There Are Two Schools of Thought You Can Subscribe To
Shame They're Both WRONG!
By Cliff Imig (Excallicliff)
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Okay, I'm going to go ahead and start off with a few basic principles of what I think are concrete when it comes to creating a proper RP -- at least, in my mind. Now, these next words are rather vital to understand when approaching my mindset:
"Every RP is a promo. If it's not a promo, then it's a complete waste of time."
A promo and "trash talk" are NOT the same thing. Promos can contain trash talk almost entirely, or contain none. Selling isn't spelling it out, it's accurately portraying your character's natural reaction, thoughts, and opinions. It's also about making your reader excited about your match. Sometimes, this can be done in more subtle ways than your character going, Argh! Grr! I wanna kick your gay, retarded, homo ass so hard because you fucked my sister!
Every promo should contain a measure of character development, and should progressively move your character in a particulary direction over time. Furthermore, there is no such thing as a strictly "character development" RP. Character development can easily be done through trash talk, as it can be done through your character's daily life.
An RP's only real purpose is to bring your character from the point where the last show ends, to the point he or she needs to be to where the next show begins. If it fails to do that, then it fails as an RP.
Feasibility is usually a key value in proper RP'ing, as well. I personally am not the one to prescribe to the anything goes philosophy. I hate characters that shoot lightning bolts and fly. Yet, however, believability and realism are completely different cases. Believability is entirely subjective, I believe. I think that generally, believability is important, but only by the rules of the universe you create and establish. As for realism, who the hell thinks reality is exciting? 99% of television and movies is entirely unrealistic! Even stories based on true stories are rewritten in order to fit more exciting narrative (i.e., Scorsese films). Read the differences from "Goodfellas" and the novel it's based on, for reference. So, realism is not important at all, least in my book.
Finally, and perhaps, most importantly: context is key. This rule can virtually overwrite any other rule. It's the rule that can crack concrete rules. Context is seriously a concept that, in all factors of life, defines everything (and that's not intended to be some poetic hyperbole). Context illustrates that you need to have the ability to discern for yourself. Packaging, explaining, or labeling that ability is literally impossible. However, it's vital to have, and crucial that we all get a somewhat shared perspective of this as writers. It's certainly a strange paradox to have rules, then write a rule that states decide for yourself. However, I think the guidelines listed above, a majority of the time, help me personally in achieving proper context.
With that said, I sometimes pull my hair out at the restrictiveness, or oppositely lack thereof, when it comes to most mindsets. There's no reason why any style of RP should ever be alienated or not fairly judged against others. There's no reason why they can't be treated as equals.
These two school of thoughts can somewhat be described as the following: Now, I don't believe anybody fully believes either of these. They are exaggerated to make a point, but I think they are points that needs to be made:
A) If an RP is not written in a technically complex, novelistic format, and is based more off a wrestler describing his opinions of a match in dialogue then absorbing the reader, it is a bad piece of writing, and, therefore, a shitty RP. RP's need to be judged on an author's ability to write.
B) If an RP does not contain a trash talk section, and doesn't have a character specifically spell out what he feels about his opponents entirely in dialogue, or refuses to reflect every single miniscule detail of what happens on the results in dialog, it is not selling. This RP should not be considered equal to trash talk RPs because they are not wrestling.
Both of these schools of thought are entirely wrong in their extremes.
The first school of thought, results of RP's not being judged on content and relevance, but rather the technical skill of the writer, is wrong. Good writing is NOT about excessive adjectives in your scene setting. If you can set a scene very well to make it imagined, it doesn't make you a good writer. Anybody can sit down with a thesaurus and do that. It's a nice skill to have but there's more to the game than that.
EVERYONE can spend thirty minutes describing a detailed portrait above the mantle in a manor. Details are important, but flow is essential. Yet, it simply becomes redundant when you go too far with it. I appreciate people who attempt "high-level" writing, but it's important to see past it. It shouldn't matter if the details are laid out to you in such a luscious, deep manner that you can smell the dust in a cavern. Alternatively, to just say something is a dusty cavern is bland and uninteresting. Unless you're doing a script format, which is built on dialogue progression, there's no reason to describe things so dismissively. Finding a balance between the two is key, and is what keeps RP's exciting and engaging.
Then again, I find the scriptwriting form bares merits of its own. So, even limited description can work as long as the dialog is compelling enough to actually carry it through. Point is, as long as the point gets across, you can do anything.
