Discussion in 'Role Playing Resource' started by DarthXan318, Jan 15, 2012.
I can never pull off long posts. How on earth do you manage them????
Well, to quote a very good friends theory, there is a space between two updates by GM, the one between A and B. A signals the Tag and B is the point where you cannot go on without GM input. It depends on a GM how much room he allows between them. Can you interact with NPCs? Invent some? Walk around? do anything, as long as you donÂ´t kill major NPCs? Do anything as long as you donÂ´t play PCs?
Usually the room is rather narrow, only allowing you to explore your character and everything that he experiences between A and B. Which I tihnk usually is good for five to six lines of text, with a bit introspective, make it eight lines. So how get longer? Well, expand what is yours. Thoughts and theories, if the game invites to have those. Evaluations. the Past. Oh yeah, the past. How does the istuation compare to past situations? Those are yours, not the GMs. So I like to go back and work with the past to give characters depth and that usually ends up in longer posts.
Then the internal thought of a character can really, really need some time. Depending on what it is he or she have to deal with, you can simply go into details, describing every thought and idea that passes the mind. That also produces great suspense, usually.
What should be avoided (in my book) is the description of things and actions in too much detail. It getÂ´s boring.
My humble thoughts on long posts.
The old adage [link=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AhrZovjETk&ob=av2n]"show, don't tell"[/link] is apt for all fiction.
Things to avoid? Purple prose, wherein the dialogue becomes as flowery as a field of daffodils, swaying gently in the warm summer breeze that calls to mind young love and heartbreak...
The biggest possible thing is to include detail in passing. In the end, it doesn't matter how carefully you craft an image for something, because the audience is still going to imagine something that doesn't fit the perfect Platonic image you had in your head. Make no mistake, detail matters, but it's useless to go far out of your way to describe something. Your audience has a brain and an imagination! Let them use it!
The character, too, should come through this way. It's almost passive, but it really isn't, because your writing is more active when you cut out the flowery stuff. Character had a falling out with his father? Show, don't tell! Character is afraid of heights? Show, don't tell! Character likes blue? Show!
And finally, something very pointed meant to address a current trend...we don't need photos of a character's gun or ship or costume! That matters more to you, the writer, than it does to the audience. As long as you know how it looks, then it shouldn't matter what image the audience develops, because otherwise you'd be writing a comic book or directing a movie.
I am not sure this AUDIENCE you speak so much about actually exists, to be honest Peng. Therefore these rules seem a bit . . . forced to me. Made to please an imaginary audience that wonÂ´t read our posts anyway.
Therefore I create the counter-rule: Write the way you enjoy writing. Write for yourself.
Anyway, I thought we talk about our technique here. Not whatÂ´s wrong with others posts. Did I get something wrong here? Because if this turns into a general critique thread I really think I am out. I am actually not very interested in what rules people make up for posting.
Well, I find a good way is to:
1. Start writing
2. Do not stop writing
This can lead to interesting results where you go off on a completely unrelated tangents by way of simply over-explaining things. For example, I was watching High Anxiety the other day and it occurred to me that Mel Brooks actually had a relatively decent singing voice. Not great, mind you, but still pretty decent, and the number was fairly well crafted - he's generally a pretty talented songwriter, so I guess that's not too much of a surprise, but considering he got other people to belt out the iconic tunes to such films as Blazing Saddles, but... hey, actually, now that I mention it, Blazing Saddles is great. Folks ought to watch that movie more often, I can think of worse things than a world where everyone had watched Blazing Saddles two or three times, chief among them a world where IDW lost its Godzilla license, since they're definitely doing the best work with the franchise in a long time. Speaking of Godzilla, I find the unavailability of high quality DVD releases of the Heisei films to border on criminal; Sony pictures has latched onto the distribution rights and refuses to let them go, which is definitely high up there on the reasons in favor of illicit acquisitions because, hell, the only way to get a decent version legally is to order the Region 4 DVD release and pray to god you get the edition with English subtitles. That's just freaking ridiculous - meanwhile Gojira (1954) is getting something like its fifth high quality DVD release because Criterion looked at the 2006 Classic Media edition and thought to themselves "Y'know, I bet we could steal this format and improve it slightly." One rights acquisition later, and there you go. Now, don't get me wrong, Criterion does some good stuff with Toho's catalogue - see their releases of Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, and Sanjuro - but could we please get a different freaking movie out of the deal? It's ridiculous that I can get a high quality DVD of freaking Godzilla All Monsters All-Out Attack! which is arguably the dumbest movie I've seen in my entire life - and I've watched Manos the Hands of goddamn Fate without MST3K - but the only version of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah I can acquire is a flip disc, fullscreen, 2.0 English channel only piece of crap. That's like the only film in the franchise that's won a film award! Of course, the blame can really be placed on studio execs who thought a good old fashioned rush job right before the steaming turd that was Godzilla (1998) was a smart plan of action - although, in all fairness, if there was one thing I thought after seeing that movie it was "Good lord, I need to watch some real Godzilla like yesterday." I'd take the goddamn Raymond Burr edit of the '54 movie over that cinematic act of terrorism. Where was I? Oh right, High Anxiety. So anyway the best way to get a long post is to just write a whole lot, and branch out a little - like Brooks did when he sang the title number.
