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Author Topic: General Posting Guidelines  (Read 1666 times)
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Altario Shialt-eck-Gorrin
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« on: October 21, 2007, 01:27:15 AM »

For a more in depth tutorial on how to effectively roleplay, please go here and read these excellent instructions.


Hello Everybody.   Wow, it seems that there are multiple stories to take part in today.  As well, there are many new players to the site.  To that end, I would like to address a few issues that have been a concern of mine for awhile now.

In order to get the full experience and enjoyment of an RPG storyline, a few things are expected from you.  The first, of course, is that you post.  Now, not everyone can post everyday, and most people realize this, but any absences of any length should be forewarned, if possible.  This gives the mods some idea of what they need to do, in order to keep the story running, so that other PCs do not get stopped from enjoying their game.  It is a general courtesy.

The second is to watch your spelling and grammar.  Read aloud to yourself how your post sounds.  Does it make sense?  I know even myself, I have things make sense in my head, but upon rereading, find that is not altogether clear what I'm trying to say.  Then, before posting, run it through the Spellchecker, which is conveniently located right next to the Post button.   Nothing takes away from everyone's enjoyment of the story, if they are trying to decipher what it is you wrote.

Post content.  Now, although I'm not a great believer in longer is better, there are some things that do need to be in your post to make it a worthwhile contribution.  First, this not a game of hot potato, where you get an opportunity to post, so you quickly write a line or two and send it back to the other person.  Rather, try to take what that person wrote and expand on it; bring it full circle.   If possible, remember the five senses and include any that are relevant; as you are that character.  Are there any smells, sounds, tastes, sensations, or sights that you can include to make us believe you are there?  Include them.  As well, everyone has emotions and thoughts.  Did what the characters you are interacting with make your character angry, happy, romantic, or melancholy?  Tell us.  Give us insight into who your character is.  What are you thinking as you talk or perform actions in your post?

Reposting the previous post.  This I do to a small extent.  If my post is separated from the post I'm responding to by several other postings, then I will sometimes copy and paste the last spoken line to me, to assist readers in the flow of the story.  If you are posting directly after, then this really is not needed.  In this case, it becomes cumbersome and redundant.  As well, if what you are reposting is longer than your own original contribution, then perhaps you should try to add a bit more to yours.  Remember, you are here for the enjoyment of playing a game where someone using the written word has engaged your character in some conversation or action.  So are they.  Which means, they want to have the same type of response back.

To do this, read their post carefully, more than once if need be, and then close your eyes and see it in your head like a movie playing.  Pause that movie; make mental notes on what everything looks like, what everything sounds like, then add your response.  See what your character does, then write what you see, adding in the relevant senses, thought and emotions.  What you will send back to the other will then help them create the next post for them.

This is not Tennis, where you want to fire a post that they cannot return.  You want to give the other PC the proper tools and pieces from which they can fashion an interesting and fun post that they can give back to you.  It is not you against them, it is a cooperative affair, where it will take both of you to create something special that you can look back on and reread with pride.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  I shall climb off my little soapbox now.  Keep in mind that I am not singling anyone in particular out, nor any particular storyline.  This is just a general treatise on improving the postings of all.  Once again, Thank you.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2008, 03:58:58 PM by Twn Arerwn » Logged

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Twn Arerwn
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« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2008, 03:57:42 PM »

"This is an essay written by one of our fellow roleplayers, Torscha. I find it to be highly relevant to this topic and hope those that have not read it, find it as interesting as the members of the story have."

The posts being spoken of can be viewed in these two areas.
1) Twen's post
2) Torscha's post

I'd like to address the whole "writing advice" thing, really. While Twen's point on incorporating the senses is a valid one, it really depends on what you're trying to do. Writing reams and reams of incredibly descriptive and lush prose might not necessarily always be the best approach to something. There are also multiple ways to do things. Allow me to illustrate; I was a bit careful when writing my own post so we would have some comparisons and contrasts across the board.