Anyway, my rule of thumb is this: you can fairly describe an entire setting in one paragraph, one that's no longer than the length of this paragraph. I'm speaking of an entire room, not just the table in the center, in a way people can imagine, yet not feel inundated with unnecessary details.
The inability to distinguish padding hurts this game immensely sometimes. I think every single section of an RP should have a purpose. A lot of people criticize RP'ers who like to do things like describe their lunch habits in excess. I agree largely with this, but that doesn't mean your character can't say what he or she is having for lunch. I mean, a wrestler is a human, and they eat lunch. In fact, sometimes, when eating lunch, thoughts of what happened in the ring a few days ago casually enter his or her mind. Make those thoughts have a purpose. Make the way the lunch is being prepared, or eaten, reflect on the mindset of the character.
Also, everything the character does could plausibly be on camera. Sometimes, a wrestler will prepare his or her lunch a certain way as to be symbolic. Why not? Your wrestler has access to cameras. This, like every RP, is a promo, and trying to send a message. Details like this can enhance the experience if they are properly handled. This is television, not reality. Who's to say any different?
Every RP should have a logical beginning, middle, and end. This is a personal gripe of mine but I do not get why people like to write fifteen stories in one RP. I used to do this, but feel myself leaning against it so much. It's very much a personal frustration of mine to read an RP where the character is riding in the car, humming to the writer's personal favorite Bee Gees song, and then inexplicably appear in the ring to do a promo that has nothing at all to do with that segment. Either that, or begin a story arc in the beginning of an RP where your character's dog has died, and then in the middle doing the doggy funeral where he or she is crying, and then going later and starting a completely different story arc where he or she gets in a fight with an Eskimo over his hording of the warmest igloo. There's no reason why you can't integrate your character's opinions in an RP while telling a story where the beginning relates to the end, and everything in the middle is carrying it from one point to another. The first school of thought sometimes appears to favor a lot of this type of writing because it resembles a short story more. I'm a big believer in complexity but, honestly, complexity can only be properly applied with FOCUS.
I believe it is not good to allow that level of redundancy, and if you write either three segments that say the same thing or fifteen segments that are barely related, you need to start looking at your RP, and cull it down a little. I have been very VERY guilty of this style of RP in the past. My insane obsessiveness with my work has probably been my biggest stumbling block. You don't need to cram in every single thought about your character into every single RP out of context. If you can integrate some need factoids in for spice, go for it, but don't let it dominate what you're trying to do. Furthermore, NEVER let it control the narrative.
Being a good writer is avoiding padding, and being a good reader is distinguishing what is padding, and what isn't. With that said, I don't believe in less is more at all. Personally I believe there's an exact certain amount you need to have, and if anybody could match it directly the game would be over. The game will never end, however, because the ultimate formula is very insanely difficult, if not impossible, to find. If you find it, or get as feasibly close as possible, write a novel, and give me a cut of the cash! This, of course, is a statement that ironically proves I don't believe in less is more. Some adherence needs to be spent on finding that amount, however, since it's a major portion of the craft.
Anyway, it's one of those statements like KISS. They say ,Keep it simple, stupid! Well, just take into fact that the acronym came from the singer of one of the most idiotic, overrated bands of all time to describe said idiotic and overrated band (ZIONIST CONSPIRACY TO DUMBIFY CHRISTIAN CHILDREN!). I say go as complex as you can, but know your limits, and let your experience dictate your comfort level.
Now, onto school of thought, number two. The people who believe If it ain't wrasslin', it ain't this game!'. The biggest problem I have with this group is, "What is wrestling?" It's a faked athletic contest, right? Boxing is an athletic contest and I've never seen an undead boxer attempt to bury another boxer in a casket. The "Undertaker defense" is all I have to say. Nobody can say the Undertaker isn't wrestling, he's one of the most popular characters around. Furthermore, he's completely unrealistic -- and stupid.
Take for example, his best incarnation: mid-'90s, pre-Ministry Undertaker. He was supposed to be a dark evil force that created retribution on those who truly deserved it. His first target... MEN IN TIGHTS WHO FIGHT OVER GIANT BELTS! I mean, this guy had his veritable pick of the litter: it could have been pedophiles, serial killers, or cruel, renegade warlords creating third world wars with child soldiers. But no, he chose to bring his supernatural, super-phenomenal justice straight to the ring, goddamnit!
