Valucre is an open site that does not limit the manner in which our members can write, but our community does encourage growth. This is sometimes misconstrued to mean we want long posts, which is not the case. Often times detailed posts are just a side effect of general improvement.
Roleplay and Writing: A few thoughts from supernal
Some writers mourn a lack of detail in their own writing when they come to Valucre's play-by-post style, especially those that are transitioning from a chat environment or extended hiatus. Coming to a site where paragraphs are the norm can be intimidating.
The first thing to remember is that quality trumps quantity. The length of a post is not the determining factor to how good or bad it is. The second thing to remember is that on a forum setting, even though Valucre is active, you can take your time. Don't write in a rush, take your time to experiment with your writing, and revise your posts so as to refine them. Giving yourself time for a second draft of a post will let you refine your writing.
Remember, although roleplaying is a game and a hobby for most of us, the main (not only) vehicle by which we play this game is writing. The more you develop your writing, the better at communicating your ideas you become, the more impactful and substantial the game. Becoming better at writing can help you in many areas in life, but we'll save that for a later time.
In regards to detail, there are a few elements you can consider. A character's thoughts and emotions have always proved to be a deep well that a writer can draw from. What does your character think, what do they feel, and how does that express itself in the character? Are they suspicious? If so, why? If so, how does this change the way they behave or react?
Pay attention to your surroundings. Interact and engage. This is not to say that in every post you make you have to climb a tree or dip a hand in the river, but things like weather, the time of day, the setting itself (walking from one end of town to the other, or from town to forest) are all variables that change.
Pay attention to your character while they speak, and to their orientation in regards to other characters and objects. Having your character pace about the room, or prepare dinner, or sketch a drawing, or sharpen his knife gives them a sense of being, of being more than a disembodied voice. Your character is alive, and it helps to convey them as such.
Repetition is a double-edge sword. Remarking on your character's blue eyes five times in one post is superfluous, but mentioning it only once throughout a thread makes it an easily forgettable detail. Switching words out with a synonym is a poor habit. Noting that your character has blue eyes, then aqua eyes, then azure eyes, is not the same as reinforcing the detail through expression ('eyes the shade of the ocean at night' or 'as if some portion of the light blue sky took residence in her eyes').
Proactive vs Reactive
As writers in a collaborative environment, it is very easy to fall into the habit of simply reacting rather than writing in a manner that advances the plot. This is especially true in group settings. Reactive writing contributes little to the story, even if it is well written, usually by way of being little more than a summary of previous posts coupled with little more than your character's reactions.
Proactive writing advances. You're still reacting, but in a way that moves the thread forward even by a single step. It means asking a question, engaging in an action, giving depth to the setting or granting significance to an item, impacting the story in a way that takes into account what came before but also establishes something for the posts that come after. Don't be afraid to get creative.
Length of Post
Length is largely irrelevant, but not completely. The forum writer should take pains to avoid "one-lining" in a play-by-post setting. This does not mean to take the extreme position that all of your posts need to be a thousand words long, but that you should provide enough content in your post that other players in the thread have something of substance to respond to. That said, there are certainly situations where a few sentences will suffice, but you should nonetheless take care not to allow "shake-n-bake" writing to become a habit. Without the atmosphere generated by some effort in writing on your part, your partners are liable to misinterpret events or simply lose interest.
On the other side of this, although writing at its core is meant to be an expression of creativity, you should take care to avoid "fluff" or "purple prose". By all means embellish, but if you write five paragraphs and four of them are describing a field or a flower, that is excessive.
Please note that this in no way advocates excessively complicated writing.
Vocabulary and Diction
Simple Writing Commandments
Use active voice. Use passive voice only to obscure the subject.
Be measured and precise: choose your words carefully.
Structure your writing so that each paragraph or section has a unified focus.
Keep paragraphs "bite-sized''.
Use an appropriate and consistent level of formality.
Eliminate unnecessary words.
Prefer simple and direct constructs to more complex ones.
Use "which" and "that" correctly.
Don't rely on fluff words like very or extremely to strengthen your points. In the words of the immortal Mark Twain (again): Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very"; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.
Use a spell-checker.
Modified excerpt from Word Painting: A Guide to Writing More Descriptively by Rebecca McClanahan:
Perhaps the best way to fully define description is by considering what it is not.
Description is not "all that flowery stuff". It isn't merely embellishment, something we stitch to the top of our writing to make it more presentable.
Description doesn't always mean detailing how something looks. One of the best descriptions I've ever read was written by a blind child. Evocative and memorable description is rooted not only in visual detail but in the smells, tastes, textures and sounds of our world.
