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Tips to Becoming a Great Literary Roleplayer

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Fool-Proof Roleplaying Tips for the Absolute Noob

So, you want to become the best roleplayer known to man, eh? Perhaps you're new. Perhaps you've been told you weren't "literate" enough or that your content isn't good enough. Perhaps you're a good roleplayer, but you want to get better.

Well, have no fear. We all know what it's like to be the newbie in town. This is a list of fool-proof tips and tricks to looking like a pro to even the most seasoned of literary roleplaying veterans.


10 Tips to Becoming a Great Literary Roleplayer

1. Know what a Literary Roleplay is.

A Literary Roleplay is a recreation in which users, Roleplayers, act out scenes in narrative form. A literary roleplay often comes with either a fixed plot or a freeform "hub" type of setting. Literary roleplays are often found on roleplaying forums and avatar sites such as and They are typically set in or around the virtual world(s) in which the roleplay is being hosted (e.g. Gaia roleplays are usually set in or around the world of Gaia. Neopets roleplays are usually set in or around the world of Neopia). Typically, the game master for the roleplay, that is, the person who created the roleplay thread, will specify where the roleplay takes place, what the weather conditions are, the rules, character bios, and other important information in the first few posts. Besure to read these as literary roleplays vary vastly from thread to thread.

2. Read the first post!

Keeping the above in mind, the most important thing you can ever do is to read the original post. There is nothing and no one more irritating in a roleplay than one who does not read the intro, rules, settings, and descriptions. That is very important information and will greatly enhance your roleplaying experience, and thusly, the experience of those around you.

3. Read the last post!

The last few posts are also very important! They tell you where the participating characters are, set the pace, and most importantly, determine whether the Roleplayers' styles suit yours. Many a time have I found a plot that I wanted to participate in, only to find that the plot has took a turn for romance when I was looking for adventure or that the participating roleplayers' posts are a little TL;DR for me. Furthermore, you wouldn't want to walk into a bar or on a ship dressed in your finest clothes only to find that a bloody fight to the death is taking place, would you? Make sure you keep yourself up to speed on what's happened last before you jump into a roleplay.

4. Keep an eye on the literary requirements.

Lit? Semi-Lit? Beginner? What's all this about? Well, you'll find in most roleplays the OP will specify (either in the title or the first couple of posts) just what standard of writers they want in their plot. This is to avoid confusion between novel-writers and f0lks wh0 type l1k3 d1s, as well as gives both newbies and seasoned literates a chance to be paired up with roleplayers who are more at their level. As a general rule of thumb, here's what you should keep in mind about literary requirements:

  • Lit/Literate This usually means anywhere between 2-5 long paragraphs (generally at least 5-7 sentences), immaculate spelling, and proper usage of grammar and punctuation. If this sounds a little too formal for your taste, then move along.
  • Semi-Lit/Semi-Literate This group focuses on your everyday hobbyist writer. If you have the writing skills of at least a 9th grader, you should do fine here. Semi-lit roleplays usually consist of 1-3 paragraps that are at least 3-5 sentences long and utilize acceptable grammar and spelling. The occasional typo or sentence fragment is forgiven here.
  • Beginner/Newb/Noob This level of roleplaying is open for everyone. Whether you're ub3r 1337 or not the best spleler, you can still enjoy these roleplays and have a pretty good time. Most roleplays of this type will only set a one to three sentence minimum to avoid spamming.

5. Strive to be at least Semi-Lit

Now that you know what levels of literacy there are, you need to know what minimum level of literacy is required to become a GREAT literary roleplayer. Most roleplayers of any good standing are at least of a Semi-Lit standard. They utilize spellcheck and put periods at the ends of their sentences. Try your very best to at least reach this level of writing - everyone gets the occasional writer's block, but as long as you try your best to be consistent in proper writing, your efforts will show through.

6. Write in Narrative Form

Narrative form is the style of writing you see in novels, children's books, and biographies. In the case of literary roleplay, it is used to mean writing that is in third-person (that is, no use of I's, We's, Us', and You's), in past tense, and separates actions and descriptions from "dialogue." As a general guide, you should use...

  • Regular font for actions and descriptions.
  • "Qotation marks for dialogue."
  • Italicized text for thoughts, followed by, he/she thought.
  • Bold for emphasis, RAGE, and ANGER!

Also, as a general rule of thumb, you should never write an entire sentence in caps, EVEN IF YOU'RE SCREAMING! It simply doesn't look attractive. That's what exclamation points are for!!

7. Separating [[OOC]] from IC

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So, what is all this OOC and IC business? Well, IC stands for in-character. That means things you write in your character's voice. OOC stands for out-of-character. That means things in your own voice. For example,

The thunk of James' thick-soled boots hitting the hardwood floor announced his arrival as he stepped into the bar. He took his time crossing the floor as if his very presence was a show for the few patrons that watched. Finally, he eased himself into a barstool at the counter and gestured for the bartender. "A shot of whiskey - and leave the bottle," he said, his voice gruff and gravelly as if the very walls of his throat were made of stone.

