The biggest hurdle to creative writing in role-plays is a matter of perception- learning how to perceive the other writer as a partner, rather than an opponent. It’s about learning how to perceive a personal victory in a physical defeat. So long as you cooperate and communicate with your partner, and keep an open mind about the course of the story, your writing can improve. To senior role-players, these assumptions are a matter of course- but I’ll review them here for everyone’s benefit.
The Contract: Role-playing takes place in an imagined space, and usually details a conflict between two imagined characters. The interaction of role-playing is a joint activity- the narrative space is shared. When people join a role-play, they engage in a form of social compact with each other; it can be a sign of disrespect to ignore the unwritten rules and overstep the invisible boundaries. The most basic of these rules is that the other person’s character is off-limits. Narrative control extends to your character and to the environment, but no farther. It is up to the owner of a character to interpret his character’s reaction. The second most basic rule is that you cannot ignore the input of the other party. You must incorporate the input of your partner into your own reactions, or he will feel unappreciated. The role-play is a two-way street; if one party feels his input is being ignored entirely he will have no motivation to continue. The third rule is that you won’t “godmod”, by changing the abilities, skill set, or aptitude of your character to gain a victory. Breaking any of these is a big taboo, and should be avoided for the sake of maintaining friendship and cooperation.
Your Goals: Ultimately, both parties have intentions for the role-play; they want something out of it. The goal can be something insubstantial and vague, or very specific, but unless you can collaborate towards achieving each others’ goals, you’ll often find yourselves at odds over the details and events of the role-play. Unfortunately, most people don’t have psychic ability and can’t read your mind, so tell your partner what you want out of the role-play explicitly. If you don’t know, do some self-analysis to figure out what it is. Usually the actions of a person can reveal his intentions. If you spend over 80% of your writing describing the style of your character’s uniform, then you are probably more interested in looking fabulous than engaging in any kind of personality development. Likewise, if you spend most of your time describing the magnitude of your attacks, you probably care more about being a bad-ass than anything else. Once you know what your goals are, communicate them to your partner. Be honest with both your partner and yourself. If you want to unequivocally establish your character’s superiority over the other, say it. There will be less arguments and hurt feelings if you can be up-front about your desires. A bad role-play is worse than no role-play at all- it’s a waste of your efforts and time. Ideally, your goals should coincide in the creation of an interesting story for the readers, not in self-gratification.
Appeal to the Senses: When you describe actions, or their results, write more than just how they look. Write how they sound, feel, smell, or even taste. By engaging all of the senses of your readers, you can keep your writing varied and interesting. ”A picture can say a thousand words” is absolutely true, but avoid using one thousand words to describe a single snapshot of your role-play. Give just enough detail to establish the facts, but also include enough description for the readers’ imaginations to elaborate on what you have written.
Create and Achieve Objectives: Based on your goal for the role-play, establish a set of objectives by which to proceed toward the goal. Objectives should be achievable tasks, rather than insubstantial concepts. “Having the opponent admit your power” or “Stealing the ___ family relic” or “Using your final attack” are just a few examples. There are unlimited possibilities for what an objective can entail- but so long as you establish a goal and the objectives you need to take to reach it, you can achieve success on your own terms. It’s optional, but if achieving your goal can resolve the conflict, there can be closure. With closure comes a sense of accomplishment, which in turn lends a sense of importance to the writing.
Emphasis is Key: Whenever you write something, write it for a reason. Keep your writing “tight” by avoiding empty expressions and phrases, or filler attacks. Having filler in your responses can cause readers to disengage in the events and lose interest. Why keep reading if nothing matters? If you have to, take time off from a role-play to recharge, but never settle for anything less than your best. When you perform an action, emphasize the action. Describing your character’s hair color or eyes while he swings his sword can be incoherent and confusing.
Grammar and spelling: ‘Nuf said. If your writing looks unprofessional, it means you aren’t taking the role-play seriously, which can in turn cause the readers and your partner to lose interest.
Life is Conflict: If you want to bring your role-play to life, you need to define the conflict, or if your characters are even fighting over the same issue. Revenge, love, loyalty, disgust, joy, jealousy… the list goes on. If the conflict is psychological or philosophical, using the fight itself and the attacks your character makes as a metaphor for that conflict can lend gravity to both the conflict and the fight. A good example of this theme is the fight between Ichigo and Ulquiorra. Ichigo represents hope, and Ulquiorra represents despair. Their fight itself becomes a metaphor for their differing creeds, as Ulquiorra attempts to force Ichigo to fall into despair, and Ichigo attempts to retain his determination.
Use Cues: Give your partner wiggle room to interpret the results of your actions. Never try to force a particular course for the story. Even if he has to choose between multiple unfavorable circumstances, your partner will appreciate having some ownership over the plot. Nonetheless, make it obvious what you wish the results of an action to be, either via internal monologue, depicting emotion, or by emphasizing a particular aspect of the action. You need to give as much as you take, and vice versa.
The World is Yours: Establishing, describing and manipulating the environment around your character can give you a narrative edge- you can employ the environment to improve the ambience, set the stage for an attack, and even use it to resolve a conflict. Describing your actions’ effects on the environment gives the readers context and verisimilitude, which makes it easier for them to draw conclusions and imagine the surroundings. Having a villain fight a hero in a populace city can give the villain an advantage- if the hero ignores the plight of citizens who are caught in the crossfire, he risks undermining his own virtue and status as “hero” and his reasons for fighting. Even seemingly innocuous details, such as the static pressure of seawater at varying depths and its effects on spiritual particle dispersion, can quite literally turn the tide of battle.
Write with Style: Suffuse your writing with the personality of your character. If he has a round-about manner of speaking, have his attacks and abilities mimic that aspect of his nature. If he’s cool-headed and logical, use precision based-attacks and intelligent strategies. If he’s a raging lunatic, have his attacks be unpredictable and his plans incomprehensible. Every sentence should be the indelible signature of your character on the role-play.