Either give me an action figure or select one from the figures page. For those who'd like a more collaborative experience, take a look at these pictures of previously prepared action figures. These figures already have a place in the world, so Step 2 will consist of less characterization and more description and explication of what has passed.
You don't have to know everything about your Action Figure when you start, I expect some of that will come out during play, but it's beneficial to be able to answer the following questions in part. What's your Action Figure like? Where do they come from? Why are they the way they are? What do they like to do? What don't they like to do? What can they do? What can't they do? What can they sometimes do? What makes them interesting? As you come up with this stuff, we can type back and forth via e-mail to make your figure fit into the world as we flesh them out.
If you've chosen a figure from the prepared page rather than giving me your own or choosing from the figures page, this step will consist of informative e-mails from the shelf librarian about your character's personality and past. There will likely be opportunities for further fleshing out and addition even should you choose this path.
When we both feel like you're ready to play, I shall send you an e-mail who's subject line will read "Shelf Start Now!" That means we've started. I will describe to you where your Action Figure is and what's going on around your Action Figure and you, ideally, will reply with what you'd like your Action Figure to do.
When replying to me, it's helpful if you are specific. For example, let's pretend I am playing the part of Darren PD (who's really awesome, by the way) and I'd like for Darren PD to be really nice to The Firefighter. It's ok to simply type, "I want to be nice to The Firefighter" and send it off to me. However, I can't really do much with that other than take it as a statement of intention. What would be more helpful would be if you were to explain how you'd like to attempt to be nice to The Firefighter. For instance: "I'd like to walk up to The Firefighter and say, 'I really like you The Firefighter. You make me smile.' Then, I'd like to give him a hug."
Often, the descriptions provided do not contain all the information a player requires to make a decision. In such a circumstance, it is best to ask questions.
People are busy and don't spend all their time thinking about The Shelves. What has passed before can be forgotten. This is normal. Should this happen, you would do well to ask questions.
Action Figures often times know more about the world around them than their players do. It is not feasible to have an internet based repository of all the information stored in an action figure's head. There is not time for all that typing! So, it is a good idea to ask questions about the world, remembering your Action Figure knows more than you do.