out? why does he always get to ask for directions? I try to remember this when my characters are starting to drift a bit. They can fight about stupid things.
- Adventure: what is D&D without an adventure? (rhetorical question) And so, what are my stories without some sort of adventure? This is both the larger arc of their exploration and also in little moments in a new place or in a new social interaction. Life (and stories) are more fun if we can see the adventure that we’re having, even if there aren’t any actual dragons or orcs.
I’m sure there are other D&D elements I’m using without even realizing it, and I will add them in as I realize. And someday I promise I’ll write an adventure novel. With a bard.