Making your Posts Count: Vertical v. Horizontal Posting

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Making your Posts Count: Vertical v. Horizontal Posting

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Jag on Tue Dec 07, 2010 12:16 pm

Vertical and Horizontal – Making your Posts Count

I’ve been wanting to post this primer for some time and I thought it would be fitting to make it my 1,000th post on the forums here at RPGateway.

We all want to be better writers than we are. That’s a given. I know that others have given their opinions and advice regarding how we can improve certain facets of our writing. Whether it be character descriptions, character development, action, plot development – you can find a guide or a Mentor with plenty of thoughts on the topic. One thing I feel passionately about and would like to offer some thoughts regarding is our need to make sure that our posts actually do something and add to the game.

When posting in a game that is on a more “advanced” level – that is, not a game that is almost entirely made of one-line posts or something of the like – every post should have a clear purpose. To that end, there are two types of posts – horizontal and vertical. Let’s dive into it, shall well?

Think of the story in your RP as a timeline drawn on a piece of paper. As the story moves along, things move up and down that timeline. Horizontal posts are exactly what they sound like – posts that describe the action and make a move horizontally down that timeline because it progresses the story. Vertical posts will often barely move the timeline at all, instead going into a great detail regarding a very specific moment. Both are useful and needed, so the questions now are: (1) How do I know when to use each kind of post; and (2) How do I write each kind?

Horizontal Posting: Use a horizontal post to tell a part of the story or to describe a piece of action. If your character is performing a task, he or she is moving down the timeline. In a horizontal post, something is happening. Time passes. This is an effective means of telling the story and moving things along. Such a post sets up a course of action to which other characters must react, contend, and adjust. Here is a very short example of a horizontal post.

Jack didn’t waste any time stepping out of the car as soon as the vehicle pulled to a stop. The moment that his feet hit the ground, the man knew there was no turning back. His made was made up and there was no more need to decide, deliberate, or talking about feelings. The game was on.

Stepping through the door of the convenient store, Jack didn’t draw much attention from the patrons or employees inside, all wrapped up in their business. No one seemed to notice as the young man dropped his duffel bag to the ground and removed a small chain. Acting quickly, Jack wrapped the chain around the only doors leading out of the store and clamping the lock shut.

Kneeling back down again, Jack took a deep breath and said a silent prayer. Then he quietly removed the pistol from the bag, pushed a young boy out of the line for the cashier, and pointed a gun directly at the face of the young lady behind the counter. Clicking off the safety, he spoke with a voice even Jack could barely recognize

“Everything in the cash register. Now.”


Even though a lot of time didn’t pass, you can see from this example what it means to move the narrative along the timeline horizontally. In a short period of time, a lot just happened there. A horizontal post in like a scene in a movie. Something happens and you can describe and follow the action.

Vertical Posting: If a horizontal post is a like a scene in a movie, a vertical post is a snapshot image. As the cliché so accurately describes, a picture is word a thousand words. A vertical post captures a single moment and provides an insightful description. Although the post doesn’t move us down the timeline, it provides some crucial insight to what is going on and is one of the most effective means of character development available to a writer. Let’s continue with our example.

The moment that the click of the gun registered in Katie’s mind, the girl could swear that time stood still. Instantly, the young woman knew that she would never forget any detail of the moment. The man that stood in front of her now couldn’t be much older than she was. His leather jacket was a bit tattered, probably a hand-me-down that shouldn’t have survived another generation

The smells around here were suddenly very intense. The gun welding man in front of her had gone a day too long without a shower, the barely-functioning air freshener next to the counter was instantly stronger than the day she’d first plugged it in. Even the faint sickly-sweet smell fro where a can of soda had been spilled that morning now filled her nostrils with absolute clarity.

This could not be happening. Two days from now, she was supposed to leave this job for good. The boyfriend she’d been devoted to for years had finally heard back from the job interview from God – a chance for the two of them to finally leave this broken down town and have the life Katie had always dreamed of living. Her mother had told her to expect a proposal any day now. Foolishly, she’d bought a wedding magazine on her way to work and stashed it beneath the counter.

God had finally given her everything she’d been patiently praying for. Now this man was threatening to take it all away.

Still, she couldn’t help but feel nothing but pity for him. After all, she’d taken this low end, thankless job to help put Mark through school. She’d made sacrifices, put everything on hold when the light seemed darkest. Katie couldn’t help but feel a great deal of sadness from the other end of the gun. How dark did it have to get to drive someone to this?

Out of nowhere, the young woman smiled with a sense of strength she didn’t know to be within herself.

“Don’t worry. Everything’s going to be okay.”


Notice that Katie’s post was almost twice as long as Jack’s. Now, what happened in that post. Katie saw the gun and smiled. That’s it. No time passed and no action occurred. Still, there was a great deal of useful content to that post. It revealed a great deal about Katie’s character and, in many ways, enhances the quality of Jack’s post as well.

A good vertical post will make a horizontal post before or after it look even better. That’s how you can write a team.

