Over the past few years I’ve come to read many, many MRPs. I have seen many good ones. I have seen many bad ones. It’s hard to reduce what makes a good MRP good to any formula because I’ve seen many in so many different styles. But there are a few things I see over and over that make me dislike an MRP, and I thought I’d share some of them.
1. “Work In Progress”
Very typically I will open a person’s MRP and be greeted with nothing but the letters WIP. Sometimes it is blank altogether, with no character status, no currently, no height, no weight. But sometimes it’s just the description that’s blank.
The purpose of an MRP, I believe, is to advertise yourself to other RPers. It helps them get a sense of what sort of character they’re dealing with and what style of RP you prefer. By leaving your MRP blank or claiming that it’s a work-in-progress, you are saying to everyone that you just didn’t care enough to fill even the most rudimentary description of your character. I infer from that that you have no idea what your character is like, and would be completely lost in RP.
It’s not too hard to put in a character’s height and weight, and then a very short description of what the character looks like. ”Jana is a tall, full-figured woman with long fiery hair and emerald eyes.” That’s all you need to put. At that point I will believe you have a character in mind, and that you might be interesting to RP with.
2. Contradicting Yourself
One of the mistakes I most like to poke fun at are the ones where a person contradicts herself. I think typically people do this because they want to be all things to all people. The most famous example in my recollection is a woman who described herself as “voluptuous, muscular, slender and lithe”. I have no idea what such a character would look like.
Words mean things and you should stick with the most descriptive and appropriate adjective. If your character is muscular, she is not lithe. She might well be somewhere between those two (“toned” is a good word to use), but you’re better off sticking with one or the other. The difference between muscular and lithe is slighter than what a lot of people end up with. I’ve seen a 5’10” human woman say she was petite. Voluptuous and slender are nearly polar opposites but I’ve seen people claim to be both.
The problem with contradicting yourself, even mildly, is that it gives the impression that you don’t know who your character is. There are some MRPs that say a character can be anything I want it to be, and I run far away from those. MRPs that contradict themselves are similar.
3. Claiming to be Ordinary
I’ve seen a number of MRPs that start with “X is an ordinary human…” or the like. When I see that in an MRP, I stop reading. I normally expect people to lead with one of their more interesting characteristics, and being ordinary is one of the most boring things to be. Why should I want to RP with someone who is ordinary when if I look a little harder I’ll find someone extraordinary? Or more pointedly, why would Jana approach an ordinary person in preference to an interesting one?
My hunch is that the motive behind such claims of ordinariness is a pathological fear of being called a Mary Sue. Being a Mary Sue is certainly not a good thing, but the cure for having only superficially interesting characteristics is not to have no interesting characteristics at all. It’s to give your character genuine interesting characteristics, the kinds of things that can drive and spur RP.
Perhaps it’s true that later in a person’s MRP someone would backtrack from the initial claim of ordinariness. Remember, though, that no one is obligated to read your entire MRP. If I don’t see something interesting in the first few sentences I’m likely to move on.
4. Defending Your Right To Be Interesting
There’s a theme in some MRPs and it is generally when someone is roleplaying as a dragon. Personally, I’m not fond of people who roleplay as dragons, partly because it’s cliché and partly because it’s highly unlikely that a dragon would be standing around Cathedral Square twiddling his or her thumbs. But that’s a personal preference and I don’t want to begrudge people for playing a dragon lest they begrudge someone the right to play a hyper-intelligent succubus with instant kill abilities, or whatever it is I’ve taken a fondness to at a particular moment.
But if you’re going to play a dragon, just go ahead and play one. Don’t spend several paragraphs in your MRP claiming to be a “Serious RPer” defending your right to play a ridiculous cliché against griefers. Such statements generally lead me to the belief that you chose to play a dragon (or whatever else it is) for the purpose of drawing attention rather than because you really wanted to. In other words, you are in fact playing a Mary Sue.
I’ve seen MRPs that open with these disclaimers and it boggles my mind. From what I can tell, it’s as much an invitation to grief as it is a defense against it.
Don’t apologize for who you want to play. It never works.
5. Describing What Your Character Is Not
I’ve seen this a bunch of times. These descriptions generally take the form of “She is not X, but is in fact Y.” Or worse: “She is neither X nor Y, but in fact Z.” There are a universe of facts you can state about your character that are not true, and a limited set of things that are in fact true. Pulling from the former is wasting your time.
6. Being Pretty
It always annoys me when someone describes their character as beautiful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You do not get to decide whether your character is beautiful or not. I get to decide that. You may think your character looks exactly like a supermodel and who doesn’t like supermodels? Guess what? I don’t. Supermodels are incredibly awkward creatures, certainly fun to gawk at but not anything I would call beautiful. Other people may think differently, as is their right. You don’t get to decide. Describe what your character looks like, and let me decide for myself.
The flip side of that is when you say your character is beautiful it completely fails to describe your character in any way. There are many ways to be beautiful. A claim that your character is beautiful or pretty is wasted words.
That’s not to say that you can’t ever use such terms in your post. Describing your character as a “Classic Beauty” or “Typically Handsome” does in fact bring up certain images, ones that do describe your character in terms that are more objective. But I’d generally avoid those as well.
7. Saying Too Much
I’ve seen some MRPs out there that are so long that I’m convinced that the writer thinks the length of an MRP is proportional to its quality. Conversely, I’ve seen people apologize that their MRP is too short.
In my mind, the best MRP is the one that convinces me to RP with you and does nothing else. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with providing additional detail, and in fact it could be that in paragraph 23 of your epic tome is one of those killer hooks that will make you irresistible. The problem, of course, is that I may not even get that far.
One of the problems with long MRPs is that they take a long time to load. For longer MRPs, I might have to wait for as much as a minute before it actually appears on my screen. In that time I can’t look at anyone else’s MRP. If I happen to see someone interesting in that time, I may skip you. Or I might just give up, assuming you have a blank MRP.
Don’t make MRPs any longer than you need to. It’s not a contest.
There are other things that go wrong with MRPs, things I dislike. A lot of those I attribute to personal preference. If you avoid the seven things I mentioned above, though, there’s a good chance that your MRP will be a good one.