If you have not yet done so, read the "Emoting" section on the page named A Guide to Dreaming. This guide is intended to address more specific rules and suggestions as well as less common, though not less annoying, faux pas.
Character descriptions fall under the same creative category as emoting because like actions, character descriptions can only communicate what you see. If you learn to create a good description, learning proper emoting will come naturally.
Your character description is exactly what the name implies: a physical description of what another player can see when they look at you. Think of it as a photograph.
What does a photograph show
- hair colour
- skin tone
- eye colour
- scars, tattoos, obvious physical imperfections (uncovered ones)***
- facial/bodily expression*
- posture/bearing (hunched, noble, shady, etc.)***
- clothing (style, cut, material, colours, emblems)**
- wear and tear
- cleanliness or not
Also, you do not need to describe EVERYTHING about your character. Leave some room for the imagination. But don't forget to allow people to see who your character is.
What a photograph does not show
* It cannot show what you are thinking, only an impression which some may or may NOT see. Including in your description a thought or characteristic (i.e. Aeana thinks everyone around her is inferior) falls under forced emotes or reactions, which is usually considered a BAD thing.
** While a weapon, uniform, tiara, ring, family crest, and or emblem, for example, might mean something on your shard, and you choose to find your way into the dream while wearing them, they mean nothing to others unless they have obvious wording like a name (such as engraved on the hilt of a sword). Though people can observe such things as a crest, no one will know its significance unless you openly TELL them. Therefore, the description: "his family crest is patched onto his shoulder" is not appropriate.
*** It will not show your shardic rank, the history of a tattoo or its significance, or how you got a scar.
Some examples of good descriptions
- A petite, young woman with long blonde hair drawn up into a pony tail. She is simply dressed in a short skirt and top of matching plum. Her left hand strays and twitches above her blade as her blue eyes move constantly around the room. The young woman's face is drawn up into a haughty expression.
- An old man looks out at the room from beneath a hooded cloak, his eyes a pale blue. His hands are mottled with age where they clutch the staff at his right side. A few wisps of sliver hair glint from under the cloak as he gazes about the room restlessly with a grim expression.
Some examples of bad descriptions and why
- Princess Emmeretta of the ninth house of Rakaz gazes around at the lowly peons before her, her eyes making all looking at her automatically bow before her divine presence. Her diadem of the 9th house shows her worth and how far above all others she is.
- This description is a good example of what could be a Mary Sue. Read it. Don't do it.
- How do we know she's a princess of the 9th house etc? Who really cares?
- She might think we are peons, but that would require us to read her mind.
- Automatically bowing is a forced emote. If I'm going to bow it will be because I want to, not because someone decided to put it in their description that I did!
- "Divine prescence..." Maybe in her mind, but that has yet to be proven.
- "Diadem of the 9th house?" "Her worth?" "Above others?" Yet again subjective to her own thoughts and not how others perceive her.
- Jake the scoundrel looks at all around him, eyeing them as if he was sizing them up for what was in their pockets and causing the others to move away from him.
- "Jake the scoundrel." How could we instantly know his name? We couldn't unless we ask... that darn telepathy again I guess...
- "As if he was sizing people up..." If any description or emote contains "as if" or "seem(s)," you are probably flirting with forced emoting.
- "Causing others..." Yet another forced action on others. A character will not shy away from another unless they choose to.
- He looks about the room, his gaze causing a cold chill to cross your heart! he is your master and you know it! he towers above all others! his very green eyes stare out from a completely tattooed body.
- Another good example of a potential Mary Sue. Read it. Don't do it.
- "Cold chill..." Subjective and forced.
- "Master?..." and I know it? That is a great way to pick a fight and to make some refer you to the hugme white jacket that they have miraculously stowed in their pack.
- "Towers above all others!" Yet again forcing something on everyone else. Do you want to be tall? Say he's 7' tall, but don't assume that everyone is a runt to you. Share the height!
- "Very green eyes..." One word you should avoid whenever possible is "very." Very green doesn't sound more green than simply saying green, but instead find a word that implies green in a more specific manner such as "piercing green" or "bright green." Another common example would be to say "very pale." If you wanted pale to convey a greasy-goth-kid kind of pale, you could use waxy or oily. If are trying to convey the stereotypical paleness of a funeral director, you might say they have an ashen pallor.
- "Completely tattooed body?" Another way to pick a fight. That would require a nude inspection of every square inch of your character's body. That is DEFINITELY something (most) people will not be happy to think they were forced into doing. However, you could convey a similar idea by saying "every bit of exposed skin sports a tattoo."
Finally, many experienced roleplayers agree, the only thing worse than a bad description is no description at all. You must attempt to roleplay for others to attempt to roleplay with you or integrate you into their roleplay. On the other hand, if you truely feel inadequate to attempt to describe your character in a way that could remotely qualify as a snippet of literature, ask someone for help. Roleplaying environments are intended to be interactive. If you're lost, ask for directions!
In a roleplaying environment, they can make you or break you.
Good emotes ALWAYS describe actions (with the only exception of added text in quotes) and often use adverbs and adjectives to make the action more specific and interesting.
- ...chuckles softly.
- ...growls deep in her throat.
- ...smiles menacingly.
- ...collapses heavily to one knee as the blood drains from his flesh, his face turning chalk white.
- ...dances around a look of happiness on her face as she smiles to those around her.
- ...grins widely at Tarik, raising a hand to cover the grin quickly.
- ...snickers as she turns and whispers softly to Veri "oh, that was a lovely joke!"
- ...looks sharply at Dhonral, his features frozen with shock.
- ...cries out in pain and horror "NO!"
Boring emotes are usually one liners.
Though there are appropriate times to insert a one-word emote, using them very often does not describe your character very well and becomes boring rather quickly. Is it really that hard to write a few lines more?
Bad emotes are ones that force actions on others, cause them to see what can't be seen, telepathically know an item's significance or history which always requires communication, just to name the most obvious and abused ones. (My favorites have always been the emotes that require telepathy.) I'm sure the examples are endless...
- ...sneers at Buffy thinking she's an idiot.
- ...walks into the room making everyone look at him.
- ...bonks joe on the head making him collapse at his feet and beg him to stop. (You can bonk [J]oe on the head, but if he collapses or begs it's up to him.)
And last and not least.. the most evil of all things in a true RP game....
There is no such thing as a "good" emoticon, only very, very bad ones! They do not belong in this type of game where you can emote and talk. Please leave them at the portal! Many people prefer not to RP with those that use them because it conveys the idea that they are not even trying. A dreamer who uses emoticons to convey an emotion will most likely find the real roleplayers backing away from them like a contagious disease.
A forum post on Underlight.ixios.net by Kelli-Lynn and subsequent comments.