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Guide to Posting

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As a person who studied English as a Major in College and furthered that education into the field of teaching, I have learned quite a bit about writing, especially when it comes to short stories, fantasy and in recent years, writing posts in a forum-based environment. Though experienced in writing, grammar and the use of the English language, I am far from an expert. The transition from writing prose (short-stories) to posting in a game setting such as Mizahar was not easy. I didn't know where to begin, how to start or even what was acceptable in creating a post. It took me weeks of reading the posts of others to get a feel for how it all fit together to form a coherent and enjoyable thread. So in an effort to help others overcome the same challenges that I and many others have had in "getting into" posting, I have gathered information from various sources that I myself use and am presenting it to you now in a form adapted for use on Mizahar. I hope it helps.

-- Gillar



This is where it all begins. You've looked through the available races and found a couple you like. After some thought, you've narrowed it down to one. You even have a name picked out and maybe a very basic concept for what you want your character to be like. My starting advice is to not stop there. Try to see your character vividly; imagine how they walk and talk. You need not consciously or fully work out their aims, back story, and utility at the outset or even at the end of using them the first time, but you should at least imagine them until they SEEM REAL to you. Then you can act as they would in any situation that comes up, and have them speak and react in-character. If you do this properly, the results will never seem jarring to you or those whom you interact with. If you feel that a character is real and treat them with respect, the rest will come naturally. What happens to the character then matters, too, and their story is stronger. The following information may be useful to a player building their character or to storytellers trying to develop a cast for an adventure; the ideas are universal.

Round character, flat character, stock character, protagonist . . . the types of characters in fiction goes on and on. In order to decide what your character is like and maybe even what supporting characters in your various posts are like, consider the following:

Flat Characters

Flat characters are minor characters who do not undergo substantial change or growth in the course of a post and often even in an entire thread. Also referred to as "two-dimensional characters" or "static characters," flat characters play a supporting role to the main character, who as a rule should be round.

Round Characters

A round character is a major character who encounters conflict and is changed by it. Round characters tend to be more fully developed and described than flat, or static, characters. If you think of the characters you most love in fiction, they probably seem as real to you as people you know in real life. This is a good sign that they are round characters.


Revealing small tidbits about your characters as you go along helps engage those you are posting with as well as casual readers. We know how important that is in dropping clues and red herrings, but it's also an excellent way to have your readers identify with your characters -- even the villains.

Remember, everyone has a story. We're all major characters in our own stories, but minor characters in someone else's. Giving your minor characters personality and dimension makes them more interesting and provides fodder for additional posts and threads. You can build upon the personality you give your character in your initial posts to shape his character.

Every character has a reason for his or her behavior. Right, wrong, or simply misguided, those reasons will drive the character's every action. You also need to provide growth for your characters as their overall story progresses. It doesn't have to be a lot of growth -- it could be something as simple as accepting a relationship for what it is rather than what the character would like it to be. Friendships are created among people who might otherwise never notice each other. You can create a "fish out of water" scenario to some extent within your character's story. Your character has come to an impass in life; he feels he can go nowhere. How far will he go to change his status in life? Your character has realized her father was an assassin. How will she handle this situation? Your character has just moved to a new city. How will he know who to trust?

Creating the more complex round characters takes time -- time spent thinking about how your character looks, where they're from, and what motivates them, for instance. The 100 Character Questions is a great way to go to help you think about your acharacter and can provide structure to this all-important thought process. If you do not feel ready for that many questions though, start with these:

