Guest Author - Dominique Jordan
Okay, so I admit it, I have known people who have “stumbled”, “slunk”, “sauntered” (and just about any word other than “walked”) into a random online role play game (RPG) chat room a few times while they are online. You know the ones with the nondescript tavern that may or may not have a bartender, who may or may not be able to spell the word “bartender”.
The reason why people persist in these admittedly curious forays is because online RPGs are great ways to practice writing. You can set up plot, characterization, dialogue, and even have a captured audience who will often give you immediate feedback about your writing.
For those of you who have never ventured into one of these rooms, usually there are some characters (chars, for short) hiding under tables, in the rafters, or even invisible. For the most part, everyone has a character with some sense of beauty, or wickedness. Some even have a terrible past that they “just don’t want to talk about.” Those are the ones usually sitting in the dark corner of a room, or just at the bar in plain sight nursing a drink and moody.
Then, of course, there are the other characters who try to get the attention of others by whining, being playful, flirting, or causing a ruckus. Other than annoying spammers, people who try to chat out of character (or OOC) without being in parentheses, and RPers who beg people to IM (Instant Message) them for a para RP (which is a specific form of RP where you have to post several paragraphs at a time in order to play) , these are the basic characters you will meet in a random online chat room.
If you want to work on plot, you want to be the second kind of character. But there is a certain way in which you need to do it. By trying to raise a ruckus, you are practicing plot – which is a huge requirement of writing a good story. Plot, in its most basic form is just another word for conflict. That doesn’t necessarily mean fighting. It can be an internal conflict (you know like when you are deciding if you should stay up late to watch a really cool DVD that has just come out or work on that Ghengis Khan report for school that's due in less than a week). Without conflict, there is no story. Unless Romeo cannot get Juliet or the Big Bad Wolf huffs and puffs, there is nothing interesting that keeps us wanting to read the story.
When you are initiating plot, you need to show that your character has a conflict. Describe how he or she feels. This is far more important than what he or she looks like. This also means that you will need to think about it in advance.
For example, there are characters who are searching for something. This something usually changes depending upon the mood of the writer (a magical charm, a relative, a child, etc) but it sets up immediate conflict. The character searches around. You can also write that the character is also being hunted down herself to add more conflict.
Searching for something + being hunted down = Plot.
But that’s not all! The added element of practice and intensity is that in a chat room, you can engage other characters. Rather than just sitting in front of a blank screen and typing away on your computer to write a short story, you can try to get other characters in the room to become a part of your plot. This can be tricky because each of the other characters in the room also has their own plot and you will need to compromise and incorporate. You will also discover rather quickly whether or not your plot and writing are clear and interesting by the responses from the other characters. If they are confused or bored, they won’t engage.
By doing this, you are getting immediate feedback and audience participation in your writing. You have to be quick and creative in order to keep up with the other characters.
After enough practice, you will not only have improved your skill, but you will also feel energized about writing your next story.