I wasn't aware that I was laying down a strict set of rules. If that's what it came across as, then that wasn't my intent. In my opinion, that's what makes for interesting writing. As for my final comment, I will concede that's a frustration of mine right now, and I shouldn't have included it.
An audience exists and is certainly not imaginary: it is the other players of the game, and the GM. If I were to just write for myself, then I'd be writing stories on my own, plain and simple. I want to write something others will enjoy reading, and hopefully something that others will get some sort of creative energy out of.
Write the way you enjoy writing. Write for yourself. Start writing. Do not stop writing (until you feel it is time to post)
Taking SirakÂ´s and RamzaÂ´s approach together really summarizes my take on RPing. I am actually one of those guys, that do RPing for the joy of being told a story I am part of. But I see nothing wrong with PengÂ´s "audience-oriented" approach. Although I feel mine was always pleased, when I did what I enjoyed, there is certainly nothing wrong with keeping those who need to read my post in my mind. If I can do without, there is also nothing wrong with not thinking about them, either. It is a matter of what you get out of this activity here. Like any other hobby.
In that regard RPing is like dancing. Doing it for your own enjoyment or doing it for astethic pleasure of others are two totally good ways to approach it.
I'll take the intellectually dishonest debating tactic of appealing to authority here and point out that Gary Gygax, the nerd, er, gentleman who basically popularised the roleplaying genre the way Elvis Presley did black music, was always of the view that the players were roleplaying, acting, with the GM as the audience. I do view that as a nice social contract: the GM takes hours and hours of prep time in selecting monsters, encounters, challenges for the players, and the players reward him by giving him some entertainment as they overcome those challenges. (Or not, if it's the Tomb of Horrors. )
In terms of nuts and bolts ideas on roleplaying technique:
- Flashbacks for your character. Still not used a lot out here, though there are notable exceptions. Mea culpa on this: I rarely use them myself, and I should use more, though in my defence as a GM I tend to just throw entire dreams at players thus making their flashbacks for them These can be a creative wellspring of their own since they get you out of the "rut" of writing your character in the here-and-now and can give you a different "part" to "act" for the audience. In my own personal experience, I felt the most powerful flashbacks for my own characters were almost elliptical in nature, almost vague. The challenge being to expose enough detail that people reading it would understand what the hell you're talking about, I'd suggest linking it very closely to events happening at that moment.
As an example, part of a post from Dark History, where I think (egotistically) I probably did my best flashback:
For reference, I'm Cho-Shai, an old Jedi Master; Straven is a young protege who practices the same sword style as I do; Alexia Rivers is the daughter of Calys Rivers, the latter of whom Cho-Shai had an affair with; Zaydin is (sorry Sarge221, who was playing him) a bystander to the discussion. Cho-Shai is having a flashback to his happy times with Alexia's mother.
