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Loco Mofo

Dark Lord of the Gif
In order to really help me, you have to understand me and my RP journey so far.


Back in 2006 I joined an RP community called RPG Forums Online, or RPGFO. I was a 21 year old kid who had no writing experience and a grade 9 education. I couldn't write at all. I mean I was bad. I wasn't a borderline illiterate thug, I was a piece of fecal matter scraped from the boot of a borderline illiterate thug. Writing never came naturally to me. The most reading I was able to do was during my time spent in a provincial prison. I've had to work at this thing from day one, probably harder than most.

So what saved me? What redeeming quality allowed me to persevere and write alongside, learning from some of the RPGFO greats? My creativity. I was taught very early on that RP is not just writing, it is story telling. RP is 70% creativity, and 30% literacy. I spent roughly three weeks just lurking, snooping (something that would become a life-long habit). I needed to do my homework and find out what this role playing thing was all about. MY only knowledge of role playing prior to FO was a form of sex game. So I snooped every OOC and IC thread I possibly could, seeing what people were doing, what people responded to, and how they were telling stories as a group, each with their own characters. I still couldn't write, but I was getting a sense of what RP actually was. Being too respectful and self-conscious to join someone's RP and sully it with my ineptitude, I decided to create my own RP.

I came up with a concept involving unique vampires in a post-apocalyptic world that meshed American western with traditional fantasy. Somehow it became a resounding success overnight. Despite my total lack of organizational or literary skill, people wanted to be a part of this story. That was the moment I realized that creativity trumps literacy when it came to creative writing. For years afterward, I never had problems pitching a story. The only concept of mine that didn't gain traction in 13 years is my super hero universe.

Back in 2013 or 2014, I left role playing altogether. Haven't written anything since. Didn't scribble notes, didn't work on personal projects, didn't RP in chat rooms. Nothing. I always work on concepts in my head - it's like a freaking mental illness - but I didn't write at all. As such, my ability to flesh out the little details - or ranting as I affectionately call it - has all but faded away. No matter how hard I try to sit down and flesh out a post, nothing comes to me. Only the important details. Who did what, who said what, and why. I cannot get my ability to rant back, and it's killing me. I hate my own material now, and there's no feeling more nasty for a writer like me. I was never the type to sit and "Tolkien it up" for no reason, taking half a paragraph to describe the old oak tree in the background, and the young couple who were married under it 627 years prior. That's just not me. I believe too much detail weighs a post and narrative down. I like to prioritize, even a the cost of length. More isn't always good when you're doing multiple character interactions. You've got to know where and when the balance resides to really do good long-form.

So now I find myself only able to produce basic descriptions and dialogue. When it comes to combat I spring to life, because that will never leave me. It just comes as naturally to me as drawing breath. Nevertheless, I have stopped all posting in my current solo RP (here you can really see just how bad it is. You can even see how some days I really try to push my writing more than others, but it's just not working. I'm a broken unit) until I can fix this problem. I refuse to put up another post I'm unhappy with.


So how can I work on improving my ability to flesh out a post? I need help, because whatever I was trying on my own, just has not been working. This is frustrating and disheartening for me. It's had me so frustrated that I can't write anything most of the time.

I need help.
 
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middleagedgeek

Ultra Nerdy
Reading helps, not just books but other people’s posts. So if your doing 1x1 maybe try letting your partner take the lead and then respond back to them.

Especially if you request a detailed partner a lot of people with that mindset find adding in atmospheric details to be second nature. I suppose in the same way you find combat easy some people just naturally gravitate toward descriptions.

Another trick I have seen work really well is switching to third person cinematic view. Where you are describing each scene as if your watching it on TV. So your basically describing things like your following a camera through the action.

It helps you really work on a clear visualization of the scene without getting bogged down in internal monologues.
 

