Premature Evacuation

The Cursed Blessing of My Malfunctioning Vacations. Plural.

From Withnail and I (1987)

It occurred to me today that I seem to have broken my ability to plan a holiday, go on it, have a great time, and return home at the end of it all.

It has not always been like this.

In fact, in 2016, my husband Mike and I went on a lovely two-week trip to Italy for our tenth anniversary. Everything went pretty much as planned. There were no missed flights or lost luggage. The few changes made were voluntary and went smoothly. I don’t claim that this was the last vacation that went as planned, but it was definitely the best and proudest moment in my trip-planning history.

I think I can trace the curse back to 2019. I’d gone on a great writing trip for about a week in April that year, and returned feeling a little sad that I’d not really had enough time to dig into writing my book, which I’d been working on since late 2017. To be honest, I just kept rewriting the first act over and over again, each time restructuring it or eliminating excess characters or refining the voice. Finally, in 2019, I got it. I got my characters, I’d developed a voice, an interesting plot, and I knew roughly where I should go with it.

But work left me with little time to actually stew in it. My job as a group dogwalker (that means I walk groups of dogs off-leash, not groups of people with dogs) leaves me totally spent at the end of the day. I’m lucky if I can play a few rounds of Candy Crush at the end of it all, let alone answer client emails, sort out my schedule, and then lose myself in a fictional reality for a few hours.

And then, in July 2019, IT happened:

I broke my stupid ankle.

Never mind how, but let the record show that I not only had to cancel my dogwalks for three months, but I also had to cancel a planned getaway to Montana (for writing, ostensibly) in order to spend about three months healing the damned thing. And in a way, it was a blessing, because I got so sick of watching TV and surfing the interwebz that eventually, I had to buckle down and plot out all three acts (twelve segments) of my book. And then write it. YES, it was a rough plot-board that in no way resembles the finished product, but it got me started. And YES, it was a shitty first draft, but I did it! I like to think the whole broken ankle scheme was my late father’s doing. I could practically hear him saying, “You want time to write your book? Okay. Here’s a WHOLE LOTTA TIME. So do it, already!”

And I did! So come early March of 2020, we headed off for a little holiday in Cazadero, not far from Guerneville in the Russian River area. Nothing fancy, just a little cabin in the redwoods. I worked on editing the final segment of act two of the book, and wished at the end of that holiday that I could have just a little more time to write. Like last year! Oh, the ankle hurt, but it was worth it. The time was worth it.

On this trip, I was shedding a bad cold and kind of miserable while watching the world online lose its mind over something called a “coronavirus.” It was just scary enough to convince us to stop at the Safeway in Guerneville before heading home, because according to Nextdoor, the Safeway in San Francisco was a fucking nuthouse.

So I guess really, that was a successful vacation, even with a cold and a looming pandemic. I was feeling good about my story and where the edits were taking it.

But then? LOCKDOWN. The day after we got home, everything shut right the fuck down. For about three months. Mike could work from home (he still is, in fact). I could not. But during those three months, I edited and re-edited and edited again. Worked with an editor and prepped for Pitchfest 2020, which was online. This resulted in finding an agent who believed in my story. So, while the pandemic really was awful in a lot of ways, I did at least manage to pull that off. So maybe this is less of a curse, but rather a silver lining on a shit-colored cloud? Well, 2020 is where things start being less about getting things done despite being under some form of duress, and more about getting my hopes up for short getaways that all end up being cancelled or cut short due to FORCES OF NATURE. And no writing happens as a result of any of it, so as far as I’m concerned, Mother Nature is a whimsical but power-hungry bitch goddess, just as the lady from the Chiffon Margarine ads I grew up with implied.