The reason I had for that is as follows: in real life, when a memory hits me, it sometimes brings colours, certain images, or certain feelings surging back to me, but it rarely is the sort of experience I remember perfectly as if I'd had a camera rolling on it at the time. That's the movie way of expressing a flashback, but it's not how the mind actually does it. Memory does fade with time, though we don't notice it as much because our own mind fills in the gaps or just leaves blurry spaces you don't focus on because you're focused on the one defining moment or feature of that memory.
- Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. Used well at t
Well, I think an audience which does interact with you on another level than applause is not . . . an audience. It is a cooperator. I wonÂ´t give my "games are communities" speech all over again, but those hwo read it last time easily can understand, how I cannot consider them to be my audience.
That being said, I just realized I have no fixed approach to RPing. Sometimes I do it very intellectually (example: Palpatine in AFAS was a matter of studying RotJ and mimicing him, with increasing elements from Dark Empire and my own spin on him. "Adam" in SotS also is a piece of work, as every sentence and gesture must be balanced, because he is so alien) while others seem to be natural fits (I gained quite an understanding of Thomas and Karl in SotS and they are increasingly easy to write)- Some are in the middle. My "trademark-character" Hoole is sometimes this and sometimes that.
So I alternate between "barely able to stop the ideas flooding" and "fighting me through it line by line" with the second almost being more fun, as usually apprecaite such characters as a challenge.
Flashback, internal dialogue and the reflection on things in depth are all good ways to show depth, certainly. The flashback can sometimes steal a bit too much attention from the here and now, but since LOST we should have learned a trick or two about incoorporating them for dramatic potential. I always found them hard to do, but my characters usually are very ambitious and goal driven. I remember in ABYverse they seemed incredibly fitting often, as they lay out the epic scale of things, by referencing past events. The flashback that has actually been played in a long-running game is still the master-class of effective flashback use for me. Love it.
Oh and I love illustration. Especially by the one player who is a comic book writer and screenwriter on this board and who always has the most thrilling pictures for his visions A pic that fits but is not what you had in mind really, really makes a post richer, as it manages to give your writing a spin away from generic visuals. But as a player I always feel like entering GMing ground here, as it is his right to define the "look" of a game. It can be important for the game.
I think the "debate" here is less the validity of the approaches and more how poster a defines "audience" versus how poster b defines "audience".
For what it's worth, I do think it's important to keep other players (Which it's certainly valid to think of as an audience in one sense of the word) in mind, lest you write an incomprehensible mess of flibberty gibberty watermelon tetrapot tea scone majuggadah flibrt snrok tujamamama, fa? which is certainly a very real possibility when your writing devolves into the realm of pure pleasure.
Or, at least, it is for me. I'm something of a Joyce fan, though.
I couldn't find any tetrapots around, but I did find a tripot:
EDIT: I was, however, able to find a hexpot:
I found some.
Well, tetrapot melon tea, but you get my point.
Yeah I think in future it would be good if we debated content and not semantics.
Long posts: I, er ... usually do not read them.
I know, I'm awful. Doubly so because I post long posts on occasion, usually when I'm tired or rushing or something (because I tend to write lots and then cut liberally, and if I don't have time, the "cut liberally" step is omitted). I try to read them, but after so many years here I know that I can merely read the first and last paragraphs and nobody will ever know I didn't read most of it. (Until I admit it in a thread like this, of course ...)
Which is not to say that I don't ever fill in the gaps between Point A and Point B. Not filling in those gaps tends to result in posts that basically boil down to "My character silently follows the NPC to the next location" (I used to write a lot of those) and that's very boring. I do fill in the gaps, only in brief rather than at length.
Other techniques I like:
- Dynamic characters. (This is more of a character-personality-trait than a technique, but nonetheless.) I always try to play characters that do things, rather than just follow along. I hate those awkward group scenes where the GM is like "Hey so all of you guys are in this room," and everyone posts some variation of "My character stares stoically at everyone else".
