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Old 05-23-2005, 06:27 PM   #1
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In many roleplaying games, you've got the option of describing your character. In MUSHes, particularly, you end up with a pretty lavish buffer to fill with words, if you like. So, when you're describing your character, what sort of length do you prefer? Short and sweet? Medium, enough to give basics about appearance and clothing? Or verbose, giving every little detail you can to flesh out the character?

Which do you tend to do and why?
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Old 05-23-2005, 07:19 PM   #2
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I generally dedicate a paragraph to their looks, a paragraph to their clothing, and another paragraph for any odd or special features on them. All together it usually ends up being about 3/4 of a page in length (In my client, not on a word processor); some might think that's too long, but I'm used to writing and reading descriptions of that length, and find them quite enjoyable if done right.

In the paragraph describing looks I focus on the general face and head area, and that alone usually takes up more room than the rest of the body combined, unless their body has some unusual features.

To give you an idea of what I mean, here's a little description I wrote up for my new Chiarascuro character that i'm rather proud of. Brody has already seen it, of course; he's the one who approved it, I think. He is a priest on a primitive island chain called the Weeping Stones:

       This tall Weeping Stones man has dark skin, dark hair, and darker tattoos. He is just shy of six feet tall, with a lean, toned build that speaks of fitness and health. His limbs are long and strong, conditioned by hard work. His black hair is long and straight, sweeping back from his prominant widow's peak to the small of his back. Strings of dried kelp are woven throughout it, highlightning it in streaks of green. His eyes are blue-green, his nose long and narrow.
       The tattoos that adorn his body are black, blending easily with his dark brown skin to create a natural look. The image of a large thakos palm stretches over his back, roots extending over his lower back and curling out slightly along his hips. The trunk stretches up, and the wide fronds cover his shoulderblades. On the back of either hand is a single blooming awapuhi flower, their stems extending down his wrists and then wrapping up his arms, the coils growing closer together as they near his shoulders until they terminate in loops just below his armpits.
       The man's legs are covered by a pair of loose-fitting hemp pants that cling around his waist, held on by a length of rope that acts as a belt. His shirt is made of the same brown hemp, with a loose collar than leaves a bit of his chest bare and short sleeves that reveal most of his arm tattoos. Wrapped around either foot are simple sandles made from dried palm leaves.

I also like sprucing my descriptions up by highlightning many of the nouns and the adjectives that describe them in various colours, although due to copy+paste that can't be seen here.

SUMMARY: Somewhere between medium and verbose. I like 'em big, but I've seen multi-page ones, and they scare me.
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Old 05-24-2005, 09:11 AM   #3
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I try to pack as much as I can into a small space. The game I play has coded clothing, so I don't need to write a new clothing desc paragraph every time she changes her shoes. Just "rem shoes/wear boots" and it's done.

The rules I go by when writing my character descriptions are the same as my builder rules:

Avoid passive voice. Show, don't tell. Let the reader decide how he feels about what he's reading, rather than instructing him how to feel. Break things up, avoid redundancy and repetition.

So instead of this:

This woman has long red hair. She has pale skin. Her eyes are green and her nose is crooked. Her muscles are thick and knotted. She has long legs and big feet.

I'd do something more like this:

Long red hair cascades from this woman's head, down over her pale neck. Her youthful green eyes gaze out at her surroundings, over a crooked nose. Thick corded muscles indicate a natural strength, while long legs carry her with a certain grace. Her oversized feet extend from a set of skinny ankles, creating an awkward image overall.

It's still fairly short, but manages to create an actual image, rather than serving as a mere "list of physical attributes."
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Old 05-24-2005, 09:22 AM   #4
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Although I am not frequently playing in RPI MU*s I follow a simple rule when making descriptions, if someone looks at me, I want them to be able to react to my character appropiately within the next few seconds. I usually like to play characters with large scars or non-common features, basically because it helps me foccusing on the character's role (being the newbie I am at RPing). So, a description should be fairly short but must also make emphasis on the physical features I deep most relevant for the role I am trying to portrait.

