OngoingWorlds blog

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


Level Up – Description

I know many of us don’t want to be writers for a living, though some of us might consider it. The descriptions we use often paint pictures. While some aren’t as descriptive as others, this isn’t about the level of skill. It is more a matter of how that skill is acquired. As Role-Players, we have adjusted ourselves to describe our characters and what they do in detail, sometimes venturing into the X-Rated zone.

While many find this exciting, the level of description is easy to see. Those who have RPed for awhile, or those who write stories in their free time, tend to be more descriptive than those who haven’t written for long periods. It is in the descriptors. But what are descriptors? Simply any word that describes something, including (but not limited to) color, smell, and sound.

The problem is adjectives. Those who write quite a bit have learned that the use of -ly words can make things seem repetitive and boring, just like using the same words to begin every sentence or paragraph. This rule also applies to the words “really” and “very”, as you don’t need more than one, if any. In professional writing and in many book, you won’t see an -ly word for about 60 pages, and “very” or “really” for about 40 page.

Now, we can also see how the less experienced writers may over compensate with being too descriptive. When someone seems to be long winded with how something looks, describing everything in great detail, from the character’s face to the setting behind them, it slows everything down. The same can be said for over using the thesaurus. Rather than using the same word, we want to use something similar, but we don’t want to over do it. Teachers are right about how it can confuse people. When reading, we don’t want other plays having to look up every word we use.

The trick is to get a happy medium. We want the image to jump off the page, or screen. Making a balance of descriptors and a couple adjectives is essential. This allows people to get the picture and let’s the game go by at a decent pace.

Exceptions to this rule: Action packed scenes need a lot of descriptions. Don’t be afraid to be over descriptive here so that everything that is happening can be taken in, from bits of shrapnel from an explosion to a high speed car chase. Whether the character is a superhero or an average Joe, action scenes need many descriptors and short sentences. Short sentences make things seem faster. Long sentences make the story go by slowly.

Another exception: When the story doesn’t need extra description, you only need to add dialogue at the very least and a short description of the character’s reaction to the situation or environment. This way, posts don’t get repetitive and slow things down.

Keeping these things in mind, you can bring your writing to a whole new level. You will know how to elevate your games and writing to a plain never imagined before. This will make the experience better for everyone. It is up to you, up to all of us, to decide when to use the proper amount of descriptors. And use them properly.