Every great story needs great characters, right? Well, so does every great post. And, no, I don’t mean including three teens and their pet ferret because the plot needs to be carried out by someone, so any random boy or girl will do just as well as the next. I mean developing your own character and allowing other players more opportunities to learn about and interact with him or her.
Too often I’ve seen players, particularly beginning RPers, type paragraph-long posts (note that this means a single paragraph), where five-sixths of the text is dialogue. They use speaking as their main way of portraying the character’s thoughts and feelings. For example:
“What am I feeling? Isn’t it obvious?!” Angry, hurt tears rolled down her eyes. “You lied to me! How do you think I feel? I’m hurt, Hiro! I’m really hurt!” she cried. “You told me you were going to the game with your brothers! But instead you went to Ayana’s house!” He tried to speak, but she wouldn’t let him. “No. Don’t say anything. I don’t want to hear it!”
Don’t get me wrong! Using dialogue to convey thoughts and feelings is all well and good. But typing nothing but dialogue for everything you wish to express leaves much to be desired. It shows a certain lack of creativity and experience, can leave others thinking you aren’t dedicated to the game, can make you seem immature, and, honestly, makes other RPers roll their eyes. Furthermore, it leaves others grasping for something to reply to. Oh, sure, other characters can respond to what your character is saying, but that only goes so far. So much more can be expressed and responded to by others by adding more textual descriptions of thoughts and feelings. Here are a few ways to go about doing this.
- Describe facial expressions and bodily actions. If she’s sad, describe tears running down her face (or her struggle to hold them back). So angry he’s about to burst? Make his clenched fists shake and his face turn blood red.
- Use very descriptive language. He’s not just mad, he’s enraged! She didn’t just say “He left me!”, she collapsed to her knees and wailed it. Using descriptive language increases the quality of your post a thousandfold. Stumped for words? Not a vocabulary master? Not a problem! A quick Google search pulls up tons of thesauruses (like Thesaurus.com) that you can use.
- Type up thoughts, memories, and feelings. Write up a debate within a character’s mind. Create an inner monologue. Because I’m pretty lousy at describing scenery, clothing, expressions, and … well, pretty much anything physical, describing my character’s thoughts and emotions is my go-to option for adding quality and length to my posts. One character of mine in particular constantly struggles with painful emotions and memories, so he provides countless opportunities for me to probe his mind and delve deeper into his emotions, his personality complex, and his relationships with others.
Okay, but what does a post like this look like? Well, I’m glad you asked, dear reader! Here’s as short of an example as I could make myself write.
More detailed example: ‘Interesting’, Eiko said. ‘Interesting’? That might have been overly optimistic. Her clutzy, superstitious brother couldn’t get the sudden storm out of his mind. Storms were bad omens! No, they were the worst omens! Ever since he could remember, storms ushered in coats catching on fire, dogs chasing him down block after block, and broken bones from falling out of trees. One day shortly after his fifteenth birthday, in fact, three terrible accidents happened in one day! Takeshi had fallen down the stairs as soon as he’d gotten up. That afternoon, he’d hit a tree root with his bike, sending him crashing into a fence. Not an hour later, he’d dropped his water and the glass it had been in shattered across the kitchen floor. As he was grabbing a towel to clean it, his father entered the kitchen, slipped on the water, fell, and cut his hands on the pieces of glass. ‘What’s going to be first?’ Takeshi asked himself. Warily, his eyes examined in painstaking detail every inch of the classroom. But as he looked, nothing unusual caught his eye. Every potential accident he could find he’d already discovered while waiting for class to begin. ‘Still, I can’t help feeling like something bad’s going to happen,’ he worried. Then Reason began to speak back. ‘You’re too superstitious, Take. Nothing is going to go wrong. Just be extra careful, and you’ll be fine.’
Knoxville gamers: Heard of Organized Play? It’s a game store at 131 S. Central Street in Knoxville. Morgan Hardy, the creator of OP, describes her reason for opening the shop: “I wanted to provide a space that encourages in-store gaming, particularly for role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons.” It’s also become a home for Magic: the Gathering, board games and several miniatures games, she says. Click this link to read more about the store and its creator(s).