1. Where does your character live?

2. Where is your character from?

3. How old is your character?

4. What is your character called?

5. What does your character look like?

6. What kind of childhood did he or she have?

7. What does your character do for a living?

8. How does your character deal with conflict and change?

9. Who else is in your character's life?

10. What is your character's overall goals or motivations?

First Post

So you now you have your character and maybe even a more involved concept. You have an idea of where you want to go with the character and now you are wondering what to do next. There are a couple of options. You can start by creating your Character Sheet. This offers an opportunity for you to ease into the writing process while getting to know your character better. There is a template [1] for creating this and/or you can take a look at other character sheets that other players have done in order to get some ideas on format. This is probably the best place to begin. You could also do what I did and jump into posting although I would suggest doing the character sheet first. Your first post, where it's at and what it's about depends on your character and concept. If you are an adventuring thrill seeker, you may want to look for an adventure. If you are into romance and relationship, you can check out the Matchmaker forum [2] to find people of like minds to post with. While you could start by posting to a solo thread (one you create yourself), it is advised to start with others so as to get a feel for the collaborative storytelling process. Whatever direction you choose to go, understand that like real-life first impressions, your posting "techniques" can create a lasting impression in the minds of other players.

Elements of a Good Post

What makes a good post? How do you create a post that is interesting, engaging, well-thought out and drives the story onward? There is nothing worse than a post that contains bad grammar; bad or no use of punctuation, poor dialogue or one that simply repeats elements of the post before it. A good post should pay attention to grammar, make dialogue feel natural and fitting to a character and fully acknowledge the actions and dialogue created by others in related posts. Nobody likes to post with a someone who ignores their character's actions or words. Acknowledge these things and react accordingly. If someone talks to you, respond to what they say. If someone does something to your character or otherwise takes action that would draw a reaction or at least some attention, be courteous enough to respond in kind. Do not simply ignore them or react as if you are invincible, un-justifiable above them, or otherwise immune to their words or actions.

Take hits. If you are in combat and someone punches you or stabs at you, respond in a fair manner. If someone with a weapon skill attacks you and your skill is lower or you don't have any at all, respond accordingly. Does this mean that you have to commit suicide? No, but take the hit fairly and you will find others will do you the same courtesy.

Take turns. Good post etiquette says that you post, then another posts and another until everyone has posted that needs to before you post again.

Dialogue and Punctuation

Nothing marks a writer faster than improperly punctuated dialogue. Learn these rules, and you'll avoid obvious mistakes as well as keep other players interested in posting with you:

1. Use a comma between the dialogue and the tag line (the words used to identify the speaker: "he said/she said"):

 "I would like to go to the cave tomorrow," she told him as they left the inn.

2. Periods and commas go inside the quotation marks; other punctuation -- semicolons, question marks, dashes, and exclamation points -- goes outside unless it directly pertains to the material within the quotes, as in this example:

 "I don't want any stupid rations," says the homeless guy looking for a quality meal. "Where's the steak?" he says, and laughs.

In the next example, the question mark goes outside the quotation marks because it is not part of the material being quoted:

 Did he say, "We should all go to the castle"? 

Also note that the sentence ends with only one mark of punctuation: the question mark. In general, don't use double punctuation marks, but go with the stronger punctuation. (Question marks and exclamation points are stronger than commas and periods. Think of it as a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, if it helps.)

3. When a tag line interrupts a sentence, it should be set off by commas. Note that the first letter of the second half of the sentence is in lower case, as in this example:

 "That is," Wesley said, "that neither you nor me is her boy..."

4. To signal a quotation within a quotation, use single quotes:

 "Have you read 'Reimancy for Beginners?" he asked her.

5. For interior dialogue, italics are appropriate, just be consistent.

6. If a quotation spills out over more than one paragraph, don't use end quotes at the close of the first paragraph. Use them only when a character is done speaking.


Action can be one of the hardest things to address in a post. In writing action scenes, the pace must speed up, to match that of the scene. How do you do this? Keep descriptions of anything besides the action to a minimum. This isn't the place for long descriptions of setting or character. Some people use shorter, choppier sentences, or even incomplete sentences. This is one of the few times that incomplete sentences can be appropriate. Also, you want to describe more than just what your protagonist sees.

Keep Dialogue Short. Dis helpful for breaking up action scenes. However, when adrenaline is flowing, people don't engage in lengthy discussions. To be realistic, keep dialogue short and snappy when writing action scenes.

