Hazard Time

Meat vs Fat, or Avoiding Irrelevant Walls of Text

Recommended Posts

Ever since I began regularly roleplaying three years ago, one quirk that I have consistently seen among players is the paranoid belief that etiquette demands that their replies must be as long or longer than the one(s) that they're responding to.  I've had enough partners to know that some people prefer a laconic style while others simply enjoy writing and give minute attention to detail, and it's important to state that neither style is "bad".  In my experience, post length has no bearing on a player's skill, and they should instead be judged on the amount of "meat" in their posts.

 

First of all, let me address the elephant in the room: what is "meat"?  Let's look at it from the point of view of a food analogy, as seems most fitting.  Imagine that, before you, is a nice, juicy steak.  The meat is what you want, as it is where the majority of the protein and iron is as well as many other vital nutrients.  Next to it, you have a large, thick slab of fat.  While the steak does have fat in it, and fat contributes to the flavor of the meat, an entire steak-sized portion of it is nowhere near as nutritious and contains quite a bit of cholesterol.  In short, there is really no reason to choose the slab of fat over the meat steak.

 

Now replace that steak with a reply that's several paragraphs long.  You can stuff it with as much "fat" as you like, and one or more of your partners might enjoy the perhaps learning that much more about your character.  After all, fat adds flavor, and so does filler.  However, problems arise when your post is so full of filler, covered in untrimmed fat, that despite having several paragraphs to work with, your partner only has enough material to crank out a few sentences.  Sometimes, they don't even have enough for that.

 

Before I go any further, I will openly admit that among the various people I may be describing in this tutorial, I am included.  I am an absolute stickler for detail, constantly expanding and trying to cram as much detail into a single scene as possible.  If I ever have to make a response that involves firearms, military tactics, biology, chemistry, etc, you better believe that I will have a lot to say.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and I applaud people who enjoy writing well enough that they just pour themselves onto the page.  

 

However, roleplaying involves two or more players, and I have known a few people who are exceptional writers, but terrible roleplayers.  The simple explanation for this is, as writers, we want to be able to tell the stories we want to tell about our characters, but to do this, we need control over the environment.  In a roleplay setting, however, everyone else is trying to develop their characters just as you are, and because of that, it might not be your character that gets to slay the dragon that killed your parents.  In fact, your character might be completely left out of the fight, leading to an absolutely anti-climatic end to your character's story arc.  While you could always coordinate with the other players to achieve the resolution you want, it just begs the question: if you joined this thread with the expectation that your character would take precedent over everyone else's, then why didn't you just write a fanfic instead?  If your character's development is so important to you that you have to stifle the development of others in the thread to make it happen, should you have even considered joining the thread?

 

That tangent aside, the point I'm coming to with all this is that, while all good roleplayers are good writers, a good writer is not always a good roleplayer.  If I am to claim that roleplayers have a responsibility, it is to ensure that their replies are meaty and give their partner(s) something to respond to.  Over my years of experience, I've come to find that the length of a post is completely irrelevant, and a single paragraph response mostly composed of dialogue can have more material for formulating a reply in it than a giant wall of text detailing a character's internal monologue on all the reasons why the TEC-9 is a terrible, piece of crap pistol with no redeeming values.

 

The message I hope you take away from this is not that your posts should be dry, bland, and straight to the point.  As I said before, fat provides flavor, and so does fluff.  If the muse strikes, don't be afraid to write down what comes to mind, but do be sure to give something back to the person who so graciously gave you the material to craft this masterpiece you've written.  Godmodders and bad grammar may be the most common scourges of roleplaying, but checking in on a thread to find that the latest response is nothing but paragraph after paragraph of mental masturbation can be just as infuriating.

  • Brohoof 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Badges

An interesting analogy but a good one. I for the most part of it, just simply feel that it I should at least put in some effort when my rp partner does the same. If I feel like I can't respond as much and as well, I usually tell them why..

  • Brohoof 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You deserve a lot of credit for posting something like this, given that you're basically right on all of it. You are right that roleplaying well entails giving a "hook" for other players to use to drive their own story along, and to me, that's the principal reason why I don't enjoy roleplaying with some folks. Not necessarily too much fat, but not enough meat.

Though it is a lot about style and preference. Coming especially from the writing side of things, I do prefer a lot of things more "fatty" than it seems like you do, though for good reason I'd like to believe. Because writing as a mode of expression is actually very different from roleplaying. For the record, I don't believe that all good roleplayers are good writers since bridging a roleplay directly into a story tends to lend it a very "ping-pong-y" feel, where the prose is disjointed and switches back and forth between vantage points without interleaving description or continuity. Which, let's face it, that's how roleplay works. :)

The reason writing tends to be a lot more "fatty" than roleplay is because of the nature of the audience. Roleplay doesn't really have an audience, aside from the roleplayers you're playing with, so priorities are generally to driving the story along (by providing "meat"). Stories, however, do have an audience, and importantly, an audience who should be invested in all characters in the story, not just their own. That's why "paragraph after paragraph of mental masturbation" can be tolerated—even celebrated—in writing (it's called stream-of-consciousness narrative) but is just so much noise in roleplaying. Part of the joy in writing and reading writing is getting invested in other characters and their motivations, whereas roleplay is a more self-interested art (not inferior or more selfish, just different).

Of course, mindless tangents about authorial interest are often irrelevant to both roleplay and writing. "Cutting the chaff" happens in writing, too, and quite a lot. In my opinion (and in a lot of writers' opinions), the best story is the one where everything in the story has a purpose and reason to exist. Every element must drive the story forward; otherwise, you're just wasting everybody's time. In the case of poor stories that I often see on Fimfiction, they're filled with no meat nor fat; just sand, really.

What I'm trying to say, I guess, is that writing and roleplay require different mindsets and are different art forms since they're trying to accomplish two different things. Of course, I am a writer, so you'd have to expect me to defend myself. ;) Even in roleplay, I like my posts "fatty." I'd like to think evocative description and non-verbal communication is its own form of meat that people may find relevant to their own roleplay e.g., there's a reason my character is distracted, but she's not going out and say it—only be fixated on something and provide ample description on it. Something tells me you'd find my own roleplay posts rather "rich" for your liking, though!

  • Brohoof 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've experienced both types of RP; paragraph and one liner, and I can honestly say that it's a question of preference as both have their pros and cons. While a lot of RPers look down on posts consisting of a few lines, in a fast acting RP, sometimes one or two lines is actually preferable to reams of writing, especially if an action scene is being RPed. Also, this might be just me, but I personally prefer a player to post a few succinct lines that contain all the information needed rather than a huge paragraph stuffed with pointless and unneeded filler, due to having to post a certain amount of words. In short, quality always wins over quantity to me.

  • Brohoof 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Badges


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.