In his book Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, Patton Oswalt recounts the basics of Dungeons and Dragons in a piece about his early love of the game. It gave me an idea. I went to Walgreen's this morning, thinking I could easily buy five dice for a dollar. When they turned out to cost three dollars, I tore apart my closet and miraculously found five mismatched but functional dice, and began to roll a character. But I don't have gaming in mind.
RPP--Role Playing Poetry--follows the same basic rules as elementary D&D. You roll three dice and note the resulting number next to six attributes: Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Constitution, Dexterity, Charisma. Then you select a "race." In D&D this would be elf, orc, goblin, et cetera. For our purpose here, substitute the word "type." Housewife, stay at home dad, suburban toddler, home schooled teen, whatever. For "class," think profession or occupation. Roll the dice one more time to establish a hit point value--this would represent the amount of damage your character can withstand before death, but here use it as a measure of their psychic breaking point.
It seemed like a hare-brained idea, but I tried it once and rolled a suburban teenager who is a cheerleader but is battling suicidal impulses. I mean, I looked at the numbers and I couldn't read her another way. So I'm going to try to play, or write, that character and see what she has to say.
It's normal for me to tap into a voice that speaks for experiences that aren't my own--even in nonfiction such as writing a book review, while I have a responsibility to the facts when it comes to the book I am always writing in the voice of someone a lot smarter than I actually am. Or trying to. But to consciously choose a separate voice has always been uncomfortable and unnatural for me. Maybe a lifetime spent trying to negotiate what was safe or not safe to disclose about myself left me too gun-shy to leave myself behind. So this opens up a lot of fun and juicy space to work in.
Three dice and a few minutes are all it takes. Just don't get obsessed and start wandering around your hometown in a robe.