- Seconding Saint's call on behind-the-scenes stuff. This is really important and unfortunately is also one of the RPF's best-kept secrets. It's astonishingly hard to build up a rapport with another character on the fly, if you don't have some agreement with the other player ... I try to do it whenever possible. Sometimes I'll ping someone before the game starts, sometimes we'll start and I'll ping someone whose character mine gets along with, and strike it up from there.
- Mixing up paragraph lengths. Making every paragraph the exact same length is (IMO, again) something best reserved for high school English essays. This is especially important for longer posts: if a post has ten paragraphs and every paragraph is exactly five lines long, there's not enough variation for it to be interesting ... so I try to mix them up. Throw in the odd one-sentence paragraph; put in a bit of rapid-fire dialogue; stuff like that.
- (Regarding writing in general) I write a lot, then edit it down to size. This doesn't work for everyone, but fully half of everything I write is utter rubbish, and I can't tell whether it's going to be rubbish or not until after I've written it. So I throw stuff at the screen and then peel off the parts that didn't stick.
- If things are boring, do something unexpected.
So I wanna break a lance here for the "audience-discussion" really. Does that translate rom German? Breaking a lance for someone? Die Lanze brechen? A German saying.
It isnÂ´t about semantics, this is exactly what we were asked about. These are to fundamentally different approaches to roleplying. And although I think the discussion above was a bit unneccassry charged, I believe we have two total different player types. One is writing for the readers, the other one is doing it for the joy of bringing a character to life inside a narrative. It isnÂ´t fanfic, becauseyou want to participate in another persons story. But you probably do it for the joy of doing it, not for the reader.
I am totally one of the guys Peng described. I do posts for my audience. I gave it a bit of thought and it clearly is wirting for others I do. Everything else would be a lie. If I do Karl Weber, Thomas SchrÃ¶der, Caine (all in SotS) or Palpatine (AFAS), especially Palpatine, I do it well aware I am read and I do it to deliver a character others enjoy. That is why I love to be villain of a tale. They always get attention and are read by others. Who didnÂ´t read Hoole posts in ABYverse? Who doesnÂ´t read Thomas schrÃ¶der in the Hamburg-storyline? I suspect those are few players.
Then again I alwys marvel at the emtional depth people like Sirak or Mitth bring to their characters. Which probably is because these players experience the story through the filter of their characters. Another approach than mine, I must say. I had a taste of that with my Max Payne guy, who I did because I enjoyed rawling into his skin and when we finished the game in chats I did not miss my audience. Strange for me, really.
So my techniques?
I gave that some sort, too.
- Embrace the characters nature in the story. Are you cool? Then do him cool. Are you borken? Then portray him as broken as it fits. Creepy? Oh I lovecreepy. I try to be really creepy when I get the chance. I take the main characteristic and put my post into the service of this element.
- Build up. I got an idea where the char is going, usually through extensive PMing with the GM. BobaMatt and Fin have hundeds of PMs from me. Man, did I write epic PMs to Sinre for small posts to make sure the direction I took was embraced by the GM and in his interest. And then you develop the char. Not have him jump from post to post, but slowly build doubts, goals, ambitions and let them unfold over 20 posts or so until you bring them to fully surface.
- Make the post count. I try to make every post important. I do not have my chars drink coffee and chill. They do that off-screen. They shall be intense and reflect what happens around them. They like it or dislike it. They are angry, hateful, generous or concerned. They react to everything. They are on the edge. A game in which I shall play a relaxed gu would probably not work for me. Things are dramatic for my chars, always.
- Foreshadowing. My favourite method is to hint what is too come. It is a great joy to have a purpose and hint at it. Makes a good char when it finally happens. It is fulfilling. If it doesnÂ´t happen it is a failure and failures are so very interesting to write, too.
- Weakness. Every character is defined by his weaknesses for me. Strength we all have in our characters, but weakness makes them unique. If you show what your character fears, you show who your character is. In general I think the ability to write fear is the ability to write a good character. As most GMs throw disaster at you, it also makes you mnore realistic. If a fearless guy achieves something it is not half as badass as when a fearful char does the same, overcoming his anxiety.
