RP 101: Using Verbs and Action to Carry the Story

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RP 101: Using Verbs and Action to Carry the Story

Postby jadewik » September 17th, 2009, 7:58 pm

If you don't know anything about Text-Based Role-Play (RP)... then this is the place for you! As time permits, different members of the Role-Play Council will take time to go over certain topics to help you improve your writing and role-play.

Today's topic is one that's often overlooked by those who are newer to RP--
Using Verbs and Action to Carry the Story.

A lot of people forget to describe things or make their character perform normal, every-day actions. These sort of actions help to carry the story-- they make the story-line more visual and less about what's said. It also adds depth to the character you're writing for when you add actions to the story.... and... it makes your posts longer than one strangled phrase.

Let's start with an easy one. Here are three ways to describe a character walking from point A (the table) to point B (the barmaid).

Lourdes walked to the barmaid.

Lourdes got up from his chair and walked over to the barmaid to order a drink.

Lourdes quickly rose from his chair and strode towards the barmaid. He was thirsty and needed a drink to quench his thirst.

The "okay" version is just a cut-and dry action. It gets the purpose done, but leaves out the details that make this action exciting.

In the "better" version, you get a feel that the character was sitting and you find out why he walked over to the barmaid.

In the "Best" version, you get a sense of urgency from the character. He's rising quickly. He's striding-- taking large steps-- towards the barmaid. He has purpose and he needs a drink NOW!

Okay... so now you're getting the idea... but there are other actions you can add BESIDES just the physical ones. There are other senses to account for as well as character thoughts.

Here are three ways to describe sensory elements as a character walks from point A (the table) to point B (the barmaid).

Lourdes walked to the barmaid. "You are hot. Can I have a drink," he said.

Lourdes got up from his chair and walked over to the barmaid to order a drink. She was an attractive barmaid so he thought about hitting on her, but didn't. "I'd like a drink," he said.

Lourdes needed a drink to quench his thirst so he quickly rose from his chair. As he walked towards the closest barmaid, he couldn't help but notice how attractive she was. Quickly running his fingers through his hair to make himself more presentable, Lourdes approached the barmaid with a swagger and a rakish smile,"I'd like to order another ale and whatever you're drinking."

You can really start to see the difference in the writing as more actions and thoughts are expressed in the writing. In the "Best" version, you really start to get a sense of the character-- Lourdes is a ladies man. He's not exactly smooth, but he has determination and confidence. Why? Because "Chicks dig it"-- you can almost hear him say that answer.

So... remember to use character actions in your writing. You don't have to describe EVERY detail when describing an action, but it helps add interest to the story when you include a few actions.

If you're having trouble thinking of things your character can do, here are some things to consider.

How does your character walk? Do they saunter from place-to-place like they have all the time in the world? Are they in a hurry? What is the purpose for them to walk where they're going?

Does your character have any nervous habits? Does your character fidget? Do they daydream? Do they swing their leg when sitting? Do they pull out their pocket knife and open and close it? Do they shuffle cards? Do they pick their nose? (Eeew) Does their eye twitch? Do they calmly fold their hands on their lap?

What are some traits your character has? Does your character like to hit on women? Does he think he's "the bomb"? Is your character shy? Is your character confident or self-conscious? Is your character always thinking about something or plotting/scheming? All these things can help you think of actions or thoughts that your character might have... these things would indicate strong personality traits pertaining to your character.

Another trick to help you write your character in terms of "actions" is to close your eyes and imagine the scene as you're trying to describe it. Try to be detailed about what your character does.

As practice for RP, describe how your character would approach the barkeeper or a barmaid to get another drink.

If you have any questions or comments concerning the inclusion of verbs/action in your RP writing, please post your questions below.
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