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Move the Thread Along


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We talk somewhat frequently about posts not having appropriate content for the next person to reply.  We say that we need the other person to "move the thread along" or to "give me something to work with."  Or we say a member is not "pulling his own weight."

 

What do you think these phrases mean?  If you could describe concretely what elements in a thread need to be present to move it along, what would they be?  How do you illustrate the back-and-forth flow of conversation/action/narrative that must be done in order to create a smooth thread?

 

I'm having a bit of trouble figuring out how to put this into writing to explain to people, so any insight on this would be great. 

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Oh, boy, that's a hard one to explain, but I'll try.

 

Basically, it's literally giving the other person something to respond to. Think of it like a conversation. We're talking, and you're engaging me, telling me things, asking me questions. I'm sitting there and saying nothing but 'okay'. At some point, you'll run out of things to tell me about, or of a willingness to talk to me.

 

In roleplay, it's the same. It's not about how much you write, it's about what you're providing. In a conversation thread, a simple 'okay' can be appropriate for that moment. In an action thread, not so much. The repeated 'okays' on a conversation could be equated to '(character) just sat/stood there'. If the player/character is not contributing, regardless of how much they write, they're not 'moving the thread along'. 

 

I've had people write long multi para posts and not move the thread along, because their character was just doing their own thing and not reacting to the narrated events, so maybe something along the lines of "For your post to move the thread along, it must be related to the events happening around your character?". I'm bad at that, but maybe someone else can elaborate a bit further and be more helpful.

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Shady McShaderson

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It is a matter of "Yes, and..., then..."
 

I am struggling with explaining this to some people who don't react to the conversation or thought/ action clues I am giving all over my posts too. 

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The responses that I have come across that I find I can't react to are things like:

 

Okay

*Smiles at you*

 

(There are probably other examples that I've come across but forgotten about them.)

 

I would take Thyme's second example over those because at least it shows the writer is willing to put work into stringing more than two or three words together. However, my experience (mostly) with this type of rp is when people literally post only a few words. Occasionally, rp can become stale if all people ever do is talk about the same thing in rp, such as preparing food. I know of one rper who only ever does that and stopped responding to their posts because they give me nothing to do but respond with the same thing. (Of course, I could spice it up by saying my character didn't like the food, but with how people tend to react on twitter to 'negative' things, I decided not to.) There have been a few times where I've been able to direct it towards something more interesting, but it gets tiring when you have to constantly come up with something different because they don't, and I hate having to talk about 'my character' all the time in these situations because if you do that, it looks like you're only interested in 'your' character and not theirs.

 

Sometimes when I'm asking questions of other characters, it's not because I don't have anything to talk about regarding my character, but the fact that I want to learn about yours. Sometimes, even this produces nothing.

 

Another problem with twitter in general is the lack of proper profiles, espeaically for OCs. Sometimes all people have is a name, a face, a race, a title/family connection and that's it. These types of characters leave me with nothing to go on because even though I might be willing to rp with them, I don't have an opening to because I know nothing about the character. All I have is what's given to me and it's usually these kinds of rpers of OCs who only write Okay, *Smiles at you*, etc. If I knew something about the character, then at least I can find a common connection which could lead to them meeting and becoming friends.

 

Then there are people who don't make npcs or expect you to be the one to create them all the time. Peoples ideas that regard are finite and you don't always have the time to make them yourself. A little collaboration with this would be great.

 

 

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It's hard to explain, because a good writer can  take 20 words and formulate a reply. I've done it. I know several others who have done it. That's why I don't like the people who equate word counts with "quality writing", because it's bullshit.

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Replying to a topic is a start to moving things along. I mean no replies, by definition, means nothing is happening. But even with people replying they have to add something of value for people to reply to. The next step is for them to give enough content to be useful. In the past I've said:

"Quantity doesn't equate to quality, but you can't have quality with no quantity."

 

This doesn't mean you need 500 words in a post. (In fact, I've said the opposite. Having a lot of words doesn't guarantee that those words will be useful. People can absolutely make 500 words and have most of them be all internal monologuing, which is useless unless your character is a psychic.) But it does mean that there has to be enough given for the next person to use. They don't have to be all spoken statements either. People communicate a lot with their body language, so taking time to describe this can go a long way. (Though it also entails consciously knowing what the body language is and what it means. ) But it also adds a lot of imprecision (and, by extension, interpretation) to posts. I mean if a character places their hands down on a desk does it mean they're guarded and on edge or that is they just behave? 