In 2020, I thought we’d be able to at last celebrate the end of quarantine (sort of) with a trip to Pinecrest at the end of August. Neither Mike nor I had been ANYWHERE other than a three-day dogsit job over July 4th weekend. So we were READY to get out of the city. Like, a lot. And then….FIRES. Not in San Francisco, but pretty much every place around San Francisco. It didn’t matter which way the wind blew — it was bad air, everywhere. It was a bit better in San Francisco because of the coast, but Pinecrest’s air quality was abysmal.

But that’s okay. We’re all adults. We understand that pandemics and fires are not things we can control. Roll with the punches, right? Okay. FINE. We end up staying home and (GASP!) working. Not writing–just working, in between bouts of sobbing in my truck.

So then, summer of 2021 comes into view. I’ve saved for a week at Pinecrest, and as it nears, fires break out, but they’re way up North, far from Pinecrest. Okay, maybe not that far North. We had a few scares about threatened fires around Sonora, but fire crews stopped them and we actually….went. Yup–we packed up a week’s worth of food, books, games and a wide variety of leisure wear. We even DROVE ALL THE WAY THERE. Spent the night! Breathed in clean, mountain air! Went for a hike around the lake! Had a peaceful evening of stargazing in the utter dark of night, with no smoke anywhere to be found….

And the next day, they told us we had to leave. They were closing the forest. Like, the whole thing.

Mike, on one of two peaceful evenings in Pinecrest.

Stanislaus National Forest was being closed so that all firefighters could concentrate on saving South Lake Tahoe from the Caldor fire. And frankly, the last time they closed Pinecrest down in 2020 due to COVID but allowed cabin owners to stay, it didn’t go over too well with the day visitors. The rangers were outnumbered by scofflaws who spat at them, cursed at them, and went to the lake, anyway. I suspect that this time, the cabin owners and their guests were given the heave-ho the week before Labor Day weekend to avoid trying to shut the place down on one of the busiest camping holidays of the season.

Again, I got it. I’m a reasonable woman. I understand that humans are stupid creatures who clearly cannot be trusted to obey the rules of High Fire Danger and NOT light wood fires or target practice outdoors. People are assholes, and probably doomed ones, at that. The idiots are taking over. But this time, I did cry. I looked at Mike and said, “I’m tired of being understanding! I’m tired of being a grown up. I just want to take a goddamn vacation for more than two nights. I really, really wanted to look at the stars again. It’s just not fair!” And as I said it, I knew how ridiculous and toddler-like I sounded. But damn, it felt good to say it. To admit that I’m sick of always understanding when other people fuck things up for everyone else. That my patience is growing thin. Like, practically translucent-thin.

We were supposed to be gone by midnight of our third day. We tried to stay long enough to see the stars, but it was all ruined. All of it. All I could think of when I looked at them that night was, I won’t be seeing you again until at least next summer. Or maybe never, because that’s what life has become. You can plan all you want, but chances are higher than they used to be that they will just get FUBARred. That’s a verb, right?

With that in mind, we returned home, defeated but saying things like, “We may as well just accept it. Complaining won’t change anything,” and “We should be thankful that we’re not on fire, like Tahoe.” And I wanted to cry, because has it really come to being grateful for not being ON FIRE? Was that the best I could do?

Confused by this weird message I’d perceived from the universe, I obsessively started stalking properties on Realtor, looking for some gorgeous but affordable mountain retreat. I found one, too, on Hites Cove Road, in Mariposa, near Yosemite. It was a beautiful home on acreage with incredible mountain views, right near the Hites Cove Trailhead. It had come down in price and was almost affordable. Almost, but not quite. Because I’d have to give up my secure living in San Francisco and figure out some new way to work with dogs out there, and that would take time. I decided if it came down in price again, that would be the sign I’d been waiting for.

