Hey, hey. Roo here, your friendly neighbourhood RP mod. I’ve been promising to write a guide to RP for a while now so here it finally is. In this thread, I’ll show you how to write a good RP post that people will enjoy reading and responding to. I’ll also open the floor for questions. If you want to know about any of the rules and regulations specific to the RP section and governing RP posts then check the Main OOC thread and the Rules thread and ask those questions there. Here you can ask for advice on how to actually RP and what constitutes a good post. I’ll also make another post shortly about combating writers’ block, so stay tuned for that.
So, what does make for a good RP post?
Obviously a good RP post will follow site and RP forum rules. As I’ve already expounded upon them in other threads, I’ll not reiterate them here, but do follow the links above to familiarise yourself with them.
Secondly, a good RP post needs to do two things. It needs to respond to what the previous poster or posters wrote (we’ll call this the Response Phase), and it needs to give subsequent posters something to respond to (we’ll call that the Prompt Phase). Ideally you’d also have a third section between the two to develop your character and the environment and develop the plot of the RP. We’ll call this the Development Phase and I’ll go into it in greater detail later.
A basic RP post will contain both the Response and Prompt phases as these sections are what allow you to directly interact with the other players. When you’re first starting out, if you can nail these sections then you’ll do well. As you learn to RP and begin to develop your writing style though you’ll probably find that you want to do more with your characters and have more of an influence on events and environments in the RP and that’s where the Development Phase will kick in. For starters though, let’s look at the basic RP post with just the Response and Prompt phases.
Here’s a very basic example post. I’ve written the Response phase in red and the Prompt phase in green to show you the difference between them. I apologise in advance if you’re colour-blind.
In this example, you can see that Scotty has responded to an introduction from a previous poster and then prompted the next post with a question. Let’s now look at what goes into each of those phases.“Hi, Lucy, I’m Scotty. So...Where are you from?”
The Response Phase
This phase is the first part of the post to be written. It’s also usually the simplest. Here, your character answers the question they were asked, catches the ball that was thrown at them, or jumps as the car driving by them sprays them with water from a puddle. Dead easy, right?
The Prompt Phase
Arguably the most important part of the RP post, this phase is what lets other people interact with you. If there’s no Prompt phase in your post then the other players have nothing to reply to so your post is liable to be ignored, or at best it’ll have another bad post in reply.
Just like in real life, you have to put in if you want to get something back. Consider the above example post. If Scotty had simply said “Hi, Lucy, I’m Scotty.” and then did nothing, Lucy would be thinking “Aaaawkwaaaard!” and hightailing it out of there, just like you would if this happened to you.
The Prompt phase can be as simple as writing a question. In the example above, Scotty asks Lucy where she’s from. That gives Lucy the opportunity to talk about her home town and compare her past and Scotty’s past. Alternatively, it’s an opportunity for Lucy to show that she’s a secretive person and doesn’t show much, or perhaps she’s had a hard life and doesn’t want to think about it so she’ll attempt to change the subject. Can you see how a simple question can lead to all kinds of possibilities and plots? None of that would be possible though had Scotty not asked that one simple question so you can see just how vital this phase is.
The Prompt phase does not have to be a question though. It also can be seen as actions which necessitate a response. For example, sticking out a paw for a pawshake is a very basic Prompt phase. Another example of using an action as a prompt phase can be tripping over or throwing something at another character or passing any object or gesture between two characters. There are heaps of possibilities so be creative and have fun. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it’s something that can be responded to.
The Development Phase
This is the phase in which your creative mind can really shine through. Here, you can show off your character’s personality, you can get into their head and explore their thoughts, you can have the character interacting with their environment and you can use your character’s behaviour to give clues as to tone of voice and the intentions behind their words. This section is really the meat of the RP and is what makes the RP fun and interesting to read. Here’s an amended version of the basic post we looked at for the Response and Prompt phases, but this time I’ve added a simple section of Development phase in purple.
See how it makes the same basic post so much more interesting and informative? We now know that Scotty is a man of the world and likes to keep up with current affairs. As he’s looking up, we can also assume that he’s sitting somewhere.“Hi, Lucy, I’m Scotty,” greets Scotty, looking up from his paper. “So...Where are you from?”
The development phase does not have to be only actions either. It also manifests itself in the form of speech. Here’s an example.
