Hidden 1 mo ago 4 days ago Post by BrokenPromise
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For Roleplayers


What is Storycraft?

Punctuation and Style
Nouns, Names, Pronouns
Verbs and Adjectives

Mary Sues, God Modding, and the quest for a cool character
Suspension of Disbelief
Three Rules for Creating Believable Dialog
Interesting Narration
Flat and Round Characters, Weak and Strong Characters
Brevity is the Soul of Wit
Magic Systems

Communicating with other Roleplayers
Good Collaboration Practices

Some notes:

The articles will be posted in whatever order I feel like writing at the time, but they will be organized here for easier navigation. All finished articles should have a clickable hyperlink that takes you directly to that article. There may be more articles in the future that haven’t been listed here yet.

You may post here if it pleases you. I’m not against discourse, just keep it as professional as you can.

This series is inspired by Matthew Kadish’s Storycraft articles. If you'd like something that pertains more to general writing and is more in depth than what's offered here, his articles are excellent.
Hidden 1 mo ago Post by BrokenPromise
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What is Storycraft?

Storycraft is a catch all term for everything that goes into making a story. Naturally, “Storycraft for Roleplayers” concerns itself with roleplaying. Regardless of medium, storycraft is about appealing to the broadest audience you can.

Critical roleplayers are more sensitive to plot holes while non-critical ones are more tolerant of them. One who practices storycraft will ensure they have no plot holes to make sure everyone can enjoy their posts.

Critical roleplayers have robust vocabularies and do not mind reading stories filled with big complicated words. However, your non-critical roleplayers will become frustrated if they encounter too many words they don’t understand. One who knows storycraft will use complex words only on occasion, as critical roleplayers don’t mind simplistic vocabulary.

Put simply, storycraft is about writing as well as you possibly can.
Hidden 1 mo ago Post by BrokenPromise
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Suspension of Disbelief

Has this happened to you before?

You’re enjoying something with a story. Things are getting tense, things could go either way, things have you glued to this story and you must know what happens. But when something happens you’re left aghast. Strange things have happened before, but this feels absurd. You’re no longer enjoying the story after that. Instead, you’re trying to make sense of it. But all you come up with are more questions. You’re not as invested in things moving forward.

Suspension of disbelief is the magic that lets readers enjoy stories, especially ones that could never happen in reality. A reader that is suspending their disbelief has faith that a writer’s post makes sense. They may not fully understand the world or how a character’s powers work, but they can overlook a lot of smaller details without having them explained to them. They will not question how someone can launch a fireball from their hands without getting burned, nor will they question why the trained henchmen have such terrible aim compared to the heroes. When a reader’s suspension of disbelief is pushed too far, it will break, and the reader will actively disbelieve the post. They will become much more critical of details that they wouldn’t have otherwise addressed.

It’s clear that maintaining suspension of disbelief is important. It’s how a GM can craft a world that players can feel a part of, and how player characters can use their powers without it coming across as power gaming.

But how do we create this magnificent effect?

We don’t have to! Barring those that dislike fiction, readers will start suspending their disbelief the second they start reading a story. They want to enjoy what they are reading and end up doing this subconsciously. It’s your job as a writer to maintain the faith they have in you.

Maintaining suspension of disbelief is simple to explain. For starters, you want to be consistent. If your world behaves in a consistent, familiar manner, readers will have no reason to disbelieve anything.

To break it down further, everything you write should “agree” with at least one of the three types of consistency. These consistencies are as follows:

-External Consistency:This is everything that the reader understands outside of your story. We know that cars can drive faster than people can run, gravity exists, and bagels are a great breakfast food. For the most part, anything that behaves in reality as a reader understands it falls under external consistency.

-Genre Consistency: Readers often become familiar with genres and the tropes associated with them. If they participate in a magical girl RP, they would not be surprised to see a highschool girl bench press a semi. Nor would a fan of eighties action movies wonder how a single commando could win a firefight against a hundred trained soldiers. It should be noted that not everyone has extensive experience in the genre of your story, so it may be desirable to partially explain some of these details away. The commando’s experience could be highlighted among other factors.

