RP Guide for New Members
Everyone could learn something about being a better writer or integrating better with our community here. To that end, Katie, Mango and some Zombies got together and drafted some guidelines for those just starting out, and for those who've been around a wile who want a refresher.
If nothing else, please ask your questions! There are a lot of us who have been around for a while and we really love new people. New people give old members new energy, new stories, new styles. You are the lifeblood of this world. We want to help you out. If the person you’re talking to doesn’t have an answer they can point you to someone who does. We try to be approachable and we love answering questions.
Start with a Goal
It’s easy to be tempted to make being a Captain a goal for your new character, but that’s actually a bad one. Captaincy or faction leadership is a long, slow process to attain and can lead to a lot of frustration, especially because the maximum number of these leaders is limited. Another problem with setting that goal is the fact that it’s pretty definite. Once you become a Captain, you’re out of story to tell. Once you’re out of story to tell, it can either lead to falling out of love with your character or writing without a destination, which can make writing fall flat.
It may seem daunting to plan out a future for a character, especially while you feel compelled to flesh out their entire past right now as well. But the character’s narrative is best viewed from that broad aspect. Having a solid idea of your character’s direction moving forward can help develop who they were, and what lead them to the goals you develop. Setting unique goals and story direction for your character can help create a compelling narrative and avoid less than thrilling clichés like a desire to be a Captain or the bravest or strongest whatever it is you are. And while being a Captain is not a good goal, being compelling is.
The more personal and unique the direction your character is headed, the more compelling that journey will be.
Humble Beginnings are Good
Not everyone can be first in their class, and that’s okay. While it’s great to be headed in a unique and ambitious direction, coming from a uniquely talented background is a dangerous path toward making a stock character instead of someone truly yours and truly relatable. One of the most important things when it comes to drawing people to your character is to make them feel relatable, to give them a quality of humanity. Flaws do this in beautiful ways; your fragilities and insecurities are things other people identify with and understand. Readers invest in characters they identify with.
But it isn’t a matter of offsetting wonderful abilities with tragic flaws, writing is an art after all. A character’s beginnings are exceptionally important. If your character is phenomenal from the outset, they have less struggle and growth. Struggle is another prime part of investing people in your character and struggle helps you move your writing and narrative forward. The rise from ordinary to extraordinary is a powerful story to tell and one an RP like Halcyon Days is uniquely suited to providing, and it’s a story a lot of people want to see themselves in.
Play the Long Game
Storylines here can last years, our game runners plan long-term and you, as a writer, should too. Leave some story threads untied and come back to them later, plan your goals and storylines to take time to resolve and don’t feel a need to neatly tie off every story arc, because you can use elements of yesterday’s writing in today’s narrative. More important right now, flesh out the backstory you’ve started here in the months and years to come, and leave a lot of room for your character to find themselves and grow, not just as the world around them changes but as their personal lives change, as they become stronger or more influential over time. This is one reason you don’t want to be top of your class: you want a lot of room to grow.
You Don’t Have to be Loved
Some people want to play characters that are generally positive and adored by their colleagues, and that’s natural. A lot of people live that way. But don’t feel compelled. Sometimes, when a writer is bold, a character can be a real irritating being. And that’s actually wonderful. These characters incite conflict, and conflict is central to storytelling. It isn’t a path for all characters, or even most, but you shouldn’t feel a need to be a loveable or even likeable character if that’s not who you want to write. Just like it’s natural and realistic that some people will want to be respected and adored by others, it’s natural and reasonable that jerks exist. And it’s fine and even healthy that they do exist.
Flaws are Sexy
I don’t mean this in the ‘everyone loves a bad boy’ sense, I mean this in the ‘if someone seems perfect, they’re actually dull’ sense.
Flaws are meaningful and often tragic underpinnings of personality that we all have. Insecurity, overconfidence, gullibility, being unable to emotionally connect with others, being unable to control one’s own urges. Everyone, fictional or not, has a struggle within themselves between their inner demons and their better angels. Their weaknesses are more than simply not being the best, they aren’t giving job interview answers to the strengths and weaknesses. Flaws make characters compelling. Even Gods and Kings, to be good characters, need flaws that are as great or greater than the big dreams their authors have for them. Flaws can drive a story, they can make it compelling. Which brings me to...
Be a Unique Part of Our World
If you, as a new writer in our community, really want to make our world yours, its important to be a unique part of it. Don’t copy other ideas too closely; there’s a wealth of things out there you can draw from, and not just from Bleach, but make it your own; make those things that inspire you somehow uniquely yours. Plagiarism isn’t tolerated at all here, so crediting the people you quote, making sure your wordcounts are counting only your words, and making sure who you write is someone truly yours are all essential.
But the pendulum swings both ways; its important to be a part of the world as its created. Our canon isn’t Bleach canon, you won’t see Bleach characters, but there are a lot of things that are absolutely immutable about the world. The best way to think of it is “Is my character really a part of this world, or are they something totally different?” You don’t want to contrast too sharply with our canon, but find a way to shape it along with us.
Consistency in Character
Making a persona for your character can be difficult, but it’s something we’ve all had to do. One of the most important aspects to look at when crafting your alter ego is theme. What does your character stand for? What are their values? What do they represent?The most memorable characters have defining traits that carry across every aspect of their persona and their impact on Halcyon Days.