- Conflict. I work against my enemies, be they NPCs or (which I prefer) players. I accept to loose, but I also go through with my victories. Most players actually appreciate me fighting them and it makes great scenes between players. There is a good example in the recently begun Corellia by Xany, which I lurked recently. Sainthearts, Fin and Sirak are all three in a friendly
The one amendment I'd make to LordT's thoughts is that it's not like emotional depth is exclusive to one approach or the other.
Of the techniques you listed, LordT, I think that foreshadowing carries the greatest challenge; if you go too far, the mystery is gone, but if you don't go far enough with it, then it's just vague ambiguities and the payoff isn't as rewarding in the end.
Note here that conflict is the basis of all drama. It need not be necessarily conflict with another character in the vein of "My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die." It can be conflict with one's self, one's friends, one's government, one's conscience...this is not a call to bring out the angst, only that conflict and the resolution of that conflict is essential to drama.
A great way of adding conflict is letting your character do stupid things! Obviously you can't ruin everything- that spoils the game for everyone- but sometimes intentionally letting them get hurt (in ToF, I was going to let Skadi hit the deck before fate- and Mazarun- intervened) or fail at persuading somebody, or just being plain awkward (Markus was the king of this) opens up great opportunities for roleplaying and building your character. Anybody can write about an all-powerful badass- it's failures that make things interesting.
DISCLAIMER: Obviously you have to exercise good judgement in doing this and only allow it when it's yourself you're hurting and not the whole party, but it can be surprisingly fun when played right.
What a group! Great to have one.
But seriously, sometimes I think this whole award/reputation thing has left some ugly scars on a pretty deep level. I only look in on ocassion. Rarely mix wiht people here, but after being around in a game or two over the years, I think some things are taken for granted that are actually quite strange around here.
So reading the last two pages for the first time, I cannot escape the idea some people look for the celebration of themselves and their characters and others are not and instead simply do what every RPer is doing who sits at a table with dices and a sheet. Play a character to enjoy crawling into his skin.
The only audience I write to is my GM and the word "audience" is not about semantics, it is a pretty megalomaniac term for "reader". Do I expect people to applaud? Marvel at me? Standing ovations? Or is an award enough? Without knowing you guys too good, but IÂ´d bet big sums that you somehow do not quite get out of RPing what you are looking for, right?
For me RPing post-by-post is pretty much the table-top thing in slow-mo. Therefore the same rules apply. Interact, try to think yourself into a situation and act according to it from the viewpoint of your char, always. Avoid metagaming, as this takes the thrill out of the thrill and most important of all . . . swim in the river the GM keeps up. Blending into the stream of a game makes the experience of escaping reality into that world good. Let the GM tell you a good story. ThatÂ´s all that is in it. A good story, told at a fireplace. So be part of that story. The more I leave it, the less exciting and "useful" I am. The less fun it is.
Character-Immersion. The key.
Concerning techniques, I got little to add to the ones above. And maybe I leanred one or two I can try in the next few posts in SotF.
I think this audience idea still is strange to people who do not connect with it - but Draco I see nothing wrong with it. Certainly the ambition to inspireothers an YES be recognized for good character play had drawbacks, like motivation when it does not work out. But there is nothing really wrong with it. There is nothing in wrong in wanting "awards" either. They are a competition so why not parttake?
ArenÂ´t we ready for a next topic? If we have none, I would actually have an idea.
You can add topics to the queue yourselves, you don't have to go through me. But I'll add yours to the queue:
1. Atonement - how to get your good reputation back. Possible or not? (Sirak)
2. Character interaction. How to build it, a lot was said about that. But how to maintain it, how to develop it and how do you include the GM? (LordT)
We've got two days left on this topic, and then we have Sirak's.
But see, that's a purely semantic argument! I consider "audience," in the context of literature, to be wholly interchangeable with "reader" with no additional connotations, and I'm fairly sure Peng would, too, because that's how our English classes (Here being used as synonymous with writing and literature) teach us to use the word. It's like a tv program - the term "viewer" is equivalent to "audience" is equivalent to "person watching the show."
What he said.