Instead, it sold to somebody else. Rats, I’d thought. Skunked again. I ended up tiring of fighting my current career in the City. I was a city dog walker. Who knew if my book would ever sell? Maybe the dream of writing full-time was a fool’s game, and one that would only serve to make me feel bad when it didn’t happen, just like all of my crap vacations. So I stopped looking on Realtor and Zillow, resigning myself to spending probably another five to ten years in the city in our small apartment. I threw myself into dog walking full-force. I took on dogs that I shouldn’t have and booked every spare moment of my time with dogsit jobs so I wouldn’t have time to even feel bad about not writing and not getting published. Stop dreaming of a future you can’t have, I told myself. It’s all bullshit.

Naturally, this led me to burn out on work much faster than usual. Luckily, we had a few days – almost a week! – tucked aside for another trip to our favorite getaway cabin in Cazadero. It’s a lovely home with a beautiful wooden deck (and hot tub!) and an expansive yard facing Austin Creek, which feeds into the Russian River a few miles downstream. Usually, when we visit, the creek is quite dry. Most of the gravel creekbed is exposed, and you could, if you really wanted to, cross to the other side without getting your ankles more than a bit damp.

When we arrived on Thursday evening, it had just rained a bit, so while the creekbed was mostly dry, there was a fair little trickle flowing through. Friday was beautiful, a break from the rain. We went to Guerneville to the Stumptown Brewery and ate lunch out in the bright sunlight, buying a few canned IPAs to take home.

Saturday, the rain started. It was so nice to hear it falling on the roof and the skylights. We’ve been in a drought for so long that I considered it a blessing to be able to hear it. We built a fire and laid around all day in our lazy pants and hoodies, snacking on cheese and crackers and chatting over wine and bluegrass. I did some Just-for-Fun writing late into the evening, and staggered off to bed with the pounding of the rain on the roof steadily growing louder.

My eyes snapped open around five a.m. It was pitch black in the cabin, and I don’t know what woke me up, but I knew the power had gone out. Usually, there were nightlights adding a near-obnoxious amount of dim light. But the dark right then? It was complete. I’d never been so thoroughly without light in my life. “Power’s out,” I said, knowing that Mike was also awake beside me. We had trouble getting back to sleep, wondering what was happening. Were the roads flooded? What if we were stuck here with no power, and only the propane grill and a woodstove for cooking purposes. What if I couldn’t make coffee???

By eight-thirty, enough daylight was finally filtering through the trees and the clouds so that we could assess the situation. Folks, let me allow these photos to tell you everything you need to know:

We decided not to wait. The phone wasn’t working, nor was the internet. We had no way of knowing what we should do beyond our better judgement, which was screaming at us to get the hell out of there while we still could. We loaded up the car with all our stuff and drove two hours in brutal winds and rain (actually, Mike did the driving; I just cringed). But we made it out safely, without being stranded with no power and no way out, and without damaging the car. It was really disappointing to leave early YET AGAIN, true. We’d planned to go on a winery tour tomorrow, complete with car service and lunch. We’d planned on restocking our wine fridge, which now sits empty and unplugged, mocking me.

But you know what else? I AM grateful. I’m fucking alive, you guys! Because last night, I went online to check on a story I’d been following about a family of three (four if you count the dog, which I certainly do) who were found dead on a hiking trail. Hites Cove Trail, in fact. The article said the family had just purchased a house there. The Hites Cove Road house. The beautiful acreage with views and trails…that one. Their case was like an X-Files for a while – how had all of them died, including their dog? Was it toxic fumes from an old mine? Harmful algae in the river? Nope. The answer was simple: dehydration and hyperthermia. Heat stroke. They’d started their hike early in the morning, when it was only 74 degrees out. They didn’t bring hats, but they brought what seemed like plenty of water for a few miles’ hike, as well as the requisite snacks and baby formula.

