Monday, April 10, 2006

Adding Sizzle to Your Steak, PLUS Begging for Feedback

Now, before I get to my entry for today, I'm going to do some self-shilling and link to the TEAM Tournament Finals:

clicky clicky

Now, I've posted feedback threads at FW, A1, ENN, EWN and PTC, and a grand total of two people got back to me; BraveHeartFan and Josh Ray. I appreciate both their feedbacks (and Josh's was very insightful and thoughtful). But I want more. I crave more. I know more than just two of you read the match. I wanna hear what you think, and I want to hear strong opinions too. I don't just wanna read "oh, it was okay," or "oh, I didn't like it." Praise me. Rip into me. Do something. I wanna know what I'm doing wrong and what I'm doing right.

For the love of God...

Another thing before the entry... Scott Perry over at EWN has opened up a new, funky little concept. It's called the Hotel, and he's described it to me as a soap opera by day and a fighting fed by night. All of this will be written by Scott himself, so it's kinda like my EWA project, which I promise you, is not dead. I'll at least try to follow this, because it looks different, and different is good most of the time.

Anyway, to the entry for today...

A couple of months ago, I wrote an entry on the mechanics of a good RP. Basically, it was my content criteria checklist. It was every ingredient to having a good steak.

But on Food Network, whenever they have cooking competitions, be it on Iron Chef or these pastry cookoffs or whatever, taste is never the only criteria for winning. At first, I thought that was stupid, but really it isn't. Think about it. Would you want to eat something that looks like shit? Probably not. Only the most adventurous of folks would venture to eat something that didn't look appetizing.

It's the same thing with RPs. You could have A+ talent and charisma, but if your formatting is shitty, only the most adventurous souls will try to read your shit. That will hurt you in the long run. If you have great content, you need to be able to show it off by making your prose read all silky and smooth. But how do you do that?

Well, we've all read badly formatted RPs before, we know the pitfalls... but what if we're the ones who are making the cardinal mistakes? Well, this is for you. Of course, I don't claim to be perfect, and I do make these mistakes from time to time, but I also know they're mistakes. So use this checklist and make sure your RPs don't confound your readers.

Spell-check Nothing will make you look dumber than you really are than spelling errors. One typo here and there won't do you in, but multiple spelling errors in multiple promos... well that doesn't bode well. We all know spelling doesn't make the message go round, but it can turn off a lot of people. So, if you feel like you aren't the strongest speller in the world, or if you're just a stream-of-consciousness writer who worries more about ideas than syntax when it's all coming out, just C&P your promo into MS Word and let the spell-checker work for you.

Paragraph breaks Seriously, paragraph breaks are your friends. Reading thick blocks of text can be hell on the eyes, and they're also great concentration breakers. If you're verbose, that's fine, you don't need to shorten your promos up. However, you should look into using paragraph breaks early and often. Get what you have to say out there in short bursts, with white space surrounding each small chunk of text. That way, the words don't jumble together, and people pick up more out of the promo.

HTML Contrast is also a big difference-maker in making your RP aesthetically pleasing. Differentiation between script text and setting-building text is especially crucial. In the old days, I used plain text encased in parentheses to differentiate the setting text. Looking back on those promos, I found they were harder to read than the ones I put out now. Getting fancy with the HTML is a great way to make promos look snazzy and streamlined. Very easy to read. Usually, I stick with regular bold and italic, but other folks like Dan Scifo and Josh Weiner incorporated colors, tables, fonts into their promos. If you have all plain text though... it just makes things look too homogenous. It's the same principle as using paragraph breaks.

Now, if you format your promos like a pro, that's not going make you a superstar. But if you have superstar-level talent, it will bring it to the forefront and take you to the next level. You need to have sizzle and steak. Having too much sizzle and no steak is no good, just like having your steak not sizzle at all is no good.


Joshua C. Ray said...

You're welcome on the feedback. You needed it... I mean, that was a huge accomplishment and we should show our appreciation.

Sam L. said...

I agreed with essentially everything...up until HTML. Bold, Italics, Underlining...that's nothing to complain about as they are common in all forms of writing. But colors? Tables? Different fonts? First off, it looks like you're trying to hide something. I've seen too many promos and too many feds that have been mediocre or less in actual content but are "superb" with their HTML usage. Second, it takes away from the reading aspect. If I get distracted from reading from all this stuff, it doesn't help. Tim O'Brien, J.D. Salinger, Melville, Thoureau (sp?), Hawthorne...they don't use fruity tags or tables in any of their writing. If you can write good, you don't need that shit in your promos--it only hinders.

In terms of creativity, you can get creative with literary techniques. We saw it in Saramango's "The History Of the Siege of Lisbon"...that book defies common literary techniques, resulting in an awesomely interesting read. And even to simplify that, you can use your suggestion of paragraph breaks in creative spots, even the use of a run on sentence can work. It all adds to the text.

Uh, other than that, though...another great post, Tom. Keep it up :D

(Note: god damn it, "{u}" tags don't work! How do I underline now?! :P)

BigDaddy said...

I couldn't agree more. I've posted at least once in the A1E forums about how much of a pet peeve of mine it is to see "your" when it should be "you're".

An occasional typo is OK. We've all done it, and it's certainly forgiveable. But if it gets to the point where I've noticed a lot of them and have become annoyed, it's too much.

If I have to think too hard about what I'm reading, it hurts your chances to convey what you intended. If I have to stop and think "This makes no sense. What was he really trying to say here?", then you've probably lost my vote.

Jamar said...

nowadays, I have a problem with cats having like, 300 sentences in their roleplays.

You know what I mean.

I'm trying to make a point.

But you understand that, right?

I mean, don't you?

That's real annoying to me.

But what do I know, anyway.

Anonymous said...

I remember one fed I was in for about... two cards with Blitz. One handler I was up against kept dropping homophobic statements (which is why I left, because not even the fed-head could get him to stop) - and he didn't hav a good grasp of the English language. So, I had Leonard attack the way his character spoke (because if you say out-loud most of the misspellings this guy was using, there's a clear sound difference) - and he cried foul OoC because "it's not about spelling, dickhead" yada yada yada. I don't mind the odd spelling error - but this was pretty much every word, or he'd write it short hand (gr8. if u cud hv seen it, u'd hv thugt "U R e-13373rate" m8). Luckily most other people seem to know good spelling helps.

HTML - too many colours make it hard to read. I did a publishing unit recently, and getting too flashy flashy when it's not needed just means people aren't going to read. Bold at the start of a statement, italics to emphasise a point or to show non-spoken actions is fine - but too much colour or fancy stuff just detracts from the reading experience.

Biggest problem though is when you get some people, like Jamar said, who break paragraphs too much. I know some people have asked me how I write such long paragraphs for Brown, but I've never had anyone complain about the length of them. With Brown I write pretty much how I speak, so the paragraphs are each a different point - breaking paragraphs up too much makes a piece disjointed. I can see why some people wouldn't like to sit through 4000+ words in paragraph form, but you can also say more in a paragraph then you can having sentances each line. At least, that's my opinion.


Anonymous said...

Good points by all.

I generally hate when people turn "I" into "EYE!" Because it's cool or stressed(!). Just spell the fucking word right. But, I'm hopelessly uncool, so by all means continue the cool misspellings for effect. We'll all live.

We all have typos. Just don't use horrible formatting and spell as best you can. If the writing is good, it's good.


Jamar said...

I started the 'EYE' thing (Among other things, but that's beside the point). It was just supposed to be for fun. I have no control what other people do with my stuff ;)

Jamar said...

Karl -

I like the way you think. We need style police in FWres. :)