Below is a rather long description by my standards,

Before you there is a stocky, dark skinned dwarf. Seemingly young in
age, it is strange that he has his wrinkled complexion. His muscular
arms bulge, typical of one who has physically trained himself for years.
With no hair on his body, the dark-brown, almost black, tone of this
dwarf's skin abruptly changes on the right side of his face, which reveals
a pink scar left for sure by a big fire. With barely eight dwarven hands
measuring his height, this dwarf looks bigger than most of his race. The
right eye is almost blocked due to the burnt skin on his right side, but
the left one seems empty and distant, as if he were watching something that
nobody else can see. The scars on this dwarf are not limited to the face
but also run on his legs and strong arms.
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Old 05-25-2005, 03:38 PM   #5
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Short and concise.

I use absolutely no more than two paragraphs to describe my characters, and even that's stretching it in my opinion. I'll skim larger descs for hair and eye color, or any peculiarities, but that's it.

Alot can be said in a single, well-crafted sentence.  But if verbose descriptions are your bag, more power to you.  Just be aware not all of us will be reading them.  

I've always felt that descriptions should be kept somewhat ambiguous.  Important features should be listed, just enough to paint an image,  but the details ought to be left to the reader's imagination.

And for the record, I play on RP heavy MUSHes exclusively.  So I'm probably something of  an oddball.
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Old 05-25-2005, 08:25 PM   #6
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Short and sweet. Most people in MUD don't read the really long descriptions, so if you want to get your image across, it has to be small.
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Old 05-26-2005, 09:03 PM   #7
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I like to do two paragraphs, one for physical appearance and one for clothing. I think I have one character, though, with an extra paragraph to desc her jewelry.

Usually I write 'em in a couple steps -- first bare-bones appearance and clothes, then I let it sit for a couple days to let some good adjectives pop into my head, and tweak it accordingly. I love me some adjectives, but since I don't usually have the focus to sit through a page-long desc, I don't expect other people to, either.
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Old 05-27-2005, 12:13 AM   #8
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I like a medium description because it doesn't take too long to read and it gives you all the information you need without skimping.  It's more realistic, because when I look at somebody I don't spend minutes looking at them like with detailed descriptions, but I also don't quickly glance at them for one second like with shorter descriptions.  I usually look for long enough to internalize basic details, usually five or ten seconds.  And I feel the amount of information I get from that look is about as much as fits in a medium length description.  Now when I'm talking to someone, I look at them longer.  In my imaginary MUD world, I think there should be two descriptions.  A medium one for idle glances and a long one for real interaction.
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Old 06-04-2005, 03:17 PM   #9
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Funny thing, when I played a less RPish mud, most people who had descs had really long ones. I had one character with a description nearly 100 lines long, full of color, and violating all sorts of rules about making the watcher think things and show what isn't really seen.
Then I changed muds, and people here have shorter descs and RP more.
I like descs to be 5-15 lines long. Anymore and I usually just skim it or skip it. Although, if I'm having one on one RP, I'll read a longer desc, and like to have a good idea of all someone's features. So I like Ilkidarios' idea of having two descs.
What a description does is create an image in the reader's mind of your character. Anything you don't describe, they'll either leave blank, or fill in possibly wrong. So you have to describe enough that they're mental image of your character is similar to your own. But you should do that in as few words as you can.
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Old 06-04-2005, 06:39 PM   #10
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Ten lines, give or take a couple. I'm usually trying to convey something important in my description, rather than win a creative writing contest. The most important thing is that people actually read it, and in my experience, people usually won't bother to give anything longer much more than a quick skim.
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Old 06-08-2005, 11:09 AM   #11
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I'm in Jazuela's camp, though I didn't used to be. It's pretty similar to Brody's style, and I notice all my RPing is getting a little closer to his style over time: shortish poses, shortish descs, but use image-heavy words. People tend to fill in their own details anyhow, so hit on the points that are important and that will, maybe, inspire the correct details... and then get outta there.

If you walk into a room with six people, and they all have two-page descs or more (has happened to me) then theoretically you want to read the descs before you start interacting. But, Gods! If you spend that much time actually reading, rather than skimming (or reading the first paragraph, as I now do, and making up the rest of the details) chances are they'll leave before you're done.
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