In Beyond the Veil we don't have a word limit. Your posts can be as long or as short as you need them to be. We're more interested in quality and usually, quality is more than a few simple sentences. The purpose of this page is to demostrate ways you can improve and alter a post to give it a better sense of depth and demostrate a more thorough knowledge of your setting or character.
For this purpose we've taken a post from eight years ago and broken it down then remade it into something that most would feel is a little more acceptable for an intermediate to advanced role play game. This post is from Harry Potter and the character, Panyin, was a part of Draco’s later childhood. He hasn’t seen her in some years and the last time she was still very young. It was a casual IM game, so by nature the post is a bit shorter. But, there’s still a lot of room for improvement and length! Here goes!
The original post: Panyin, now 18, grinned as she sang in front of Malfoy Manor with several other singers, them singing traditional Christmas carols, welcoming the family members as they slowly approched the large mansion, only a few days until Christmas.
Word count: 38
The first thing wrong with this is spell check. While Panyin is a name and thus should be ignored when spell check says it is wrong, ‘approched’ isn’t. After running spell check, that should be corrected to ‘approached’. Word also tells e that I’ve used ‘them’ incorrectly. The post is largely written in past tense, which seems to be the most popular style with role players. That would be corrected to ‘they sung’, not ‘them singing’. The whole post is one big run on sentence as well. Here’s how it should look when we just look at misspellings, tense and punctuation:
Panyin, now 18, grinned as she sang in front of Malfoy Manor with several other carolers. They sung traditional Christmas carols, welcoming the family members as they slowly approached the large mansion. It was only a few days until Christmas.
(I changed ‘singers’ to ‘carolers’ as that is the correct term for what they are doing.)
Notice that for the last sentence, I added ‘It was’. This makes it a complete sentence. A complete sentence is called an independent clause, or IC. An independent clause can stand alone. It doesn’t need anything else done to it to make a complete thought or statement. Another part of a sentence is a dependant clause, or a DC. A DC is used to modify an IC, usually to elaborate on it in some way (like that!). For example, this is ‘now 18’ is a DC. You may see that and wonder what’s eighteen now. Is it a person? Is it a twinkie? That’s because this isn’t a complete sentence alone, but when you insert it into an IC, that changes.
Panyin, now 18, grinned as she sang in front of Malfoy Manor with several other carolers. Our DC is now okay because it is part of an IC. So, it looks like this IC, DC, IC. Our sentence would’ve been fine as ’Panyin grinned as she sang in front of Malfoy Manor with several other carolers.’, but by adding ’now 18’, we’ve elaborated on the noun in the IC. There are other ways to connect sentences, such as coordinating conjunctions.
You can read more about the F.A.N.B.O.Y.S. here! You can use a semi-colon to connect two ICs, but not an IC DC. This is a great webpage from Hunter College. If you have trouble with punctuation and knowing the difference between IC and DC sentences, I’d suggest that you print it out and keep it with you for reference. It has more information than what I’ve had here, so check it out!
Sentence structure aside, there’s still some parts of this that can be improved without adding a lot. We know that they are singing Christmas carols in front of a mansion. The second part of the sentence says that they as they are doing that, they are welcoming family members.
There are a few questions we should ask ourselves at this point. Are they relatives of those singing, or are they residents of the mansion? Is everyone in the mansion related, or does that matter?
After asking those questions, here is another possible way to write the same thing: After stopping in front of the mansion, they began singing their Christmas carols again and watched as a few figures descended to them. This clarifies where the carolers were, what they were doing, and that someone from the mansion approached them. If your character knows who they are, state that and possibly how they know. In our case, Panyin grew up around the Malfoy’s. She’d recognize Draco as well as his mother and father because of that.
In that modified example above I wrote it as if she didn’t know. Here’s what our new sample looks like now: Panyin, now 18, grinned as she sang in front of Malfoy Manor with several other carolers. After stopping in front of the mansion, they began singing their Christmas carols again and watched as a few figures descended to them. It was only a few days until Christmas.
There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to it. In the first sentence we state where they are and what they are doing. Then, we’ve restated it again in the second sentence. In the third sentence, we make it clear that it is near Christmas Day by outright saying so. It’s a bit repetitive, isn’t it? Unless this is intentional (like for dramatic license), it’s not good to continue to restate something like that.
Instead, here’s what we can do: Panyin, now 18, stopped in front of the mansion with the rest of the carolers and began singing. She watched as a few figures descended to them. It was only a few days until Christmas.
It’s still not that good, but we’ve insinuated that it’s the holiday season, and then in the last sentence we verify it by saying that Christmas is a few days away.
"Traditionally numbers are only spelled out Zero through Nine. After Nine you're supposed to write them all out as digits (10, etc.)....HOWEVER, if you have a COMBINATION of them (two and 10 for example) they must ALL be written out with numbers (making it 2 and 10) so that they match."
(Thanks, Elijah!) [link]
Now that we’ve got some of that out of the way, there’s one other part. If someone made a thirty-five word post it had better be a pretty compelling. And, if it is a starting post, that’s very likely unacceptable and I’d probably insist on the player to add more. When I’m writing a post, I think about how we process information. Sight, sound, smell, taste and touch are our five senses and allow us to interpret the world around us. I try to incorporate all of this into my writing.
