Note: I wrote this for another fed, but I felt this could be useful for people here as well. Not sure well else I could put this, so I put it here.
It's been said that the true measurement of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. This is particularly true in a hobby like efedding, where the very dynamics of the game can change dramatically from show to show. The best efedders have mastered these dynamics to the point where they can take on all comers and have the victories and titles to show for it.
The rest of us, however, have to actively work to make these sorts of adjustments to remain competitive. To assist others in this particular endeavour I've decided to write the essay you're now reading. The reasons for this are two-fold:
1. I've been efedding for over 6 years now, and while there's definitely people who have been RPing long than me, I've gotten quite a bit of time logged in a wide variety of different styles of feds. I've developed several different strategies and pointers in this time that I feel would be beneficial to the community as a whole.
2. This is as much an exercise to help myself as it is to help others. While I'm definitely not the best efedder or best writer around (and there very much is a difference between the two, as I'll explain later), one thing I have excelled at is my ability to adapt. I've been in over a dozen different feds over the years, and I've managed to adapt and be successful with a great deal of variation amongst fedheads and how they grade RPs. I hope by writing this all out I can better understand my own thought processes that go into this hobby so I can use it towards other ends.
I will be breaking this up into sections in order to both better categorize the different aspects of the hobby as well as to make it easier for someone looking to strengthen a particular part of their style.
-Finding Your Character
This is perhaps the biggest hurdle a newcomer to the hobby will face. Your character is everything, and if they don't "click" for you then you'll quickly find yourself stuck in neutral.
I've handled four different characters over the years. Two of these characters (EJ Slayer and Eddie Williams) both got off to great starts while the other two (Jack Sullivan and Shane Donovan) both took their lumps before starting the climb up the ladder of success.
The reason for this is quite simple: for Slayer and Eddie I had a full-developed concept planned from the start. Slayer in particular stands out in this regard, as the path I have him on currently is pretty much the exact same path I had in mind when I created the character back in 2005. Shane and Jack, on the other hand, were more spur of the moment creations and as a result it took a while before I truly felt comfortable with the characters.
This is something I see even experienced RPers really struggle with. They'll constantly shift gears with their RPs, not quite knowing which direction to go with their character, resulting in difficult to follow storylines and sometimes painful to read prose.
To help combat this, there's three questions you should be able to answer about your character:
Who: Who is your character? What are his personality traits? This may seem incredibly obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people can't actually answer this question. This is more than just a gimmick as well, as many of the best RPers don't actually have "gimmicks" as you'd normally define them in wrestling, yet their personalities make them unique. Specter doesn't have a particularly unique "gimmick" in the ring, but his personality makes him stand out head and shoulders above other people.
Why: Why is your character a wrestler? This is another one that really seems to trip people up. They have what they think is a great character idea but then it falls flat because there's no rational explanation as to why the character would possibly do that. "Because they can" is *not* an acceptable answer to this question, and the best characters have motives that play into being involved in this particular occupation. A big part of Dougg's success with the Marcus De'Karrion character can be directly attributed to the fact that his motivations are focused on, making the reader more involved in wanting to root for the guy.
How: How did they get to this point? A lot of characters don't have backstories that are fleshed out well (if at all) and that really hurts being able to answer the first two questions. For some people this is quite easy because you build that up just by participating and RPing, but early on it's important to have this sort of groundwork laid down, as it really helps dictate how the character might handle situations in the future. Will is someone who has this down quite well, as Derek Mobely and Warrick Hill have well-developed back stories that play into what happens in their current storylines.
Once you have a handle on these three questions, then it becomes much easier to understand how to handle things as they come up in RPs, such as character interaction. Shane Donovan's interactions with someone will be completely different from Derek Mobely's interactions with the exact same person, and those three things are why.
Having a handle on those also helps you stick with a storyline, which is important. Too many people jump back and forth in their RPs, which hurts your end results. Speaking of storyline...
-Finding Your Storyline
This is something almost all efedders struggle with. They say in fiction ideas are cheap, but in efedding they are a precious commodity as there are certain limitations generally put forth by the hobby. Some people do push the boundries of this, but generally playing with fire in that regard can definitely burn you in the long run.
This is where having the well-developed backstory becomes useful, as it's very easy to mine your character's past for potential conflicts. Perhaps an old buddy of yours from college is now dating your ex-fiancee. Maybe your grandfather passed away, leaving you an estate that you need to raise the funds for to pay the taxes on. These ideas may seem mundane, but there's a lot you can do with very little.
That is where sticking with your guns is important. Too many people will start an idea that shows promise, but then grow frustrated that it's not building quickly enough, or decide to rush forward or slow down in order to have the big finale coincide with a big match. These are both things to avoid, as they will hurt your overall performance.