Toacho

The ‘Friend of a Friend’
That's a pretty difficult question and I'm not sure if the advice below will be useful to you or not, but I'm willing to give it a shot. As a person who has roleplayed for about eight years now, starting off back with the basic couple lines per-post and now writing upwards of 3500+ words, (On a good day at least,) I've listed my ideas for how to improve below, and feel free to use or ignore anything that does not suit your style. I tried to pick out some ideas that may not be as likely to be suggested later on or at least provide examples for ones that may appear later on in this thread.
  • Show, don't tell. I noticed a few situations throughout your thread where this occurred and I have a feeling that if you practiced it some, you could improve a lot on this aspect. It's rather self-explanatory, just practice focussing how to display the emotions you use or things that are mentioned rather than simply saying them.
    • For example, don't make a retired veteran 'flinch as the fireworks outside remind him of the battlefield'; rather, have 'their gaze sharply flash to the windows as an explosion rang across the neighborhood, fingers tightening around the warm metal of a gun that no longer existed.' This leaves room to describe a lot more to it. You could provide characterization by how they react; do they realize immediately that it's just the fireworks and that they should join their family outside in watching them, or do they hesitate before eventually trying to distract themselves with a book or television? You could change the focus a little to be a flashback to the war, or maybe even delve further into the emotions stirred by it. There's plenty of options.
  • Find a symbol. This is a trick that I try to use for every roleplay I do and it's honestly the reason why so many of my posts are so long; I always try to connect a character or concept without explicitly stating what it represents. It can be tricky to get the hang of, but I'll provide an example for that as well.
    • Say that you have three friends; Jack, Marty, and Tim. Jack is somewhat of an impulsive brat and does what he wants exactly when he wants to. If he desires to be the center of attention, he will try to do absolutely anything to make it so, no matter what the other two think. Tim has a strong sense of justice, and will often give Jack a guilt trip for his choices because he believes they are morally wrong. Marty is the between-grounds of the two, a realist and a mediator. He can acknowledge when it is reasonable to follow Jack's impulses or Tim's concern. Now, I did not state it directly in the example, but I was building a symbol throughout that explanation, my symbol being how each character represents a different aspect of Freudian psychology; Id (Jack), Ego (Marty), and Superego (Tim). As you may have noticed, it took a bit of context and building to get it even close to representing the concept. My point by this example is this; if you put a symbol in your mind and try to show the audience or other roleplayers without ever strictly saying it, you'll force yourself to add more characterization and context in order to represent your symbol.
  • Describe the little things and build on them.In the words of the author Richard Price, "You don't write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid's burnt socks lying in the road." Learn to use these little things like burnt socks and expand. Sort of like what middleagedgeek said, start with a 'pan-down' on the socks as if you're describing a movie shot. Once you describe those, start to pan up, describe the stains across the street, or the gaping holes and rubble littering the concrete, and finally, once you have built it up enough, you can zoom out to show the full cost of the war.
    • As a personal example, I once had a roleplay where a god of a forsaken religion awakened in a forest after having been abandoned by his own worshippers thousands of years prior to the main events of the story. Want to know what the very first thing I described was? A moth landing in a track on the ground as a set of muddied bare feet stumbled towards a stream in the distance. Again, by focussing on the small things and slowly 'panning out' to the full picture, you'll force yourself to write about the strings connecting each and therefore, increasing your impact when you finally do reach the horrors of war or the awakened elder god.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words. Artists will say it all the time, so why not flip it? Find a picture you like online or a quote that you find striking and try to either describe it or build on it. This is how I open most of my roleplays, hopping onto good old Google Images or Pinterest and just finding something that conveys a particular thing I like. Of course, it changes depending on the roleplay. This is great for setting description and can help paint the full image of what you want your reader/partner to see.
    • For this image, I would describe a few things, but I think the first thing I would begin with would be mentioning the jagged lines created the first time they set the chalk to the blackboard. Afterwards, I'd have them struggle to get used to the name, as they find it to feel too foreign to them, like they're wearing someone else's title. After that? You just build it till the final time they get it absolutely perfect. Kind of a short example, but you get the idea.