Finding a core theme, the essence of your character, can be tough. Personas are growing and evolving and changing constantly, but there should be a core element of any character -- something that represents them -- that remains static. Which leads me to my next point...
Equally important to good character design is consistency. Staying true to your character and their theme is crucial to them growing and succeeding in Halcyon Days. For example, if a character is established as a tree-hugging pacifist, it makes no sense for them to suddenly become a bloodthirsty juggernaut as soon as they get a sword in their hands. We’ve all seen this too many times. Don’t do this.
This is the Hard Part: Your Writing isn’t Just for You
One thing you’ll find is that people who have a great desire to write are drawn to text roleplaying, and to our roleplay in particular. Odds are you have a passion for writing too. And so this is going to be hard for you to hear, but it’s an important thing to think of from the outset: you aren’t just writing for you. Even if your deeply personally motivated, the resulting writing is as open for the reader to interpret and find meaning in as it was for you to craft those words.
I get it, it’s hard to think of your words as belonging to the reader as much, if not more, than they belong to you, but they do. The responsibility is always on the writer to inspire, to captivate and to entertain our readers, maybe we make them think and maybe we just make them smile, maybe their hearts race. The thing is, we’re always here for them. We have to do right by our readers. Engaging your readers is the primary purpose our stories have.
Put it another way, this is from the poet Tabitha Fortis from the television show West Wing: “An artist's job is to captivate you for however long we've asked for your attention. If we stumble into truth, we got lucky.”
Player characters are the pinnacle of potential of their species. A player character can ascend so much farther than an average background person. A vast majority of shinigami, for instance, never attain Bankai and most never even attain Shikai. Your character develops far faster and more promisingly than any of the rank-and-file that we never hear stories about. And NPCs are that rank-and-file.
Typically, NPCs function is two-fold: to handle elements in plotlines that are not better handled by other player characters and to make you more cool by comparison. Sometimes, NPCs are meant to challenge and undermine Players, but always in a way that is narritivistically appropriate. A world without NPCs would be a sparse and lonely place indeed, but the NPCs shouldn’t be more impactful than Players, with rare exceptions, usually for major events in our Player-versus-Environment Plot Missions.
Put simply: if your NPC is more relevant, developed, and written with more commonly than your Player Characters are, you’ve not used them right. It can be easy to accidentally create NPCs that you find more compelling than your actual characters, and if you find yourself in that position, consider making a Secondary Player Character or Switching Characters.
Violence and Other Mature Themes
The bottom line here is that Halcyon Days, unlike its source material, is not a shounen manga. Plots that have taken place in our universe are as diverse, colorful and varied as our members. And with all creative writing of this kind, the notion of broaching darker, grittier or more adult themes arises. Writers should not feel forced to avoid these topics. Compelling, complete pieces of fiction do not overlook or shy away from such themes, and neither should you. However, such things should be approached tastefully. Dark and gritty is fine if it makes for a great read and adds to your writing or advances your plot. Edginess for the sake of itself is not tasteful.
Similarly, the topic of violence in writing is a particularly unavoidable aspect of our creative source. Bleach is a violent manga. Halcyon Days does not shy away from or discourage violence in writing, but again, it should have purpose. It should add to the writing.
The main point to take away here is that we’re all adults, and we’re all writers. Mature content is nearly inevitable, but it should be included tastefully with the purpose of adding to the story you’re telling. As our General Manager Swaswj likes to say; “if it’s suitable for PG-13 TV, it’s fine here.”
There’s some wiggle room there, for certain, but as a member of the community, writers must always be mindful of their fellow players. Just because you might be comfortable writing something does not mean others will be comfortable reading it.
Keep it classy.
Advice on Unique Abilities
There are FAQs already for Feats, Releases, and Items, so exploring these deeply here isn’t necessary, but an important thing to consider is the way other people will interact with your character’s design in these areas. Making an ability too complicated for others to easily understand makes the interaction a lot less fun, and can lead to you becoming very frustrated, similarly creating something massively overpowered eliminates the challenge of a situation and that also can make things far less enjoyable. Developing well-rounded, balanced abilities is challenging, but in the long term, it is rewarding. Additionally, you should at least try to make your abilities and powers thematically relevant to your character. If your character is a nurturing medic, their release shouldn’t be a big-ass sword/meat-grinder combo for mowing down enemies. Abilities should make sense mechanically and thematically.
Be Part of the Community
I’ve talked a few times about being a part of our world, about shaping our continuity alongside us, and about how we love new people. We’re a community of writers. While it’s fine to just come here to write and hone those skills, or enthrall us in a story, it’s encouraged to invest in the community aspect as well. Make friends, forge bonds. Write often with others in sprawling and beautiful collaborations and let us all feed off one another’s stories to create an even grander narrative. We don’t bite often.
Be sure to always be respectful of other members though! Some people are trolls and some people are crazy and some people are playful. People of all sorts gather and odds are there will be some conflicts in who they are and what they want. But a community functions best when we all its members are at least courteous to one another. Talk out your conflicts and problems civilly, respect the limits, boundaries and personal space of others and don’t hesitate to take a step back if things get to be too much.
The best way to interact with the Halcyon community is by obtaining a legacy version of AIM. With this, you can use Alt+C or add yourself as a buddy and right-click on your username to initiate a Group Chat. Replace the randomly generated chat name with "mangaden" and enter your AIM username in order to join the MangaDen AIM chat. Then simply bid your remaining sanity a fond farewell and introduce yourself to the waiting masses.