Or take larger actions that actually affect the world around them. Doesn't have to be something as dynamic as shooting a missile that makes a crater... but even things in a bar setting like bumping into someone, spilling a drink, tripping on something, etc... all could be used to drive a scene forward.

 

If the entirety of a person's post, that others can respond to, boils down to them saying one word... there can only be so many times before others just give up. And it makes sense. To use a real life type example, if you talk to someone and they only respond with one word replies... how long would you talk to them? Probably not very.

 

So at that point, if they want to be in topics they kinda can't just make a character who exists in their own little bubble or is super introverted.  Any character who seeks only to escape any situation they're in is going to run into problems staying in threads. 

 

The proactive vs reactive is a good way to put it. 

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Someone who consistently provides no external reactions in any thread is someone who isn't pulling their own weight in my eyes!

 

I thought about it, and decided that someone who doesn't come up with plots, or doesn't provide brand new elements to a thread doesn't fall in the category of 'not pulling their weight' because their reactions in the thread can carry it forward in an organic way anyway, and I personally appreciate that!

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I think one of the most extreme examples I can think of for not moving a thread along are those posts that are written in such a way that it doesn't make sense for your character to continue the interaction. I don't mean that the other character is mad at yours or it's an uncomfortable situation, per say. What I mean is that if your character is doing a standard kind of meet and greet and the other character walks away or doesn't seem like they want to talk: what makes sense about my character going after someone they just met to continue an interaction that didn't leave any kind of impression on them? 

 

If I get threads like that I will usually just write up my next post to be a closer and then if the other person replies and offers something to the thread that provokes an interaction then I'll reply and try to move the thread along. 

 

Reactive and Proactive writing has been covered here pretty well so I don't think I have much of anything to add to that at all. 

 

I will say that I feel like I'm a little bit of both, I try to react to everything that happened in a post (where it makes sense) and then add something new to pull the thread forward a bit. On the topic of conversations especially I have one example of how my RP partner and I skipped about 4 posts by just doing one thing. Our characters were having a conversation before they got to the main reason they were threading and while the conversation was important we didn't want to waste a bunch of posts on it, especially since another person was going to be included in the thread once they were done with the conversation. So in discord PMs, my partner told me what her character was going to say and I gave my character's responses. She put both sides of the conversation into her post and then I was free to move the thread past the conversation and on to the next bit. 

 

I understand that that can't (and maybe shouldn't) be done all the time, but I think smaller things like that can be. If you need to know if a character is going to agree to go on a walk with your character before you can continue your post then g ahead and ask your RP partner if they would say yes and then if it's okay for you to include that in your post so you can push it along further and you don't have to end at "Do you want to go on a walk with me?" Simply because you need a yes or no answer. I think most people are fine with things like that, especially when they're small things that can push past some of the build up to threads. 

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And, for God's sake, don't add only to the dialogue! (But yes, the cues in the narrative should be prompts for more dialogue too whenever appropriate! Don't just respond to what you were asked, ignoring everything around). Add also to the narrative, on the previously agreed story direction. Make your characters do something while they are talking, and I don't mean fidget and look at their watches, but actually do what is their role in the story! I had plenty of high action threads where some characters were merely talking, instead of complying with the orders in the meanwhile.

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Interaction. 

 

Your post should not be solely internal monologue. If there isn't conversation, there should be approach. If there isn't approach, your post should be open to it.

 

Don't put your character in a situation that would be weird for someone else to walk up and start a conversation. (Sitting at a table in a restaurant, in their own home, actively avoiding people, etc.) 

 

Every post should be looked at as though you had to respond to it yourself. If you struggle to think of how you would do that, then some editing may be advantageous.

 

(Assuming the posts are written with no previous planning.)

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Thank you, guys. You have great insight, and I appreciate that people are taking the time to respond clearly on a topic that is difficult to articulate. I look forward to any other thoughts or additions on this topic since it's something that comes up quite often.

 

To me, "moving the thread along" shows that a member is interested in that rp thread. But on the flip side, there have been times in which I have not moved the thread along because it didn't feel natural to my character to do or say something to get the other character to stick around. Sometimes it's hard to move the thread along when you're tired but you need to post and you think that getting SOMETHING up is better than nothing. Any of these over occurring several times in a thread is more than enough to make the other person miserable.

 

What are some solutions you have come up with to help yourself or others move the thread along?

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