Forum RP: Prompts and Not-Prompts

So, one part of most forum RPs is some sort of thread that is a weekly or monthly list of prompts. Or at least links to them. One of the more famous lists in the form of a PDF that gets linked around is a series of 365 prompts – one for each day of the year. I’ve responded to many a prompt and even suggested a few myself. If an original character is giving me trouble? I write them for a prompt to try and get a grasp on their way of viewing the world. And all of this has led to me noticing a rather…weird turn in the way prompts have gone over the last year or so, at least for me.

All prompts are designed to get a better grasp on a character, whether it’s part of their personality in the case of highly complex characters, or maybe just figuring out new elements to their back story. A good prompt has a few requirements. One is enough details to work with. If I can answer it in one sentence, then obviously that prompt doesn’t do me any good, does it? On the other side of the coin, it can’t get too specific. I’ve had several prompts I’ve had to pass up for stupid detail reasons, such as it only fitting ONE of my characters, and the one thing that character can use for that prompt? Came up on another earlier one and I’m not allowed reuse them.

I guess I’m listing more not-prompts than prompts. Mostly because… Well, maybe this is the least year or so of professional training finally sticking, or maybe it’s always how I’ve instinctively worked. But if I’m going to write something, even if it’s just 1000 words talking about Laura’s mother surprising her by turning a vacation into a permanent move… I want a POINT. I want to be working towards something, whether it’s a surprise for my character or conflict between them and another one, something.

Asking me what my character’s favorite place in the world is… has no point to me. Okay, so Laura (who I’m picking on a little to make my point) likes to sit up on the roof rather than being anywhere else. And there are specific reasons for this, since her power-set includes enhanced senses, and really, having super hearing and smell in a boarding school situation has to be her own little version of hell on earth. But… Really, that’s like, a paragraph. So unless I bring plot to the prompt, which is both warping the prompt and making me do twice the amount of work the stupid thing is supposed to require of me, there’s nothing to it.

It isn’t just my forum infected with this inability to realize what a good prompt is. Remember that list of 386 prompts I mentioned? Yeah, there’s a wad in there at some point that goes into DnD territory a little, asking both where a character falls on the lawful/chaotic spectrum and on the good/evil spectrum, though it breaks it up to spread it as far as it can. Okay, I can answer those prompts in less than a sentence! A fragment answers those. So… What’s the point? Reiterate that my character is a villain or a hero? Reiterate how much they hate or revel in authority? I should already know that, conflabbit! That’s an integral part of character creation. If you somehow managed to skip that step… You have bigger problems than character alignment.

I guess what kills me the most about these not-prompts is how easy it would be to fix most of them. If the writer adds a “why” in there, or even asks a series of follow-up questions, it makes the prompt so much easier to write, and actually makes it useful. I’ve done some amazing prompts over the years, ones that reveal all sorts of things about my characters that I never even knew before. I intend to use them again to help with getting Natile’s voice better nailed down.

So… I guess I’m just ranting and wanting better prompts, just in a blog form. :S Sorry. But this has been driving me bonkers the last few weeks, and if I can help other people write better prompts when they are in charge, so be it.

I think the only thing worse than the not-detailed prompts…is when the mod in charge doesn’t care. I mean, I guess this girl cared at one time or another, but it’s hard to tell that now. Prompts are late, prompts are left unrewarded for days, and when they are rewarded, she doesn’t fill out anything where she has the space to make a comment. She even blanket-rewards at times. TWICE now another player has crossed the forum PG-13 line, and she hasn’t called them on it, even in a warning. And so when all these not-prompts come up, I wonder if she’s not reading them very well at all, which isn’t helped by the fact she had a repeater and has stalled too many times now by taking prompt suggestions.


About Rebecca M. Horner

A spinner of yarns (of the story sort, though I do crochet...and sew, and learning to make armor...) View all posts by Rebecca M. Horner

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