Take a second to think of that, and how silly it is. Now, take a second to think, Why the did that work so well?. It breaks every single purist's heart to realize there's no logical explanation to why the Undertaker was a wrestler at all, and why he cared about title belts. Now, I don't believe in a game that relies on more context and less show than it's real life equivalent needs to have no explanation of what's going on. It's bad practice for your character to have no motivation to fight. However, there's no reason that in order to be wrestling, your character needs to talk about win/loss records and titles all the time. I mean, this game is based on a show that oft resembles a kids cartoon more than it resembles Hemingway.
That's what I don't get about this school of thought. Why is it so unrealistic a character can be of- the-wall, or not be entirely wrestling-based? I don't like it when nobody is just a wrassler. I think there needs to be a large portion of characters who retain realistic personalities, and portray themselves as athletes. Yet, obviously, not everyone. However, there has to be a little flavor, a little variety.
However, I think that sometimes people tend to think RP's are more complete if said wrestler simply says what he thinks is going on in his opinion and covers every detail, rather than just somebody who collects a few vital details then uses their own unique aspects to spice it up. It's more realistic to have a character simply have it all on his mind and have the most important pieces stick out. As long as you could imagine it from the character's perspective, it's good selling. In essence, the amount of selling is not an indication of the quality of selling.
Problem is, people get into the mindset that this is all just what's on TV. It's wrestling. It's about what your character says on the mic, and often it makes people want to read past most the content, and just skim through the dialogue, which completely inhibits people who want to try the lunch philosophy stated earlier and give depth through more subtle means. Comparing the two and favoring the guy on the mic just because it's more wrestling is ridiculous. Both are equally as valid, and the message they got across is important. They should be compared equally, really, just as long as they BOTH adhere to the results previous.
Between these two schools, for the life of me, I don't get why a lot of people tend to lean so strongly one way or another. It's the eclectic mix of both which makes this game great. Beyond its wrestling base, this game has evolved a lot of elements from comic books, sitcoms, and even serious dramas into it. It's become more than just based off Vinny Mac's little traveling soap opera carnival. It's become a place where writers can hone their craft against other writers, like many RP games except with a very unique competitive element in place so we can get better against each other.
Honestly, if there was more communication between those on both fronts simply over their creative philosophies, then the game would be much better -- maybe even more understanding. Barney Green jokes are funny, I admit. However, I honestly wish we'd spend little less time on stuff like that, and a little more time in sharing material and ideas. I don't mean to preach, but there's way too little discussion now-a-days on the creative end of the game, the heart and soul of what this is about. I'm hoping to bring that back.
Because through it, and through our obsession with categorizing what A type of RP is and what B type of RP is, a lot of people seem to be gradually caring less to examine RP's with scrutiny. This is not good. This is harmful, and it entirely hinders the progression of the game.
That's why I believe we have two schools rather than one unified philosophy. Lack of communication over RP's has kept people locked in certain mindsets. From those mindsets, I believe has created an undercurrent of tribalism. It was always there, but for some reason it bothers me a little. I believe everyone has their own way of thinking, yet I do believe shared thought is necessary for us to all help carve that way of thinking to it's utmost of proper detail.
That's why I felt compelled to write this article. I want to promote more RP discussion, and I want to promote more creative back-and-forth. I want to promote more speaking of the psychology of feuds, storytelling, and get a general sense of a stronger more writing conscious community. I want us to regain our focus to what this game is. It's a niche writing game between an entire planet of people who all at one point in their lives shared a love for the most ridiculous traveling sideshow in the world.
With people either becoming to worried about losing their legitimacy as writers, and people so petrified we'll forget this is a wrestling game, we've lost focus on the point of the game just a tad. BOTH goals can be met if we can invest a little more time on what's important.
I know not all of you agree with me on every point, but that's good. I like that. If you feel the need to discuss with me on any point. Agree, disagree, expand, or rephrase, I don't mind. As long as we keep the discussion going, and keep RP'ing on our minds. DON'T be afraid to share your opinions, uncensored. We have a strong community here. We're big boys and girls. We can take it. As long as they're presented with an honest productive intent. Furthermor, I'd also like to encourage people to write articles of their own on topics as this. Since, I believe, it's the heart of the game, and should be our main focus.
On a final note, God... that somehow turned into a thesis. I won't get into how long it took me to write it. I'm off.
Have a good night, enjoy RP'ing.