Information Interactions between Characters and Character Applications, by Chronicler - RPG Crossing
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Old Feb 7th, 2015, 06:17 PM
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Interactions between Characters and Character Applications, by Chronicler

Originally posted by Chronicler
Interactions Between Characters

Often the most difficult part of successful roleplaying, particularly of the type done on this site, is the handling of interaction between characters. In tabletop roleplaying, interactions are direct and efficient, and the use of body language and tone can - and usually do - contribute to a powerful, believable performance. In play-by-post roleplaying, however, and in fact in writing in general, it is considerably more difficult to establish understanding of this body language and tone, and it is thus far more difficult to have clear, easily flowing interactions.

This limitation, then, has to be overcome, and then some - writing can never fully capture the myriad subtleties of human body language, inflection, or the enormous amount of ways in which eye contact can alter the meaning of a sentence. It is up to the writer to fill that gap somehow after formatting and syntax are applied to their fullest effect - all in order to continue to maintain that odd beast, suspension of disbelief.

Often newer PbPers, and newer writers in general, will attempt to simply lather on more and more description to their posts, in an attempt to replicate in the mind's eye what the standard eye would normally perceive and instinctively analyze. This often meets some measure of success, but that is usually limited, as this method is akin to placing a bandage on a bleeding gash - useful in some cases, but usually not the ideal solution.

Instead of looking towards such tricks of writing to solve the issue, it is more helpful to move towards tricks of the mind - to understand internally what is going on and what type of reaction would be believable and in-character under these circumstances. In order to do so, it is often useful to apply two acronyms: namely, SOAPS and CROWE.

When using this approach, one has two tasks: first to understand and analyze the writings of others (or, if you're writing alone, what your other character has just said or done), and then - and only then - to craft one's own in-character response. The first of these two tasks uses our first acronym: SOAPS, also useful in the study and analysis of historical documents (on a basic level).

SOAPSSOAPS is simply a list of things to make sure you have gleaned from what you are reading, whether by pure statement or by inference. The list goes as follows:
  • S - Source - which character is saying this? What do you know about them? What biases might they be bringing along? How does this affect the speech?
  • O - Occasion - when, and where, is this character speaking? In other words, what are the circumstances? How does this affect the speech?
  • A - Audience - who is this character speaking to? Himself, someone else? If someone else, why that particular person? Take note of who is intended to hear it in addition to who actually hears it. How does this affect the speech?
  • P - Purpose - why is this character speaking at all? Beyond that, why are they saying what they're saying? How does this purpose affect the speech?
  • S - Significance - what does the speech mean? Why is it important? Keep in mind that most good speeches work on more than one level and mean more than one thing. This is the real clincher of the whole deal, and is also the most difficult one to successfully pinpoint.

This process, done post-by-post over time (yes, even the DM's posts should be subjected to this!) will become second-nature. Fundamental to successful PbP interaction, successful in that it flows well with the rest of the narrative and is believable, is an understanding of what others have said - easier, and already second-nature, in person than in writing. Having thus SOAPS-ed all of the posts since your last one, and having assured yourself that you can understand them all, it is time to choose one to respond to - usually, this will be the most recent post, but even if it is not, the post should take into account all the information that is available to you. Remember to take into account all of the things you've gleaned from this process! Once again, understanding what others have said is critical when it comes to crafting your own response.

Writing your post is where CROWE comes into play. Far too often, novice roleplayers (and even experienced ones) fall into the trap of ignoring one or more of its five elements. These elements are fundamentally important for believable, sustainable (in that others can respond to you in kind) writing - and acting (which is where this acronym originates) - and writing without these elements feels more flat, more lifeless, and much less interesting. This is not what we, as writers and readers of these posts, want to see! We want powerful, believable, lifelike, and most of all interesting posts. CROWE is a tool to help you do that.

CROWECROWE, much like SOAPS, is a list - but this time it is a list of things to acknowledge as you write, rather than a list of things to look for as you read. For this section, I will be using "you" as a replacement for "your character."
  • C - Character - Who are you? Why are you here? What are your beliefs, your convictions, your personal style of speaking? More succinctly, "what's your deal?"
  • R - Relationships - what are your relationships to the people and events around you? Keeping that in mind, especially when it comes to who wields power over who, how would that alter your actions or speech?
  • O - Objective - This is the big one, the one that makes or breaks the post. What are you trying to accomplish here? How are you being prevented from accomplishing that? What are you going to do about it? Almost every action should be fueled by your character's objective. Those that aren't don't contribute to the believability of your post - why would you do X, if your objective is Y, and X doesn't help you achieve Y?
  • W - Where - Keep in mind where you are, when you are, and the other general circumstances of the events. This seems simple enough, but is tragically missing from far more posts than we would all like.
  • E - Emotion - What are you feeling right now? How did you get into this state? Is it positive, negative, or neutral? How does this change the way you talk and the way that you act? More importantly, how can you get this across without outright saying it? (Very few people spend much of their time saying things like "I'm angry." or "I'm sad." outright.)

Notice the similarities between SOAPS and CROWE: posts written with CROWE in mind make for more easily SOAPS-ed writing, hence less misunderstanding, more cohesion, and overall better-written interactions. As with every aspect of play-by-post roleplaying, and in fact writing in general, it is critical to keep one's writing grounded in the reality of the world you're writing in, and SOAPS and CROWE are simply two tools to make that easier when writing posts based around interactions with other characters. As always, these tools should be used in conjunction with your constant focus on justification - if you can't justify it in-character, or if it doesn't make sense to you, it definitely will not make sense to other people. And, after all, isn't making sense the goal?
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