They didn’t realize how quickly the temperature would rise to 109 degrees by mid-afternoon, and how punishing that heat can be on the last leg of that hike, with no shade because a recent fire had wiped it all out. They took their time, hydrating and walking along the river, probably resting here and there, before moving into the intense final two or three miles, an uphill series of switchbacks. They were found near one another, the father seated with his baby beside him, the dog at their feet. There was still just a little bit of water left. The mother was found just a quarter mile further up the trail, undoubtedly desperately trying to hang on to her senses and her body to reach help for her baby, husband and dog. Just like any one of us would have done. A few mistakes, a few ignored warning signs…that’s all it takes. A simple outing turns into tragic loss of young lives. Plural.

I know how hot and unforgiving the Sierra trails can get. I’ve made the mistake of not turning back when I should have, but thankfully, I had access to shade and loads of cool water. It’s an easy mistake to make, especially when you’re a young, healthy adult who loves nature. That family that died, they were also from the city and wanting to make a better life for themselves in the natural beauty of the Sierras. They were making their dreams come true…until they couldn’t any longer. It just happened that way, as it could for any of us.

So maybe it has come to simply being grateful that I’m not on fire or struggling to get out of a sinking car in a flash flood. I may not be published yet, but dammit, I have an agent and I have stories inside me that want to come out. I will find a way to keep telling them, even if I’m too tired to do more than watch a true crime show after work most nights. I will keep planning, always planning my next getaway. Some will be successful. Others will not. It doesn’t really matter, as long as I keep fucking going. Whether it’s by nursing a broken ankle, keeping safe during a pandemic, keeping my beloved places safe or keeping my mind sane by creating…I will always choose to keep moving forward.

Wow, this got unintentionally deep. This all just kind of occurred to me while writing, so THANKS! I feel a lot better about my shitty luck taking vacations. Look out — my next holiday may be in YOUR hometown! Muhuwahahaha!

Our Neighbor, Sasquatch

“Yeah, so I’m a little loud. So what???”

A while back, I was chatting on the phone with my friend Pam. We were in the middle of chatting about work and movies and daily life, when my floor and walls shook a bit. I looked over at my husband, Mike, who was sitting a few feet away, working on his computer.

“Exists is home,” we both said. A distant BOOM followed, as if someone just dropped an anvil downstairs. Then a door slam and more structural quaking caused by the being that occupies the apartment beneath us.

“What’s ‘Exists’?” Pam asked.

“Our downstairs neighbor,” I reply. “We have no idea what the hell this guy is doing down there, but either he’s throwing heavy equipment around, or he himself is a Sasquatch. We prefer to think it’s the latter.”

“But what does ‘Exists’ mean?” Pam is still confused, and I don’t blame her. I forget that Mike and I speak in a near-secret language comprised almost entirely of obscure film references. Like “Mike Brady,” our name for our other neighbor with kinda ’70s Dad/Mike Brady hair. Or “Andy Richter,” a former neighbor who used to live down the hall who reminded us of Conan O’Brien’s sidekick. “Stuart from Big Bang Theory” lives on the first floor, a few doors down from “Tony Stark.”

“Oh! You haven’t seen Exists? It’s an awesome Bigfoot movie. I mean, the found footage thing is kind of played, but all told, it’s legit scary and the creature effects are the best I’ve seen of all the Bigfoot movies.” And I should know, because I’ve watched almost all the horrible Bigfoot movies out there. Or at least the first 10 minutes of the really bad ones. But out of those, only Willow Creek and Exists are worth multiple viewings. “Our neighbor is super loud and stompy, so we call him Exists. It’s kind of a compliment, if you think about it.”

Pam is amused enough by this to give Exists a viewing, and agrees: it’s downright scary and even a little sad when you realize why Bigfoot’s so pissed off. Maybe our neighbor is pissed off by something sad and that’s why he bangs shit around at 1 a.m. and stomps his way up and down the stairs, rattling the building. Whenever we feel the vibration of the building around us, we have to wonder if the pandemic is what’s troubling Bigfoot, because his walks in the woods are now crowded with people who can’t go sit in a café like they normally would. Plus, the guy downstairs shares a name with a tree, so that’s gotta be a little harsh.

