A Forum Role Playing Guide: Part Three

Sooooo you want to learn how to write a thread, huh? Well, look no further! We’ll go through a couple different types of threads together and how to write well without pissing of your writing partner.


1.       Informal RP’s

The first kind of thread I’m going to work on is… well, I don’t think it has an official name. But it’s really informal. It’s called chat RPing, or IM’ing. Usually words are not quoted and actions are placed between two asterisks, dashes, or slashes. This kind of threading usually happens in a chat box on the forum you’re on or through instant messages between you and your partner. For example:

Player 1

Thomas: *lights up a cigarette* So, you come here often?

Player 2

Sarah: -rolls her eyes and steps out of the smoke cloud- Only when you’re not around.

As you can see, this style is very informal. It is also present-tense while most other RP styles should be in past tense. So why do it? There are a number of pros to roleplaying like this. For one, it doesn’t take nearly as long to get through a thread or plot. When each person is only writing one or two lines, you can get through plots super quick that may have taken forever to play out in a more formal post. For another, because of its informal nature, RP’s like this are taken less seriously and usually players aren’t quite so anal about rules and serious plots. This kind of role playing also isn’t usually board canon, meaning that the things that happen in the chat box or instant messenger don’t apply to things that actually happen on the forums themselves. This is, of course, up to the players writing with each other, but is usually the case. As a result, sometimes AU situations occur. (AU, or Alternate Universe, refers to things that would never happen in canon but could totally happen in someone’s crack fantasy. AU plots are a lot of fun, but sometimes difficult as it sometimes takes a player out of their comfort zone.)

2.       Short Narratives

 

The next type of role play I’d like to talk about is something I call short narratives, or para role playing. Kind of like short stories, these are smaller posts with a smaller word count that helps move characters through a plot quickly, although it is more formal than the previous type of RP and usually taken as canon. For instance:

Player 1

Thomas stepped into the dimly-lit bar with a grin. He saw her sitting there, looking bored as usual, and purposely strode up to her side. Glancing at Sarah with a mischievous look in his eyes, he bummed a smoke. “So, you come here often?” He asked. A flick of his wrist and the sparks lit up the cigarette.

Player 2

Sarah had wanted to be alone tonight, but that was obviously not going to happen. The bell above the door dinged, signaling that her night of peace and quiet and lonely 80’s ballads were over. She closed her eyes instinctively, knowing exactly who would have found her here. As if to prove her right, he strode right up to her side, making a half-assed attempt at flirting before filling the immediate air around them with smoke. She smiled, tight-lipped, and stepped off of the bar stool. “Only when you’re not around,” she commented dryly as she walked over to the juke box.

These kinds of paragraphs are short enough to fit into one or two tweets on Twitter. They’re lightly detailed, but not horribly long, although most of the time they won’t meet the word count requirement for a forum (unless there is no word count requirement). See how Thomas implied there was smoke in Sarah’s face without actually blowing it in her face? That’s how a writer avoids god-modding or power-playing. If you have a good partner, they should respond in kind. Here, Sarah got the implication and went with it. She moved away from the smoke cloud and gave her response. Sarah’s paragraph also used Thomas’s paragraph to bounce off of. She didn’t just write that she was sitting at the bar alone. Obviously if Thomas had just entered, she would have heard that.

One writer should not take over and write for another’s character. Sarah’s writer shouldn’t put down that Thomas said or did something that Thomas’s writer obviously didn’t mention in his previous post.

Usually these types of narratives are not welcome on sites with strict word count rules, but again are more popular in the realms of instant messaging, Twitter, and no-word-count forums, plus it is also welcome on some Tumblr blogs.

3.       Para-Novellas

 

Typically, the forum that you are on will have a word count. This is to keep things even between players. Maybe one player likes to write long novel-length narratives for their replies and someone else prefers to write maybe four or five lines. That is incredibly frustrating for the person writing long, detailed, good posts. In order to help with these very real possibilities, forums implement a word count of, usually, 250 to 500 words. That means, as a writer on these forums, you should not be posting any less than that. If you can’t meet those requirements, there are also several no-word-count forums you could search for.

A good narrative should be decently sized. Not too short, not too long. If you feel like you’re stalling and trying to search for details to put into your post to lengthen it (like you do on your school essays), you probably should leave it be. Either the thread has run out of interesting situations and should be closed, your partner isn’t giving you enough to work with, or you’re just trying to meet expectations and requirements for length. If your partner isn’t giving you enough to work with, try talking to them about it OOC. They might be having writer’s block issues too. A good narrative should have just enough detail to keep it interesting without overloading the reader (anyone who has ever read a Stephen King novel knows this to be true). For example:

Player 1

Thomas stepped into the dimly-lit bar with a grin. Set in the middle of the worst part of town, it was no surprise that the more unsavory characters frequented here… which meant Thomas fit right in. Clouds of smoke hovered in the air, just at eye level. The smell of whiskey on stale breath filled his nose. The gentle klink of glasses could be heard just barely above the juke box which was blasting some sappy Air Supply song. He didn’t really pay attention to the music. It was the person sitting next to the juke box, listening to it, that interested him much more.