When you abandon a storyline, it sends a signal to the fedhead that you're flaky (unless they told you it sucks and to dump it, but that's something else entirely). Fedheads don't want to see someone constantly starting and stopping ideas, reseting their character on a whim. A fedhead isn't going to develop an appreciation for a character that seemingly has severe cases of M.P.S. and A.D.D., and you shouldn't be shocked when they don't develop a liking for said character.
Likewise, when you rush through a storyline it makes you look bad, as it signals to the fedhead that you could care less about what you're writing, only what your writing might get you. Slowing down gives that same impression, and as a fedhead I handed out more than a few losses to people because they thought they could get away with a "filler" RP set in order to hold off their finale one more show. It's always very obvious when it happens, and fedheads never like seeing it.
So, what does it take to come up with a good storyline? it's actually a lot easier than you'd think. A trick I learned from El Linchador (who apparently learned it while doing improv) is to make a list of 12 different outcomes. They could be anything really, from your character ending up in a dumpster to becoming president. Once you have this list, take the six of them you don't really like and toss them out. With the remaining six, brainstorm at least 6 possible things that could happen to help you reach the outcome. Once that is done review them all and throw out the three you least like. Once that's done continue to flesh each idea out until you have one that you think will work.
By using that method, you end up with a storyline that has a set beginning, ending, and the major points in between defined. With that much of a headstart, filling in the gaps is rather simple, and it's just a matter of then seeing it through to the end. You can fill those gaps in with more random occurances, or things like trash talk.
-Finding Your Voice
This is something in particular that I'm very big on, as so much in efedding as a hobby is defined by both the alignment of your character and how they express that through their actions in the ring and through their trash talk. This is truly what sets efedders apart from writers. A good writer will tell a good story with their prose, using structure and writing techniques to get their point across.
A good efedder, on the other hand, might not be nearly so proficient with these techniques. Instead, they rely upon their understanding of wrestling to tell a compelling story in efedding terms. Zimdela Brudon comes to mind in this regard, as his RPs were never masterpieces of form and function that would win writing contests, but he was nevertheless successful because he had a mastery over how his character conducted himself through trash talking, feuding and in the ring.
This goes back to understanding your character's motivations. Marcus De'Karrion is character that has this aspect of the hobby down pretty well, as his character's motivations (honoring his father's legacy) ring through both in how he acts in the ring and how his trash talk is in his RPs.
These motivations help make trash talk a lot easier. Someone who's personality is particularly arrogant or cocky should come across as such in how they carry themselves in these situations, where someone who's more reserved will come across like that in these situations.
A lot of the time when people's trash talk comes across as poor or inconsistent it's because of the RPer trying to have their character carry themselves in a way that doesn't mesh with their personality. If Harvey Danger started saying his opponent sucked balls and he was going to kick their ass it would come across as being absolutely terrible, because he's not the kind of guy to say that sort of thing.
Alignment also dictates this quite a bit. Heels have far more leeway in trash talk than faces do just by the nature of the roles, which needs to be taken into account when trash talking in a RP. A cool-headed face is less likely to sling mud than a loudmouth heel, who's less likely to play up the importance of a match than the face would. The alignment should also fit the personality as much as it can. Lurrr will never be a face who high fives fans, nor will someone like Harvey Danger ever become a hotdogging foul-mouthed heel. Recognizing this and taking advantage is often the best tool you have for trash talking.
There are two other tools useful for this: a thesaurus and the ability to think outside the box. A large vocabulary is an excellent weapon in efedding, as it allows you far greater range in promos and trash talk, while thinking outside of the box allows you to put this to use in the best possible way. I try to take advantage of these things as much as possible, and almost all my RPs feature trash talk that focuses more on other aspects of their opponent's life or career rather than saying my opponents suck.
So you've got your character worked out, your storyline all planned and you've solidified your role and you still lost your match. If there's one thing you shouldn't do at this point, it's get angry. This is a game after all, and investing the sort of energy required in being upset over a loss just isn't healthy. There's usually a good reason why you lost, and most fedheads are willing to give you feedback on what you did wrong and how you can fix it.
The biggest tool necessary to continue to adapt and improve is having an open mind. Any feedback a fedhead gives you you have to be willing to hear out or else the whole exercise is pointless. Most fedheads have different tastes, and how well you adapt to such tastes is what separates the great efedders from everyone else.
Making these adjustments is far easier once you have the things discussed above worked out. If the fedhead enjoys more trash talk, then knowing your personality and the role helps you expand upon it in a creative manner. If the fedhead wants to see more story, then knowing the character and having a storyline planned out helps you to properly flesh it out.
All in all, efedding is a constantly evolving hobby, and hopefully these thoughts/comments will help others evolve along with it.