It’s tough being a Bigfoot in the City, I guess.

Gimp Gear: My New Look for the Next 10 Weeks or So


My view for the next several weeks.

It was a Monday like any other…until it wasn’t.

I’m a dog walker, by the way. In case it hasn’t come up before. Twice a day, I take my muttley crew (see what I did there? #dadjoke) out to some wide open expanse where such things are legal, and let them run, play, and be goofy dogs off leash. This week was going to be light – only five dogs in each group, which is a nice way to ease back into things from a four-day weekend.

But while picking up Dog #4, I noticed two dudes in the lobby, polishing the shiny tile floors. There wasn’t really a dry walkway to the elevator, and I briefly contemplated taking the stairs instead. But alas, I walked instead, ALMOST slipping despite being careful. And in the elevator I thought, Hmmmm, perhaps I ought to harness the dog, as she’s a puller and I need to walk slowly on that slippery floor. Because my only prior experiences with slipping on floors has been that I slip, fall, and maybe hurt my back or ankle a little bit. It’s not like I’m going to really hurt anything, right?


Wrong! So I did not harness the dog, and she pulled me, and I not only slipped, but I EXTREME SLIPPED. Like, if slipping was an Olympic sport, I really gave this slip my all and brought home the gold for the US of A. I was bloody AIRBORNE.

And as I went down, I felt something go SNAP! in my ankle. Like a cord. It’s weird, but it didn’t hurt at first. Then it did, and there was SO MUCH SWEARING. The two dudes working on the floor thought it was my knee, and one of them was like, trying to pop it back in like it was dislocated. I’m a little disturbed at how ready he was to leap to this conclusion, but I said no, no, it’s my ankle.

They helped me stand up, and it felt weird and hurt but not like I thought a broken ankle might feel. Like, there was no bone sticking out or searing pain. But I think maybe the adrenaline your body releases to give you that boost you might need to get yourself out of danger may have been what made me think I’d be fine. Because once I got to the truck, I realized that I was screwed.

Several phone calls, texts, and returned dogs later, my husband and hero, Michael, and I arrived at Urgent Care, who promptly instructed us that they had a two-hour wait BUT if we wanted to go to the ER, the guy at the check-in desk suggested St. Mary’s, since it gets less traffic than CPMC or UCSF. THANK YOU SO MUCH, DUDE AT URGENT CARE! That was the best tip we got EVER. I seriously want to send him a bouquet of flowers for this, because he was so, so right.

St. Mary’s is a hidden gem. Okay, not really hidden per se, but it’s off the main ambulance route so unless someone specifically requests it, nobody goes there. Yet they are amazing! Nothing but nice from start to finish. A few hours later, I was released with a splint, a referral to an orthopedic doc, pain meds, and crutches PLUS a walker because I failed miserably at crutches (Round One) to start. Also, x-rays were taken and the PA advised that I should count on being out for 8 weeks, but that probably there would be no surgery needed.

Cut to later that night: in the midst of sending out a flurry of texts and emails in an attempt to NOT lose all my business forever, I hear from Leslie, a former client (the late Jackson’s mom!) and now-friend. She tells me she has GIMP GEAR from when she had to have knee surgery, and even brings it over to me THAT NIGHT, bless her heart, veins and her arteries.

Included: shower stool, shower nozzle attachment, an ice machine for icing sore bits (not needed yet, but hanging on to this), suction handles for inside of the shower, and most appreciated of all: CRUTCH PADS!

The crutch pads are really boss. In case you’ve never experienced crutches before, they’re harder than they look on TV or when other people use them. And more than anything, they really have a way of digging painfully into your armpits. But really, that serves as a reminder that you’re supposed to be using the hand grips for support. And honestly, once I adjusted the crutches and found the right height for both the lower part and the grips, they got a lot easier. Before, it felt like they were just a little too long, especially on carpeting, and I imagined I looked a little like the Cloverfield monster:

cloverfield crutch monster

“Grrrr! Maybe I don’t wanna smash all the buildings, ever think of that? Maybe I’m just really stupidly proportioned! RAH!”