Description doesn't begin on the page. It begins in the eye and ear and mouth and nose and hand of the beholder.
Writing descriptively doesn't always mean writing gracefully. Description won't necessarily make our writing more refined, lyrical or poetic. Some descriptions demand uneven syntax and plainspoken, blunt prose. Jagged, even. Fragments too. Slice of chin. Buzz saw.
Description doesn't always require a bigger vocabulary. House is probably a better choice than domicile, a horse is easier to visualize than an equine mammal, and red blood is brighter than the sanguine flow of bodily fluids.
Writing descriptively doesn't necessitate writing more. Description isn't a steroid, something to make our language bigger and stronger, nor is it an additive promising more miles to the fictional gallon. Sometimes writing descriptively means writing less. Our three-hundred-word description of the wedding cake might need to loose two hundred words; it may need to disappear altogether.
Description rarely stands alone. Most description exists as part of a larger poem, essay or story, seamlessly intertwined with other literary elements. Description isn't something we simply insert, block style, into passages of narration or exposition.
First, looking in rather than out, I recommend the Useful Writing Resources thread started by one of our very own.
Looking outside of the site, if you want to buff up your vocabulary, I suggest www.vocabulary.com and www.freerice.com.
Vocabulary.com has a program in place that adapts your vocabulary level by your accuracy in answering questions, not just how many you get right but how many tries it takes you to get the right word, using both fill in the blank and multiple choice. It adjusts to teach you new words, and reintroduces words you struggled with previously to enforce familiarity with it.
Freerice.com has a simpler version of the above program. The bonus is that each question you answer donates a certain amount of rice that goes towards feeding the hungry people in the world. It isn't much for a question or two, but with so many people playing the game worldwide we can make a difference. Valucre has a freerice group.
A combination of the two isn't a bad idea either.
This article on Point of View explores the benefits and limitations of First, Second and Third person. It has some solid examples, and suggests avenues you might want to explore when experimenting with your writing.
(image credit to Alex Ruiz)
Ruler: Akako Akari Contact: Akako Akari, Twitterpated
The port is located in the southeastern region of Genesaris and south of the Cold Mountains. The city is 204 square miles with a population of 98,526 residents. Caelum is tucked away in an inlet which provides mountainous protection from the north, west, and south-west. Being located in such a position, there is no easy way to enter the port except by sea, or traversing the cold mountains southern border near the larger cove with the Cavern of Blades at its innermost peak. The Eastern approach to the divided city is easily accessible, clear waters that recede in intensity as ships reach the north and south borders of the cove.
Port Caelum is divided in orientation, the cove separating two different ways of life by its calm waters. The southwest edge of the sea is populated by a modern style of people and buildings, with magitek and a more simple approach to the style and way of lives. The north border of the sea is enriched with an oriental view, with more Japanese style buildings. This divide in populace melds together the closer inland the waters reach until the Northwest Point of the Port meets together, intermingling the two cultures.
Being located at the base of the Cold Mountains as well as next to the Sea, the air tends to stay around 60 – 65 degrees even in high summer. With the ocean directly to the east, Port Caelum is often battered with high winds with opportunity for hurricane conditions to arise. During the winter the Port is near impossible to reach by land or sea, the cove likely to freeze leaving thick ice in the path of the ships wanting to port. This is possible to avoid, although it's not advised to try to reach the port without a fortified vessel.
Flora and Fauna
Port Caelum is known for a handful of mythical and rare creatures in addition to minimal plant life. Being on the coast, sailors have told tales of the Charybdis which is a monster that swallows fisherman's boats whole. It resides well off the coast, however, no one is certain in really exists because any that do encounter it never return. That isn't the only creature to roam the Port's waters. Selkies, seals that can take human form on land, reside in the water in addition to Kelpies that are shape-shifting spirits. Most take on the form of a horse, however, some can take the appearance of a human much like the Selkies. On land, Sylphs are in abundance, tiny air spirits that light up the night and float like stars. One of the more notable creatures is the Zhenniao which is also known as the Zhen bird. The birds are blue for the most part, their bellies purple with green tipped feathers. Their beaks are bright red and they have long necks. The Zhen birds are notoriously poisonous and they acquire the poisonous attributes with their diet of vipers. The Zhen birds live on the mountainside and don't bother with people. They aren't an aggressive animal, however, they are hunted for their feathers which are used to extract poison that is often used to carry out assassinations.
Port Caelum is a melting pot that homes humans, yokai, and other creatures. Prior to Akako’s arrival, the port primarily housed humans. Upon establishing her rule, yokai from all across Valucre relocated to reside within the port where the rumored Yokai Queen ruled. While most are welcoming to all walks of life, there are still those that are less adaptable and trusting of their fellow citizens.