To add on to Ramza's excellent explanation, in the RPF context I see "audience" as meaning "the GM and the other players in the RPG" and maybe also including lurkers and people who might read the posts in future while deciding whether or not to join said RPG.
And I see "consider your audience" as meaning: think about what those people (the GM and other players) might want to read in your post. What that might be exactly differs from scene to scene, but general a clear account of whatever your character is doing is a good idea. If it's an action scene, describe where your character is in relation to everything else, and what they're doing. If it's a speech, type out the speech (obviously). If they're just driving down a road, maybe put in some observations of the surroundings to bring the scene to life. Stuff like that. (I also mean don't post a three-page treatise on your character's special snowflake inner angst, but that's a rant for another time ...)
Nothing to do with ovations or awards or anything.
One quibble, and that only relates to balance: there's a difference between advancing a story with your character and just writing pages and pages of material which has tangential, if any, interest to anyone other than you. It's a parallel to the discussion in the Games Group about OPs that basically go "Here's my vaguely-defined factions, here's the overly detailed world, have fun". An infodump without something to catch the imagination is, not to put too fine a point on it, boring. If you're spending 8 pages onscreen describing your character picking his nose in the middle of a blaster duel, it is probably immersing yourself in your character way more than is necessary for the game.
Let me re-emphasise I agree totally that character immersion is a wonderful aid to roleplaying. I reckon there should be more of it. My best moments playing characters have been in my own mind imagining the scene as it unfolds on the page. But I'm going to take up the iceberg metaphor, because it operates just as validly here as it does between characters: if you're passionate about a character, fantastic. You're more likely to have a memorable character, at least. But not all of that material needs to wind up "on the page". In fact there's a good chance a majority of it won't wind up on screen. It'll be that unseen portion of the iceberg, floating below the surface. And in that your character is like real life: even with our soulmates we are not privy to their memories or the experiences that led them to what they are; that is the part of them we can't see and likely will never see, though we adore the part we can see.
So, I see this might indeed be more about last topics than this one. I just wanted to say you can replace the word audience with readers, "gugus" or "others". It doesnÂ´t matter. You still write for them and totally do not see why writing for yourself might make sense, right? And I am not talking to Peng here, who at least brought it up. I know from my days as a GM some people PM you and ask you to advertise your game with their posts! It is a common thing here.
I just think it leads you into a corner and it has lead many people around here into that corner. I havenÂ´t been around a terrible lot, but I am aware these rivalries people entertain here are about the audienceÂ´s favour AND they are always lost by the aggressor, no matter how unlikely this looks at the beginning. So you asked about RPing approach? Be careful if you start needing others attention and applause! I do not deny I was once there. Totally. I grew up a little since then. My approach today is a lot more simple. I do tabletop on a board. And hell, it works out so very, very fine for me. But ending the RPing-thing with the bitter taste of being isolated by a community is probably . . . something to avoid. Nobody deserves that.
And to make it clear, I do not think of Peng, just because he brought up the topic I am not specifically talking about him or his cdefenders above. Never played with him.
I thought actually of a player from Bad Day who had his second last game there with me. Joined none after that and soon (I was told) he announced he would go away.
His last act was to give some sort of self-portrayal of himself in a game, where he basically sits in a big house all alone taking care of a retarded child and avoiding others. Man, that was sad. Incredible sad. But he clashed with my sister and Co-GM in other games and almost everybody I spoke to had trouble once with him again and again and again. He was also trouble in my game. He wasnÂ´t a bad RPer. Not at all. Quite innovative and motivated, I must say. He wasnÂ´t a bad dude, probably. But when others succeeded he always seemed to feel he failed.
Seeing him struggle against windmills made me a 100% more relaxed person around here. I immediately saw, that if you trouble yourself about nothing you will be in trouble AND miss the story meanwhile. I mean you really, really miss the stories! That is the point.
And I think I waited for a forum to warn people to go down that dudes road for a long time and I donÂ´t wanna have this perceived as an assault on the "audience"-faction above. But I think if taken too far - and that dude took it too far and bit farer - it is bad for all involved, including you. At some point you must approach roleplaying as being your hobby and not any sort of thing that goes against anyone.