Roo's Guide to RP: The Anatomy Of A Good RP Post

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Roo's Guide to RP: The Anatomy Of A Good RP Post

Post by Hlaoroo »

The Anatomy Of A Good RP Post

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. :P
“Hi, Lucy, I’m Scotty. So...Where are you from?”
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.


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.
“Hi, Lucy, I’m Scotty,” greets Scotty, looking up from his paper. “So...Where are you from?”
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.

The development phase does not have to be only actions either. It also manifests itself in the form of speech. Here’s an example.
“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?”
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, 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?”
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, 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?”
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.


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.
“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?”
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. 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.

Compare that post we wrote using the three phases to the following post which I do unfortunately see far too often in the RPs.
“Hi, Lucy, I’m Scotty.” Scotty said.
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.

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.


In Summary

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.
All of this may sound like a lot of work and the truth is that it is. RPing, just like writing a novel or poem, or like painting a picture or riding a bike takes time and effort to master. Once you get the hang of it though you’ll find that it happens naturally. Just like with any endeavour, RP takes practise to get good at so don’t get disheartened if your posts aren’t masterpieces to begin with. Remember that any post you do is better than no post at all and don’t forget that the more time and effort you put in, the better you’ll find your posts will be and the more enjoyment you’ll get out of RPing.


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.
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Re: Roo's Guide to RP: The Anatomy Of A Good RP Post

Post by Leafolawl »

Hey, Leaf here with a second post full of hopefully helpful information. So I present to you...

Chapter two: Environments

Environment is a constant in all roleplays, it's literally the ground the characters walk on, as well as the walls that get in their way. It's more than just vistas and smelly socks, and as such has a level of importance. The only difference from before is that environment is a completely passive character, one that exists simply by having a roleplay at all.

Someone has to write it, but it's not just one person's place... All involved contribute in some way to building the environment, which is a very delicate part in a roleplay. There's two major roles in this that can be broken down fairly easily to help spread around the weight depending on the needs. It follows as such:

Section one: Environment Creator
If you're introducing it, it's nice to at minimum give the place an outline. Just calling a place "The farm" is not helpful to what's there. What do they farm? Is it milk, or eggs, or wheat? Perhaps wool, even. We don't know, maybe it's a general farm, but until someone contributes further to the idea, it's just a place with a name.
Waldo climbed out of the car, looking around to see he'd been taken to the farm, and smiling, he runs off to explore.
It's not very compelling to stand on its own, and doesn't feel like it invites anyone to really pile on and expand the idea. The first thing we'll want to do is give everyone the feeling of the place, so that everyone can either follow in with their characters responding to the place, or contribute if they've done reading up or know what they can find. You can help this by also leaving hints to what might be found.

So let's begin color coding things to clear up what each part of a description adds.

Blue is foundational. It's the part of the environment's description that shapes what it is at its barest sense. It's what you're building from, or put another way, it's simply the concept.

Orange is structural. It's the part of the environment's description telling you what major features are present. It's what you're engaging with most directly, as it's what's actually present.

Green is minutia. It's the fine details of the environment's description that really gives a scene depth, and can really help make it inviting to actually engage in. It's the exact details that give the area personality, and can give others that picturesque telling of what you're thinking.

Purple is invitational. This is the part of the environment's description that asks for everyone to really help make it with either supplementary description or minutia. It's what is left out expressly so the others can really pitch in and make the place everyone's.
This part can also be made a bit easier on the other players if you also give a post in the O.o.C. thread to say the area is there to be expanded upon, but that's only for clarity to make everyone comfortable with that.


With that cleared up, let's color code our first bit and see what we have.
Waldo climbed out of the car, looking around to see he'd been taken to the farm, and smiling, he runs off to explore.
We only really get one word of foundation. Nothing telling us what it is, or what we see, so there's not really much to interact with...

Let's give it a strong foundation first to see how much that opens up... and maybe give Waldo a bit more character while we're at it to really reflect how he's taking in the environment, as he's meant to be a part of the experience in exploring it too.
Waldo climbed out of the car, looking around to see he'd been taken to the horse farm--or maybe that's a ranch? He runs to the closest fence to have a look around, smiling as he takes the area in.
A bit better, as we now get a strong suggestion that we'll find stables, training rings, and large open fields that might stretch on for a few miles, instead of leaving it a blank space in everyone's mind... but we can do better by giving it a good helping of structural description to really flesh it out, and some minutia to really give an idea of the state of the place.

We'll stick with our current example, writing it with all the new details.
Waldo climbed out of the car after a long ride through some open fields along a clear dirt road to some farm he'd never seen... though as he looked around, he got an idea that he might be at a horse farm--or maybe that's a ranch? Either way, the open fields with horses grazing or running around gave him a pretty clear indication, as well as the nearby stable with a large horseshoe sign hanging off the one side. In his newfound excitement, he runs over to the nearest fence to look out over the area with a wide grin plastered on his face.
And now we have a scene that really puts itself in your mind. We have some extra description to play with and enjoy, and plenty of area to cover... but we can still add more detail, can't we? Let's see what happens.
Waldo climbed out of the car after a long ride through some open fields along a clear dird road lined with kousa dogwood trees sporting late June blooms of white, to some farm he'd never seen... though as he looked around from his spot on the soft dirt beside the car, he got the idea that he might be on a horse farm--or maybe that's a ranch? Either way, the green open pastures that dominate the countryside around him, dotted on occasion with the browns, whites, and blacks of grazing or running horses gave him a pretty clear indication.