First, I think, before addressing descriptive writing, let's do something a bit more basic: characterisation, and how to write a convincing and compelling character. There are several things to address here: what you think, what you say, and what you do. There are of course variations, but these are the main things which constitute what people perceive as your 'character'; how you manipulate these things determines the impression you create. There is an impressionistic difference between TELLING someone about yourself and DEMONSTRATING it, though, so let's take a closer look at the two posts:

First, thought.

In Twen's last post, she both incorporates a kind of 'reported thought', such as The only thought on Twens mind was simply, was he drunk already. Injera had not even reached its apex and the human was screaming as if he were in the seedy ports of Ciosa and also demonstrating the physical manifestation of a thought process, such as A look of glee could be seen dancing in the obscure facade of the ancient elf's eyes. In the latter, instead of just telling you "TWEN WAS VERY HAPPY", she allows the character to express a 'thought', or emotion in this case, physically.

This frisson between pure thought and physicality suggests something about the personality of the character, Twen Araerwen. It suggests, first of all, that she is both an intellectual and a sensual entity: she can operate on a 'conscious' level, but also appreciate sensual stimulus. To be Freudian about it, her Ego and Id are in relative harmony. The other thing her post suggests is that Twen Araerwen is rather self-conscious: by constantly throwing in adjectives pointing to her physical characteristics, such as pointed ear, tiny hands, and crimson lips, Twen emphasises certain characteristics, namely: 1) she's an elf, 2) she's small, and 3) she has kissable lips. And she does this without explicitly telling you "TWEN IS A SMALL ELF WITH KISSABLE LIPS". This is subtlety at work. The technical term for it is "apostrophe", ie. referring to a holistic entity by its part.

Psychologically, Twen's overwhelming self-consciousness also suggests something. Assuming these details are the result of a deliberate narrative decision on Twen (the person's) part, they suggest that Twen (the character) is as I have mentioned extremely self-conscious. She is at all times fully aware of her appearance and its effects. This might also suggest something slightly neurotic or paranoid about the character; obviously, by referring to her CD you know she has a hidden past, but just by reading the post and ignoring the CD, you already get a sense of that: she has a hidden past, she is ancient, she has a compelling reason to remain self-aware at all times. Why? Paranoia? Fear? Wariness?

Thus, the character Twen Araerwen, while saying very little about herself, through her actions suggests much, and raises questions that makes her character and personality interesting and consistently compelling. You want to know more about her, you also want to know more about her past, and the whole emphasis on the size difference between her and everyone else also instills a certain protectiveness. Of course, that says quite a lot about me, too.

Now, for a counterpoint to the above, let's look at (the very modest) Torscha, applying the principles as used above.

First, thought. Torscha lacks the 'reported thought' that Twen has. His thoughts are either not mentioned at all, or are explicated directly, as in the case of a bard's drink will always be a long, cold pint. In other cases, for example when he's embarrassed by his ale-moustache, he doesn't actually say or think anything about the embarrassment: he just swipes at his lip as quickly as possible, suggesting that he feels a little sheepish, but isn't aware enough of his own emotional reaction for that sheepishness to be properly explicated in the narrative. This suggests that, in contrast to Twen's awareness, Torscha is extremely unselfconscious. His otherwise blithe behaviour further suggests what Twen picks up on when she mentions that The gambler existed in a world the mage had never allowed herself to be part of, a place filled with laughter and a carefree atmosphere. In this case, the 'place' Torscha inhabits is not so much a different geographical location, since they're for all intents and purposes in the same bar, but a different state of mind.

In Torscha's case, because he likes to talk, a lot of what we miss in terms of 'reported thought' instead delivered as 'direct speech': he says what he feels, instead of just thinking it, in a typically extroverted fashion. The initially rambling nature of his stream-of-consciousness is made explicit in his earlier lines; they are fragmented, associatively easy to follow, and completely blithe. There is a lot of punctuation to his sentences, which tend to be short and clipped; not curt, but the heavy punctuation suggests a conversational style that is rapid, as if the words are stumbling over themselves to get out. Obviously, he is speaking his mind, saying whatever pops into his head as soon as it pops into his head.

