Roleplay Guide by Kayleigh Burgen
Roleplay in writing is something often times exciting and all of the time wildly creative. The very idea of getting together with people and crafting out an entire story together with your own characters and spin on universes is something unmatchable. It’s a specific type of freedom and release from every day issues and concerns, a chance to ease back and envision something entirely your own with others who think the same way. It’s challenging, it’s fun and often times it can be difficult to meet certain topics that can ascertain to real life or from the simple interactions with another and meeting that creative block. Over the years, it can be hard to come up with new ideas, something fresh to make things interesting and to stop them going stale straight from the gate. The most important thing to remember throughout these processes is that excitement is key, having the drive to want it to succeed and having encouragement received and given.
The initial first step is of course to come up with a sort of loose plot, an idea of what you want to do and how exactly you want to begin a story, which in itself can be a taxing affair and can take minutes or days. Once the plot is there, it then becomes more of a fleshed-out creature, something that requires the attention of more than just you and thus you begin to start branching out, searching for others who might breathe the same spark of life into it as you might. Character creation, finding the character that best suits and often, the characters involved end up being polar opposites, brought together by some great clash and hence the plot begins. Selecting the right people can be a massive obstacle, of course you want active people to keep the plot alive and those who can be on par with your own wants when it comes to the crunch to avoid any dissatisfaction or ugliness should things get tense. Sometimes, there will be disagreements regardless and it’s important to come to a conclusion in a relaxed and constructive way, especially when people are sharing their own stories and creative. No one wants to have their ideas cut down or put aside in favour of others, but it’s vital that these sorts of things are not taken as a negative and more of a ‘later’ sort of agreement.
Whether it’s a group or a partner to write with, matching up is important, being on the same wavelength is the best way to make sure a roleplay survives the test of time. Finding a creative match is not a small thing and often it can take dozens of failed attempts before finding people who can communicate, plot craft and bounce ideas around in a way that slots well with what you like personally and creatively. It’s often overlooked many times that getting that group together can be as difficult as herding chickens, given writing as a whole can be a strenuous thing at times and takes its own time, finding a match can be difficult when time zones are incurred and that’s always a risk factor in itself. However, if all parties are excited and kept in the loop and regularly brought into a conversation, even a time zone can be bridged. As with all things, sometimes it just falls apart and there is nothing to be done about it. It is best in these situations to simple break off and let it lie, maybe return to it another day.
However, when the stars do align in such a way that you have your perfect plot, your perfect group and/or partner ready to go and the characters are raring, chomping at the bit to be released, the process can be educational. Seeing how others write, how they articulate things and come up with their own process whether it’s 200 words or 1,000 in a post on a writing forum or roleplaying site. The entire ordeal can lead to interesting ways to learn through paying attention and reading and this often encroaches on your own style, leads to new ways to spice up your own writing and stop it being repetitive or mundane. Of course, no one’s every completely happy with their own work when it comes down to it and we will all forever nit-pick and scrutinize down to the last sentence and even then, we won’t be satisfied but we do grow to be more content, the more we learn.
With the right encouragement from those we surround ourselves with when it comes to writing and starting any creative process, whether it’s an original work or a fan fiction work born of a love for a particular show or movie, the praise of our peers can really help in motivating us to hurl ourselves onwards and keep at the craft until it’s something be like, a habit and a hobby in itself and that can bloom into a rather wonderful passion. It’s important to be mindful that whereas some are more experienced in writing and roleplaying, others are perhaps just beginning that journey and we all started somewhere, even if it is the dreaded one-liners and asterisk responses. It’s fairly standard that most of us started somewhere back there and a little lift towards others can be the right kick or nudge to provoke them to continue and want to get better.
Styles consistently change depending on who we roleplay with, which genre we throw ourselves onto and eventually everyone finds their own style to settle with and perhaps an inclination to write one genre over another whether it’s fantasy or sci-fi, historical or present-day reality; the point is our style will eventually solidify and become a staple for us. So, keeping it fresh and interesting can become another hurdle to be mastered and met with a laugh rather than discourse and frustration.
