Narrativizing The Random

Yep, narrativizing. I’m pretty sure I just invented that word. Inventing words! I’m just that kind of edgy creative type.

I couldn’t think of an existing word for it, though. You know that thing you do when things happen and you connect them in your head even though they’re not apparently causally linked and it makes a story? That thing! Narrativizing the random.

It’s a vital skill in playing D&D. The dice act as randomizers, but then you have to work the random effects into the story, right? For example, I used to play a half-orc warrior who loved a fight, right? First into every fray, that kind of thing. I was always out in front in my eagerness to kill anything that moved. Except that for some reason, I couldn’t win an initiative roll to save my freaking life. I almost *always* wound up last in the round, despite the fact that I was the one standing in the doorway, and I had to explain that. So my half-orc became a wild enthusiast who tended to get over-excited and charge right past the target, or miss her first swing in the excitement.

I’ve had some good luck with ‘it’s a sign’! More often than not, when I decide that I have been given a sign to go shopping, I will find a sale or something I really want. Of course, I never ever get a sign to suggest that I should not go out in bad weather, so I’ve been caught in many a severe weather outbreak. Signs are iffy things. But it can be fun to roll with them and see where they lead you.

Sometimes reality positively connives at this. Every time my husband and I have a major fight, something happens to him. He’ll get injured somehow, or knock something over onto himself, or a coconut will fall on his head (really, this has happened twice!) or our daughter will strike him a mighty blow to the testicles apparently by accident (about twelve times and counting), or he’ll in some other way be struck down by seeming chance. It happens every single time. At this point, I’m honestly not certain if it’s an increasingly unlikely set of coincidences,  if he’s being punished by the household gods for doubting me, or if someone up there just likes messing with his skepticism.

Nothing ever happens to me when we fight. He thinks this is very unfair. I think it’s because I’m always right.

I’ve used it for writing, too. When I’m really stuck, I’ll turn to anything for inspiration. Tarot cards are often very helpful – every card has its own little story event thingie, so drawing one at random and then throwing the indicated plot twist in there can really get a stuck story moving. Putting on the television and using the first plot idea you see can also work. I’ve flipped coins when I couldn’t decide which character to kill off, I’ve consulted my horoscope for suggestions, and if I’m really having trouble I create copies of my characters in The Sims and see what they do. (This is actually really helpful sometimes. The way the characters interact can give you a ton of new information, like ‘hey, these two are attracted to each other? that makes so much sense!’ and ‘wow, this guy whose sexual orientation I hadn’t decided yet is the gayest Simling I have EVER SEEN, good to know’.)

If you’re really stuck, don’t be afraid to consult the oracles. Your random card or coin toss won’t always help, but sometimes putting your plot in the hands of fate can really get things moving. And if your horoscope says today is a bad day for creative endeavours, well, fate clearly intends for you to put word-count on hold for the day and play Dragon Age instead. For inspiration. And in day to day life, narrativizing the random can really add interest… and sometimes paranoia.



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