ROLEPLAYING: THE LOWDOWN
Roleplaying is literally you playing the role of a character.
The best way to think of roleplaying, if you're new at it, is like you're writing one side of a story. The other people you roleplay with are writing their sides of the story and all of the characters are interacting. Most, if not all, people roleplay in the third person (describing the character) rather than the first person (being the character) -- i.e. the character climbed the tree, rather than 'I climbed the tree'.
THE UNWRITTEN RULES
As roleplaying is always a joint effort, there are some rules which have to be respected if you want other people to roleplay with you. They're not set in stone, but you can think of them as some useful tips and guidelines for happy roleplaying!
1. Avoid powerplaying.
Powerplaying is where you write the actions of other people's characters into your post. So for instance if I was talking about my character saying "Hello", if I then also wrote: "the other characters said Hello back", I would be powerplaying-- playing more than just my character! Nobody likes people who play their characters for them. Powerplaying is usually easy to avoid, but it can get a bit tricky during scenes such as fights, where what one character does affects another character (for example if my character hit somebody else's). There are two ways to deal with this: either talk to the other roleplayer in a message to check it's okay, OR don't write the consequence in! That way whether the other player wants their character to escape unscathed, or whether they want them to be wounded, it's their choice: you haven't powerplayed.
2. Joining in.
We wouldn't all be here if we didn't want to roleplay, but sometimes there are times to join in and times to leave things be. The most obvious time to join is when somebody posts a thread and has put [OPEN] or something like it in the title. In more established threads, if you feel like a storyline already exists, you may decide to move on and try to join a different thread. Or you could make your own-- just make sure it's interesting! If your character hates other characters and spends its time brooding darkly in a gutter, chances are people won't want to join in. If your character is doing something interesting or feeling lonely, or new, they might!
This one is simple. Usually, people roleplay in order-- so the person who posted first can post again after the person who posted second (if there are two people), and with three people, the person who posted first would have to wait until after the person who posted third and so on. Basically taking it in turns. You can go out of turn if it seems appropriate, or if another person isn't replying. Try not to join in threads if you won't have time to reply-- it keeps everybody waiting for you!
4. Roleplaying Style
If you're new to roleplaying, the best way to describe this is that no author writes the same way. If you pick up two novels, by two different authors, they'll be totally different. In just the same way, people don't RP (roleplay) the same. Some people use simple sentences and lots of actions. Some people talk a lot about their character's emotions. For a thread to work well, it's best if everybody roleplays in a similar way-- so look out for and go towards the people who're on the same wavelength as you!
5. In and out of character.
When you post, everybody assumes you are posting in character-- i.e. posting a roleplay post. Sometimes you'll want to say something in the role of yourself (the roleplayer), however, and you need to make this clear. Some people say OOC: (out of character) and other people just indicate that they are out of character by writing in double brackets, or something similar. It doesn't really matter what you do, so long as you are sure to let people know!
6. Good english.
People don't expect you to be perfect. We all make typing errors and for many of us, english isn't our first language! You should try not to be confusing, however. Be sure to preview your replies whenever you have time, don't use chatspeak or shortenings, and try to use the correct grammar. Actually, roleplaying will really help with your english skills. I should mention at this point that some people use a bizarre version of english called "RP Slang" which is basically where they substitute an unusual and unrelated word in for an english word, like they're using a thesaurus. For instance if I said "she looked around with her orbs" instead of "she looked around with her eyes". If you don't understand this, do not worry, and move on! It's all personal preference.
HOW TO MAKE SURE YOU AREN'T IGNORED
Okay, firstly, follow the unwritten rules wherever it makes sense to follow them.
Secondly, you have to check for a few things which can make you a bit unpopular (remember, nobody HAS to roleplay with you! It's a hobby, not a duty)....
1. Character personality - if you have a 'perfect' character (sometimes called 'Mary Sue' characters) who never does anything wrong, people are unlikely to roleplay with you. All interesting characters have some flaws! If you have a dark and depressed character, people are also unlikely to roleplay with you, because it's boring for them. Being the incarnation of purest evil isn't the same thing as being a character other characters are willing to interact with! So make your character interesting. Give them some good points and some bad points-- but superstrength and the eyes of an angel are not going to get you very far!
2. Detailed posts - set the scene! Make the whole scenario interesting. Is it dark? Raining? Sunny? What's the street like? Etc. It sets people's imaginations ticking nicely!
3. Action! - if your character is just sitting, maybe people will come along. If your character is toppling off the branch of a tree, people are much more likely to come along to help you, or laugh at you, or even tip you off. Basically, if you put some action in a scene, you're giving people easy opportunities to join in and fit their characters into the storyline.