Currency from every part of Valucre is accepted and can be converted to Genesarian coin. There are several financial institutions throughout the port city to convert currency. The shops that are port-side often accept any sort of currency, but further inland Genesarian coin will be necessary to purchase goods or the imperial alhm that is often used in Umbra. The exception is during the annual Hanami Festival where every store and shop will accept foreign currency.
The Caelum Port: The port is an extravagant sight, with several dozen docks with cargo-ready access.
The Akari Estate: At the northwestern point of the port, the daiyokai’s residence is stationed where the two halves of the port meet. Her estate represents both sides of the port, the structure influenced by traditional oriental and modern homes. It is more of a mansion than a palace, however, it is well guarded by yokai hand-selected by Akako. The estate is surrounded by a stylized stone wall and closed off by wooden gates. Within the walls, there is a path that leads to the residence and other paths that veer off to the many manicured gardens that surround the structure.
The Capital: A government structure near the base of the mountains where official meetings are held to discuss economy, statutes, and various other matters that relate to the well-being of the people.
Twisted Sister: A popular pub near the port where fishermen and seafarers often go to grab a pint of locally brewed hops. Known for seasonal craft ales and lagers that are high-quality and affordable. The pub is also known for hosting local musicians during the weekends and open-mic throughout the week. They primarily search fresh seafood dishes and sides, however, they do also serve house salad and burgers for those not fond of fish.
The Labyrinth Caves: Located at the base of the mountains there are several mouths to the Labyrinth Caves. It is unknown if they were man-made or otherwise. What is known is each path eventually crosses another path. Beneath the mountains, it is incredibly easy to become disoriented and lost. There is a rumor that there is something that lives deep beneath the mountains, but there has been no proof of this. Perhaps it is just a story parents tell children to keep them away from the caves.
The Scarlet Region is comprised of Port Caelum and the waters surrounding ten miles, as well as Predators Keep in Terrenus. These territories are run beneath the rule of Red Yusuke, Queen of the Region.
Port Caelum also falls under the Carmine Dominion. The current emperor, Rafael M. Bartolome V, is recognized at the monarch.
The Keep military forces have relocated a small number, adding 1,000 military to the Port as a local police force. These soldiers are practiced military men and women, ranging from psions to wizards to regular humans practiced in many forms of weaponry and combat. Akako has recruited an additional 1,214 individuals to the local military number with a large number of those individuals being yokai and others with abilities.
Education in Port Caelum is brought to high regard, with one Academy of various arts located in the center of the two cultures. The University, sponsored by Xartia Pendragon, is also in construction which is advertising classes in arcane arts, yokai physiology, and a variety of other electives.
Animal Propulsion: Whether ridden by themselves or attached to a cabby. The maintenance and upkeep of a living transport make this a largely inefficient form of inner city travel, but because a large percentage of a given city's population is travelers from abroad, a lot of infrastructures still supports this form of travel.
Mechanical Propulsion: Powered by magical crystals known as Exlata, airships are the most popular form of travel. For a small fee, most can ride on a large airship that flies to and from various cities. All megacities and most smaller cities have stations, bays, and areas where airships are able to land. Almost all airships carry weaponry and shields to protect against air pirates.
For travel by sea, basic sea-ships are used, which vary in size and carry weapons for protection against sea pirates.
Currently, Spellcycles have been created, similar to motorcycles with a futuristic/steampunk design. Powered by the magical crystals Exalta, these are expensive rides and can only be bought in Joran City and straight from Antigone Isles, the home of their creation.
Magical Propulsion: Inter-city travel is served primarily by smaller airships and Crossroads. Crossroads are generally gateways that provide instant travel throughout a city and often to and from cities. Crossroads are keyed to certain areas and the side effect is nothing more than mild disorientation that passes quickly. Guarded by soldiers, Crossroads are cheap, easy, and effective to transporting goods and civilians alike. Sometimes, magical creatures pass through from realms beyond, in which case the soldiers must deal with them. Generally, however, the Crossroads are kept safe and steady.
Akako Akari: An ancient creature of untold origin, Akako was requested to rule the Port city on behalf of the Scarlet Queen. The demoness is known for her firm and unwavering loyalty to those in her care. She is respected by most and feared by some given her age and the unknown scope of her abilities. While she isn’t ambitious in a normal sense, she aims to bring the people of Port Caelum good fortune. Akako is still a mystery and for the most part, not a well-known figure on the Genesarian stage of politics, but she has friends in high places.