That's about all I've got. Again, I'm not certain if this will be able to help you, but these are the main tricks I use when roleplaying. I hope none of them came off as being 'too blunt', but I was trying to get the point through without sugar-coating them. I think that for right now, my biggest suggestion to you would be to focus on showing and not telling, as I saw that a few times throughout the thread you linked.

A lot of people can excuse some of these as just being used to achieve a word count or making posts all flowery and long, (And they totally can when done wrong! I've admittedly fallen for that mistake quite a few times in my past.) But if you are good at identifying what would and wouldn't work for you, and when it should be used, it could help a lot with your issue.

Hopefully that helps, if you've got any questions or ever need someone to give a second opinion on a post, I'm usually lurking around somewhere on the forum. Good luck!

Edit; misunderstood the question.
 
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Loco Mofo

Dark Lord of the Gif
  • A picture is worth a thousand words. Artists will say it all the time, so why not flip it? Find a picture you like online or a quote that you find striking and try to either describe it or build on it. This is how I open most of my roleplays, hopping onto good old Google Images or Pinterest and just finding something that conveys a particular thing I like. Of course, it changes depending on the roleplay. This is great for setting description and can help paint the full image of what you want your reader/partner to see.
This is what I'm looking for. Tricks and techniques to get it back. It took me about 2 years to learn how to write and develop my style, but after that I had no problems until I returned after so long being away from it completely.

I used to be able to write, but I can't now. I read all the time. Most of my time here is spent lurking. It doesn't help me to read other's work anymore. I find myself playing the role of critic in that scenario, because at one time, I could do this and keep pace with the best.

I figured I'd just jump on the saddle again, and it would all food back into me, like riding a bike. So I created my solo RP and found that it's just not coming. It takes so much effort just to write one short, crappy post.

I was ready to throw in the towel last week.
 

Toacho

The ‘Friend of a Friend’
This is what I'm looking for. Tricks and techniques to get it back. It took me about 2 years to learn how to write and develop my style, but after that I had no problems until I returned after so long being away from it completely.

I used to be able to write, but I can't now. I read all the time. Most of my time here is spent lurking. It doesn't help me to read other's work anymore. I find myself playing the role of critic in that scenario, because at one time, I could do this and keep pace with the best.

I figured I'd just jump on the saddle again, and it would all food back into me, like riding a bike. So I created my solo RP and found that it's just not coming. It takes so much effort just to write one short, crappy post.

I was ready to throw in the towel last week.
That's pretty tough, but I get the feeling. I guess I'd just have to advise you to practice -- I'd even suggest just trying to throw yourself right into a roleplay so that you can try and pick up on your old styles. Give your partner a heads up that you're working on getting back into it so that they may be more understanding of any flaws; but personally, I don't think solo roleplaying is going to help you get very far. Roleplaying is a two-sided experience and it tends to be difficult to maintain interest if you're the only one doing it, hence why so many roleplays die due to one person being the only person to ever actually make any moves.

Again, that's just my advice. It depends on a few factors such as whether you're more of a leader in roleplays or someone who just goes with a group or if you are trying to just do one-on-ones, but I think just hopping into a roleplay would be the most helpful. By jumping right into one, you get to practice until it returns or test what still works in roleplay and what is more outdated, etc. I promise you, you're not the only person in this situation and people are rather supportive here.
 

QuirkyAngel

White Masquerade's Blue Oni
First off, I'd start off by not being so critical of your writing. I've read (some) of it. It's not bad. You've got good pacing at least. Honestly, my brother would probably prefer to read your writing over many others because he's an engineer and likes to get from point A --> point B quickly rather than point A --> (filler, filler, filler)--> point B. He gets bored when things get long-winded, especially if its useless fluff information. I'm guessing you might be the same sort of person. One that prefers logic and function over artistry.