No wonder that monster was cranky! SO AWKWARD.

At the orthopedic clinic the next day, my crutch pads were the envy of all the other patients.  I can’t blame them – I certainly wouldn’t have thought to look into their existence. You just don’t know how nice they are to have until your pits are aching from your awful crutches.

Anyway, I started to look into gear I would need, especially after the orthopedic doc told me to hold off on ruling out surgery (something about the other bone on the other side of the ankle being stressed and possibly damaged, which means it might heal wrong and blah blah blah we’ll know more Monday). And she added that I should plan on NOT driving or walking large groups of dogs for at least 10 weeks.

TEN WEEKS!?! But that’s another post, I think: COVERING MY WALKS FOR TEN WEEKS.

So it was off to Amazon for me to look up Cool Stuff I Need Now, like a cast cover for the shower (my splint is rather cast-like in many ways, only a bit lighter and less plaster-filled), and a proper elevation pillow for the right leg, which needs to be elevated above heart-level to aid in de-swellifying. Which is a word now.

I also am investing in more pajama pants because I cannot wear my Lazy Pants every single day for ten weeks, as comfy as they are.

So every day, in addition to the novel I’m working on, I’m going to try to get in the habit of blogging about The Adventures of Slick Corso, or: How Much Are People Willing to Hear About Being Temporarily Hobbled? A Social Experiment. ENJOY!


“Anybody want to read my blog? Anybody…?”

Confessions of a an Online RPG-er, or How I Learned to Embrace My Inner Fangirl – Part 1


(Note: This post got lonnnng! So I’m breaking it up into 2 or maybe 3 parts. Godspeed!)

First of all, let’s get one thing straight: I do not worship Satan. I do not play Dungeons & Dragons with the kids from Stranger Things on Friday nights (I would actually LOVE to but I could never figure out the rules on my own back in high school, and none of my friends were quite at my level of nerdiness…that I am aware of anyway). I don’t get so obsessed with plotlines and characters from fantasy movies that I feel the need to sacrifice unsuspecting strangers in ritualistic bloodbaths (see the part above about not worshipping Satan). In short, I’m not what most people imagine when they hear the phrase “role play gamer”.

But what I am – and what I have always been – is a writer. Ever since I was old enough to daydream, I much preferred the worlds I imagined to the one I was actually living in (which, incidentally, wasn’t bad – just ordinary). And when I figured out that I could write about these other realities in, say, every spare moment of my waking life not spent at school or watching TV, I did it, often with the enthusiasm I probably should have been applying to my schoolwork.

This love of imagined realities led to a tendency to really throw myself into whatever movie/tv show/book I was obsessing on, from childhood onwards. When I found a movie or show I liked, I would dedicate my heart and soul to finding out more about (a) the film and how it was made, (b) all the backstories I could get my pre-internet hands on, and (c) making up possible backstories in my head and occasionally, putting pen to paper in what can only be described as very early fanfic. And even though I loved doing it, some part of me was very aware that I SHOULD NEVER SHOW IT TO ANYONE or risk being forever labelled Dorkus Giganticus.

As time went on, I began to shift away from established characters, and began to write my own plots featuring characters I created, although many of them were certainly inspired by characters (and the actors who portrayed them) I’d seen in films or television shows. Hey, we all have our influences, right? None of what I’d written back then was remotely publishable – hey, I was a kid! – but it was practice and kept me entertained.