Then, lulled by his own words, he falls into a more meditative reverie. This begins with his line my waking mind has yet to fully master my dreaming soul. Speaking of dreams and souls obviously engages him intellectually, as he is speaking of more sublime things than just a pint of ale. His sentences become longer and more fluid. Compare It's been a long and dry walk; I appreciate the brown. Strange how that works, really with I know it passes differently for your kind than for mine, but I would not have expected a small, quiet place like this to have been able to hold you this long. Also, his accent changes, involuntarily. At the same time, his usual defining attributes, a kind of carefree mentality as symbolised by the dice he often plays with, is symbolically disrupted when he drops them.

At this stage, Torscha's "constructed" personality, the part of himself that he consciously displays to people, falls away, revealing a different person: someone who does not have the carefree and thoughtless soul associated with the dice, which are associated with gambling and a devil-may-care attitude. Someone who speaks differently, in a less rural, more polished form. Ironically, it is this unconscious gentility which awakens his awareness of courtesy and gratitude: it snaps him back into awareness of the present, and also reminds him that he owes Twen something, hence he shifts attention away from himself by introducing you, Tiras, and then proposing that he perform a song, in an attempt to cover up his momentary slip.

Therefore, what you get from reading both posts is a kind of mini-narrative: two people who obviously already know each other meet in a bar. One of them is small, female, and emphatically beautiful, who displays great consideration to the other, whom she doesn't know too well but is strangely sentimental about. She does not know the source of her own sentimental feelings. The other is male, weathered, and usually given to a kind of carefree expression the female lacks, is aware of lacking, and envies. Speaking to the female, however, causes the male to expose something behind the blithe shallowness; something he becomes aware of and which makes him uncomfortable. He then smoothly changes the subject.

Narratively, we also discover things about both characters. For one, they are both adept at conversation. Twen's remark is appropriately sarcastic, but is nonetheless not unkind - something hard to do. Torscha is more verbose, but even on the wrong foot is capable of redirecting conversation is a smooth and unobtrusive manner. Furthermore, we learn that both of them are more than they appear. Twen is not your ordinary barmaid: she is a centuries-old magic-wielding elf with a reason to look over her shoulder. Torscha is not your ordinary on-the-road bum: he is capable of a style of expression that suggests good schooling and a genteel upbringing.

There is therefore a dialogue going on, on many levels. This makes the posts (well, Twen's at least, I shan't flatter mine) interesting to read, because they are multifaceted. Just like Twen's suggestion of using all the senses engages the reader by appealing holistically to his sensorium, not just his eyes, the ways of characterisation I have identified and explicated here engages the reader by appealing holistically to his mind: he is not just imagining wooden characters executing a dull script, but watching two people interact, and dong so with a great deal more information from the narrative than an actual bystander would have. This insight into their personalities and histories allows the reader to glean more from their conversation than they are actually saying. This intellectual engagement with a topic is satisfying and fulfilling.



Okay. That was hugely long. If anyone is curious, I actually wrote the post first, then while typing this went back and read it and extrapolated this. I was not aware of what I was doing while I was doing it; neither, I suspect, is Twen usually aware of it. This goes to show that, literary criticism aside, writing really is something that comes from the inside. You can't really learn to write from someone else because then you'll only just be writing like them; there won't be anything in that writing that suggests 'you'.

The only way to get better at writing is to write more. The more you express yourself, the better you get at it. Eventually you'll be expressing not only what you consciously think, but what you subconsciously mean, and you will be doing so in the most sublime and (technically and aesthetically) pleasing way possible.

Don't worry about writing, grasshopper. Practice makes perfect.

DISCLAIMER: The writing of this essay (and I think it really does qualify as an essay) has entailed me making some extremely presumptuous comments about Twen and the way she writes, mainly by way of observational criticism. Twen, I hope you don't mind. If you do, just let me know and I'll remove it. For anyone who read this to the end (gasp!) and didn't find it fulfilling, I apologise for the time you've wasted, and offer it as a case study illustrating why studying literature at tertiary level is a huge waste of money.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2008, 02:26:03 PM by Twn Arerwn » Logged

The spell fell upon the crowd like a dragon,
ancient and full of death.
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