Writing is a vital and important part of roleplay in the virtual and online capacity. But that is not to say that you need to be a good writer to roleplay online, at all. You don’t. But it definitely helps to know a few tips and tricks to improve your prose. It should also be noted that the best way to improve your writing is practice. And that even the best writer might not be the best roleplayer, as many other skills feed into being a good roleplayer as well. Today though we’re going to look at writing skills. You can find the Beyond Basics Series Index here.
The Importance of Writing Skills in Roleplay
So much of roleplay in an online capacity relies heavily on writing. It’s not a bad idea to keep some things in mind and practice the skill. Your writing skill can be important for a variety of reasons in a roleplay setting. How well you write can in some cases help improve how well you come across to other roleplayers. But on a more important level, it will also affect how well your character comes across and how vividly you can portray them and their development to things around them. Which will have a direct and positive effect on your own immersion along with that of anyone roleplaying with you.
The Right Tools for the Job
Most of this is going to come down to personal skill and practice, but that is not to say there are not things you can do to help you along the path. Below I have listed some of the addons I use to make life that bit easier when it comes to writing in roleplay for World of Warcraft.
Misspelled – This is a small addon that acts like a generic spellchecker. Now I should note it is not flawless and does not catch everything or have a complete dictionary of every imaginable word, but it’s enough to catch most errors and typos and let you fix them quickly.
SoDEndlessChat – This one extends your chat box allowing you to type more than the previously limited amount of characters and it will break your reply up into the correct number of segments. This has its pros and cons but I go into that more below.
Prat – Prat does not necessarily help you with writing either but it does allow you to do things with your chat box, like changes fonts and sizes, have names show up in colours and other useful things for clarity and ease. Prat is also not the only addon that does this, Check out Curses’ Chat Add-on category for a selection.
Tips and Tricks
Clear mental image
The best thing you can do to improve your writing is to concentrate and think about the scene yourself. Have a clear mental image of what’s going on. Have a clear image of what your character looks like, how they act, their expressions and the world around them. The more life you can inject into your own understanding of the scene the better and easier you will convey that in your emotes and replies.
Emote the small things, as it’s these small things that bring realism and life to a character. It’s easy to fall into the trap of only emoting when your character moves, sits, stands etc, within a scene. But don’t forget the small things. The little in between motions that are the main source of better characterizations. What are they doing with their hands? What small-muscle movements are they making? Where are they looking and what is expressed in their glances and features?
It can be difficult to remember your other senses when you are roleplaying in a virtual world but that will often set you apart from others. Take a moment to look around and try and imagine what kind of background noises your character might be hearing. What smell might be lingering in the air? What about the temperature? These little things again add to the realism of your character and the scene. They the end product stand out as more engaging and entertaining.
Be careful with information overload. I’ve so far given you several examples of small things you can be adding to your roleplay writing to help it come across better but you don’t need to add them all at once, temper it and move slowly. Add only what’s relevant at the moment and feed things into your emotes in smaller more bite-sized increments. If you drop all your little flavour quirks on someone in the first round of emotes, you’ll be left with no material to keep up the same level of quality throughout the rest of the scene and it will seem unbalanced.
Similar to the above point in a more practical note. If you do have the addon that allows you to type more than one chatbox at a time; be responsible with that power. While it’s great to be able to go above the limit when needed be aware that a lot of people don’t like being hit with massive walls of text. So if you are using such an addon try and keep your replies to a maximum of two boxes where you can and only when needed so save flooding peoples screens with constant reams of information.
We spoke about this in the topic on writing Character Profiles, but it bears repeating here. Avoid assumptions. You do not get to decide or assume how another character is going to react you anything your character is doing or saying. So try to keep any such assumptions out of your writing. You can describe how your character looks, acts and talks, you can maybe even go so far as to add some flavour and interest to a setting around you. But you don’t get to decide how someone else’s character is going to react to that. So when writing be sure you only involved your own character in what is being said, and let your RP partners decide how their characters are going to react and play into that.
The colour in question is purple. Purple prose is the name given to writing that is overly verbose and flagrant to an unnecessary and often distracting level. Cramming in as many big fancy words as you can is not going to make you come across as a better writer or roleplayer. No one is here to read a dictionary or write a thesis. What’s going to help your writing in roleplay is engagement, connection, and immersion. And that does not require any fancy words at all in most cases.
Be careful with your verbs
The verb in question that usually rubs people the wrong way is ‘Would’. As mentioned above when talking about not telling other people how their character reacts; knowing what your character does plays into that. And would is an unclear term. I think it is often used by people either to try and come across as sounding fancy or simply because they are trying to avoid telling the other person how to react and taking it a step too far. When you say your character would do something you are not saying they did and that is the issue most people have with it. It’s unclear, it leaves people wondering.
You do get to decide what your character does. You don’t get to decide how another character reacts. This means you never need to use the ‘would’ verb in that context. Your character can do X or Y, they can ‘attempt’ H or Z, whatever it is that you think they would do so long as they don’t extend that into deciding how X, Y, H or Z effects the other character it is all fine.
Saying things like ‘’ Sam would strike the man for the offered insult.’’ is difficult, because saying that he would, is not the same as saying that he did. It leaves people shrugging and wondering; ‘’Well…did he?’’
A better resolution would be ‘’Sam after taking offense to the man’s words attempts to strike him with a heavy right hook’’. That tells the other person very clearly what Sam is trying to do and why, and still leaves it open for them to react and respond however they see fit for their own character.
I hope you found these tips and tricks helpful. If you did please let us know in the comments and share this post with your friends!
Don’t forget to follow us on Social Media and sign up for our newsletter as well!