LESSON Writing an Opening

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Writing an Opening


Every story, and thus inconsequentially every roleplay as well, has a start. When opening a book, whether written by you, or by a partner, or the GM, the story has to start somewhere and that vague ‘somewhere’ feels so broad, so far and wide that the question ‘how’ follows soon after. Here are a few reminders that hopefully can act as a guidance for the next (killer) opening post!

Remember, you aren’t writing a book

Our trusty search engines will pop us a 1001 articles about how to write a ‘captivating’ opener and how you should win over your reader after page one. It should be engaging, it should be attention-grabbing, a lot of ‘shoulds’ that ultimately leave us to wonder what these ‘shoulds’ exactly mean and if our writing entails that. Roleplay, however, isn’t like opening a book. Of course, we all hope it will capture the interest of any random reader, and of course we hope to put something good out for our players or partner(s), but ultimately it needs to be engaging or give the other something to engage with, which is also our first vague ‘should’ word that has appeared.

Engage

Hopefully after this paragraph the word isn’t as vague anymore, though it definitely isn’t a whole skeleton or by any means a set and clear formula! Roleplaying is collaborative, which means that you don’t have to carry the story alone! Yay! It does mean, however, that you have to put a little more effort in advancing details towards your partners so that they can engage with the elements you introduced. Is the setting an unique world you have built? Then it might be an idea to feed little details about the environment the characters find themselves in. Consider whether the characters are supposed to be familiar with the environment or not, or are they aliens (and not only in the extra-terrestrial sense!)? If so, what would be notable features they would notice and see? Culture clashes, climate? Imagine yourself as Alice falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland.

Introducing

Now it gets really tempting to start info-dumping; the act of throwing out all of the information you have in hands and on mind to paint an as clear image as possible. No need, or rather don’t. We are still at the start of the journey and besides the setting there is most likely also a character or two (maybe even more) to introduce! Take the time to introduce the elements that you want your players (or partner(s)) to engage with. If they are characters; show how they interact with the setting; in their element, out of their element, maybe a not so conspicuous spy? Put a face to the name! If they're elements from the environment itself; how does it interact and affect those stuck in the situation, or encountering it? Give them something to react to, or maybe to turn their back on as fate starts chasing after them!

Confidence is half the battle won

To end it on a cheesy note. In the end this is your roleplay (and that of your partner(s)). No one knows your setting, story and character(s) like you do. Not even your partner who you may have accidentally spammed with a bazillion messages about your ideas. Ultimately everyone still has to rely on your narrative for the full picture (if ever such a thing can be achieved). There is no right and wrong in fiction, only those who try to tell you that you are outside of it. Write that opening post! Short or long, it doesn't matter! It is about the function of the opening post, not the quantity of words. Give your partner and players something to react to, or give that annoying red herring to run after at until a dead end is hit.

Exercise

Optional of course. You can take an old roleplay (we all have old skeletons we want to re-do) or start a-new. Can you give me an opener to react to? I won't review, but maybe I will trick you into playing with me. ;)