A lot of people like to assume the persona of a character - someone totally different than themselves - and take them into a new world filled with amazing possibilities. So how does one succeed in an RP setting, where there are no points and no set goals? How do you maintain other peoples' interest in your posts and get them to respond to you? Here are a few tips to make the most out of your roleplaying experience.
1. Treat an RP like you're writing a story. You should strive for proper capitalization and punctuation. Form complete thoughts and read what you write before you send it. Does it sound good? Does it makes sense? Is it interesting and will it provide something for other players to react to? If you're having trouble, don't resort to filler such as 'Joe walked down the street, then he looked behind him. He took a step forward and then he sighed and sat down.' This provides very little for people to react to. Consider your character within the setting. What is he thinking, feeling, seeing, hearing, tasting, and smelling? Where is he at emotionally? What could you do to further the scene or interact with someone already in it? Here's an example of a good RP post.
The back alleyways of the city at night were terrifying, especially in this area of town. Joe was unsure what would become of him if he dared step into the long shadows cast by the dilapidated buildings, but he knew he had to get to a safe place before THEY came. He'd seen them before, and even now in the city streets, he could detect their stink - an acrid odor that would stick in his nostrils for hours, if not days. The stench was made even worse by the humid air that hugged his exposed skin, but he couldn't think about that right now. He was certain that if he stopped for even a second, they would catch up with him, and he wouldn't be able to maintain his mental clarity. If they touched him, if they even came within that distance, only madness awaited him. Appropriately, thunder sounded in the distance, but even the clean scent of a coming storm couldn't mask that disgusting smell. Pressing on, he dragged his feet for a few steps across the graveled path, before pushing himself back into a healthy run.
Notice a few things about the above paragraph. First, it might seem at home in a story. Second, it provides something for other players to react to. Regarding the writing, note the choices of words I made. While I'm not encouraging you to run out and hump a thesaurus, you should also make interesting word choices. Consider the following:
Old | Worn | Dilapidated
Which word gives the best visual sense of the composition of the buildings? While all the words have a similar meaning, it is the last that has the strongest implications. However, avoid becoming too flowery in your text. Use words that make sense. The thesaurus has lots of words for old, like geriatric (doesn't make sense in this context), senescent (a bit obscure), and spavined (!???!!!?) which don't work with the rest of the text.
Smell was also a very prominent subject in the above post, which gives a sense of scene. It's dark and it smells bad - that gives people additional items for their character to react to, as well as the presence of Joe, who is both scared and hurrying.
PLEASE NOTE that in an RP setting, not every post has to be super-duper long. It's not a contest. Have you adequately conveyed what you meant to convey? Have you made your post interesting and given the other players something to react to? Does your post read well? Then you're set! If you're writing an essay every time you make a post and it's full of philosophical drivel and character meta and needless filler describing every minute detail of what's around you while supplying nothing to the actual scene, you're doing it wrong. And if other characters have already posted and you aren't interacting with them, you're making it very hard to get yourself integrated into the scene.
2. In-Character Action. I'm not going to go in-depth about character creation in this post. If you're trying to better your RP, you are probably already past the point where you have a super-beautiful perfect model who can do everything. After you make your character, there are things that you should avoid while in-character.
First, be careful about having an anti-social character. If your character only wants to stand in a corner all the time and never speaks or interacts, people are going to start ignoring you because you're not fun to RP with. Save those types of characters for non-interactive settings. If you must have an anti-social character, give them a social button that will always get them talking. IE: If you're playing a Battlestar Galactica character who is very shy, maybe she opens up instantly when someone mentions Cylons. Maybe she hates them so much that it drives her into ranting rages (which give people a lot to react to!)
Don't be afraid to inject some humor into your meta. People will be more interested in some of your more routine posts if they get a chuckle out of them. For example:
Joe grew weary of the constant pressing presence of the zombies. They stunk worse than his grandmother's Thanksgiving casserole on a GOOD day. To be fair, though, the casserole was slightly more terrifying than his ever-present followers, so full points to the walking dead for that...
It's not exactly a 'LOL HAHA ROFL' line, but it might make whomever is reading it smile a little, and people like to smile.
Next, don't hog the spotlight. Other people like to have their day in the sun, too. If your character is always doing something that would draw attention to himself (like walking into any scene and starting to sing loudly so that people can't ignore you), then you need to back off a little. As well, if your character gets hurt in a fight, that's fine. But if she's always getting hurt randomly in social scenes (Like she climbed a random ladder just so she could fall off of it and break her leg) then that is only calling attention to yourself. Allow yourself some spotlight time, but make sure other people get it, too.
