By the Great Fox
Consider it the ten commandments of making a role-playing introduction, or more simply put a straight-forward and easy-to-understand guide about how to make a good first impression. The way to properly enter a role-play and put a smile on everyone's face as you write your way to success. It's the get rich quick scheme of how to introduce your character and still have something to say afterward. We all feel awkward when somebody says hello, but then forgets to say how are you.
Over this tutorial, I will be taking you step-by-step, teaching you to actually stop at all of the stop signs, and reminding you to always look both ways so that you don't hit a pedestrian. Writing is a series of green lights and red lights, constantly forcing you to stop before you can go. It is these epiphanic moments of pause that will enlighten you to all of the many possibilities of your pen -- Or in this case, your keyboard. Becoming self aware is only the first step towards that new career that will net you a big house, a gas-guzzling sports car, and all the money that you could ever want to buy friends and mail-order brides.
The Pyramid Scheme
First off, we need to focus on what can go amiss in an introduction post. It's not possible to get better if you don't first admit that something is wrong.
What people often fail to do when introducing a character is simply not provide enough information. They may not even mention the race, and then the reader is really going to be left in the dark without a flashlight. What you always have to remember is that most people have not read a biography of your character, and even if there is one available, they are nine times out of ten not going to go out of their way to hunt for it. It doesn't matter if a link to the biography is in your forum signature. People simply don't want to read more than what is necessary to participate in a role-play.
This means that you have to be descriptive in the role-play itself. You can't simply describe your character one time in a biography that's buried somewhere deep within the Entrance Hall, and expect everyone on the forum to be aware of your character's intricate details. You need to take the time and care to properly introduce your character with all of the appropriate information that another person could need. This includes:
- Race, as there's countless species in the animal kingdom.
- General appearance, as even individual species can vary from animal to animal.
- Attire, as, unless your character is a streaker, he is going to be wearing clothes and clothes can say a lot about a person.
- General disposition, as all people have an attitude -- Good, bad, or indifferent.
Simply using the pronoun he or she is not going to get your point across. You need to splatter paint on your canvas to make a colorful image, not merely pencil marks to create nothing more than a rough sketch. You can't get away with using minimal description on human characters, and it's even more impossible to succeed this way when writing anthropomorphic animals. He or she could mean anything. The person could be anyone from a babbling infant to an old geezer with a hunched back. When furries come into the picture, things get even more complex, and he or she tells the reader nothing more than the gender of the individual. If pronouns are the only descriptive words that are used, the reader won't even know what race the character is. The guy could be a lobotomized duck for all anyone could guess.
This is why a writer needs to use as much description as is tasteful. The keywords to remember here are: Slacking doesn't help, Adequacy is your friend, and Extravagance is your foe. In other words, too little description will get you the shorter straw, too much description will make the reader run for the Pepto-Bismol, but just enough description will result in a homer every time. Burn the letters SAE into your retinas, and always keep in mind what they stand for. It's a quick and easy way to keep your writing in shape.
Climbing the Tower of Babel
Now that we've arrested the criminals, gotten their finger prints, and put them behind bars, let's take a look at how to rehabilitate our vicious hoodlums. They're nasty little bastards, but I'm sure we can get them to see the light, and go the straight and narrow path to become good, tax evading citizens.
It's really not hard to write a decent introduction. It's even easy as peaches to make a good introduction. The first hurdle that needs to be rolled over with our huge monster truck of reconstruction is the common misconception that great writing comes only from the pens of celebrated people like Mark Twain. Even Mark Twain had to start somewhere, and apparently he wasn't the brightest crayon in the box, either. Just because you're not Edgar Allan Poe or Oscar Wilde doesn't mean that you cannot write just as good if not better. The only difference between them and you is the flip of a coin, namely pure dumb luck. Most of the greatest writers of all time have never been recognized, gossiped about, or given their own holiday. You don't need a statue in your image to be considered a good writer.
When showing off your character to the neighbors, you need to provide the ABC's so that noisy Mrs. Miller and cranky Mr. Jefferson know what the devil you're bragging about. Otherwise, they're not gonna understand why you're going on and on, and next time you have something to flaunt, they'll likely pretend they're not home and stop taking your calls. In more straight forward terms, you need to get down to the brass tacks about the character's race, his general appearance, his attire, and his disposition. It also helps to add in other details, such as clearly and colorfully describing what the character is thinking, doing, and how he is acting and why. Merely saying something like "Joe was an anthropomorphic dog, and he was on his way to the Brooklyn Bridge to jump off" forces the reader to overwork their imagination to the point they may join him.
Let's line up the suspects, and see if we can't identify who the culprit is. Read the following character introduction while paying attention to the lack of detail and what kind of holes leave you reaching for a life jacket. Keep in mind that this is an introduction for a furry character.
Fred was walking to the store. It was a long walk, but he managed to get there before it closed. He got what he needed, then paid for it at the counter. He left and started home.
Because of the minimal description, everyone on the sinking boat drowned and couldn't even fly up to heaven as they plucked out their feathers in frustration. This introduction gives people almost no information about Fred and his situation. The reader is going to have little to nil to write in response to this post. If you don't give people something to work with, they're not going to have any tools to build. Writers cannot write without being able to grasp the essentials.
What is the introduction lacking? Why has your brain activity flat lined and you're not able to hit a single key in response?