-Internal Consistency: This pertains to everything exclusively in your story/posts. If my character has five grenades, they can’t throw six of them. If they struggle to cast fireballs quickly, they can’t cast a stronger spell even faster. If they are shy, they can’t also be outgoing and charismatic. Not without reason at least.

You likely realized there’s a sort of hierarchy with these consistencies. External consistency can be overridden by genre consistency, which in turn takes a back seat to internal consistency.

Suspension of disbelief may seem simple to maintain, but it’s a frail thing. Forgetting that two characters have prior knowledge of one another or mixing up the location of a key item can be all it takes for a reader’s suspension of disbelief to crack. Though the most common ruiner of stories has to be the Deus Ex Machina, or “God on a Crane” for those that don’t speak latin. The name refers to a crane that was used during Greek plays to lower gods onto the stage, often to fix whatever was happening in the moment. There are countless examples of this, but I’m going to grab one of my own to use as an example.

Once I had a chance encounter with an editor from Marvel. His name was Eliot R. Brown. He was a lot friendlier than what I pictured an editor being, and he would talk to me about all kinds of stuff. During one discussion he told me that manga was a fad, and would go away in a few years. That bit of advice didn’t age too well, but what he had to say about storycraft has molded me into the writer I am today.

He offered to look over one of my stories. Naturally, I showed him part of a story that I was pretty sure would make me a household name. It involved a fight between a half-demon-half angel-dual scythe-wielding-guy called Gail and a thirty foot tall vampire/gargoyle called Stormcrow. The story opened with them fighting each other. Before a decisive blow could be struck, a third party instantly teleported Gail to safety by way of a mysterious teleportation device they had on a big airship.

There was a lot of cringe stuff in that fight. Lots of bad one liners and other things. It was bad even by the standards of fanfiction.net. But out of everything I had written, the one thing he took the most offense to was the teleporter. He claimed its very existence was problematic. I tried to assure him that the teleporter was not problematic, and that a lot of people used them. And that was when he hit me with a question so powerful it forced me to scrap the entire opening of my story.

“If the teleporter can instantly transport things to and from the ship, what’s stopping them from teleporting an anvil thrice blessed right on top of Stormcrow’s head?”

The teleporter had broken Eliot’s suspension of disbelief, and for good reason. It had no clear weaknesses and was too easy to abuse. You could instantly save anyone or teleport blessed anvils wherever you wanted. It made the idea of fighting dangerous targets like Stormcrow seem silly when you could just kill everything with the teleporter. Its existence not only invalidated the fight, but the entire story. So long as the teleporter existed, you couldn’t have any kind of stakes.

That’s not to say that the teleporter couldn’t have stayed. What it needed were clear limitations in how it could be used. Maybe instead of Gail getting suprise rescued, he could have used a cell phone to let his partner know he needed a lift. Then he’d be instructed that he needed to stay perfectly still in a specific spot in order to get rescued. All while in the presence of a thirty foot vampire gargoyle with four arms. He might also have needed to be in a spot where he was clearly visible to the ship. There might also be a possibility that if things were handled poorly, Stormcrow could be teleported along with him, which would be game over for everyone. Stuff like that would have made the teleporter much riskier to use and not invalidate the rest of the story. Though better than that would have been to introduce the teleporter later where it could have its functions better explained during a low risk event.

I could give more examples, but that covers the basics for suspension of disbelief. It’s obviously important for a GM, but even players need to keep it in mind. Your character’s behavior and abilities should be consistent. Characters are allowed to grow and change over time, but it’s not something that should be happening scene to scene. So strive to be consistent with your writing, and those that read your posts will never struggle to suspend their disbelief.
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Hidden 4 days ago 1 day ago Post by BrokenPromise
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Three Rules for Creating Believable Dialog

Beepee pushed his shovel into the soil. He had lost track of how long he had been digging. The sun was low in the sky, and he was so deep that he couldn’t see the rows of tombstones anymore.


