• Alishahr

Getting Past the Greeting

At this point in your roleplay, the stage is set, the main characters have met, and you’re wondering, “What next?” You may be feeling drained of ideas or the replies may feel stagnant because there’s not much to respond to. This can happen at any point in a roleplay, but it’s common at the beginning. There is nothing wrong with feeling low on inspiration, especially with new characters. It’s okay to take a break for a day or two and recharge your creative juices. Just remember to let your partner know about it and that you’ll be back. You can also talk to your partner about where they want to go with the story. Brainstorm ideas together about how to get out of the slump. What I’ve included here is meant to be a guideline of considerations. It’s not an exhaustive list nor is it specific to any genre. There are other routes to take, and the ideas presented here can be combined and overlap.


Going on a quest.

In tabletop gaming, there’s a trope where the adventuring party meets an old man who asks them to explore a dangerous location or retrieve an object. This offers an excuse for why characters who might not otherwise have much reason to interact are now working together. There’s a shared goal that ties the characters together for a period of time. The journey is an important aspect of going on a quest, and the challenges the characters face can spark growth within the characters and between them. Even in a story where the relationship is the focus, a quest can serve as a catalyst for buildup and development.


Building on a relationship.

As the characters start to get to know each other, talk to your partner for ideas that might draw out one reaction or another. If there are plans for romance, think about ways the two characters can build a closer bond to each other. This lays the pieces and groundwork for what may become a desired relationship, but it isn’t a guarantee. However, this isn’t restricted to romance. Even platonic relationships have to start somewhere with some common interest. Find things they can do together and learn to trust each other. Relationships of any kind don’t come about overnight, but it’s possible to take steps towards a destination without it feeling forced or unnatural.



Introducing conflict.


After the greeting, start to introduce problems into the characters’ lives. Think about major challenges they could face. Something should prevent the characters from having a completely ordinary life. The sky is really the limit here, and obstacles range from the mundane to the extraordinary. At its most basic, conflict is any obstacle that prevents a character from getting what they want. Commonly, there are six main forms of conflict: characters vs character, character vs self, character vs society, character vs nature, character vs technology, and character vs supernatural. These are broad categories that may help you think about what’s preventing your character from getting what they want.



Character goals.

If your character has something that they want, whether short term or long term, consider having them do something towards achieving that goal. As the character advances towards achievement, put things in their way. Think about the challenges they’ll face along the way and what your character can do to overcome that. The kinds of goals your character has also reveals things about their personality. Does your character have grand ambitions with lofty goals or are they more down to earth and satisfied with life’s small successes? What does an attainable goal look like for your character? Another way to think about this is what it would take for the character to sacrifice progress towards their goal. Your character’s flexibility can also contribute to both how they go about achieving goals and also how they respond to those steps not working out. At the beginning though, focus on setting your character down the right track towards success.



Change the scenery.

Sometimes, all that’s needed to revive inspiration for a stagnating roleplay is to switch up the setting. If you’re stuck on character development, think about what kinds of environments your character likes and dislikes. Another reason to change the setting is to introduce new background elements. Crowded locations can be full of personalities and potential interactions even in a passing moment. In building a romance, the characters can show each other their favorite places and develop a bond over that experience. Think about what would happen if one character dislikes a place that another loves. Changing scenery doesn’t have to be a public space. Private locations such as homes and gatherings can also be opportunities to reveal a character’s personal life and relationships.



Moving the plot.

Even if your focus is primarily on internal conflict and growth, an external plot can help drive that forward. If you already have a plot in mind, discuss with your partner ways to bring the plot to your characters or even switch scenes to a point where the plot can really take off. In traditional novel writing, this is the inciting incident, and it’s the event that sends the characters on their journey. In a roleplay where the relationship is the core story, think of the inciting incident as the moment that really sets it in motion. Plots can go in any direction, and some of the other ideas here can offer insight on what drives a story. At times, characters may regress in habits and attitudes that you didn’t expect, or they may decide to veer off in an unknown direction. By moving the narrative forward, you’re also giving your partner something to respond to.



Building on the premise.

Most likely, you started out the roleplay with some idea in mind, whether it was a genre preference, a favorite pairing, or inspiration from media. Go back to what drew you to that idea in the first place and think about how to incorporate that more prominently in the story. Think about why you like a particular character dynamic and how to highlight it or aspects of the genre that you love and how those might be represented in your story. Revisit your partner’s character and highlight reasons why you thought these characters in particular would be interesting to write about. Find what makes you passionate about the roleplay and let that spur your inspiration.



Bring in character backstory or create a major life event.

Depending on where the characters are in the relationship and the story, this may not always be a good choice. However, past relationships can pull a character’s history into the limelight. It also allows opportunities for a character to behave differently than they would with the other main character. Good and bad influences on a character can shape how others see them. You can also introduce moral quandaries if someone that a character thought they knew turns out to be very different. Major life events do not have to be dark or traumatic. Celebrations often mark big achievements and can offer a rewarding conclusion to a character’s struggles. Conversely, you can twist the celebration with a surprise reveal or twist that marks the beginning of a new storyline.


Conclusion.

In summary, when deciding where to go in a roleplay, think about the kind of story you and your partner want to tell. Look at your character(s) and their current situation. What sounds like an interesting interaction or experience? What do you like about the interactions between the main characters? From there, you can use the listed suggestions to decide how to progress the story.


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