I’ve been drafting a story, maybe it’s a novel, maybe just a novella or short story. I’ve been using the Ironsworn TTRPG–a solo game to help structure my writing sessions. The rules in Ironsword and comprehensive, I would say, for a legit solo TTRPG, but I’ve altered the rules quite a lot–or that is, I typically don’t use them. I have dice and I have the book on the table I sit at, but I rarely open it for more than rolling on the Character details page. This helps me randomize and decide on things like names, character goals, distinctive features or detail about the character, as well as a flaw. It’s something I’ve never accomplished in my writing in the past–these types of details for minor-minor characters. The reason this is so helpful–I introduce a character that might never return to the page/screen after X interaction. Regardless, I take the time to roll some dice and use a flashcard to note down specific details in both who they are and what they look like. Who knows, maybe someday these characters will return to the page.
For instance, I introduced a blacksmith by the name of Wyorra. She’s older, but strong, with long gray hair and a no-nonsense personality. She doesn’t engage in gossip like the other townsfolk. Now, When I created her I thought she made an important distinction from the gossipers in the scene, but what I didn’t know is that when a member of the hunting party comes back to town injured one night, Wyorra would be one of the first people to volunteer to help find the other hunters. Suddenly, a minor character I created to fill a social voice became someone who was willing to risk her life for the welfare of the town and the people she lives with. This has happened a couple times now. It is amazingly helpful to have flashcards of the characters. If I come to a place where I realize a character might reappear on the page, I don’t have to go searching through the pages (I write in notebooks for my first draft because it keeps me off the computer and it’s cheaper than a Freewrite typewriter), I can just look through my cards, each with a short breakdown of the minor characters (as well as major, but those characters are easier to remember).
While I sometimes feel a little uneasy about using TTRPG rules to drive aspects of my story, I use this simple rule: If a logical event comes into my mind, like 1+1=2, Injured Hunter+Ambush=Recscue Party, I don’t use the rulebook–I just write. It is only when I need inspiration that the book opens and I look for what may come next.