In this guide, a list of tips and tricks to expand both your characters and your ability as a roleplayer, as well as a list of actions to avoid doing (in and out of character) will be listed. If you've anything to add or detract from the below list, feel free to PM me (Megami) or one of the other staff members and we'll be more than happy to put your two cents in, as well as ours!
Section I: Profiles
*Update and expand. Update your profile on a regular basis. Expand it. Make changes. Add new parts. Eliminate old parts that no longer seem to fit the character. So many people fail to do this, and it can contribute greatly to the successful approval of your character when Version 2 applications begin. Lots of handlers don't realize that the random facts that they state while roleplaying, such as "Mark is a virgin." or "Susie is allergic to peanuts." can actually be expanded upon in their biographies and can help to make the character more well-rounded and believable.
*Don't create palette swaps of your character. This is stated later on as well, but if all three of your characters are basically reincarnations of the original with the same personality and very similiar mannerisms/attitudes toward the game, people are going to get bored with your characters. If someone dies, let the character rest in peace, don't resurrect them in the form of a new character. Come up with something new and different -- something you haven't done before. You already know what sort of character you're good at playing, so expand yourself as a writer and go for something you aren't used to playing.
*Be realistic. This is me speaking to you not as a tutor but as a moderator. If your character is 15 years old, has the looks of Mitsuko Souma, the heartlessness of Kazuo Kiriyama, the past experience of Shogo Kawada, and has killed 23 people before they were abducted and thrown into the SOTF ACT, odds are, they aren't going to be approved come character application approval time. Why? They're unrealistic. We at Survival of the Fittest strive for as much realism as possible in our roleplays, so it's up to the administration to filter out the good characters from those who are created simply to suit their handlers needs for the program. We aren't going to approve an unrealistic application because "you're new and don't know any better". Think about that. Characters who have killed numerous people are probably not going to be approved -- whereas characters who are simply juvenile delinquents have a much higher acceptance rate.
*Try out new characters and personalities. What I tell you now, I tell you from my own experience. Odds are, you're going to have a lot of fun if you push your own limits and experiment with characters whose personality types you aren't used to portraying. You already know that you're good at the popular prep, for example, so make a character who's the bottom of the bottom and see how well you can portray them. I see many of my own characters repeating the same basic concepts -- beauty, naivete, innocence, purity -- and after a while, it gets old. Not only for the handler, but for the readers as well. Don't be afraid to try something you've never done before. Most of the time, you'll find you enjoy pushing yourself to a new level.
Section II: Roleplaying
*Avoid "campy" or corny storylines. Unless your character is meant to be a sort of comic relief character (read: BR's Yutaka Seto, Version 1's Heather Pendergast), odds are, you aren't going to want to enter into some overly-dramatic, campy storyline. Even if it's just pre-game, you've got to remember that you're illustrating your character's past -- the life that they had before they were forced into the SOTF ACT. Campy storylines can be fun, but oftentimes, they leave your fellow handlers skeptical of your roleplaying abilities.
*Watch continuity. If your character states a fact during one of your roleplays, make sure you stick with that fact. It can be something as simple as "Phoebe hates the color pink." and then having her entire room be decorated in pink; or as large as "Frank's a homophobe." and then he having an openly gay best friend. It doesn't make sense, and continuity errors are often noticed by your fellow handlers, as they stand out in relation to the rest of the story. People have a tendency to notice flaws and errors before they notice good qualities, so make a conscious effort to avoid errors. Nobody wants to roleplay with a handler who can't even keep their own character straight.
*Stay in character. Establish the fact that you are not your character. Even if your character is based upon you, they're undergoing completely different circumstances. Make sure that the actions they take and the decisions they make -- both consciously and subconsciously -- reflect their views and not your own. Don't use your character as a mouthpiece for your views and beliefs. It's okay to have a character think the same way that you do, but don't do it with all of your characters. If all of your characters are palette swaps of one another and are ultimately your version of you placed into the SOTF ACT, people are going to get tired of them rather quickly.
*Create a history. Your character was born and raised in the world we are currently roleplaying before the SOTF ACT. We've been given pre-game to establish and get a feel for our characters, so use that time to establish your character beyond the context of pre-game. They have a past. They've had spats and feuds with classmates. Most of them have friends, and maybe a couple friendships that have fallen out over the years. It's high school. Most people have ex's, sometimes bitter, sometimes their best friend. New roleplayers have a tendency to introduce their character and go from there, never giving us a hint to the past and the life they had beyond the context of the roleplay. Don't do that. Tell us about your character's past through your roleplays -- flash back to events from their childhood, or recent events -- make them more realistic.
*Elaborate. My Senior year in high school, I had an Honors English teacher who also served as a Freshmen Composition I instructor at the University of Arkansas. I always got frustrated in his class because during many of my drafts, he'd write comments like "Why?" or "So?" next to things I had stated in my writing. He did this, of course, as a means to get me to elaborate more on what I had stated. When you're writing a roleplay, ask yourself questions like "Why?" and "So?" when you're writing. It helps you expand on your characters thoughts and actions, as well as gives you the opportunity to give them a meaning. When you elaborate more on your roleplays instead of doing only the bare minimum, it makes people take more of an interest in your character and your writing.
*One-line roleplays are bad. I couldn't possibly put that any blunter, but there's no way to sugar-coat that. If you're writing one-line RPs, odds are, you're not putting much effort into your character. Likewise, other people aren't going to care about your character, because you yourself aren't trying as a handler. Even dialogue-oriented roleplayers such as SOTF veteran Sephy post what their characters are thinking or write out actions that their characters take. If you honestly can't come up with anything other than another question/comment on your character's part, wait until someone else has roleplayed. Don't write poor RPs simply because nothing is coming to mind.
