OngoingWorlds blog

News & articles about play-by-post games, for roleplayers & writers


Help! I don’t know what to post!

Frustrated writer

This article was written for us by Amy O’Reilley from Blue Dwarf.

We’ve all been there, we’ve all started a post with “Jeff walked along the corridor and…” then suddenly been struck with an attack of the ‘Oh God what nows?’ Or what happens when you are in the middle of a fight and you have absolutely no idea what to do with third technician Jeff Jefferson who only cleans out the chicken soup machines. The worst, and most fatal cause of ‘IDKWTP’ is the dreaded writers block.

It’s OK. We’ve all been there. You aren’t alone. It is possible to get out of this funk of evil. Have faith.

There are a few things that I do to get over this. The first one is often the hardest, especially when you are half way through a post. You’ve got a few decent paragraphs down, it’s all looking shiny, but then you realize that you’ve written yourself into a corner, you can’t think how to proceed. This one, whilst it’s tempting to just plug away and write anything, is often better to walk away.

You could have the pacifist doctor punch the terrorist, but in all honesty is that right? Corners are hard to get out of, when you’ve got to the ‘IDKWTP’ stage. My way of getting out of this. Scrap the whole smegging lot of it. Delete that bad boy and go get a cup of tea. When you come back, try something new.

No idea how to take the plot further on? Scared you’ll screw up the biggest set up in history that is ripe for character X to post about? No worries, mix it up a bit, post first person style. Get introverted, really examine what your character is thinking and feeling. You don’t need to wait for first person fortnight to do this, get going now. Get to know yourself a little better by really stopping to think how, what and why your character is feeling like they are right now. If you normally post in this way, then post third person for a while, try to get a feeling of the world around your character, what does she see, smell and taste? How does the monster slime feel on his/her skin? What does the sand feel like between his/her toes?

Need or want to post, but no idea what to say or do? Go away for a bit, read a book, watch a TV show or movie, read a book, read a blog or review site. Yes, I know read a book is in there twice. Reading is important, it inspires us, it helps us to improve our writing style by showing us that of others. Don’t stress about it if you don’t like reading, audio books are cool too. Stuck for what to do in your wizzarding world? Dip into a Dresden File book for ideas. Sci-Fi got you down? Then tell me, do androids dream of electric sheep? Get stuck into someone else’s world and it might unstick you from yours. Inspire yourself with how freaking insane Katniss Everdean is in Hunger Games or if Kia’s thirst for revenge will ever be slaked in Broken Sky.

Still struggling? Speak to the moderators, ask one of them for ideas. I know I’ve always got a ton of examples for people on standby just in case someone needs help. Scared of them? That’s cool, you don’t need to be but authority figures can be intimidating. Try e-mailing another player instead, ask them to team up with you for a post or two. Collaborate and make a join post. Take turns in adding a line or two, or write a whole section each. Two heads are better than one after all.

Another cause of ‘IDKWTP’ can be spreading yourself too thin. We all only have so much creative juice to go around, try tactfully backing away from a few games if you are in more than one. Drop a few characters if you have too many, it can cause a lot of stress writing for many people and thinking of that may lives all the time. It can be a hard thing to chose, but often it is better to focus your attention in one or two games or characters rather than half a dozen. Concentrate all of that creativity into a smaller area and it’ll go further.

Lastly, it is important to know when to call time on a character or game. You might need six months away to recharge. You might need to kill off Jeff and start fresh with Bob. Rarely is death an obstacle in these games, look at Eastenders, or any soap, how many times have the dead come back? So if you do find yourself missing Jeff too much, then bring him back! How did death affect him anyway? What’s the amnesia all about anyway?

It is important any time you are stuck to take time to sit back and think, ‘hang on a minute, why am I stuck?’ The answer to that question is often one we don’t want to face, but needs addressing. Remember that a game is supposed to be fun, even a play by post is still a game. If it stops being fun or becomes a chore then it’s not a good situation.

Remember always: Have fun and get inspired!

This article was written for us by Amy O’Reilley from Blue Dwarf.

  • Jade

    I did forget to mention this:

    The word of the day is often a good source of short inspirations. How can you fit it into a post? What situation would lead to it’s use? Would it be your character or someone else’s? It also helps to expand your vocabulary and make your posts look more awesome.

    • For a time I posted “Word Wednesday” on Twitter, where I’d find an interesting word as a challenge to add to a post. Maybe should bring it back!

  • fsfsail

    All helpful suggestions, and all are methods I’ve used in the past. Personally, anything that shifts my mental gears for a few hours or a couple of days can be generally beneficial. Doing the mindless household chores permits me to sometimes mull over the situation. Working on a major project allows me to place the whole thing onto my mind’s back burner, from where my best writing tends to spring.

  • Jaxx

    Nicely done. Hopefully it helps those who don’t post often. Personally I have the opposite problem. I get to many ideas and not enough time. This often makes me a pain to deal with so I am often apologizing.

    • Haha I have this problem too. I’ve loads of ideas, but no time to write!

  • Jaxx

    One thing I found that inspires me for ideas is my everyday experiences. I get inspired from cinema, clubs that I have belonged to (sports, Sci-Fi clubs), board games (like D&D & Marvel), stories from others and news articles. I find it best to use these experiences as ingredients when coming up with an idea for a story-line or character.If you can visualize yourself in the eyes of your character as you deal with the story-line you are in it makes it easier answer the question “What should I say or do now?” Often I see some characters peak out to early since they don’t allow the character to deal with tragedy of loss or defeat. Like most good stories the hero fails quite often before he or she can save the day like Jackie Chan who is a great fighter but often spends more time trying to escape a fight to entertain us. Another would be Harry Potter who should die quickly but gets lucky at the last moment and bumbles his way to victory.

  • I don;t agree much with “try an introspection, why is she feeling this way?” when the “need to post” is actually a need to further the story, so that not to block your several writing partners mid-battle. They are waiting for that order/ cannon fire, give them!

    • I think about these things as one spark of inspiration leading to another. If you have truely got no ideas of what to post, connecting with how your character is feeling might lead to an idea, which might lead to another, and another, and eventually the story will flow.