Note: This guide was written by Mark, the handler of Baron Scythe, who top achieve was SCW World Champion. This article was written in 2006.
If you’re reading this it means you’re either genuinely interested in the topic, or don’t have anything better to do with your time. It is the former group that I am writing this column for, although perhaps those of you falling in the latter category might learn something too. So let’s begin shall we?
My History in E-Wrestling
First off, let me say that by no means do I consider myself to be an “expert” when it comes to any kind of writing, specifically role-playing in the e-fed world. Yes, I’ve been playing this game for a long time, 8 years on and off to be exact. And over the course of my e-wrestling career I have learned many things about role-playing – the “tricks of the trade” so to speak. But I am still learning and growing as a writer, so don’t assume I think that I’ve “arrived” in any way, shape, or form.
When I first started out, I could not have role-played to save my life. I had no concept of what a “promo” was, or how to construct an interesting character. I was one of those guys who posted the “houseshow” role-play over and over again. I know… it’s painful just to think about, but that’s how I started out. Within a couple years I got a little bit better, but was still stuck in a very clichéd style of role-playing that earned me mediocre success in any fed I was a part of, and left me wanting to make a breakthrough in my writing quality and style.
Eventually I was exposed to a fed called the Survival Wrestling Association, whose members took an in-depth storyline approach to their characters. This place pushed my writing in a whole new direction, and I improved dramatically over a short period of time. My e-fed journey has taken me from place to place since then, and I have learned to craft a mixed writing style of story-telling and trash talking, which has served me quite well.
So there you have it, my e-wrestling journey in a nut shell. I consider myself a veteran in this game, but I haven’t learned everything yet. I want you to know that I am your colleague, not some “know it all” who intends to look or talk down at you. I’m simply sharing what I’ve learned. Here we go!
Creativity & Originality
If you want to know what’s lacking about most e-fed characters out there, it is simple creativity. Half of the wrestling characters people create are too closely based off of real wrestlers or celebrity personalities. The problem is, nobody wants to read about someone they see every Monday Night on the USA Network, or worse yet who they pay to see at the movie theater. E-Wrestling is a writing game, a world in which you the writer can create somebody and something you don’t or perhaps even can’t see on television. That’s the beauty of this game, and why I find it so addictive as a writer.
So when you’re constructing your wrestler’s personality, consider what his/her gimmick is going to be, or in some cases, what his/her story is about before you go filling out an application. Now, obviously your wrestler might have character traits similar to real wrestlers or celebrities, but do everything in your power to avoid simply basing your character off someone who already exists. Try and think of something new, and go from there. At the most, you only want your wrestler “loosely” based on someone else. If your wrestler is based on you, all the better! Of course unless you’re extremely boring and wouldn’t make for a good wrestling personality. To the best of your ability, try and invent a “fresh” character who brings a new dynamic to wrestling.
Characters and Plot Lines
Remember that your wrestler and your wrestler’s story go hand in hand, so construct a plot that makes sense to your wrestler’s self-identity and lifestyle. Another point for consideration is to make your wrestler as realistic as possible. Almost EVERYBODY in this game tries to make the “invincible wrestler” who cannot be defeated, blah blah blah. You’re going to lose eventually, so why not add some “humanity” to your wrestler? The ironic part is that your so-called “weaknesses” can end up becoming strengths in role-playing, if you choose to exploit them instead of hide them.
Another question to consider when creating your plot is, “How many characters are you going to include?” This is crucial to how interesting your story will end up being in the long run. Adding addition characters like a manager, a family member, a friend, etc. can actually strengthen your story dynamic and improve it’s overall quality. Some of you are just fine at writing about your wrestler, but others of you would do well to consider adding some more personalities to the mix. The biggest advantage to doing this – story conflict. Nothing propels your storyline forward like some good ole fashioned conflict. It’s what makes any story interesting to read. For those of you that have been reading my role-plays, you know I have three main characters, and I must admit, it makes role-plays so much easier to write.
So consider then what your characters do in your story, what purpose they serve, and then forge ahead by having them interact in such a way that produces intriguing dialogue and significant action. Then you’ll have a story people will want to read. As a writer, I always find a great deal of satisfaction in knowing someone else is enjoying my story.
Okay… so you’ve got your character(s) and plot line figured out, now it’s time to take the cyber ink to e-paper. The next thing for consideration is how do you want to deliver your story? The beauty of e-wrestling is that it’s a writing genre of its own. You can combine writing styles, switch writing styles, experiment with writing styles, it’s open ended in so many ways. So you need to decide how you’re going to write up your role-play – first person narrative, third person omniscient, simple monologue, etc. Remember, you don’t have to lock yourself down into any one approach, you can always change things up if you want to. However, sometimes it’s best to pick a writing style and stick with it, depending on how comfortable you are with it, and how well it works for you.
There are two writing elements that can make or break your story – dialogue and descriptive prose. It’s not easy to perfect either one of these elements, but if you can become good in both areas, you will consistently deliver quality role-plays that will be tough to beat.
