If characters are the foundation of role playing, then using them is the essence. I’m just going to be covering a few tips that help RPing run more smoothly in the Crossroads and some creative writing tips. Some of these are shared things with combat/battle RPing and helps with all RPing in general. I’m not the Peer Review here. For more in depth and personal teaching on this, go to Peer Review in the Dome..
None of this is mandatory. Just advice.
Communication Comprehension and Distractions – Firstly, before I mentioned no 1337 or “leet speak”. Because this is creative writing, not a chat room. Not everyone knows leet anyway. It is very important for others to be able to understand what you have written in your post. So basic grammar is important. As long as everyone knows what you’re saying, you don’t have to be a master of grammar or punctuation. Though it might be distracting if you do not do basic capitalization either. I also discourage the use of colored text, because it is distracting and reminds the reader that they are reading as well as possibly making their eyes bleed depending on which skin they are using. Try to avoid things that do that.
Clarification and Powerplay – Secondly, most of the mistakes I see in RP’s come from lack of communication between all writers present. It seems most people don’t realize that if they don’t understand something or are confused by something another wrote in a post, that they can send them a PM or VM to ask them about it. Always ask for clarification if you are not sure.
This is also often the excuse for powerplaying. It is against the rules to write any dialogue or actions or thoughts for another person’s character without permission. Most people think the best way to keep their post flowing is to write for another’s character.
I’m really against any illegal powerplaying. While most people might not like it, they may just go with the flow to avoid conflict between writers. So you may be stepping on other people’s toes without realizing you are. Just because they don’t complain, doesn’t mean they like it. Plus, no one knows the character better than the owner. I, personally, hate it when people make my character act out of character. It offends me on a strange level. Not only might you get the character wrong, but they might have had a different idea for what they wanted to happen next with the character.
Powerplaying is only allowed if the other writer gives permission for you to do so. This is where the communication factor comes in to help the RP flow faster and without stepping on anyone’s toes. If there was absolutely no powerplay allowed, characters would tend to become left on their own little islands in the posts, separate and less willing to interact with each other.
There’s two ways to do this. First, shorter posts that allow the other writer to respond with their character on their own. This is where I approve of short posts. However, it is annoying to have only the dialogue. That would make it maybe one or three sentences long. Try to include any other thoughts, actions, and expressions the character might have while asking a question. This gives the post more meat, so to speak.
Not everyone likes to do this though, as it slows the RP down. So there is the second option. Do a mini RP for the conversation in PMs or if you both have an instant messenger, you can do it there. Then, not only do you have the permission of the other writer, but the character’s actions and words will be true to the character. And then once you have all you need, write your post.
The last thing to note about powerplaying, is that if the other writer does not like what you have done with their character in your post and they tell you so—you have to change the post or delete it. No questions asked. It’s their character not yours. You have to respect that. Even if it means making your Mary Sue look less awesome and whatnot. If not, you may have a Councilor or Mod on your ass very fast, and the trouble will get deeper from there.
Planning and Collaborating – Not only do we forget that we can ask for clarification, but we can also collaborate with each other on what will happen next in the RP. If we do this, we can all share our ideas and it all becomes more cohesive and the posts tend to flow together much more easily. I think this is the key to writing a good RP. Though, it’s important to not do too much of these things. It can be fun to surprise others with our posts, and some things are better and more exciting left unplanned in the beginning. Then as we go along, more ideas and inspirations can come, and then feel free to let your co-RPers know about them and discuss them.
Avoid Playing the Mary Sue
Mary Sues are not fun to write with. They exist mostly for the creator’s ego. The Mary Sue tendencies when writing is to be all knowing, which is impossible and unrealistic. Just because you know something, doesn’t mean your character gets to. They always like to jump in to provide the solution to a conflict in the RP first. Not only is it boring to have it easily taken care of and Mary Sue saves the day, it often lacks creativity and realism. It’s more interesting when characters struggle. More creativity can be involved in more struggle and strife. A more complicated and difficult way to save the day is more interesting than a quick, unimaginative, unrealistic, and easy solution from Mary Sue.
So let your characters struggle more. Also don’t be afraid to let terrible and irreversible things happen to them, but also don’t always make terrible and irreversible things happen so that they can: mop, weep, angst, and woes me all the time for pity from other characters. It’s always more interesting when tragedies of several forms happen, more character development can happen in this, but it just gets nauseating to watch a character unrealistically angst all the time for the creator’s pleasure and with no purpose.
Bad things happen so that we can overcome and grow from them. Not so that we can cry and angst ourselves into oblivion.
Also keep in mind your character cannot always be the biggest, skilledest (yes it is a word. I just made it one now ), smartest, and most interesting character in the RP. There are a bunch of other characters made by other people all with different levels, some higher and some lower than your character. Just like in real life, there’s a big variety of people, who are interesting in their own ways too. If you want your character to be the most awesome on the playground, the star of the RP, and constant center of attention, go write a fiction on your own somewhere else. This is not the place for it.