His shovel hit something hard. It was possible he had found what he was looking for, but this wasn’t the first time a root was masquerading as a false positive. But wiping away the dirt revealed the wooden lid of a coffin. This was his mark.

A crane pulled Beepee and the coffin out of the hole and set them off to the side. Once free, he hopped off the coffin and pried open the lid with his shovel.

“Gail!” Beepee kicked the coffin. “Get up!”

The individual inside could have been described as a divine creature. He was an unusual hybrid that was part angel and demon. Gail had the physique of an olympian, and his twin scythes rested behind his back. But that was where his majestic features ended. Gail’s hair could best be described as “80’s anime protagonist spikey” and had the eyes of a serpent. The only article of clothing he wore was a pair of overalls, with one of the straps unbuttoned for stylish effect. His complexion was closer to that of a vampire than either an angel or demon.

“Woah!” Gail sat up and turned to the person who dug him out. “Beepee?”

“I don’t have all day, Gail.”

“You weren’t this nasty when we were younger.” Gail stood up and crossed his scythes on his back. When he stepped out of the coffin the handles hit, which caused him to stumble forward several feet.

“I have no idea what younger me was thinking when they made you.”

“They thought ‘hey, what’s the coolest thing I can possibly conjure?’ And then made me.”

Beepee was quiet for a time. “That is, tragically, what happened.”

“If you’re just going to keep insulting me, I think I’ll go back to bed.”

“You’ll have plenty of time to sleep later.” Beepee leaned on his shovel. “But today I’d like to show everyone how you can effectively write dialog. Naturally, I thought it would be more effective to demonstrate through a conversation and who better to talk to than someone who knows nothing about such things?”

“Sounds cool, is there anything in it for me?”

“Knowledge is its own reward.” Beepee grumbled his words.

“That sounds a bit pretentious.” With a sigh, Gail folded his arms. “I mean I know the basics! It’s important to place ‘tags’ near your dialog so that you know who’s speaking. Like you know I’m speaking because ‘Gail folded his arms’ is nestled between both bits of my dialog. You can place conversation tags before, after, and in between sentences to let people know who’s talking.”

“Sometimes you don’t need tags at all?”



“I don’t believe it.”

“You should.”


“Because we’re doing it right now.”

“We are?”


“Wow! We are!”

“Fascinating, isn’t it?”

“How does it work?”

“Because any time the speaker changes, you make a new paragraph. Since there’s only two of us here it’s simple for a reader to follow along. This is one of those rare instances in which a common rule of writing does not hold true. But…” Beepee placed his hands on his hips. “I do not recommend writing an entire post without narration.”

“I mean.” Gail chuckled. “It’s not like you can convey action through dialog.”



“Do you see what’s in my hand?”

“The shovel?”

“Take it.”

“Sure thing.”

“What do you think of it?”

“It’s a lot heavier than I was expecting.”

“That’s because it’s a steel handle. Most are made of wood or fiberglass, but that one is designed to be durable.”

“Was it hard to dig me out with this?”

“No, I was able to type myself doing it in just a paragraph or so.”

“I see.”

“But did you see what you just did?”

“Huh?” Gail looked at the shovel that now rested in his hands. “Son of a gun…”

“What I’m trying to illustrate here is there’s always an exception to the rules.” Beepee took his shovel back. “You can write an entire post with just dialog, but there are caveats to such an approach. That’s what makes writing dialog so fun to me. There are so many things you can do with it so long as you understand the basics.”

“Now you said that when we change speakers we make a new paragraph.” Gail rolled his shoulders. “I get that, but don’t a lot of roleplayers break up their dialog into multiple paragraphs even if it’s the same speaker?”

“That is true. There’s no rule that a single speaker can’t have their dialog stretch over multiple paragraphs. But I would advise against such a thing during collabs or when you have multiple speakers in a single post. It makes reading a lot more difficult.”

Gail raised his finger. “But that’s what color tags are for!”

Beepee scoffed. “Color tags are no substitute for good writing practices! You don’t want someone to be unable to understand your post if they happen to be colorblind or the text colors are too similar.”

