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Lost in The Wood -- Leonard and Ann Marie Wilson

Leonard Wilson

Leonard Wilson

I'm part of the Stranger Things generation. Those kids could have been my peers. I came to storytelling first through Dungeons & Dragons, then on to other role-playing games. Immediately after earning a degree in writing, I began freelancing, writing adventures for the RPG industry. While I was never a prolific author, what I did write almost always published. The Internet still seems to regard a couple of my works as classics of their type (The Ghost of Mistmoor in Dungeon magazine, and The Heart Blade in Pendragon's Blood and Lust adventure anthology), but I never made anything close to a living at it, and eventually I let the freelancing drop to focus on a full-time profession as a computer programmer.

While I paid the bills by programming, my writing time went to focus on finishing my novel -- if you'll allow me to call a dozen or more faltering, failed starts at writing different novels over the course of ten or fifteen years "focusing on finishing my novel". During that time, I also let my participation in the role-playing hobby falter, for want of a consistent group to play with. Sure, I'd married a gamer girl who'd first showed up on my doorstep for a rousing evening of Fantasy Hero, but two-player RPGs oddly require a whole lot more energy than sessions with four or five players, and what spare energy we had went into starting a family.

It was by getting back into role-playing, with the kids old enough to no longer be exhausting, that I was able to rediscover my inner author. The cool thing about being a game master is that, as the lead storyteller in a collaborative improv, you're getting constant audience feedback as to what works and what doesn't -- as opposed to the business of novel writing, which locks you into completing a huge project with little or no idea of how it's going to be received until it's more or less done. The role-playing also made me realize that improv is where my real strength lies as a storyteller, and I embraced that.

I'm not a meticulous plotter. I'm not an artiste. I'm an entertainer. I can write a killer beginning because that's what good game masters do. They present their players with a hook, they have a vague idea of how the story can be resolved, then they stand back and let the players write the story they want to live, always ready to make things interesting by throwing obstacles and complications into their path.

Similarly, to write a novel I have to create an interesting cast of characters with their own motivations and agendas, then game master them on the best roller-coaster ride I can improv with their collaboration.

Ann Marie Wilson

Ann Marie Wilson

Once upon a time there was a farm girl growing up in rural Arkansas who loved to read. She read fiction. She read history. She read reference books. If she could curl up with the book and loose herself within it, she read it.

One day she realized that she could write down her own stories. She scribbled her stories in a notebook and held them close, not quite daring to let anyone else see them. As she advanced in her schooling sometimes there would be a fiction writing assignment, and she was able to share one of the stories in her head. The teachers were always complementary, and she grew in confidence.

Then, one day, there came a new English teacher to her little school. This woman was fresh out of college and not so much older than the girl. After many weeks, the girl worked up the courage to confide in the teacher that one day she wanted to be a writer and have her work published.

“Don’t waste your time dreaming of things that cannot be,” the teacher sneered, and the girl hung her head in shame. Telling no one of how foolish she had been, she put aside her notebooks and let the words dry up within her.

In due time, the girl left her small community to travel north across the Ozark Mountains to attend a university. There she met a boy who told stories – and even saw some of them published. In time she began to tell him some of her stories. He encouraged her to begin writing down her words once again.

Slowly the boy’s attitude and faith in her began to push the teacher’s words out of her heart. Although they would never completely leave, they had to find a small corner to crawl into. In time, the girl and the boy began writing stories together. Finally, the girl was able to see her name printed in bylines.

Many years passed and the girl and the boy – now happily married – grew a family and plotted out a novel they wrote together. Then one day in mid-October, the girl was looking at the NaNoWriMo web site and she asked herself if she would be able to write a novel all by herself in a month.

Intrigued by the idea, she accepted the challenge and wrote the first draft of her novel within the month of November.

Confident in her stories once more, the girl set off on the next phase of her writing adventure eager to see where it would lead.

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