Changing up genres, trying new a new idea out that perhaps wasn’t in your forte beforehand whilst difficult, can have impressive results and writings forums and roleplay sites have a popularity for these reasons, they allow a sense of anything is possible and nothing is really frowned upon; there really is something for everyone when it comes to these sorts of things. They are also a sense of community, similar to sports or entertainment industry because they bring people together under the same light and allow them a space in which to talk and throw ideas at the proverbial wall until something sticks and stays. It can be enlightening to be in a thread with people and seeing them going back and forth, chatting and talking about their latest ideas, sometimes ideas can be picked up from these discussions or tossed in the trash when they realise a loophole. It’s inspiring to see and these sorts of conversations can also keep things fresh and lead to changes in styles.
It goes without saying that constructive criticism is incredibly useful for keeping your writing fresh and making sure there’s an improvement. The important part of this is making sure it’s constructive rather than putting someone down and making them feel terrible about what the work they’ve put forward and out into the world. Whatever someone is roleplaying or writing is often an expression, a piece of themselves and to be deliberately hostile would take away from their education and lead them to discourse and a lack of wanting to get better. Each to their own but it’s usually more proactive to encourage and educate than to belittle and demean.
When it comes to my own personal style, I’ve learnt over the years what I enjoy, what I’m good at and where I need to improve and perhaps branch out. I prefer fantasy lands built from the ground up with great discourse and calamity and I lack skills when it comes to sci-fi and technological realms. I enjoy emotionally driven posts as opposed to endless action and no growth between characters, the story is always important but the characters should each have their own personal stories. Of course, this is just my own preferences and everyone has their own and their own way of doing it and enjoying it depends on who likes what and what makes them put forth their best work.
Some styles can be more poetic and classic in nature, others can be punchier and action driven and there is no right or wrong when it comes to this. Roleplay and writing in general are an open forum for everyone, it doesn’t discriminate and never should. Anyone can do it and should be welcomed into the community to play whatever they wish to play and write whatever they wish to write, on that note though it goes back to finding the right people and being on the right wavelength with them all. Any sort of plot should be levelled and all parties should always be on the same page so there’s no nasty surprises down the way.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of roleplaying sites. Some are geared to specific fandoms and themes; some are more adult in nature and require users to be eighteen or over, others are more family friendly and offer that gateway to the community. There is a site out there for everyone, whatever their style or particular skill when it comes to roleplay. Some are more forum based which works for some people and others are chat box based with real-time responses and quick replies work for others. It is all about preference and finding that comfortable spot.
So, it’s fair to say it’s easy for anyone to get into but the real push is keeping consistent and being willing to find your groove and your people. It can take days or it can take weeks, sometimes even months to find that exact right fit. What’s important is to keep at it and not be deterred and some people get into when they are young and need that extra encouragement and others are older and do it as a side hobby and break from the stress of life. It’s a strange mix of people from all walks of life, all sorts of communities and different backgrounds and I can honestly say it’s not a community I’ve ever seen be terribly toxic. There are squabbles and disagreements of course but these are usually small, petty squabbles and it’s a lot less than other communities I have been in where things can get crazy, whether it’s sport or fandom related communities.
In conclusion, it’s easy to see the perks of roleplaying and it’s certainly enticing to any outsider but it is not short of its own problems and challenges which can often be a draw for a lot of people who enjoy a new obstacle and constantly having to think of new ways to overcome things. It’s an opportunity to break from the tedium of life and destress in a creative and constructive manner. With all of its drawbacks and the hard work required to get better, there is a lesson to be learned and an education to be had when it comes to something like this. There is a reward at the end of it when you finish a story after a few months or a year, when everything is concluded and there’s a feeling of accomplishment in knowing you and others worked together and shared laughter and action scenes and feats and wonderous creations together. Even coming up with your own races and creatures, animals and languages and religions and monarchies, it is truly wonderful to know that the finished project is a result of hard work and consistency and that it’s yours and those you worked with, that nothing else in the world exists because the story is unique and cannot be rewritten with the same emotions and the same feelings and the same drive and memories and process. It is something given out, some spectacularly original.