Secondly, judging from your age, I'm gonna guess your 'voice' has already developed. People tend to write how they speak. Some people are more natural at description than others. When you look at the sky is the first description that comes to mind blue or is it a wide azure sea with sprinklings of marshmallows? If you're trying really hard but just can't find a way to describe something differently, it's because that's how you grown to think and speak. Simply and straightforward. Nothing's wrong with that. Everyone's different. But, if you want change, it's definitely possible. It just takes effort.

My advice:
1. What the first poster said. Read. Read lots. It'll improve your vocabulary and give you more options. More importantly, read the people whose writing you aspire to. No point reading chick flicks because that's probably not going to help you get the 'voice' you want.

2. Use all your senses. Listen to audiobooks and hear how descriptive writers sound. Read out loud. You're trying to incorporate a new voice after all. Like learning a new language, descriptive writing becomes natural when you surround yourself with it. Descriptive writers simply grew up in a different environment than you did.

3. Be patient with yourself. Change doesn't happen in a single day. Keep practicing. If your frustration has you to the point of throwing your pen down, I'd suggest limiting your writing sessions to just once a day maybe an hour at most (so you don't end up hating it or wearing yourself out). But I'd advise you to keep writing. Document your writing daily. Then, when you read back, you'll see the changes. Because change will happen. That's how life progresses. It's just hard to notice.

4. The very best writers are egoists. They down let criticism shut them down. Worst of all is their own personal critic.

Theoretically this should work. I say theoretically because I'm just like you. A simplistic writer. Descriptions don't come naturally to me. I try not to describe things in 3 sentences when I can do it in one. Honestly, I've come to accept that about myself and am too lazy to change. Writing's just a hobby to me. However, if your writing style bothers you enough to stop writing then change might be needed. Advice 2 is probably your best bet if reading alone isn't enough. Everyone learns differently.
 

Loco Mofo

Dark Lord of the Gif
Again, that's just my advice. It depends on a few factors such as whether you're more of a leader in roleplays or someone who just goes with a group or if you are trying to just do one-on-ones, but I think just hopping into a roleplay would be the most helpful. By jumping right into one, you get to practice until it returns or test what still works in roleplay and what is more outdated, etc. I promise you, you're not the only person in this situation and people are rather supportive here.
I've very much been a leader from day 1. I started out making my own RP, and it went so well I didn't stop. Probably joined two RPs in my day, and both times the GM was a close friend who treated me as a Co when it came to plot development.

What you're suggesting might actually be a great idea, though. I love writing solo and find my solo projects most interesting because it's all my ideas and vision, however it doesn't often force my hand because of that. Maybe putting myself in spontaneous situations where the other writers influence the flow of events could help me shake some of that rust off.


First off, I'd start off by not being so critical of your writing. I've read (some) of it. It's not bad. You've got good pacing at least. Honestly, my brother would probably prefer to read your writing over many others because he's an engineer and likes to get from point A --> point B quickly rather than point A --> (filler, filler, filler)--> point B. He gets bored when things get long-winded, especially if its useless fluff information. I'm guessing you might be the same sort of person. One that prefers logic and function over artistry.
Thanks for saying so. I'm a mix of both. I like to withhold the artsy moments for when they really count, to hammer home a scene. I tend to not waste words on the fabric of the chair my character is sitting in, or the craftsmanship of the desk in front of them.

Secondly, judging from your age, I'm gonna guess your 'voice' has already developed. People tend to write how they speak. Some people are more natural at description than others. When you look at the sky is the first description that comes to mind blue or is it a wide azure sea with sprinklings of marshmallows? If you're trying really hard but just can't find a way to describe something differently, it's because that's how you grown to think and speak. Simply and straightforward. Nothing's wrong with that. Everyone's different. But, if you want change, it's definitely possible. It just takes effort.
It's very much been developed, and I'm the sort who can change the mood and style depending on the RP or character I'm playing in it.

