Rolling with My Characters

In my novel Into the Wild Nerd Yonder (now in paperback from Square Fish!), there are quite a few scenes of role playing, Dungeons and Dragons style. Here is the tale of how I made my D&D characters, and how my characters made me.

The first character I ever created was an elf mage named Imalthia. So was the second. High school was rough at times, not in an outward, people bullying me or even necessarily knowing I existed way, but in an inner turmoil, clinically depressed way. I had friends, good ones, and liked music enough to be one of the “alternative” kids. But I didn’t like myself very much. I was overweight, shy, and insecure. Not like Imalthia; she was beautiful, skinny, and could charm the pants off of anyone. (Naturally, I put the 18 in her charisma slot.)

Eventually, though, when I started to figure it out—it being life, who I was, and how that was actually a good thing—I realized it was much more fun to play a stocky, ugly, strong dwarf or gnome than some skinny, skanky elf. My epic new character came in the form of Sofa, a huge fighter with negligible intelligence, wisdom and charisma scores, although her strength was off the charts. I soon realized how much I loved doing damage instead of thinking so damn much. Who cares if Sofa would never convince a prince to divulge the whereabouts of the Staff of Fury by batting her eyelashes? She could kick his teeth in with a flick of her ankle. Besides, the Dungeon Master playing the NPC prince was just some dork math major with a Jim Carrey circa Dumb and Dumber haircut.

As an adult I became a DM to a middle school D&D club at the school where I was a librarian. There, I learned my forté was in role playing was comedy. In dire situations, throw a flaming couch down from the sky and watch the thirteen year-olds laugh. When it was one of their turns to DM, I played a delightful bard named Lulabelle who often inappropriately tooted on her recorder and constantly wove oven mitts. Or jumpsuits made out of oven mitts. And sometimes she even helped the party.

I think my D&D evolution says a lot about my own evolution as a person and as a writer. Instead of the brooding poems I wrote in high school or the serious(ly), perverted relationship stories of my early college days, I write humorous novels. Granted, they involve depression, STDs, and abuse, but I always manage to throw a flaming couch or an oven mitt in there. We DMs know how to move a story along.

Julie Halpern is the author of three YA books with Feiwel and Friends: Get Well Soon, Into the Wild Nerd Yonder, and Don’t Stop Now (out on June 7). She’s still looking for a group of adults to play D&D with who don’t freak her out. You can read more about her, her books, and her blog at the above link.


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