[[I love RPing douchebag characters, LOL!]]

The text outside of the brackets is the IC text. It describes what your character is doing and saying within the confines of the roleplay. The text inside the [[ ]] brackets is the OOC text. It contains a blurb I am saying in my own person. IC text and OOC text should always be separated by brackets [[ ]], parentheses (( )), the squiggly things {{ }}, and the like. As long as you make it apparent that you are speaking out of character, you can avoid confusion that may look like this...

James, though noticing the bartender was busy with another customer, began to boil at the very nerve of the low-life worker ignoring him. "I said a shot of whiskey, you piece of shit!" he woofed, grinding his fist into the counter.

Being an asshole like that, who would wanna serve him?!

See? Can't tell what text is IC and OOC, can you? That being said, brackets are your friends!

8. Know your Genre!

Ok, so now you know what a roleplay is, what different literacy levels there are, and how to form a proper roleplaying post. Now it's time to get started roleplaying! But what genre to post in? You certainly can't go into a fantasy-themed category to find a space travel roleplay and you can't go into a school-themed category to find a military roleplay (unless it's a military school). For this, we draw upon GaiaOnline's extensive list of roleplaying categories and sub-categories, but the general idea is the same in any literary roleplay forum you encounter.

  • Fantasy
    Original Plots based heavily around fantasy themes, e.g. mythical creatures, magic, and vampires.
  • Sci-Fi
    Original Plots based heavily around science fiction/futuristic themes, e.g. zombies, space/time travel, and steampunk.
  • Historical
    Original Plots that are set in the real-world past or have historical themes such as victorian or prehistoric. Roleplays with a historical setting but a fantasy theme usually belong in Fantasy.
  • Military
    Original Plots in an Earth-like setting that have a war theme. Fantasy war settings usually belong in Fantasy while futuristic/sci-fi war settings usually belong in Sci-Fi.
  • School/University
    Original Plots that have a school or university setting. This usually means ALL school settings, including those of a fantasy/science fiction nature.
  • Family/Neighborhood
    Original Plots that have a family, household, or neighborhood setting, including those of a fantasy/science fiction nature.
  • Book/Movie/Anime based
    Original Plots that are based around an existing movie, book, anime, or such media as well as Canon roleplays.
    Note: Canon roleplays are roleplays that take place in the setting of an existing work/book/anime/movie or such media using the characters, locations, and schemes of the media.

By knowing your genres, you'll have an easier time finding a plot you love.

9. Respect other players!

There is nothing, nothing that can bring down the quality of a roleplay faster than drama. As a general rule, you need to respect other players as you would like to be respected. Here are few ways you can do that:

  • Respect the site by following their ToS and Guidelines.
  • Respect the OP by reading and following their rules as well as roleplaying only within the confines of their predetermined plot and settings. (This means that if the original description of a simple house only has 3 floors and 2 bedrooms, don't randomly describe a third bedroom, attic, backdoor, patio, balcony, secret passageway and flying buttresses to accommodate yourself without the OP's say-so.)
  • Respect other players by being accepting, non-confrontational, clear, and communicative. Even if they're beginners, remember - you're one too. We all are, in some way.
  • Respect their characters by staying away from god-modding. If you don't know what that god-modding is, just do a quick google search and I'm sure you'll come across many hate articles written on it. Basically, any action that controls another player's character, predicts their thoughts without them being expressed, and protects your character from losing a battle no matter what is god-modding. In real life, you can't dodge every single attack or attack someone with 100% accuracy. You can't predict how a person will dodge or counterattack you. You can't see their thoughts unless they've said them. You can't be an impenetrable wall of whoop-ass. So, try to write your posts the same way.
  • Respect yourself by always striving to strengthen your writing and roleplaying skills. Observe. Learn. If someone has a suggestion for you to better yourself, hear them out. You never know what other people have to offer.

10. Have fun!

Despite all these rules, guidelines, tips, and tricks, roleplaying should never be anymore than 100% unbridled fun! It shouldn't be a chore or a bother - and don't feel obligated to continue a roleplay that you feel doesn't interest you anymore. Simply excuse yourself from the group and write a closing post for your character, announcing his departure from the plot. Never continue a roleplay that you no longer have the time or interest for. It only makes it bad for everyone, including yourself! Believe me, no one will hold it against you.

So, with everything that's said, I hope you learned a few things and have a great experience in literary roleplay from here on out. Of course, these few tips are only a small part of the journey. Find your voice and create your own unique writing style - that is the true way to becoming a great literary roleplayer.

Thanks for reading, and have fun, fun, FUN!


EllynneTheWriter on August 21, 2014:

I used to roleplay on Gaia. I had a few good rps going but eventually they all died...they ALWAYS die. There was one being run by someone I knew irl but it didn't work out. That being said, that particular rp has been going strong for a few years now. Many so called literary rps I try usually fall into a horrible mashup of porn-writers. So here's my question. Is there a way to find serious literary rpers who don't want to 'take it to private'?

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