Even the large stable with its adjoined, and equally large training ring make it fairly clear, even if one were to ignore the large horseshoe hanging over the entry of the visitor's side of the stables. A clear view inside shows a dozen stalls on each side for the horses, as well as a few other large areas nearby that seem to be for storing feed and brushes. A large house sits a short ways further up the dirt road, but is clearly not welcoming to visitors as a large wooden gate made from thick logs sits blocking any traffic from going up to it.

Waldo runs over to climb up the nearest wooden fence blocking traffic from driving out into the pastures and takes in the lively field as a breeze blows through to bend the long alfalfa that's grown for the horses to eat, smiling at the new experience as a breeze carries the smell of the open fields to him. His gaze is drawn to a single mare with white and brown patterning as she runs willingly around a set of three barrels in another slightly smaller training ring off a ways from the main stables.
Well, that's certainly a lot of expanded detail... maybe a little too much? How's anyone supposed to contribute to this in a meaningful way when so much of everything has been so finely filled in? Granted, there may be times where you need to do this, because it's important to your played character that these sorts of details are filled in, such as if it's the character's home. However, we should assume everyone's visiting, so we can get our last bit of it in.

Invitational details, which invite others to fill in some details themselves. Let's work back from our newest example by taking out some of the details and adjusting phrasing to offer bits to fill in, and maybe take out some of the extraneous details that don't offer anything to roleplaying.
Waldo climbed out of the car after a long ride through some open fields along a clear dirt road lined with some kind of tree he didn't pay attention to as he'd gotten bored and zoned out long ago. He looked around from his spot on the soft dirt beside the car, to see some farm he'd never been to before... more specifically a horse farm--or maybe that's a ranch? Either way, the green open pastures that dominate the countryside around him, dotted on occasion with the browns, whites, and blacks of grazing or running horses gave him a pretty clear indication.

Even the large stable with its adjoined, and equally large training ring make it fairly clear, even if one were to ignore the large horseshoe hanging over the entry of the visitor's side of the stables. The door sits wide open, giving visitors a good look inside before they even leave their vehicles.

Waldo runs over to climb up the nearest wooden fence and takes in the lively field as a breeze blows through to bend the long alfalfa that's grown for the horses to eat, smiling at the new experience as a breeze carries the smell of the open fields to him. He turns around and excitedly waves everyone over as he points out to one of the occupied training rings.
And here we have a slew of missing details for things that clearly exist, leaving things for other players to contribute, while still having a clear scene that players can interact with established and clear details. A little long for some, maybe, but then you have to remember... a location needs an introduction post too. You need to define it enough that it has something for everyone to do.

And now that we have that, let's talk about the next part.

Section two: Responding to the Environment

Waldo has given us a good bit to work with for the types of responses we'll talk about, so let's start.

If this is Waldo's new home, he should have full control over the location's descriptions, so we can expect Waldo to have posted the very detailed one. Our appropriate response is to not add more detail unless it's something that would clearly be there, like a water basin for the horses to drink from. A good way to do this is to describe the scene again from our new character's perspective, and maybe ignore the stuff that they have no interest in...

This is a full slide to 'creator control' situation, where the only thing that will overrule it is if the GM can reasonably rule something in the location's description as being incompatible with the roleplay's setting, like an electronic hoverboard in a old western style role play.

This will follow all the rules of chapter one, as you're just posting for your own character at that point.


If this is a place everyone's simply visiting like we assume for the last example, and we then assume there's an open invitation to expand upon the place, then we can comfortably fill in that there's horses in some of the stable's stalls when we run in, and a second player can fill in the details of what Waldo is pointing at, while the last character comes in and gushes about how well cared for the kousa dogwood trees are, and how pretty they are in their late-June bloom.

This is a good balanced slide between creator and contributor... but not everyone will want to or will have the confidence to contribute to the scene, either from lack of knowledge or just from being tired that week. It's nice to leave the option, but don't make it an expectation that everyone else fills in what you left out.

This follows the rules here in chapter two if you do contribute... but you will eventually run out of things to leave blank for invitational information. Don't worry about it if you do, that just means the environment is well fleshed out, and ready for new activities to be introduced.

But not every situation is so clear, so if you're not sure if you're being prompted to expand upon the environment by the person introducing it... there's no harm in asking.

Conclusion

The environment is its own character that exists to set a mood for the player's characters. Sometimes you want it neutral, sometimes you want it inviting, or cozy... or maybe scary, and slightly oppressive. Establishing this is up to everyone, and will usually be spearheaded by more experienced players or GMs, but usually not by just one or the other.

If it's not a character's home, the balance for creator as opposed to contributor control is in perpetual flux, which means this is a bit harder to nail down than the concepts in chapter one... but as before, a bit of practice and you'll have a good sense of when it's appropriate to assume any amount of control over the environment and when you should keep your control strictly to your characters.

For those who find this helpful, I'm glad I could be of service, and I hope everyone can continue to have a good time.
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