Make Full Use of Verbs. Drag out the thesaurus either hard copy or online if you must. This is action, after all, the verbs are the most important words. They give your scene momentum. Take, for instance: "Footsteps thumped behind me and Valmir streaked past, running like a spooked horse. He grabbed Nymoni by the shoulder, spun her around and slammed her against the wall." "Thumped," "streaked," "spun," "slammed": they're specific actions and they're active verbs, full of energy and focus. Scenes like this are not the norm in life, so the verbs will not be everyday words, but nor should they call attention to themselves.


Conflict is the basis of plot. Without conflict, there's no story to tell because there would be no change or growth. While individual posts do not all need to have conflict, they should at least build to it.

I have heard it said that, "Desire is the driving force behind plot. The character yearns, the character does something in pursuit of that yearning, and some force or other will block the attempt to fulfill that yearning." That's plot in a nutshell.

You might also think of conflict as a question the thread and its posts sets out to answer. What is the central question of your thread? Your conflict or question might be half-formed when you start, but it's essential that you define the conflict of the thread for yourself or if you are a storyteller, define the conflict for your players. Once it is defined, it is easier to create posts to better further the story through conflicts use.

Point of View

Point of view is the perspective from which a story is told. We may choose to tell our story in:

   * first person, using "I" or "we";
   * third person ("he," "she," "it"), which can be limited or omniscient; or
   * second person, "you," the least common point of view.

As a writer, you must think strategically to choose the point of view that will allow you to most effectively develop your characters and tell your story. On Mizahar, we prefer the Third Person point of view although dialogue can include the others as well.

The Use of First Person

First person limits the reader to one character's perspective. While this is perfect for character journals or a character's inner dialogue with themselves, it does not lend itself well to collaborative posting no matter if you are a player or a storyteller. First person point of view is also unreliable as it depends on the specific perspective of a single character. Though first person can be powerful, third person is actually the more versatile point of view. Third person allows you to create much richer, more complicated posts.


When used correctly, metaphors are effective writing tools. They are one way to vary language and liven up a post. They can convey a picture or a meaning instantly, with few words. Of course, like most literary devices, metaphors bomb when used incorrectly, confusing others or drawing attention to the writer's lack of skill. The two most common traps to be aware of when using metaphors are the cliché and the mixed metaphor.


Expressions like "the calm before the storm," "Mother Nature," or "he's a rat," have been used so often that they're now considered clichés. Unless they're important to the tone of your post, it's usually better to avoid clichés. If you can't come up with more original language, it's often better to forgo the metaphor and opt for straightforward description.

Mixed Metaphors

Another common problem with regard to metaphors is the tendency to mix them or overwork them, usually from careless thinking or over thinking. The result brings together two images that simply don't make sense together. For example "Our horse will teach your mind's eye to play by ear." Here, the speaker has mixed two metaphors, leading to nonsense. A "mind's eye" can't play anything, and certainly not "by ear."

If you're ever in doubt as to whether or not you've pulled a metaphor off, it's better to nix it altogether. Used improperly, you'll wind up looking foolish and distract other players and readers alike. Remember, your overarching goal is to communicate. Sometimes this means putting aside your ego in favor of plain speaking.


Many writers swear that setting is the most important element of any written work. Whether or not you agree, you will want to spend some time considering the setting -- if you haven't already -- before you begin a post.

It's especially important to use specific details, especially those that don't immediately spring to mind when people think of a place. You don't need a lot, just the right ones. Through this exercise, devote some time reflecting on your story's setting and conjuring the details to make your setting vivid. Some people go so far as to find a picture that best represents the image they have in mind of the setting and include this in their post. Think about the sights, sounds and smells and give those elements space in your description of the setting. Keep them in mind when you are posting actions and dialogue as they may shape what is said or done. Assign feelings to it if necessary. Does the place feel lonely, menacing, peaceful or chaotic. Consider the dominant mood and then determine how the character or characters actions and words may be shaped by the setting as well as what words and actions would contradict as well.