*Strive for improvement. You are not perfect. I am not perfect. d0ddi0slave is not perfect. Never settle for the writing level on which you currently write. When you're content with your skills and don't strive to ever improve, it affects your writing in a negative way. No matter how good you are, you can always be better. Always strive for improvement in your writing, in your characters, and in your storylines. Everyone has to start out somewhere, and we've had handlers evolve drastically on this board from what they once were. Never be content with your skills, and always seek to improve yourself.
*Be original; avoid repetitiveness. This is me being completely straight with you all -- if you've posted the 6th "Skipping School" titled topic on the board, odds are, I'm not going to read it. Why? I figure it's just a palette swap of the other five skipping school topics that have been created with various characters. Be original in your titles, settings, and events. People don't want to read the same thing over and over with different characters performing the same actions -- it's boring. You can have a scene with two characters on the beach (read: Give Me What I Want; That's Enough for Me) that are completely different and take on a whole different connotation from one another, so be original, and come up with new and different ideas instead of copying previously done storylines.
*Roleplay with everyone. "But, oh my God, that handler writes 3-4 page roleplays on a regular basis and mine are never over 2 paragraphs long. That's insane! They'll make me look stupid." No they won't. They'll push you to further your roleplaying skills. So just chill out and go with it. They'll give you more action and dialogue to respond to, and if you do it correctly, it'll make your posts longer. Don't stick to roleplaying with new (or in some of our cases, old) people, branch out and roleplay with everyone. Odds are, people who're on the same (and I use this term very loosely) skill level as you are aren't going to push you to write bigger, longer, more elaborate posts. People who have been here longer and are more experienced are going to be the ones to push you to the next level. Most of us so-called veterans, we don't bite (much). We won't completely shun you if you want to roleplay with someone outside of the newcomers.
*Establish your characters as seperate entities. Unless your characters are conjoined twins (in which case I truly commend you, my friend, as that would be an SOTF first), they weren't conceived by the same egg, borne by the same mother, weren't attached at the hip, and lived two completely seperate lives. Establish your characters outside of one another. Nick and Jessica had a nasty breakup. We get it. Now tell us something we DON'T know, like how Jessica has friends and a life outside of Nick or how Nick's had a crush on another girl since the fifth grade. Your characters are seperate people, don't roleplay them as if they're one.
*Be a plot motivator. Never be afraid to push the plot forward or in a different direction. If everyone hangs back and does nothing, we wind up with another Hobbsborough fiasco where everyone is sitting around going "What do YOU wanna do today?" "I don't know, what do YOU wanna do today?" "I asked first." "You did not." "So what do you want to do?" And although it's humorous at first, the reader quickly finds themselves pounding their head into their desk from the redundancy of it all. Don't be afraid to seize a storyline, take it by the reigns, and steer it in the direction that you want to go in. Odds are, others will follow en suite, because it's something different from the characters standing their idly blinking at one another.
*Discuss storylines with all participants. Doesn't this take the randomness out of it? To some extent, I suppose it might. Thing is, if you take the time to discuss and formulate a storyline from the current scenario with your fellow handlers, it's going to do two things -- it's going to make the post itself flow a lot better, and it's going to make it much easier for you to post, because you already know what direction the story is going in. When you have four handlers all trying to take the story in a different direction, things get chaotic, and fast. Discuss posts -- especially crucial ones -- beforehand and establish a frame for the upcoming thread.
Section III: Board Conduct
*Constant OOC in unprofessional. Obviously, you're going to have out-of-character comments before or after your roleplays sometimes, and that's understandable -- apologizing for the length of time it took you to roleplay or explaining that you're going to be away and unable to post for a few days -- details like that are excusable. However, constantly posting pointless out of character comments (read: "Your character is SO awesome!") in roleplays is not only unprofessional, but it's ridiculously distracting from your writing. You want people to focus on what you're writing, not the comments you're making toward pointless and irrelevant things.
*Be courteous when being "it". What is "it", anyway? Roleplaying is sort of like playing tag. First, one person goes, writing down their character's dialogue and actions. Then somebody else is "tagged" and it's their turn to post. When it's your turn to post, be courteous. First of all, there's a technical term that we here at Survival of the Fittest call a post whore. Real technical, professional term, right? Back on topic, what does that mean? It means that you're one of those people who post 5 posts to everyone else's 1. That causes your character to be, you know, 5 posts ahead of everyone else's. Not to mention it makes your posts EXTREMELY short because you have like a paragraph of action/dialogue to respond to. Don't do that. Likewise, when it's your turn to post, don't take 2 weeks in doing so. It's not fair to the other handlers you're roleplaying with, and more often than not, people aren't going to take kindly to you forcibly tying up their character. Be courteous and think about the other handlers when it's time for you to post.
*Develop a posting order. This is sort of tied in with the above tip. It helps to develop a posting order when several handlers are in the same topic, experiencing the same events. For example, Handler A posts, then Handler B posts, then Handler C, then back to Handler A. Developing a posting order ensures that no one handler is going to get too far ahead of the others in the thread, and also ensures that there will be less confusion all around. Of course, this is one of those ideas that are a good idea in theory but flawed in practice because so often people lose their muse or don't have time to post, which ties up on the entire thread. On those occassions, feel free to skip them.