3. Be patient with yourself. Change doesn't happen in a single day. Keep practicing. If your frustration has you to the point of throwing your pen down, I'd suggest limiting your writing sessions to just once a day maybe an hour at most (so you don't end up hating it or wearing yourself out). But I'd advise you to keep writing. Document your writing daily. Then, when you read back, you'll see the changes. Because change will happen. That's how life progresses. It's just hard to notice.
This is probably the main thing I'm doing right now. I'm expecting too much from myself, too fast.I didn't expect it to be so hard coming back. I beat myself up, blaming my literary education, or lack thereof.

Theoretically this should work. I say theoretically because I'm just like you. A simplistic writer. Descriptions don't come naturally to me. I try not to describe things in 3 sentences when I can do it in one. Honestly, I've come to accept that about myself and am too lazy to change. Writing's just a hobby to me. However, if your writing style bothers you enough to stop writing then change might be needed. Advice 2 is probably your best bet if reading alone isn't enough. Everyone learns differently.
I wasn't always so simplistic. I always gravitated to a matter of fact style when pushing things along, but I used to be able to flesh out at will.
 

Idea

The Pun Tyrant The Gif Hydra
Helper
First things first: I'm not sure you should aim for larger or more detailed posts. I mean, you said yourself:

I believe too much detail weighs a post and narrative down. I like to prioritize, even a the cost of length. More isn't always good when you're doing multiple character interactions. You've got to know where and when the balance resides to really do good long-form.
One thing I often bring up is the idea of "simple, casual and detailed mindsets", this is the set of values, attitudes in writing etc...that tend to produce a particular style within the detail spectrum (nobody falls strictly into one box, but they do tend to lean closer to one or the other). This is not a continuous line, but moreso an aggregate: I have a more detailed style because my style has more things in which I fall into the detailed sort of mindset as I write them. While it isn't a 1 to 1 correlation, more detail tends to involve more length as well, simply because that extra information has to be fitted into the post and naturally takes up space.

I explain this better on this thread, but here's where I am going with this: You seem to overall have a very "casual" mindset, casual in the sense of the detail level that is. That style tends to have more focus on the plot and the particular action, has greater variety in length, it's where people who most trim down their posts tend to fit into. Your mindset, your way of thinking and your values in the writing, tend to affect how much length you tend to produce, and exactly what kind of content you produce as well. Details you'd usually dismiss as useless become harder to come to you, and especially to expand upon.

With that said, it's not that one style is better than the other, and the way one is good in a given style is different from quality for another style, because the different styles have different goals in their approach. This means the way you think will affect how you want to make posts, what you want to prioritize, length, detail and even how to flesh out posts. The more on the detailed end of the spectrum one fits into, the more they will want to flesh out their posts with atmosphere-building expressions, large portions of side-details and the character's inner psyche. The more on the simple side of the spectrum, the more minimalistic your content should be. Casual is all about the action and movement of the plot and story in general, so the key to adding more is through:
A) More action/plot elements: pretty much anything where the character is physically doing something, preferably for the plot.
B) Action-based expressions of character: the character does some activity that reflects who they are as a character or gives the reader more information on that.
C) Set-Up/ Foreshadowing: Use earlier times when you need more content to add foreshadowing for future content.


WIth that matter set aside, on to more general advice:

1.The Rule of Consistency
One of the most important things for me as a writer is consistency, in all kinds of things from characters to lore, to plot and so forth. Consistency is consistency of internal logic and consistency of consequence. The first is that things make sense and don't contradict given the pre-established information. The second is that for the most part things will have causes and consequences that work within that internal logic, and that chain should be taken into consideration.

The way you benefit from this, outside of more solid writing as a whole, is that this can help you generate ideas simply by looking at the chain of consequences. What does X thing imply, and what do the consequences of that imply in turn? How can those things impact the current situation and the status of everything involved in it?