“I didn’t realize that was a sore spot for you. Anyway, I think that’s enough baby stuff. I want to know that deep eldritch knowledge regarding dialog.”

“We’re still talking about the basics here.” Beepee took his shovel and shoved it into the earth. “But I’d say there are three really important rules to keep in mind. The first one is to sound natural.”

“So don’t talk in a gravelly voice?”

Beepee squinted his eyes. “You’re a jackass, you know that? What I mean is that when a character speaks, it should sound natural to them. You may have some information that you’d like to come up in a scene, but you need to remember that it’s coming from a character and not a robot that’s going to spout exposition for you. ”

"Ahhh…” Gail nodded. “So basically, stay in character.’”

Beepee Lifted up two fingers. “The second rule is that you want your dialog to be doing something.”

“That’s kind of a given, isn’t it?”

“Not necessarily.” Beepee grunted before continuing. “Dialog is at its most interesting when it serves a purpose. If your character opens their mouth, they should be asking questions, deflecting questions, teasing a friend, mocking an enemy, convincing someone, deflecting criticism, that sort of thing. If a character says something that adds nothing to the RP, it probably isn’t good dialogue. It needs a strong purpose and direction. Two characters regurgitating beliefs they both share isn’t interesting.”

“And that just leaves…”

“Number three, which is subtext. I’ll talk about this more later, but the simple version is you want an underlying message that’s revealed through your dialog. People rarely blurt out exactly what they’re feeling or thinking, so it’s an important technique to master if you want to write more convincing dialog.”

“And that’s three! So I’m an expert at dialog now?”

Beepee laughed. “Let’s see what you’ve learned… What would you like to drink?”

Gail placed a hand on his chin. “Well, as a demon hunter who loves the color of blood, I think I’ll have some grapefruit juice.” Beepee cringed at his remark. “What? I just felt like mentioning I was a demon hunter!”

“But it was so on the nose!” Beepee was still sneering as he spoke. “There was no subtext there at all! Nobody talks like that.”

“Alright, well let’s see you do any better!” Gail put his fists on his hips. “What would you like to drink?”

“If I had to give my occupation in response to that question?” Beepee sighed. “As much as I would enjoy a drink, the crane started to misfire.” He reached for a toolbox under the seat of the crane. “I think it just needs a tune up, but I’d like to check one of the spark plugs just to be sure.”

Gail blinked. “I mean, people who aren’t mechanics can remove spark plugs.”

“That’s what makes the subtext so interesting, Gail! You aren’t giving the reader a clear cut answer. Subconsciously they are trying to piece together things based on what I say. There’s mystery and hidden meaning in subtext, while ‘I like grapefruit juice because it looks like blood and oh yea I’m also a demon hunter’ just can’t compare. Moreover, it’s not impossible to picture a human saying what I said.”

“Okay!” Gail groaned. “Let’s just try something else!”

“Let’s do some role playing then. You’re doing your weekly grocery shop and the local convenience store is out of milk. What’s your reaction?”

Gail filled up his lungs with air. “What the hell? They’re out of milk?!” He brandished his scythes. “Damn them! Do they expect me to sustain myself on dry cheerios?” He swung both of his blades into the soil. “I demand to see the manager! I DEMAND SATISFACTION!!!” Gail cleared his throat. “Like that?”

“I mean-” Beepee shrugged. “If your goal was to be funny or come across as a psychopath, I think you did a good job.”

“I wasn’t.”

Oh.” Beepee rubbed the back of his head. “Yea, that was really melodramatic. It can be tempting to give characters huge mood swings all the time because it’s entertaining, but it ends up coming across as a bit silly or unearned, especially if you’re trying to be dramatic. If you fly off the handle every time something happens, it’s going to make stuff that deserves that big emotional outburst impossible to sell.”

“Makes sense, I guess.”

“And that’s strike two.” Beepee squinted. “Last chance. Let’s say we both graduated from the Silvermyth Demon Hunting School. We both know it produces the best demon hunters and all of them fight with scythes. But we need to convey that information to the reader. How would you do that?”

