First I would like to say that roleplaying is a skill one cannot master in a day, a month, or maybe even a year. It takes time and practice as well as an active imagination. Don't feel intimidated by good roleplayers. Read their posts and learn from mistakes you have made in yours that they do not. Each writer has their own style or voice. You simply cannot copy the style of another writer and expect to have success because that wouldn't be you doing the roleplaying. For those of you who are having trouble with the basics of writing I have compiled a list of rules and reminders that I have found to improve my writing over the years.
Tip #1: The very first rule of roleplaying is probably the most important one: grammar! You must use correct grammar and spelling throughout all of your writing. When people misspell many words or don't use the proper punctuation or capitalization nobody is going to want to read what they write. www.dictionary.com is a gift from God for this purpose. While writing a roleplay, it's good to keep two windows of your browser open at the same time with one of them on that website. You can quickly look up words you think you might have misspelled. If you are just plain terrible at spelling, you might want to copy and paste your roleplay into a Microsoft Word document before posting it and have that program correct the spelling errors for you with spell check (Firefox also has this built in). Make sure to read through your roleplay as sometimes spell check might not make the wisest choices. There are words that might look similar to the one you were trying to write but mean a totally different thing.
Spelling is just one part of the grammar rule. Using the right forms of such things as their, they're, and there or where, were, and wear are also very important because they mean vastly different things. They're means they are as in "They're going to the store." Their shows ownership of something as in "Their store is neat." There refers to a place as in "I am going there."
The site I referred you to above has another function that is equally important in a person's writing as the dictionary, the thesaurus. The thesaurus can be used often when you feel you have become repetitive saying the same word over and over but you must do it. You must be careful using a thesaurus, however. You do not want to use words that you don't even know the meaning to and you want to avoid being too elaborate. Do not be tempted by a "twenty-dollar" word when there is a "ten-cent" word handy, ready, and able. Generally you should try to write using words that you would use in everyday speech and come naturally.
Tip #2: The second rule pertains to the use of dialogue with roleplays. Something like half of all roleplaying is the interaction between characters with each other or NPCs. Throughout your story someone will inevitably speak. You must make sure that the reader knows who is speaking at all times. Dialogue is pointless if the reader can't even discern who is speaking. They may become confused and an otherwise powerful statement may be completely lost on them. You also want to make sure your descriptive words such as "he said" or "John said", do not interrupt a character that is speaking. Place them where a break would come naturally in speech. The best test for placing an attributive is to speak the sentence out loud for yourself.
A nifty trick I have learned in roleplaying is that it is useful to color dialogue using the color text feature of forums. Make your character talk in one color and anybody else he or she runs into in another, more bland, color. Make them colors that are easy on the eye and readers can easily make the transition from the normal text to that. You don't want a rainbow, either. Be sure to use the same color for each of the strangers and a different one for your main character. Two colors maximum!
While on the subject of dialogue, I'd like to add a mistake I have found in many roleplays, even ones by experienced roleplayers. Do not end your dialogue in a period if you have a descriptive phrase like "he said" after it. The dialogue ends in a comma.
"I can't believe I won that battle." said Lance.
Is incorrect as compared to:
"I can't believe I won that battle," said Lance.
Tip #3: Read other people's roleplays as much as possible. This doesn't mean to just read the roleplays other people post in your thread; obviously you will have to read those so you know what is going on. This means to read roleplays not associated with any of yours. If you expect other people to be reading your posts, shouldn't you also be reading others yourself?
You will never become a better roleplayer if all you do is pay attention to your own posts. Even the best writer in the world could be considered a terrible roleplayer if he or she doesn't know how to interact with others' posts properly (see tip #7). Most writers have a complete story in their mind and only have to worry about being able to get it all down on paper. With roleplays, it is different. You might have a story in mind but someone else you are roleplaying with in the same thread could throw you a curve ball. Maybe you thought the guy in the cloak sitting at the bar was a bad guy that was about to attack you but someone else roleplays that he was actually sent there to protect you from something else. Now the entire story has changed! You could get mad and yell at the person and quit the story or you could roll with it and create an even better story which is what roleplaying is all about. Through reading other roleplays and observing how other people interact and intertwine their stories you can better your own roleplaying ability.
Tip #4: Read and rewrite your work. Rewriting is part of roleplaying. Usually by rereading something you have written you will find that someone should have said something different or you forgot to add or cut something that would make the roleplay better. Almost 100% of the time, there are grammatical errors you will find and correct after reading and rewriting. Once you post your roleplay, you should take the time to reread it immediately. Good roleplayers will often find themselves clicking the edit button at least once and maybe even several times to make anything from minor to major changes. You will seldom find a roleplay by me without seeing the words "Last Edited:" at the bottom.
Tip #5: Write roleplays in the past tense and in the third person narrative. I have found this rule out the hard way and have learned it is a critical ingredient to good roleplaying. While there are many good novels and stories written in the first person, roleplays are not one of them.
"Tom runs down the hallway. He hopes to find his way out of the maze that he is trapped in."
Is incorrect as compared to:
"Tom ran down the hallway. He hoped to find his way out of the maze he was trapped in."
Think of your roleplay as a story being told around a camp fire. Roleplays that are not written in the past tense can annoy the reader and they might be tempted not to read it at all. It also makes it difficult to entice other people to roleplay with you if they are used to using the past tense and third person and you don't. Some roleplayers might argue that this tip is too subjective and based on opinion but the fact is that most roleplaying is done in the third person and if you use first person you will have a harder time getting others to roleplay with you.
Tip #6: Paragraph formatting is just as important in writing as grammar and spelling. When a new person talks, a new action is done, or a description of a new setting is written, you would normally create a new paragraph and indent it. In roleplaying, indenting is seldom used but instead you leave one blank line between paragraphs. This makes the roleplays easier to read and also serves to separate the paragraphs as indenting would. This way of formatting can also make your post look a bit longer than it actually is.
Remember, a longer roleplay doesn't necessarily mean it is a better roleplay. Generally every roleplay should be at least two paragraphs in length or longer. Shooting for around a three hundred word minimum is fairly standard. The exception to this would be if you have a battle going on with multiple people you might not have the "in character time" to write out a lengthy response and instead merely reply with one paragraph that is less than three hundred words.
Tip #7: Always continue the story with your posts. I've seen it over and over of people who respond to roleplays as if they are taking steps. In the beginning they might write what they did during the beginning of someone else's post. In the middle they might reply to a question or sentence someone else's character said in the middle of their post. The problem with this is that it does not progress the story at all because it's just rehashing a story we've already read. The most you should ever re-cap is the last sentence or two of the last person's post before creating original content to contribute to the story. The rest of your roleplay should be completely new and unique story progression.
I would like to thank the authors William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White of "The Elements of Style: 4th Edition" whose techniques can be found both in my writing and on this page.