Remember that you do not need to post constantly when you feel it has been too long since your character made an appearance or has done something. That’s just an egotistical and attention needy impulse. This leads to unrealistic behavior and it can make it hard for the other RPers to keep up with you. Don’t be afraid to wait it out for the proper time for you to post again and to wait for the others to write a few posts to hammer out the story bit more.
For general advice in avoiding Mary Sueisms in characters and in writing in general, try to avoid letting your ego be attached to your character. It can be difficult because we are often proud and obsessed with our creations. I notice with myself it can be hard because I see my character in a certain way be it that they were to me the most [insert quality].
This quality could be that they were the fastest, most physically strong, most magically powerful, or most skilled with a blade. However, when we write in a community like this, we have to keep in mind that there are bound to be other characters that succeed over your character in these qualities. There will also be plenty of characters that your character succeeds over them in these qualities. Though, the tendency if that when we meet characters whose speed is supernatural like our character's is to tweak it so that ours is faster. Things like super speed can be increasingly difficult to measure when you get up to the supernatural levels of intense speed (light speed, breaking the sound barrier, etc). Because these high levels are harder to measure exactly, it makes it easier and more tempting for them to be tweaked. Your character's profile may state that they are fast, but if you are not explicit about exactly how fast they are, this wording can be a loophole that allows you to tweak it to your liking. This is actually against the rules and considered a godmoding quality. Adhere to the rules you set down to your characters always. If you found you have left something too vague and you are in a situation like this, perhaps, you should back down. Maybe leave the fight alone and really think about how fast your character should be as opposed to how fast you want them to be and why.
Also keep in mind that if you are patient enough, your character is allowed to grow with updates due to the adversity they overcome in their RPs. In this way, your character can grow in speed and power or anything else you like (don't forget personality!). Only it feels more deserved and natural. It gives it more a sense of accomplishment to actually write out how your character grows during RP's rather than tweaking the wording of a profile to make them instantly awesome.
It takes some patience. Patience so that your character doesn't find out the intentions and thoughts of everyone around them instantly. Patience to let your character grow as you write and RP with them and other characters. But if you let them grow slowly like this, you may find yourself with a well-developed and interesting character.
Just remember to stop when you get in ego-battles with other writers about which character is faster, stronger, or whose spell out does the other's. Stop and think that maybe your ego is getting in the way of this being a fun experience for you and everyone else involved. When it ceases to be fun and has become a contest about whose character is better, the point of role playing together has become lost.
Descriptive and Expressive Language Examples – Here’s a basic idea of what is lacking in description and then the revamped version:
The human had not attacked, nor did he seem to have any bad intentions, so she snatched the leaves from his hand.
Still keeping an eye on the man, the creature sniffed at the offering, just to make sure there wasn’t something wrong with them. Every haschen knew that humans were full of tricks, and caution was a haschen’s friend. It did not surprise Padme that she couldn’t find anything wrong with the leaves, since this human really did seem like the good kind, so she nibbled on the corner of one leave, tasting it with her tongue.
Originally Posted by Fairess in False Knight
The HUMAN had not attacked, nor did he seem to have any harmful intentions, so with a cautious paw, she snatched the leaves from his hand.
Still keeping a suspicious eye on the man, the yellow furred creature sniffed at the inoffensive offering, just to make sure there wasn’t something wrong with them. Every good haschen knew that HUMANs were full of tricks, and caution was a haschen’s best friend. It did not surprise Padme that she couldn’t find anything wrong with the leaves, since this HUMAN really did seem like the good kind, so she nibbled on the corner of one leave, tasting it delicately with her tiny pink tongue.
Note the way Fairess capitalized all the letters of “human”. Every time her character thinks the word, she capitalizes it. This is a creative trait she has given Padme when she writes her. Sometimes grammar rules can be broken to express a character more fully and creatively to the reader.
Characters – For more advanced writing, the keys are often in being efficiently descriptive and expressive in your descriptions. Using words that inspire just the right sounds, images, and feelings. Things like “Jack was mad” tell but they do not show Jack being angry. What does Jack do when he is angry? Shake? Turn red? What does Jack’s face do when the angry emotion is being expressed?
When writing in the perspective of the angry Jack, try to give details about how it feels to be angry Jack. Think about how you feel when you’re angry and start from there. Maybe you’ll change some things around, because this won’t be you but your character. But you’re both still people (or based off people) so you’ll both still have that emotion in common.
Originally Posted by Shrub in False Knight
Adrien withdrew his hand when the girl had still refused to take it. His eyes studied her face. It seemed that if possible he had only managed to frighten her more. He wasn’t quite sure how he had managed that. Perhaps the joke was a bit inappropriate for the moment. His expression was tranquilly contemplative as he studied her. They continued to stand in the rain together. He was getting quite wet and cold, but it didn’t seem to bother Adrien in the least. He didn’t even so much as shiver once.
