Patience is Bitter, but it's Fruit is Sweet
|Author: Frank Lee
Date: 2016-01-15 18:33:00
PATIENCE: The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.
When we tell stories through role-playing patience is not just a virtue, it is the literal lifeblood pumping through the veins of your imaginary person. Not only do you have to reveal your character to others organically, you have to (on some level) allow it to reveal itself to you. Without patience, we might as well be playing a video game that offers instant rewards for instantaneous actions.
There are some stories that seem to sizzle with non-stop action. From the moment the lights come on there are bangs, zaps, and whizzes. The main characters are known for being badasses, and the bad guys come in waves. These can be exciting to watch and easy to imagine. Often, these out-of-the-box-action scenes add visual and auditory elements to an otherwise relatively simple plot line.
Then, there are those stories that require some dedication from the audience. The struggles are generally more subtle, or at least require a greater deal of understanding of the characters, setting, and situation to fully appreciate. These stories are some of the greatest mankind has ever told, and the patience of the audience is often rewarded with explosive or mind-bending twists and turns.
Neither of these is right or wrong, and all stories have some kind of value to those who can relate to them. Good stories tend to have some elements of both the exciting and the cerebral.
When you sit down to read a book, you can feel how thick it is. As you turn through the pages, your mind does the mental math and knows how much of the story is left based on the page count. Movies, plays, books, even songs all tell a story that you know subconsciously has an ending. Sometimes it's easier to be patient because you know that end is coming.
Role-Playing is both fundamentally similar and critically different in that there is no predetermined end, and goals are only chapters in a potentially infinitely large book. On one hand, having no climax or resolution would defeat the entire purpose; on the other, any climax or resolution without a deep understanding of the relationships and details involved would feel hollow or incomplete.
When we roleplay, we aren't always interested in telling a story from beginning to middle to end. Instead, we are usually interested in developing a character over the course of one or more stories. Many of us seek to create a living thing: a psyche that can float in our imaginations and those of our friends, a personality that is it's own and makes it's own decisions, a conscience that struggles with it's own failings. A person who changes, or refuses to change, and the consequences of those decisions.
This is especially true for the medium we have chosen to use to tell our stories. There is no storyteller sitting across a table from you, with a notebook filled with customized scenes intended for every possibility with a limited and well defined set of characters in mind. Instead there are dozens, even hundreds of unique characters: each one bound by his or her own personality, experiences, and plans. Most of them are lying to each other, and some are even lying to themselves. In this medium, we must all take a deep breath and let the scenes play out naturally.
Despite what 30 second commercials may have you believe, people rarely change in the blink of an eye. They rarely give up their secrets, or truly trust a person, or even allow themselves to appear vulnerable. Even those that are open books and love to talk about who they are and what they want, rarely tell you everything. That is key. It's those hidden elements, those misunderstood agendas, or the perceptions that fall flat on their face when the truth is revealed that are the crux of the story.
So there's a bunch of words, and I'm sure someone out there is thinking: okay, quit blowing smoke up my ass and get to the point buddy.
Here's the point(s).
I'd like to leave you guys with a couple ideas to help generate more scene-fodder on the roads between milestones.
And last but not least... always remember: Plotting patiently and bringing a plan to fruition one step at a time is the best thing YOU can do as a player to put a smile on a Storyteller's face. In the end, it's gonna put a lot of smiles on a lot of people's faces.
Good stories tend to do that.