Gail scratched his head for a bit, but then his face lit up with a smile. “As you know, Beepee-”

Beepee placed a hand over his face. “You did not just hit me with ‘as you know, Bob’ dialog.”

“What’s that?”

Beepee snorted. “It’s when you start some dialog with ‘as you know’ and then continue to tell a character something they already know. There’s no reason to tell a fellow demon hunter that graduated from the Silvermyth Demon Hunting School about their reputation. It’s unnatural, lazy writing. There’s no subtext.”

“But I didn’t finish!”

“We all knew what was coming!” Beepee pointed at the coffin. “Time to go back to bed!”

Well that was embarrassing.

To cap things off, I thought it might be beneficial to show something that properly implements what was discussed here.

I have a dialog heavy post that I’m going to write. Rilla is having dinner with Nixie, and plans on enlisting with a special military force.

I’ve decided I need to work the following details into my post.

-Nixie is a good cook.
-Rilla and Nixie are sisters, with Rilla being the older by four years.
-Rilla can work on steamtech gear.
-Rilla is elated to be accepted into the “Storm Billy” unit, which pilots steamtech mech suits and is made of men and women.
-Alternate history WW II: Italy is a superpower and Germany is on the allied side.
-Nixie is worried about Rillia and wants her to be a seamstress with her.
-Their parents died in the war.
-Rilla is motivated by revenge.
-Nixie doesn’t want to be alone.

As an added challenge, I’m going to try to have all of this information come out in dialog without using narration for any exposition.

Let’s see if I can fit all of that in one scene. Shouldn’t be hard.

Rilla and Nixie sat down for dinner with a bowl of soup in front of each of them.

“Nixie, you are a good cook. You are also my sister, albeit younger by four years. I am happy that I can work on steamtech and am also elated to be accepted into the Storm Billy unit, which pilots steamtech mech suits. The unit has men and women in it.”

“Rillia, Italy is a superpower and Germany is on the allied side of the war. I’m worried about you and want you to be a seamstress with me.”

“Our parents died in a war, and I’m motivated by revenge!”

“I don’t want to be alone.”

See? Easy.

Of course it feels flat and devoid of personality because I ignored everything we talked about. There’s no attempt to sound natural, nor any subtext. Let’s try that again, but really keep story craft in mind this time.

Rilla and Nixie sat down for dinner with a bowl of soup in front of each of them.

“Oh wow!” Rilla eyed her soup. “This is cream of broccoli! My favorite!”

Nixie sighed. She hadn’t touched her soup. “I thought it was only fitting, given the circumstances.”

“You know, you’ve come a long way from when you first started cooking.” Rilla held her spoon up to her lips. “IIt tasted awful, but I was too lazy to make anything myself. Now I look forward to eating my sister’s food!” She shook her head. “I have four years over you and I can’t even cook beans!”

“How does it compare to field rations?”

Already we can tell something’s bothering Nixie, even if it hasn’t been stated outright. But she wants to seem supportive of her sister because she knows directly opposing Rilla will drive a wedge between them. Instead she’s trying to guide the conversation in a direction that benefits her.

“I wouldn’t know.” Rilla fanned her mouth after tasting the soup. “I know steamtech. I use to have a hard time doing anything in dad’s workshop, but once you understand the basics it’s all pretty intuitive. I bet cooking’s the same way. You get your hands on all those ingredients and after a while you just know what works and what doesn’t.” Rilla was half way done with her soup already.

“You don’t really have the physique of a soldier.”

“Oh yea, and they let me know too!” Rilla’s grin got a bit wider. “They all say I look too good to be a soldier, but I got assigned to the Storm Billy unit as a field mechanic. Nice thing about that is we all pilot mech suits, and the suit does all the work. None of us look like soldiers though.” She stopped to laugh. “There were a lot more girls in our unit than I thought there would be. Can you believe what things would be like if Hitler was elected? That wouldn’t fly! There’s also no way we would have joined the allied powers. I bet we’d be fighting alongside the Italians. They would have been strong friends, but the Americans are almost a match for them.” She only had a few spoonfuls of soup left.

