A Beginner's Guide to Writing with Detail

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A Beginner's Guide to Writing with Detail

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby DemiKara on Thu Mar 31, 2016 3:22 pm

One of the things that often separates new and old roleplayers is the length and the quality of their posts. However, just writing more until you cannot write anymore is not as simple as it sounds, nor is it always the preferred way of increasing your word count. After all, the mad rambling of a character isn’t often a good choice while roleplaying.

Besides, beginning roleplayers may find it difficult to even keep writing after a certain point. What more is there to say once your character has spoken what they will speak, and done what they will do? There’s also a trick in all of it, that is slightly different than if you were writing entirely on your own. In roleplaying, you need to leave latch points in your writing so that the other players can react and in turn interact.

Let’s start with an example of a post taken straight from the Multiverse. I’ve changed the character’s name, but that’s all that has changed in this post.

Dakota walked in, looking about 12.

Already you can see a number of problems with the post, and I’m not just talking about the fact that a kid is in a bar. This is Dakota’s first appearance in a roleplay, all we know right now about this character is their name and a rough guess of their age. We don’t even get a hint of gender, or get to know if this character is even human.

So the first thing I would like to do is to fill in some blanks about Dakota. So let’s see if Dakota here can do something other than walk into the bar, and while we’re giving this poor kid something to do other than walk inside, let’s try to paint a picture and see who this kid is. A little description shows a lot more than just appearance. Done right, it can show us their personality as well.

Dakota walked into the bar, and paused to scan the interior with grass green eyes. The cherubic boy tugged on a blond curl as he considered what to do next, then took a seat at an empty booth. He pulled a menu placard to him to hide his face. If they couldn’t see his face, maybe they would think him just a very small adult, rather than only a 12 year old boy.

Check that out! We know now that Dakota is a green eyed, blonde haired boy, age 12, and more than likely looks incredibly sweet and harmless. We still don’t know if he’s human, but most people will likely assume this is the case unless something changes. We also get an idea of this child’s personality from his actions. Still, even though we know a few things, and we’ve gone from 6 words to 73 with just a few more actions. Of course, describing how your character looks in every post doesn’t work well. Instead, consider trying to describe the surroundings as well.

This time, instead of how he looks, let’s go into where he is. After all, you won’t be mentioning his appearance every time you post.

Dakota walked into the dingy bar, and paused to scan the interior. He took in the neon signs of different brands of drink, the scuffed tables and chairs, and most thankfully the booths lining the sides of the place. Good. The boy tugged on a curl was he considered what to do next, then took a seat at an empty booth. There was a sticky spot right where he put his hand down, and he wrinkled his nose as he chose to pick up a menu placard. The 12 year old could hide his face behind this, and maybe block out some of the stench of spilled beer. The booth he had chosen to sit in already blocked at least a portion of the murmur of conversation. Besides, maybe if the other patrons couldn’t see his face, they would just assume he was a very small adult.

Wowzers! Just by trying to engage the senses of touch, scent, and sound in this post we went from only 71 words to 147. That’s a pretty respectable amount for interaction, but I find that now this post lacks real details. We’ve gone from a horrible blurry picture to one where you can actually almost see what’s going on. But it’s possible to do better, we also want to see if we can add detail in such a way that someone could interact with our character.

Now I’m going to be completely honest; a twelve year old in a bar has a few things that stand out as potential interaction points. First off, he’s twelve, so what’s he doing here? Second, why is he alone? Those are two big ones, but with him sitting in a booth on his own, there’s really not a whole lot more we could add in naturally. So what we’re going to do is provide those latch points to grab the other player’s attention we discussed earlier. Let’s give the kid a bit more detail to start, and make him a little suspicious seeming. We can also have him say something that makes his youth more obvious and may attract attention. Or alternatively you could have him do something attention getting during one of his actions. We can also continue to try engaging the senses, if it works into the additions.

Dakota limped into the dingy bar, the knees of his khakis scuffed, and the sleeve on his now filthy white polo torn. He paused a few feet inside the place to scan the interior with jaded green eyes and to catch his breath a little better. Neon signs advertising different drinks held his attention only briefly, and the scuffed tables and chairs held his attention even less. The booths that lined the sides of the place brought a spark back to his eyes and lit his cherubic face as he scurried over there, hunched slightly and trying not to bump into any of the patrons of this filthy place.

The twelve year old took a seat at one of the booths, placing his hand on a sticky spill of dried beer on the table as he did so. It didn’t matter, he convinced himself as he picked up the menu placard to hide behind. He was already dirty and filthy from running from the bullies anyway. Besides, with the booth to block the murmur of conversation around him it was almost quiet here. Of course, now his hand reeked of beer, but he could put up with that. The waitress came up to him, and he lowered the menu he was hiding behind.

“May I have a coke please?” His high pitched voice didn’t belong in a place like this. It was too young and made it clear just how out of place he was.

At 245 words, this is a respectable post length for most settings. The logic displayed in getting the post to this length is the same logic used to make posts even longer. Other tactics can include having the character’s thoughts clear in a post, or sometimes adding more detail to the background. Longer posts often have more actions in them, whether it is from fidgeting in place, curling your toes, or walking great distances and doing various activities along the way. Using metaphors, or similes can also increase post length. Instead of saying ‘with grass green eyes’ for instance, I could have said ‘with eyes the shade of summer’s softest grass.’ Instead of merely calling him cherubic, I could have said that his face was like an angel’s. In general, it is best to limit the more lyrical similes and metaphors to simpler ones. While some roleplayers greatly enjoy poetic posts, many do not. Besides ‘as green as grass’ is less pretentious sounding than ‘eyes as green as the softest summer grass.’ If your character isn’t pretentious, don’t write your post to sound pretentious.

To make your posts even longer, consider interaction with NPCs, though be careful with that. It can be tricky for a beginning roleplayer to successfully manage two characters at once. Even many more experienced players have difficulty managing more than one character at a time. For NPC interaction, consider the adage ‘NPCs should be seen and not heard’ at least until you are a more confident writer.

In general, using the tips in this guide can easily net you a 1000 word post. Practice writing with detail, and you’ll soon find that what was once a difficult task is easier. Just remember, in roleplaying you have to leave room for others to respond. Most of all though, don’t stress too much over word count, and focus on having fun.
Patcharoo says: She's the squishiest in the game...

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