If I’m writing about a smoky bar, I don’t just state that it’s a bar. Can you hear beer bottles clunking on the table?
Are people laughing?
Is there music and a band or televisions with the sounds of a sports game on? What about the lighting? Is it bright?
Are the walls covered with caricatures or are they a dark paneling? Is the air thick and hazy due to smoke? Can you smell the hops from the alcohol?
Does the woman next to you have strong perfume on, or can you smell earth and sweat from a table of construction workers relaxing after their day? Is it chilly in there, or is it warm? Can you feel a draft from the door behind you? Maybe there’s a heater nearby to warm up from the cold. Taste is a little harder to engage, but taste and smell are very similar. Your character’s imagination can help out here. If they are particularly parched, they may be able to ‘taste’ a Long Island Iced Tea. Or, later in your post you could just have them drink or eat something. Engaging all five senses isn’t a necessity, but it’s nice. We process the world around us the same way and from my experience, you communicate your scene best if you use those. I also like to make it flow, move from one to another the way you take in information.
I usually notice sound first as my eyesight isn’t the best. So sometimes, my characters hear something before they see or smell it. If my character’s eyesight is better than mine, maybe start out visually. Description of a setting is more important in the first few posts, but it remains important throughout the whole thread, so don’t get lazy about it! Regardless, it’s important to make it flow. Make sure what you’re writing is stimulating to your partner and really puts them in the scene.
Here’s the original again: Panyin, now 18, grinned as she sang in front of Malfoy Manor with several other singers, them singing traditional Christmas carols, welcoming the family members as they slowly approched the large mansion, only a few days until Christmas.
And here’s my rewrite, eight years overdue:
Each intricate detail was unique, spreading out from a single point in a beautiful, crisp design of angles. And, each snowflake was unique in the world, forever lost when it hit Panyin’s ivory cheeks and turned back to a tiny raindrop. She was just thankful to the gods that the wind wasn’t particularly strong like it had been the last evening she’d tried to go caroling. What normally felt nice on her lips and cheeks was made harsh and nearly painful when the wind got that bad. Not to mention it literally pushed her around. Evenings like this, though, were certainly more agreeable. It had been snowing for the last two days, covering the landscape with a cottony blanket of white. Of course in the morning it had little ice crystals on it. That was her favorite time of the day, but this was really nice too.
Panyin grinned as she approached a small group of similarly dressed (and excited) people. They weren’t friends per se, but they were her co-workers and like her, enjoyed caroling. She thought that for some the men it was more about the women they were with and an excuse to cuddle, but she didn’t care. Within just a few minutes they moved as a herd towards the first home on the list they’d compiled a week ago. The night before they had gone through a few households before retreating to a warm pub; it was better shelter than being out in the wind.
For two hours they sang, shivered, horsed around, laughed and apperated. Their group grew slightly when a few people, fellow co-workers and friends, decided to join in. And, up until the last home on their list, everyone seemed completely oblivious to how much time had passed.
Then they were in front of Malfoy Manor, and Panyin could’ve sworn that she heard a collective groan once everyone had righted themselves.
“Pan, what are we doing here? Don’t you know who lives here?” The protest was a deep baritone and she knew who it was before she turned to look at him. Charles was tall and had a narrow build with long wavy hair. It was a golden shade of blonde, at least according to the girls in the office. Panyin thought it was more of a brown shade, but she’d tactfully been told by Beth, the only other red head in the office, that she had no taste in men.
Or clothing, for that matter.
Shaking her head, she grabbed Beth and Charles hands’. “Nooo, listen. I know it’s the Malfoy family, the stinky people that waved their money around and bought half of Diagon Alley, but they have good qualities AND maybe they just need someone to be nice to them!” She took a few steps back, slowly tugging the two ring leaders of the social group along. Panyin could see resistance on their faces and sighed. “Alright, I’ll buy everyone a round of butterbeer after we leave.” She watched as they perked up at the bribe and started trudging up towards the gates. They were spelled to tell the household that someone was there, so she knew that they’d be able to hear them.
They were halfway into ‘Jingle Bells’ when she watched one of the mansion doors open. Light spilled out from inside and two figures—one shorter and more rounded, the other tall and slender, stepped out. She couldn’t make out who it was, but Draco Malfoy’s loose, lazy swagger and signature platinum hair was unmistakable. The doorway behind him and the woman walking by his side filled up again. This time the two figures formed a single silhouette against the light inside. Master and Mistress Malfoy.
Briefly she wondered if Draco would recognize her. Ten years was a long time and while she was barely a full-fledged woman at eighteen, she’d changed. Her hair had grown into thick bright red curls, and the childish parts of her had long since been shed in favor of a womanly figure and a few worldly ways. He’d changed as well, she knew that from the newspaper and general wizarding gossip. For his sake, she hoped that the sweet little boy she knew he had been (well, sometimes) was still in there.
Word count: 711
While this is a very long post, it gives you the background information that you might want to know for a character. Panyin has grown into an adult from the last time the other characters have seen her, and possibly the first time the player has played her. Background information and getting a feel for your character is important.