As you can see, Rilla is deflecting any attempts at a real discussion. Nixie is trying to get her to talk about her being recruited, but Rilla keeps steering the conversation away from it. But her bowl of soup is almost empty, and Nixie knows she needs to change her strategy if she has any hope of changing her sister’s mind.

“You know.” Nixie folded her hands over her chest. “You may not be able to cook as well as me, but you are every bit as good at sewing as I am. Our parent’s dream for us was that we’d work together.” She looked away. “I would go to war with you if I thought I could, but I can’t. I won’t, and I wish you’d reconsider for our parent’s sake. They wanted us to be seamstresses together.”

Rilla likely knows what her parent’s dream for them was, but it feels natural and bears repeating here since Rilla’s desires go against it. This is one of those rare cases where an “as you know, bob” moment can work.

The smile ran from Rilla’s face as she lowered her spoon into her bowl. She locked eyes with her sister before folding her arms over her chest. “They wanted us to do a lot of things. Sit with good posture, eat nutritious food, marry ambitious men, be ambitious ourselves, and yes, they even said they wanted us to take over the family business. You haven’t taken everything they asked to heart.”


“And that’s fine! They weren’t perfect, and they knew we weren’t perfect. But we’re doing our best to make them proud.” Rilla tipped her head. “Do you remember what your last words to mom and dad were?”

Nixie took a deep breath. “I think I told them to be back soon.”

“That was a nice thing to say.” She looked at the table. “I told them I hated them.”

“You did?”

“I was upset that they were leaving us to visit Italy. They wanted me to look after you, and I took it personally. I stayed mad at them for many days until our dear old uncle told me what happened to them. Just days after they declared war on us.” Rilla stood up and placed her hands on the table. She towered over Nixie, who looked like a child when compared to her sister. “They wanted me to keep you safe. I can’t do that here, Nixie.” She thrust her finger into the table. “They’re invading Switzerland and Austria. The Italians are going to enter the country if we continue to do nothing about it. I’m doing this to protect you, to honor our parent’s wishes.”

“We can leave Germany though.” Nixie raised her hands. “W-we can flee to the Netherlands and take a boat to the United Kingdom.”

Rilla grit her teeth and dropped her fist into the table. “We are not fleeing our home! Dad’s workshop is here, the storefront is here, the kitchen you’ve been prepping meals in is here! Do you think our parents wanted us to flee to another country? Was that part of their vision for us?”

Rilla’s actions are on the dramatic side, but it avoids being melodrama because of the set up. The situation calls for it. This isn’t your everyday drama. They’re talking about their parents wishes for them, which is a lot more serious than the convenience store being understocked on milk.

“I just don’t want to lose you.” Nixie whimpered. “We’ve lost so much already.”

“Which is why I’m going to make sure the next person to lose something is the Italians.”

Aaaaaand cut.

While that scene took longer to write, it’s a lot more entertaining to read. It feels more natural, Rilla and Nixie feel like they’re arguing something, and the subtext under the surface keeps the reader engaged.

Unfortunately, most RP posts are plagued by on the nose descriptions and detailed accounts of things that aren’t necessary. I’d be lying if I said that I always kept my own advice in mind when I write, but stuff happens. Sometimes you’re behind schedule, or you get peer pressured into trying to mirror your fellow RPers way of writing. And hey, no offense if you like to write ten paragraphs worth of exposition for everything your character sees. I’ll be making an article on narration later, but a lot of things that work for dialog also work for narration. If your character sees a cute girl, consider having their inner monologue be about how this girl reminds them of someone/something else instead of reacting to how cute they are. Subtext can be worked into nearly every aspect of your posts. I do have some things I’d like to say on collabs, but I’ll save that for the appropriate article.

It should be evident that even in your everyday posting you can find more interesting ways to have your characters speak. Just remember the three rules of good dialog and you’ll go far. So strive for engaging dialog, and readers will always want to read what your characters are saying.
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