Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Goodbye, Dragonlady

I just realized I haven't updated this blog since July. That's pretty ridiculous of me. I've been spending all my time working on my novel and have sort of let my writerly social presence slide. Well, I'm sticking my head out of my hobbit hole to comment on a piece of news that has really touched me this week: the death of Anne McCaffrey

For years I've been giving the credit for my desire to become a writer solely to the author of the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling. And while it's certainly true that Rowling had an enormous influence on my desire to one day to be a novelist, she hasn't been the only one. I realized this today when I was shocked with the news that science fiction/fantasy writer Anne McCaffrey had passed away.
Long before I was enchanted by the boy wizard, I was inspired by the girl who used her cunning to go from a slave-like servant to the most prestigious rank in her world, saving the lives of countless people along the way.

I don't remember exactly how I stumbled onto the Dragonriders of Pern series. I just know that as a young girl with painfully severe social anxiety who spent a great deal of time ostracized from others, the idea of being matched to an intelligent animal, a friend, who not only knew everything there was about me but also loved me despite that was more than appealing to me.

After devouring all of the series I could find, I somehow stumbled into the world of oneline roleplaying. It consisted of groups of people participating in a sort of round-robin storytelling where we would create our own character, join up with a member or two (or more), and take turns creating adventures for our characters. My characters did exciting things like work to survive cave-ins deep underground, help to stop murder attempts and cooperated with others to work through humanity-threatening issues in this fantasy world.

But my favorite things were the hatchings – when candidates would gather around a clutch of dragon eggs to learn what color dragon their character would bond to. For me (and many others), the gold dragon was our ultimate goal. In many games, getting your character bonded to a gold dragon meant that you suggested the most interesting storylines, interacted well with others, had leadership potential, and most importantly (for me) that you were one of the best writers.

I worked tirelessly to try to come up with the most compelling characters and fun storylines to follow with fellow members. Time after time I would get so close to being awarded that gold dragon -- particularly painful were the couple of times that it was down to just me and one another character and I had to watch as the other person got what I so desperately wanted -- validation that my writing skills were the best.

Only later did I discover that through my competitiveness, I had been learning: learning to plot, learning to make characters have believable personalities, and learning how to bring excitement to a story so everyone wasn't just standing around talking about the weather. I was also learning even more vital skills of how to work with others, how to be organized, how to solve disputes peacefully and how to be a leader (when in “real life,” the thought of leading anyone completely terrified me.)

After many years and many different roleplaying groups, I finally got that precious gold dragon. I think I actually cried from happiness, and couldn't really explain to family and friends why I was so happy about a bunch of words on a website. It's still hard to put into words now.

Anne McCaffrey and her world of Pern did so much more than just entertain me with a good story. She helped shape me into the writer and person I am today.

As I work on writing my own novels, my biggest wish is that my stories will not only inspire readers to enjoy their own adventures in the worlds I've created, but that they'll be able to learn things about themselves in the process.

Thank you, Anne McCaffrey, for the magic you brought to my life and the lives of many others. The dragons are keening at your passing, but your legacy is alive in what you have left behind. You will never be forgotten.

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