Always do something in your post to allow the scene to move forward. If you respond to someone else's post with 'Joe shrugs and remains silent,' you are doing absolutely nothing. In fact, you may have not even posted, and the status of the scene would remain the same. You are not giving the other players in the scene any potential to react, and you're probably also pissing them off. If you're stuck, put some thoughts on the other players' posts in your meta. As you do that, maybe you'll think of some action your character can take that would move the scene forward.
Also, don't over-use dialogue, actions, or meta in one post. Each post should have a healthy mix of all three. They don't necessarily have to be equal, but consider a post with one action after another - no one has the ability to react to the first thing you did, because you've already done seven things in one post! As well, a post with nothing but dialogue doesn't show what your character is actually doing. Lastly, a pose with all meta (Your character's thoughts, scene descriptions, et cetera) gives no outward indication as to how your character feels or what they're actually doing. Not every post has to follow these rules. This is just a suggestion to consider.
Lastly, and this is important - if your character has powers, it is very taboo to use them on a character without asking. Let the other player decide if your ability has worked on them. Are you trying to burn them with fire magic? Post that you are attempting it and let the other person react. Mind reading? Ask if it's okay to skim their thoughts. Even something like putting a hand on someone's shoulder should give the other player an out in case they want it. For example, you can post 'Joe reached for Emily's shoulder,' leaving Emily to post 'Before Joe could touch her, Emily pulled away.' When in doubt, remember to never lock the other player into a set reaction.
3. Using OOC info IC. You need to decide what your character knows and how they know it. You also have to consider what things your character cannot possibly know. Maybe you're playing a spy RP, and you've read that there are ninja chemists on the 3rd floor, but nothing they have done would indicate that they are there. Your character cannot just realize they are present just because you've read it in someone else's post - you must have a reason. And if you think of a reason, it's always polite to check with the ninja chemists to see if your reasoning is sound. Remember, unlike writing a story, RP is a group effort. You have to consider everyone in the scene.
Let's say you know something about a character, too. For example, in Meta, Joe has posted, that he's actually half-zombie but that, so far, there are no outward signs. There is no way for your character to tell that Joe is half-zombie, and clearly he is not ready to reveal that yet, so you cannot use that information in your posts. At all. You can't walk up to Joe and kick him in the crotch and spit on him because you read in his previous posts that he's partly a monster. Until you are actually told by someone else that knows, or by Joe himself, or you discover this legitimately through an RP device, you cannot know. Period. And if you think you have a reason to know, you ask Joe if that's okay.
You also can't know everything about the setting you're playing in. Using Joe as an example again, he lives in a currently apocalyptic world that's being slowly consumed by a zombie plague. In various write-ups for the RP, there are references to a secret *Zombie capitol named Skorlax, where a single ninja chemist works making chemicals to create his Zombie Horde. (CLEARLY he is immune to the plague.) It is also stated that nobody knows about this ninja chemist. This is mentioned so that it may be worked toward in RP. For Joe to suddenly know that this bad guy exists, completely out of the blue, is just bad RP. What reason does he have to know? If he uses this knowledge that he shouldn't have, is he ruining RP for others? Is he ruining the overall plot that the mods are planning?
This can also work the other way, as well. Pretend that in this setting, everyone knows one thing - that zombies cannot be saved and turned human again. It's never happened and is logistically impossible. That shouldn't stop Joe from thinking about capturing a zombie and trying to make it human again, because maybe Joe is just that gosh-darned dedicated. Maybe he's fanatical. Maybe he's just full of awful ideas. Essentially, don't let the setting of the game ruin choices that your character might naturally make. Just because you know something can or can't be done doesn't mean your character knows that, too. Because let's say Joe does capture that zombie, and through the course of RP, actually decides for himself that it can't be done. How terrible for Joe! All his hopes and dreams of saving the world - crushed! How horrible he must feel. What angst! And his actions might open the door for reactions by others. Maybe Emily comes up to Joe and tells him how stupid he is - he should know better! Or maybe Mandy comforts him, because she had high hopes for his experiments, too. And that is interesting storytelling.
* If anyone creates an Apocalyptic RP wherein there is a capital called Skorlax where a certain ninja chemist dwells, SIGN ME UP, I am so all over that shit.