It was the Fall of 2000 when I first found out about online RPGs (which in this instance refers to Role Playing Games, not Rocket Propelled Grenades). Let me set the stage for you: I was in the process of breaking up with a live-in boyfriend who was just not a great match. I could not WAIT for him to move out, and I’m sure the feeling was mutual. I worked the 3-10pm shift at a law office in downtown San Francisco as a word processor (remember those?) and this meant that I had a lot of mental downtime on my hands, and not too much money. So I spent a LOT of time watching reruns of a long-running medical drama which may or may not rhyme with “Me Far”. (What the hell – I’ll admit it. It was ER.) By 2000 standards, ER was action-packed and filled with diverse characters, medspeak, hospital politics and the occasional knife-wielding lunatic. In short, it was an excellent distraction from real life. So to keep myself from thinking too hard about anything, I watched this show, first-run and repeats, fairly obsessively for much of 2000. It kind of became part of my daily routine: get up, brew coffee, watch two or three episodes on TNT, go online, go to work. And when watching the first run episodes, I would immediately call my friend Sara (a fellow fan) to speculate wildly/commiserate about it. I’m still getting over Lucy Knight’s untimely demise.

And when I say “go online”, I’m talking about the Days of Dial-Up, when modems were external and you had to plug them into your home phone’s landline (remember landlines?) and be okay with no one being able to reach you by phone while you were logged into your shitty AOL account or whatever you were using. Netscape? Earthlink? Hotmail? Yeah. All of those.

I had already discovered fandoms on the internet, and one of the ER fanlists (remember fanlists?) posted about several online ER-based play-by-email roleplay game. Wait…what’s this, now? I could barely contain myself. You mean, I could take on the persona of one of my favorite characters and write their innermost thoughts, words and actions in a game? With other players playing their favorite characters? And we all take part in playing out plots that we made up? OH, SHIT YEAH.

I immediately subscribed to it via eGroups (later becoming Yahoo Groups) and began a journey which still continues to this day. The games have changed over the years, but the three that I’m still with have all been in play for over ten years. And they’re not all fan-based; some are worlds and plots that we’ve entirely created based on an agreed-upon premise (i.e., the apocalypse has happened – now what?). You create characters, choose avatars (basically, who would you choose to play this part in a movie), and begin interacting with other characters.

I should take a moment to clarify that there are many kinds of online RPGs. World of Warcraft is probably the one most people have heard of, but paid RPGs are different from play-by-email (PBEM) RPGs in the sense that PBEM RPGs are entirely based on text written by players, while visual RPGs tend to have animation and basic action directions. I’ve honestly never tried playing WoW, mainly because I am way more into words than playing out a visual battle. That’s just me, though – personal preference.

So, while it may make me a Dorkus Giganticus, I love my RPGs. I often skirt around the nerd angle by just calling them “writing games”, because that’s what they are, right? We either create an original character (OC) or take a “canon” character (a pre-existing character from whatever world you’re writing about), and try to write for that character, in-character (IC). And that’s the challenge: You don’t get to take a canon character and have them do what you would do, or even what you wish they would do. You have to stay IC. You must stay true to who they are in your writing, not just make them do what you’d like.

Trust me, it’s a lot harder than it sounds, and makes for excellent writing exercise. I could tell you many a story about people who made strong, stoic canon characters into hysterical, injury-prone basket cases simply because they wanted to make the character be like THEM. Their characters would plow right into and through every other player’s plotlines. Incidentally, those sorts of players are called Mary Sues. I found a whole Wikipedia page on Mary Sues, which is aptly described as: “A Mary Sue is an idealized and seemingly perfect fictional character. Often, this character is recognized as an author insert or wish fulfillment.” IS IT EVER! And let me tell you, these players are DEATH to any RPG, just as any real-life drama queen will suck the life out of everyone around them. I once wrote up a Mary Sue Test for my games, with questions like “Does your character have a wild animal as a pet?” and “Are your character’s eyes an unusual color, such as violet or multi-colored.”  There’s a limit to how “special” a character can be, is what I’m saying. I wanted to make sure that potential Mary Sues are stopped at the border, before they can start crying from their cat-like violet eyes all over their pet wolf.

To Be Continued in Part 2….