See the difference that makes? We know now that Scotty has friends, or at least contacts amongst the local pets. He’s probably friendly too as he’s interrupting his reading to talk to Lucy. Now let’s build Scotty’s individuality as a character.“Hi, Lucy, I’m Scotty,” greets Scotty, looking up from his paper. “I had heard there was a new pet in town. I guess it must be you. So...Where are you from?”
Now we know that Scotty is neat and tidy. He also likes to enjoy his coffee and is willing to interrupt his daily routine for a new friend. So we’re starting to get a feel for him as a person and because of that we can begin to relate to him. It helps make the character come alive. Now let’s add some description of the environment because that’s also part of the development phase.“Hi, Lucy, I’m Scotty,” greets Scotty, folding his paper and neatly placing it next to his half-drunk coffee. “I had heard there was a new pet in town. I guess it must be you. So...Where are you from?”
So Scotty is sitting in a busy cafe. It’s probably noisy and has some class since it has waitresses. It probably also smells delightfully of coffee and pastries. See how we can infer a lot from a small amount of description? You don’t have to be hugely exotic or detailed with descriptions either. Your readers will do a lot of the work. You just need to throw them a bone, so to speak.“Hi, Lucy, I’m Scotty,” greets Scotty, folding his paper and neatly placing it next to his half-drunk coffee, one of many such cups yet to be cleared away by the waitresses in the hectically busy cafe. “I had heard there was a new pet in town. I guess it must be you. So...Where are you from?”
Bringing It All Together
So now you’re getting a feel for the different phases of writing a good RP post. But you’re probably thinking “Hey, Roo, the posts I’ve seen in the RPs don’t look like that. They have things all over the place.”
If you are thinking that, then you’re quite right. That’s the fun thing about writing. There is no set structure so you can make it work however you like. Often times you’ll find it’s easier to mix the phases together to make the post flow and to respond to everyone else that’s posted in the thread. Here’s our example from before with Scotty and Lucy, showing an easy way to mix the phases, again colour coded for your convenience.
All I did there was to write Scotty speaking in a natural and friendly manner, just like I would speak if it was me sitting in that cafe instead of him. So you can see how easy it is, if you remember the three phases, Response, Development and Prompt, to turn a short boring post like this:“Hi, Lucy, I’m Scotty,” greets Scotty, folding his paper and neatly placing it next to his half-drunk coffee, one of many such cups yet to be cleared away by the waitresses in the hectically busy cafe.
“Please, join me.” he invites, gesturing to a free chair. “Would you like a drink of something? James – have you met him yet? James said there was a new pet in town. I guess it must be you. So...Where are you from?”
into something that’s much more interesting to read and much easier to interact with. From here, Lucy can answer Scotty’s questions, she can observe the goings-on in the cafe and comment on them if she wishes and she can show off her own character with how she chooses to respond to Scotty’s offer.“Hi, Lucy, I’m Scotty. So...Where are you from?”
Compare that post we wrote using the three phases to the following post which I do unfortunately see far too often in the RPs.
Can you see what's missing? That's right, there's no Prompt phase. Because of that, that post is terrible. It doesn’t tell us anything about Scotty and it's very difficult to reply to. Not to mention that it breaks the rule about avoiding one-line posts where possible. Posts like that are best avoided at all costs as they can start a chain reaction where one poorly-written post like that causes another one due to the difficulty in responding to it, causing a cascading effect which can eventually kill an RP.“Hi, Lucy, I’m Scotty.” Scotty said.
Now, it’s true that not every post will have an action in it, especially in a conversation. Every post must have a Prompt phase though, even if that phase is just having a character asking a question. It’s also worth noting that any conversation can be made more interesting by inserting the Development phase to show the characters’ mannerisms and thoughts.
The long and short of what I’ve said above is this: every post must contain a response to the previous poster or posters, and every post must contain something for the subsequent posters to respond to in turn. Remember the three Phases and you should have no dramas. As a reminder, the phases are as follows:
- Response Phase: Your character reacts to the events of previous posts
- Prompt Phase: Your character provides something to which subsequent posters can react
- Development Phase: Information is provided on your character, their thoughts and mannerisms, actions and events occur, and further detail is added to the environment.
So that’s your how-to guide to writing a good RP post. The ball is now in your court so go impress me with your new-found skills and please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions or wish to discuss anything that I’ve written in this guide.