Balance is key. You can’t do all of one or another. If you only post horizontally, you are going to have every little character development and there won’t be a lot of interaction between your character and others which makes writing in a group so much fun. At the same time, you can’t always been a vertical poster. This forces the other person to always direct the action or nothing will ever happen and the story fails. Write what you know and use your judgment to decide what you post, but make sure that you do one of the other. You never want someone to read your post and think: “That was pointless.” And you

I hope this helps everyone get a little more out of their writing in their upcoming games and stories. Cue discussion!

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Jag
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Re: Making your Posts Count: Vertical v. Horizontal Posting

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby SoulCandy on Sun Jan 23, 2011 8:08 pm

this was helpfull thanks

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Re: Making your Posts Count: Vertical v. Horizontal Posting

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Anno Domini on Sun Mar 13, 2011 11:38 pm

Huh... That explained... a lot.

I feel like this topic actually summarizes the conflict I feel every time I make a new post on a roleplay. I always feel like my character says something, or makes a small gesture, but doesn't really do anything unless it's responding to someone else. This could be the pacing of the story, one with less action and more dialogue, but I feel like it's mostly me. I worry too much about whether or not another person can respond in time, or whether I'm speeding straight through a scene without waiting for their responses, and then I don't end up making any of the decisions myself.

The issue is neurotic on my part, really, but this thread has been eye opening. I'll make sure to keep an eye out and make sure I still have a great balance of both vertical and horizontal from now on!
Anagnorisis for Antagonists!

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Re: Making your Posts Count: Vertical v. Horizontal Posting

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby X64 on Sat Apr 09, 2011 1:14 pm

This primer helped me so much! Thank you!
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Thank you for posting this, Jag. :)

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Re: Making your Posts Count: Vertical v. Horizontal Posting

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Leks on Tue Jul 05, 2011 10:28 pm

Thanks, that was helpful (:

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Re: Making your Posts Count: Vertical v. Horizontal Posting

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby AlienKhan on Wed Jul 20, 2011 11:51 pm

Very informative, thanks Jag!

My only question is, why does your post have to be one or the other? Could you not also have "diagonal" posts?

For example, I have this character Z that I've used several times. I understand the mechanics and what makes him tick well enough that I feel safe commenting on him.

The point about Z is that his actions only involve "Vertical Posts", or at least as many of them as he can. He is an observer, and believes it beneath him to perform any actions. He only performs what he deems necessary to preserve his survival, or what he feels will leave him using less "energy"/"chaos" in the end.

However, recently the RP that I've joined with him has been forcing me to make him commit more deeds than I would have originally liked. This left me with a dilemma, do I spend my post focusing more on the action, or do I remain true to his nature?

The answer was simple. I had to compromise. I would post the internal conflict felt when making a decision to, say, run, followed by a detailed description of his decision and the outcome of said choice.

What I'm really trying to say is that posts really don't have to be one type or the other.

As Billy from the Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy once said,

Can't you see [posts are] just like peas and mashed potatoes? Some people don't like them to touch each other if they're on the same plate. But it's okay... it's okay if they touch! Because they both get chewed up by the mouth!. And sent down the oesophagus and dissolved into the stomach and absorbed into the intestines and, oh ho, I won't go any further than that. But the point is, we're all just nutrients in the great big digestive system called [ROLEPLAY]!
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Re: Making your Posts Count: Vertical v. Horizontal Posting

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Jag on Thu Jul 21, 2011 10:25 am

I think it's entirely possible to have a hybrid posts that achieve both goals while still being extremely effective. The key is knowing your strengths as a writer, knowing your character well, and knowing what you would like to accomplish with the post. I didn't intend for this to be mandating that all posts must be one or the other. This is simply a good starting point. Choosing one or the other and sticking to it is a great starting point that allows you to know what you're doing and not "waste" space with an unclear post.

Once you're more comfortable, playing around with the format and creating a style all your own is how you take the next step as a writer.

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Re: Making your Posts Count: Vertical v. Horizontal Posting

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby RedRaine on Thu Jul 21, 2011 3:41 pm

Impressive impressive! You successfully labeled the two types of posting people usually seem to get trapped into one or the other! From what you're mentioned I've noticed that I'm usually more of a horizontal poster. I hope that doesn't mean I don't have much character development. I dunno, I've always felt a person grows through experiences and actions rather than constantly introspecting and thinking about themselves, but I suppose you can't exactly grow through those experiences unless you actually understand what you're going through.

Time to find a balance I suppose.

:<

PS: Though I would like to mention this kind of thinking is only applicable in a more westernized frame of thought. For Asian cultures advancing a timeline is vertically downwards while a snapshot would be horizontal. =3 Food for thought.
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Re: Making your Posts Count: Vertical v. Horizontal Posting

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby lewdug97 on Tue Jul 26, 2011 10:19 am

Thanks this really helped a noob like me!
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Re: Making your Posts Count: Vertical v. Horizontal Posting

Tips: 0.00 INK Postby Lifecharacter on Tue Aug 23, 2011 1:02 am

Hooray I know what those terms mean now.

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