Adrien withdrew his hand when the girl had still refused to take it. His eyes studied her face. Her lips trembling with the chattering of her teeth that broke and stuttered her words as she attempted force them out of her mouth. Her bright, glowing blue eyes were wide and yet narrowed by her now dirty blonde brows that were knitted at him in disbelief. The way her brows pulled at her skin suggested fear as well. Or perhaps that was just his instincts as a predator. It seemed that if possible he had only managed to frighten her more. He wasn’t quite sure how he had managed that. Perhaps the joke was a bit inappropriate for the moment.
His hazel eyes, a perfect balance of brown, green, and blue at the moment because he was calm, gazed at her with relaxed brows and lips that did not frown with any disappointment. His eyes never leaving her face which he searched her expression and her strange glowing eyes with patience only an old man could know. The rain continued its constant drizzle down upon his head, which was soaked and dripping by now. Water ran down his face and he blinked it out of his eyes as he stared at the girl. It was chilling, but his body no longer reacted to the cold as it was supposed to. The cold could not kill him. It was an odd sensation, to feel the cold but having no need to shiver or seek warmth. It was something he was accustomed to by now.
Environment – Not only with characters do we need to be descriptive and expressive. The environment around them is also an important factor. It is important to include the perspective of character in the environment. It keeps you in character and keeps the reader with the character too. The environment can be colored by the character’s view. It can inspire certain emotions and thoughts unique to them. This is where the creativity is important.
Originally Posted by Shrub in Under the Red Sea
The best thing about peaceful and content cities like Kanet was that their security was horridly lax. I was even a little surprised by this. That the sewers were so over looked. There were so many ways to get beyond the walls to the inner sector, where the capital and heart of the city stood in arrogant white marbles, imbued with crystals of ocean and sky blue matched with the lilac purple of amethyst. Great towers caped and lined with bright shinning silver and gold, quarts framed windows, and statues of Elohim goddesses carved out of rose quart stood in vain, feigning the majestic. Perhaps it had once been the temple of the people who had first banished the drow to Delusuu, but now it was filled with the shadows of the people they once were.
How much less would you know about how Rontu feels about the people of Kanet if all I did was write up a description of a castle made of white marble, sliver, gold, and various types of crystals?
Originally Posted by Shrub in Under the Red Sea
Kanet was built upon a great plateau that rose up from the sea of green grass. It had immense white marble walls reaching out to the blue sky above and surrounding the perimeter of the plateau. The city was stationed in the plains of Ranelu, not far from the Spirit Mountains to the north, and over was the Desert of Suu, the lands of condemned, Delusuu, my homeland.
This land was like a different world to me. Here there was a sea of green, of life. Where as Delusuu was a sea of red sand, blood, vengeance, loathing, deceit, and murderous intent. This was why “Scarlet” was the name of the highest ranked soldiers of the empire, only second to the emperor himself. Red was a color seen often by us. Red was the way of our lives. Red marked the hourglass shape of the Black Widow’s belly, the sigil of the Drow Empire.
Green was a rare and foreign color. My mother’s eyes had been a vibrant shade of jade-green. So had been her small desert garden. A little patch of peace in our harsh environment as her presence had been in the ugliness of my life. So when I came to this green sea of Ranelu, I wondered if it had a patch of withered dry chaos hidden deep within its breast.
I could have stopped at “Kanet was built upon a great plateau that rose up from the sea of green grass. It had immense white marble walls reaching out to the blue sky above and surrounding the perimeter of the plateau. The city was stationed in the plains of Ranelu, not far from the Spirit Mountains to the north, and over was the Desert of Suu, the lands of condemned, Delusuu, my homeland.” And that would have been sufficient a description of the city from afar.
However, seeing the city inspired other thoughts and feelings in the character, which then go back to the description of the fertile lands and gives you more about his ponderings in relation to them.
Similes, Metaphors, and Personification
The best tools for being more descriptive and expressive are these three things:
Simile – A figure of speech that draws a comparison between two different things, especially a phrase containing the word "like" or "as," e.g. "as white as a sheet".
She was cold.
She was as cold as ice.
Metaphor – All language that involves figures of speech or symbolism and does not literally represent real things; one thing used or considered to represent another.
She had bright blue eyes.
Her eyes were bright blue stars.
Personification – The attribution of human qualities to objects or abstract notions.
His throat burned with need for her blood.
His throat burned for her blood, as if it were dried and cracked, fire scratching down his esophagus.
Repetition can be fine, as long as it is intentional and creative. However, you should avoid using the same adjectives, similes, metaphors, etc. several times in the same post. It just starts to get dull and drab to read, as well as distracting. Be sure to take the time to read over your post to make sure you haven’t done this. If you have, mix it up a bit and even consult a thesaurus if you need.
Be in Character
The more into your character you really are, the more you can avoid making dialogue idle Mary Sue chat. The more you can have them react appropriately, and the more descriptive and expressive your writing becomes. Just spend some time day dreaming, thinking in their thoughts, feeling their feelings, and see their world. I do this constantly because I am obsessed with my characters. This is the whole point in role playing. You are playing a role, almost like acting but in writing (which is easier in my opinion, I can’t act worth crap).