by Holly March
I get it, four hours a week and years of backstory, it is daunting to get into Critical Role. I assure you, it is worth it! Not least because if you watch Crit Role, you can watch Talks Machina and it is pure, unadulterated joy! Mostly, though, you can learn a lot. This article contains just a few lessons romance authors can learn from Critical Role.
1. Inhabiting Characters: The show is not planned, but each cast member has developed their own character. They know them inside out, and this allows for hooks to grow naturally into the narrative. No need to edit in things that foreshadow, if you know your characters well enough their growth will evolve naturally. [Fjord and Caduceus’ storyline]
2. Self Parody: We cannot take ourselves super seriously. We write for joy. It is when you take yourself too seriously that you start trying to copywrite words and direct hate towards someone for something you deliberately take out of context. We need to be serious about diversity, not be precious about our genre. The recent campaign has lovingly parodied romance and erotica as a plot point. From Jester’s realisation that love is not the way it is in romance novels to reading smut outloud to keep ghosts at bay, Critical Role shows how important and soft our genre is. [Tusk Love]
3. Leading by Example: At the risk of being creepy… There are two married couples in the cast: Marisha Ray and Matthew Mercer; Laura Bailey and Travis Willingham. Watching them watch each other is pure romance inspiration. The group are all close friends, but catching the adoration and “yup, I married that!” moments is gorgeous. Bonus: Talks Machina is also great for this, as until recently the host, Brian W. Foster was in a long distance relationship with his girlfriend and now fiancee the sublime actress Ashley Johnson. The way he supported her while hating being apart from her is a love story all in itself. [throughout the show and in the talk show]
4. Subplots: The bane of my existance (along with pacing) proves no problem for the cast. There is a constant ebb and flow of whose story is the central focus, and be it finding romance novels in every city they go to or one of the company stocially reading a book to improve her stats, there are always little threads running through and giving respite after emotional scenes. Most of the time. Sometimes they just break your heart. [The Sword, Nott’s family]
5. Adapting to the Unexpected: Sometimes your characters just will not do what they are supposed to and sometimes the dice hate you. Since Critical Role is a Tabletop Roleplay Game (TTRPG) everything that happens is dependent on the dice. Sometimes a big moment becomes a crushing defeat. If nothing else Critical Role is an inspiration for how to move on when you run into block, or a plothole, or write yourself into a corner. Adapt, turn it on its head, make it a teachable moment for your characters or yourself.
And if I couldn’t convince you… I am sure this will:
I promise you, it is worth it. You need creative input to continue to create. You need smething to love and be passionate about other than your book or you’ll implode. There are tears in there, and heartache, and fury, but there is so, so, so much joy. And so many lessons to be learned.