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My partner and I usually enjoy role-playing together in free-form. I was thinking perhaps we could convert one of our role-plays into a book and publish it online. I wanted to ask if there are any guidelines I could use to do so?

For more information, my partner and I usually make 100-200 word posts each and role-play in third person.

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    Do you mean to turn the report of a campaign into a novel, which narrates the events you played, or to write a book derived from the roleplay setting and characters? – FraEnrico Sep 6 '18 at 9:22
  • possible duplicate or at least a good source of info writing.stackexchange.com/questions/32230/… I think my answer very much applies – Andrey Sep 6 '18 at 13:44
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    Oh … that kind of roleplay … – can-ned_food Sep 7 '18 at 3:33
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    A couple of examples that have rather successfully done this: Raymond E Feist's Midkemia saga; Steven Erikson and his Malazan Book of the Fallen epic fantasy, and Ian C Esslemonts spinnoff series - Novels of the Malazan Empire and Path to Ascendency – Thomo Sep 10 '18 at 3:55
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I would say yes, you can convert your roleplay into a novel.

But it won't necessarily be easy.

If you think you'll just be able to copy and paste your written roleplay session into a single document, give it a few tweaks and hey presto, you have a novel, then I'm afraid you'll probably be disappointed.

A novel has a lot of structure that your free form roleplay will not have. This might have been different if you had a GM who had cooked up a storyline with an arc for your characters to loosely follow, but you do say you do it free form.

However, I think there's a good chance that you'll have a lot of great nuggets that would be formed into a novel - with a lot of work.

You will probably have developed some pretty good characters, had some interesting interactions and created some plot ideas.

My recommendation would be to now follow a novel writing structure, such as the Novel Writing Roadmap (https://www.novel-software.com/novelwritingroadmap - disclosure, this is my site) which will explain how to take steps to turn an idea into a premise into a plot skeleton into a full blown structure.

Once you've yanked and massaged your ideas into the structure (and you'll need to be ruthless in cutting out all the inevitable fluff and waffle) then you can get down to the business of actually writing the novel.

You may be able to use some of the sessions you've already used as first draft material, but it's likely it will still need to be redrafted several times, just like any other novel.

I hope that's helpful.

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    You should emphasize the cutting. There is guaranteed to be a lot of fluff, and a lot of it is gonna have to go. – Nic Hartley Sep 6 '18 at 23:06
  • An example of ‘fluff’ would be things which the two of you do for fun between the two of you — but which would only serve to distract a third person who reads your story. When you roleplay, you aren't telling a story to any number of other people or even to one other person who doesn't participate: you are sharing an experience with the other participants. I listen to a podcast of a so–called “actual play” session. I can tell you that, although I mostly enjoy listening to the people interact — one of them is a friend, — I would care less if I was reading the thing. – can-ned_food Sep 7 '18 at 3:38
  • Furthermore, though I do like gritty, realist prose which doesn't seem like it is contrived for melodramatic effect, I would not enjoy reading a transcript of that podcast so much as I do listening to it — much less an adaptation of it to a series of stories. Not so much for the superfluous, but for the fact that there is so much more which written prose can do but would be extraneous in a roleplay. – can-ned_food Sep 7 '18 at 3:50
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The previous answers have covered the major points, but there is one more, slightly more subtle issue with converting role play to fiction... the feelings of your role play players. Each of them is the hero in their own story and each of them have complex reasons for every decision which they made during any given quest. When, in service to your story's plot arc, you change or minimize their role, you should expect negative consequences. Some day, each of the people who participated in your role playing game will read the resulting novel, and regardless of how skillfully you have shaped their actions into your telling, it is you who will have to deal with them, going forward in the real world.

It is far better to take grand ideas and subtle twists from a role playing session and work them into an otherwise unrelated story.

Real world friends will not feel nearly as insulted, when one of your distinctly different characters steals an idea or trick from their role playing persona, than if that flawed and side-lined character shared a strong resemblance to either their real world or role playing selves.

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    Everyone is the hero of their own story. I've seen some great stories that give each character their own fleshed-out perspective - keeping the number of protagonists small isn't necessary at all. – Brilliand Sep 6 '18 at 18:53
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    @Brilliand I agree. Of course, we all know stories — I needn't name any — which attempt to have a large field of characters but don't quite manage to handle the volume. I would say: unless you know that you can do it well, and are willing to take the time developing the skills to do so, one is better–off keeping the number of protagonists small. This is rather a digression from this answer, but here is a handy rule–of–thumb: If any one of your protagonists would not make an interesting sole protagonist as–written, then you have too many. – can-ned_food Sep 7 '18 at 3:44
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There is a major difference between a roleplay and a novel, in their standard forms. A roleplay has many characters, each of them is the protagonist. In a roleplay nobody can overwhelm the other, it takes away the fun. A novel usually has only one main character [1], and the others are satellites - even if the novel is huge and complex such as The Lord of the Rings where the sides characters are deep but the protagonist is one, Frodo.

A roleplay also doesn't have a clear fixed character arc. Yes, characters evolve and grow, but their trajectory is not clean from the start, they sort of react and adapt to each situation. The fun is what happens scene by scene, rather than how a character ends up. In a novel, usually the arc is more neat from the beginning to the end [2], and each scene is a step towards the final resolution.

I don't say that you cannot have a roleplay with clear character arcs, with clear character goals and needs, but I just say, for my experience, that the roleplay is more about the scenes, where a novel is more about the whole structure.

[1] - I know, there are many exceptions, but this is for the sake of the explanation. [2] - Again, simplification. Just bear with me.

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The core novels of the Dragonlance series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman started out as this - a D&D campaign. You might find it useful to take a look at their work. In some scenes of Dragons of Autumn Twilight (the first novel) in particular, you can see the heavy D&D influence; for example, the story starts with all characters meeting in a pub. Other elements belong in a novel, but you would not usually see them at the gaming table; for example, characters' thoughts.

When adapting a book to a movie or a movie to a book, changes happen, because each medium is good at expressing some things, and not so good at expressing others. Roleplay is yet another medium, even though, like a book, it uses text. So adapting your adventure into a book is an opportunity to add elements, but other elements would have to go.

Having said that, what are some differences between the two mediums, something you would need to account for?

  • As I've said above, characters' thoughts. Things they would like to say, but choose not to. Characters' memory, characters' personal history.
  • Foreshadowing. While playing, you do not necessarily know how the story would turn out. With a novel, the occurrences are already before you so you can foreshadow events. In the same vein, you can hide information that the reader can notice, but your characters won't.
  • Character arcs. Part of roleplay is character development. But you cannot always predict right from the start how this development will go, what a character's arc will be. Writing a novel, you can tighten this, shape the story so there's a clear arc.
  • An element of roleplay is "what would be fun right now". This does not serve a novel. Those "fun" elements can be incorporated, but they need to serve the story, not just a momentary whim.

There are more differences. One key to many of them is: a roleplay game is a story unfolding. A novel is the same story finished, and neatly arranged. In some ways, it is like making a documentary of unfolding events; first you get on film the events, then, when the unfolding is done, you go back and arrange everything so it makes a unified narrative. Some things you throw out, because they don't serve the narrative. Other things you find you have to add, because the narrative needs a backdrop.

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