There she sat. In the midst of this dirty, grimy pub, one beacon of light shown through the darkness. Why had she come here? He idly wondered as he watched her from the entryway. Didn’t she realize this was no place for a soft, delicate flower to be? Flowers couldn’t thrive in rocky ground. She didn’t belong here.

Amongst the dirt and the dark and the stink, she was a ray of sunshine and hope, just like she had always been in his life. Like a moth to the flame, she drew him in. His opposite in almost every way, Sarah was the one thing that kept him stable. That kept him from falling so far into a pit of darkness that he could never climb back out.

He smirked and sauntered forward, unwilling and, it would seem, unable, to fully leave her be. As he walked, he bummed a smoke from the crinkly plastic package being crushed in his back pocket. Smoothing out the paper, he stuck the cigarette between his lips.

“So, you come here often?” He asked, his words halfway muffled as he bounced the cigarette in his lips. He pulled a Zippo from his pocket and flipped it open. The flame ignited instantly. Holding it up to his lips, he lit the cigarette and took a long drag off of it. Smoke came billowing out of his mouth in response.

Player 2

This wasn’t usually the place she spent her afternoons and evenings, but after the day she had, there was nothing more that Sarah wanted than a nice, stiff drink. Something powerful, something fiery. Something that would force her to stop focusing on the shitty day she’d just had. As she’d sat down, the bartender had immediately given her a strange look. It was obvious. The typically prim-and-proper secretary in the floral-print sundress and beige sweater didn’t look at all like she should be here. She didn’t feel like she should be here either. But right now, she just didn’t care.

The bartender poured her something that she didn’t ask for, and Sarah had half a mind to not accept it. But, instead, she pulled the glass closer to her. It smelled like whiskey. With a smirk, the bartender looked her over and turned away. She wasn’t sure if he was looking her over judgmentally or wondering just how long it would take him to rip that dress off of her. Usually, this would have upset her. That’s why Sarah didn’t come to places like this.

But today, she was just so… so tired. So tired of everything. All she wanted was to be left alone. To occupy a small stool at the end of the bar, taking up little space, and be forgotten. No one would expect her to be here, which was why she had come. No one would come looking for her. Hopefully.

The bell that dinged above the door evaporated that hope. She didn’t even have to look at who had come. She knew. Her night of peace and quiet and lonely 80’s ballads were over. She closed her eyes instinctively, hoping that somehow the action would make her invisible to him. No luck. He strode right up to her side with that stupid grin on his face. She opened her eyes and sighed, knocking back the whiskey in as few gulps as possible. The fire burned her throat and her face scrunched up in pain, but it was worth it. It numbed the irritation flaring up in her mind.

“So, you come here often?” He asked.

Without even looking at him, she turned away from the cloud of smoke that swirled between them and slid off the bar stool, heading toward the juke box. “Only when you’re not around,” she commented dryly.

Here, both writers wrote about the same amount of words – a little less than 400 each. For most sites, this would be a perfect length for a post! This kind of narrative also helps you get inside each character’s mind and play off of their emotions, thoughts, and unsaid feelings. Integrating what you know to be truth about the other writer’s character is not god-modding, it’s interesting storytelling. This kind of narrative also helps you do the same for your writing partners – you give them thoughts and feelings to work with so that they can make their posts more interesting. Writers hate RPing with someone who doesn’t do anything to help move the storyline forward!

Dialogue is also an important tool to use. If one writer’s post takes place completely within their character’s mind, the other writer may not have anything verbal or action-oriented to respond to. Threads die out quickly this way. Even just one or two lines of dialogue, or a crazy action, can propel the plot forward.

The most important thing to remember, when you’re role playing, is to have fun! Role play should not be a chore. Out of Character drama should be kept to a minimum, while In Character drama can sky rocket! Writing is a wonderful way of practicing creativity and ingenuity. It’s a way for people to forget about the stresses of real life, if even for only a little while. When you role play, you can be anyone you want and do anything you want. And you can make tons of friends while doing it.

P.S. I DO like Stephen King. 😉


Got an idea for a blog post you’d love to see from me? Want me to talk about your favorite nerdy fandom or genre? Send me a message and tell me what you’d like to see/hear!

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