Dialogue – The most telling, and purest insight into your character(s) is what he/she says. Dialogue is a tool that packs way more literary punch than descriptive prose. Especially in this format where role-plays are constructed like movie scripts, with special attention paid to what characters say. So pay attention to what your wrestler says, because it says a great deal about him/her. If you say dumb things, it leaves you open for attack. But if your words become strategically spoken, it can greatly improve the strength of your character(s), and leave your opponent with little to burn you with. One of the biggest mistakes is trying to make your wrestler say too much. I’m not talking about trash talk here, although the same principle may apply. Don’t feel your character has to say lots, just for the sake of talking. And don’t waste a word when they do speak. Words are powerful.
Descriptive Prose – The more narrative side of role-playing. There’s something captivating about reading words that flow together and paint vivid images in one’s mind. Prose is a great tool to help tell your story. By describing people, events, things, you create a more well-rounded picture of what is happening. The story will feel more complete if you “fill in the blanks” for the reader in regards to the setting and atmosphere. However, prose is also a tool that can be abused when it’s reduced to pointless filler to add length to your role-play. There is a point at which description goes overboard, and the reader grows restless or even disinterested. Much like dialogue, try and strip your descriptive writing down to its bare bones. Find out what you don’t need, and get rid of it. A shorter more concise role-play flows better than a long drawn out one.
Other creative elements for consideration are things like flashbacks, dream sequences, out of body experiences, hallucinations, monologues inside the mind, etc. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but steer clear of that which seems predictable, clichéd, or just plain cheesy.
This style of trash talk is most popular among e-wrestlers, probably because it’s the easiest. I have often taken this approach in addressing my opponents, however, it’s important to remember that it is one of many different styles. The important thing to remember about trash talking is that if you don’t do it right, it can come back to bite you! Delivery is key to succeeding in the battle of words. There’s a few systems of delivery that can put your opponent(s) in his/her place – logic/rationality rant, mockery/parody, analogies/examples, strategic sarcasm, and simple name calling.
Logic/Rationality Rant – This approach says “take a look at the facts” and then draws simple conclusions. Often these rants draw off past events (usually stupid things the opponent(s) did, matches they lost, dumb things they said), and end by stating the logical outcome. If left dry they can become extremely boring, but if humor is added (for instance witty comments tossed in the mix) then it can quickly become a verbal beat down that your opponent(s) will struggle to get up from.
Mockery/Parody – Often taking the shape of a skit, this style seeks to find humor in exploiting the character traits and behavior of your opponent(s). If executed properly, this approach can deal the “death blow” to whoever you’re facing. However, if it fails, your wrestler ends up looking extremely stupid, and you leave yourself open for a verbal thrashing. Be careful with this one.
Analogies/Examples – Being able to compare your opponent(s) to something can sting him/her really good if it accurately resembles reality. Drawing on stories, fairy tales, myths, and other things of this sort can add significant weight to your argument. But don’t try and overdo it, because your examples may quickly become convoluted and confusing. If that happens, you’ve taken a step backwards.
Strategic Sarcasm – Let’s face it we all love sarcasm when it’s used properly. That’s why I call this ‘strategic’ sarcasm, because pointless sarcasm gets you nowhere. It can be really funny when used at the right moment, but too much is not a good thing. Use this tactic sparingly.
Simple Name Calling – Can become redundant very quickly. If your rant turns into nothing but tossing out expletives and profanity, there’s an immediate problem. The only time name calling works is when you’re trying to pack that extra punch into a line or phrase for emphasis. I recommend you try and stay away from this one as much as possible, with the exception of bringing in a couple words here and there as exclamation marks.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Match relevance doesn’t need to be executed in the form of an on air promo. In fact, if you can figure out a way to incorporate it into the rest of your role-play, you can create an exceptional feeling of fluidity that will be near impossible to match. This is an area I am exploring and trying to improve right now in my role-playing style, because I very much drift towards a promo style of trash talking. This integrated style is a tough one to master, but if you can achieve it, you belong to a very elite crowd indeed.
On Winning & Losing
A short note about wins and losses. Both are part of the game. You will win, and you will lose. Everyone likes to win, and for some, that’s the whole point of the game. There are some of us though who try not to take the game so seriously, and just want to have fun. I find myself in this second category as my e-wrestling career begins to wind down. Remember that ultimately the result of your match is the opinion of one person, or small group of people. It doesn’t mean you’re not a good role-player, or that you suck and are a failure. Anyone can lose any given week, which also means anyone can win any given week too. There is always more to be gained (from a story perspective at least) from a loss than a win. So if you lose, build off of it. Incorporate it somehow into your character development. Losses can lead to some of the biggest ‘bounce-back’ wins if utilized properly. Try not to let your wrestler’s story or persona depend solely on winning, because that can leave you stuck if you can’t deliver week after week.
For those of you who really want to become solid role-players, the above will get you started. I try to the best of my ability to employ what I’ve written in this column into my own role-plays. Some days I write great role-plays that I am pleased with, other days I struggle to find the groove. Anything involving writing takes time, and don’t be afraid to have others critique what you’ve written. What I’ve discovered over the years is that the right critic can nudge you forward in great ways that can help you become a very good writer. And that in and of itself will make this game that much more fun to play.
Although I don’t have a lot of time, if any of you are looking for a “coach” I’d be happy to help you out when I am available I’m sure there are plenty of other guys in SCW that would be willing to share their thoughts as well. Oleksa is a great person to ask to critique your role-plays, and give you tips. Other people to talk to would be Adam Allocco, Greg Cherry, and Chad Evans. These guys are fairly good judges of character.