The anatomy of a post for a PBEM game

In traditional story writing there are certain phases in the story. For example, you begin by creating an interesting introduction, a hook to get people to continue to read. When you are writing a post for your PBEM (Play By Email) game, it does not have to follow the same pattern.A post is something very different. Think of it as more like one chapter of the book or story. Perhaps not even a chapter but only a page. It is one part of something bigger. Because of this, you can often not use the same plan as if you were writing everything by yourself.

If we analyse a regular story we start with the hook as I have already described. The story then continues by exploring the conflict. A conflict can be on many levels, but it is almost always the main problem of the book – the main element the entire story is based upon. How the characters relate to the conflict and how they deal with it makes up for much of the story itself. Describing reactions, emotions and actions are what the story is built of.

Once the conflict has been fully explored, it needs to be resolved. Something needs to happen so the book can end. Most often a book has a very clear ending, something happens that fixes a problem. This ‘something’ can be virtually anything but a twist at the end is very common. One of the characters turns out to be someone else for example. The ending of a book is important to make the reader either be satisfied with the story, continue to think about the story or – as it is often done in the movies – want to see the sequel.

A post is very different. Instead of being based on hook – conflict – resolution it is often based on background – action – continuation.

The beginning of a post often describes what has happened. This is important to place the post into the timeframe where it takes place. Since a PBEM (Play By Email) game can move the in-game time very slowly, describing where the post fits in is important to make sure the reader remembers and understands what has happened.

The background can also describe how your character reacts to previous posts. If you did not have the chance to post a reaction right away, you can start out by having the character think back or write about it or something similar.

The next part is where all the new content is added to the story. This is what brings the story forward. It is the most important part of the post. If you fail to add something to the story, it will never go forward and will not give the other players something to post about.

In the action part you can describe what happens and how your character reacts to it. Depending on the rules of the game, you may also be allowed to write how other characters react. You will want to bring the story forward a bit, but not too much. It is a hard balancing act.

The last part of a post is almost as important as the action part, but much harder to master. While writing what happens requires a lot of imagination, it does not require all that much pure thinking. The last part is to think about the continuation of the story. Ask yourself how can the other players continue on my post? Is there something I can write to help the other players getting ideas?

The more you help them, the easier it will be for them and the sooner you will be able to post again.