- You have no idea what Fred looks like. You don't even know his race. You couldn't identify him in a lineup if your bag of Cheetos depended on it.
- For all you know, Fred could be a little kid who fries ants with a magnifying glass, a teenager with a god complex, or a grown man with a mortgage and bill collectors always on his tail. You have not the slightest inkling of how old he is. Carding Fred is a nightmare because his age doesn't even show up on his ID.
- What if you are a fashion freak and Fred's clothes are so out of date that they could be relics from the 60's? Think of the horror of not knowing whether you should hang out with him or not, the frightening possibility of Fred being so out of style and uncool that your friends would disown you if you were even so much as seen with him. You just don't know, you have no clue. He could have the coolest duds on earth, and propel you into heights of fame and fortunate never before laid eyes on. But the fact remains that you simply don't know what he's wearing, and he could even be streaking in front of you right now.
- Fred sure is a mysterious fellow. You have no idea what he looks like, how old he is, whether or not his clothes are in fashion, or even what kind of personality he has. Maybe he's a pink-haired punk that you ought to stay away from? Or perhaps he's so gullible that you could bum a stick of Doublemint off him? You'll never know unless his writer adds some color and quick.
Fred was just your everyday, common as pop weasel. He was 5'8", nothing special to look at it, and had the most average chocolate-colored coat of any of his species. His black-tipped tail stood out against his dull as school jeans, and if he had lived on a world populated by humans, that would have at least been interesting to google. But unfortunately for Fred he existed on the fictional plane of Feila, and in that twisted take on reality, everyone had a tail to accent their ass.
The boring, middle-aged weasel was on his way to the store. It was a small place on the corner, down the street from where he lived in a simple house. He thought to himself silently as he walked, a calm, casual air about him like that of anyone you might see trekking the road on a Wednesday. His thoughts were equally uninteresting as he, and they consisted of little else than your banal to-do list. He entered the tiny store without the slightest bit of flair.
Meeting his steely-gray eyes, half-hidden behind tired, drooping eyelids, was the pushy appearance of the shop's interior. There were big gaudy signs with big gaudy words and big gaudy symbols. There were sterile shelves and rotating hangers and refrigerated display cases. There was a slushee machine with all the flavors that one could ever need to get a brain freeze. All of this and more, the store seemed to shove down his throat.
He moved to the back, which didn't take much more than several steps, and began to search one of the shelves with his eyes. Let's see, he thought to himself. Snacks, snacks, snacks... aha! He snagged a bag of Cheetos. That was all that he had wanted, the only reason that he had walked down the street from his house and entered this store. Just a bag of Cheetos and nothing more.
Stepping up to the counter with a triumphant grin, he was so happy to have finally won his treasure. Such a wonderful thing in such a simple way, it was the answer to all of his starving prayers. The cashier gave him his change, a quarter, two dimes, and a nickel, and he was on his way. The boring weasel popped open his bag as he began home, crunched on a Cheeto, and became whole again. Finally, he seemed to glow, to break open with excitement and charm. He had become interesting at last, and was no longer a boring weasel anymore.
Now Fred's got his groove back, and he's an awesome guy once more. Did you pay attention to the kind of details that were slapped on and shaped up? Fred's finally got a body, he's not just a he anymore. He's a weasel with attitude, if hardly any at all in the beginning, and he's also old enough to be a child-support skipping dad. He's wearing a pair of no-notice jeans, and he's got a bland, ordinary coat of fur. Fred's now got style if only a little. At least he's better off than before with no description at all spare a pronoun.
This is all that you need to do to spiff up those character introductions to a nice, sleek shine. It's not hard at all, and only requires that you stop, think, and then write. It takes but a few minutes to come up with a best seller, and then you're headed for a mansion in Beverly Hills and your own sitcom.
Here is a summary of the brain surgery that needs to be performed.
- Let the reader know the race of your character, his general appearance, and his age. There's nothing worse than a pronoun walking around without a body.
- Tell them about your character's cool duds -- Or his lack thereof. Unless he's streaking, he needs an outfit to show off.
- Give them insights into your character's Oscar-winning personality. Let them see just how colorful he really is -- Or isn't -- and roll up the shades on the inner workings of his mind. Give them a chance to play psychologist and try to diagnose his mental disorders.
- Make his actions just as descriptive as his portrait. Adjectives are your friends. Just don't abuse them, or they will divorce you and take the house.
- And finally take a moment to properly lay out the world around you. It's a big place and needs describing. If you don't tell the reader where your character is going, they may think that he's simply walking into a wall. Again, make good use of adjectives. Let people know what kind of place it is where your character is making his big debut, so that they can show up for the party. Otherwise, if you aren't descriptive enough, the reader won't know how to find you.
Just kick back and pour yourself a glass of vodka. It's easy as peaches to make a good first impression, and now that you know how, find a role-play or start one of your own and try out your new moves. Let the other kids see how cool you are, so that they can start imitating you and driving you crackers. Just remember that this advice does not only apply to your first post in a role-playing thread, that is your main character introduction, and that, in a way, you will be introducing your character for the duration of the entire role-play. This simply means that as you role-play your character, you will be constantly exposing the gears that make him run. How he acts in certain situations, the way the character of his voice changes depending on the subject, the general manner in which he presents himself throughout the events of the story. The entire role-play is an introduction to your character, and not merely his first appearance.