2.Perspective

One place often overlooked but which can really help one get more content is perspective. Objectively, there is a gun in the wall. But to the hunter, that is a trusted friend who saved him through many fights, and brought him and his family food to the table every day. To the weapon's merchant it's an outdated model that shows how old-fashioned and boring this house he came to visit is, but maybe it also represents an opportunity to sell antiques. To the theater writer it's a fun little wall decoration that happens to remind him about that one rule from that Russian fellow about showing a gun in one act and shooting it in another.

Then the screenwritter got shot.

Getting back on track though, perspective is very much how a character sees the world- an incomplete perspective of experience, biases, knowledge, opinion and standpoint, which colors their vision beyond what is objectively present, and as such can influence what action they will take, with what mood and what words and so on. It affects not just the what, but the how, and even the why, which is more content you can add.

3.Limits Breed Creativity
Creativity may be very much a magic wand to create a lot of wonderful things- but even a magic wand needs the magical words, the mouse to turn to horse and pumpkin to turn to charriot, and it needs to be pointed as well. Creativity has a sense of direction and isn't as good when trying to innitiate ideas, but tends to work in response to problems, after all finding such niches and solutions is exactly what it evolved to do.

Try to narrow down what you need to more specific things, lay out the conditions that need to be met and so on. Instead of thinking "what should I do next", maybe see "my character is hot here, therefore they might want to go somewhere else", and change the question to "where should they go." Answering simpler questions may prompt simpler answers, but it often may prompt more complex or out-of-the-box answers that encourage you to spend more time tending to them (thus fleshing them out)


That would be all, but I hope it helps. Best of luck and happy Rping!
 

Loco Mofo

Dark Lord of the Gif
@Idea It's inspiring and all very true, but what I need are techniques to get back what I used to possess. I don't need to learn who I am as a writer, or how to write, so much as how to get my mojo back. My mindset is anything but casual.. I've been accused of being an RP nazi, rofl.

I'm going to google some methods for getting back into writing.
 

Loco Mofo

Dark Lord of the Gif
As I said, it's "casual" as in the detail level, not the regular sense of the word.
Again, my level of detail is the worst it's been since I started writing due to a 5-6 year break from it. What I'm doing now isn't indicative of my style, hence reaching out for help. I see what you mean though. Right now it's very much bare bones. Forget casual, it's comatose.
 

Idea

The Pun Tyrant The Gif Hydra
Helper
I didn't take it from the posts but from the things you said about yourself and your approach... but saying this will probably just get us going in circles. I do still wish you luck with your problem then, and have a good night or day :)
 

Loco Mofo

Dark Lord of the Gif
I didn't take it from the posts but from the things you said about yourself and your approach... but saying this will probably just get us going in circles. I do still wish you luck with your problem then, and have a good night or day :)
Hey, no worries. It's probably just an issue of the system you use to break things down. In my experience simple, casual and detailed doesn't even begin to provide sufficient boxes to toss people into. Each style of writing is different from the next, for different reasons, and highlights different aspects of detail in their own ways. Often they are hard to peg with just one word. The words you use are usually used to describe over-all role player types.
 

middleagedgeek

Ultra Nerdy
Idea actually does explain their definitions very well here -


It’s more about how you think about detail and not post length itself. And I agree you do seem the sort to favor a more streamlined approach to adding detail.

Which is why I recommended the cinematic view point. As it forces you to really expand on the aspects your interested in. The visual cues attached to action or setting.

It’s also a big enough challenge to change view points that it might get your enthusiasm back. As you aren’t trying to go back to your old ways but challenging yourself with something new and different.
 

Idea

The Pun Tyrant The Gif Hydra
Helper
Hey, no worries. It's probably just an issue of the system you use to break things down. In my experience simple, casual and detailed doesn't even begin to provide sufficient boxes to toss people into. Each style of writing is different from the next, for different reasons, and highlights different aspects of detail in their own ways. Often they are hard to peg with just one word. The words you use are usually used to describe over-all role player types.
I want to point out that I'm not saying these entirely define your style, but that styles can be categorized by these. It's not comprehensive, but it's still fitting.
 

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