Witty Wordsmith: Setting A Superb Scene

Witty Wordsmith: Setting A Superb Scene

If you’re new to simming you quickly learn that strong sims include description alongside dialogue to create a whole scene rather than just a threadbare script.  But how do you set a good scene?  What elements should you include?  And where in your sims should you put this description?  Today we try to answer those questions to help you practice this important writing skill.
If you’re working on strengthening your simming skills, a good rule to follow is to start every sim with description.  The start of a sim lets you set the scene moving forward – it’s a great place to draw your reader’s attention to the situation your character is in and a way to help other players understand where in the action your sim falls.  Another integral place to add scene setting and description is any time the scene changes or important action happens.  Even if your character is not part of the action, if your character is aware of the action you should describe how they sense the action and how they react.  This not only helps keep continuity in the sims, but it helps develop your character by allowing them to feel and act not just speak.
So now that we know where description should go, how do we create a good setting for the scene?  Any scene setting is responsible for answering the following questions:

  1. What characters are in this scene? Who is there?
  2. Where are the characters? What does it look like?
  3. What is the most important piece of information that needs to be revealed in the scene?

The first question should be the easiest to answer.  Your character will be in the scene and mention which other characters are present.  Describe where they are in relation to your character and what they are doing.  This doesn’t need to be detailed, especially if the other characters are doing something mundane like taking scans with their tricorders; but mentioning that you have a team and everyone is scanning for lifeforms allows the reader to quickly understand what is going on.
The second question can be more creative because you as a writer have the ability to help flesh out the setting you are playing in by describing the scene your character is in.  Build from the description given by other members of your team in the same area and add your own creative touches.  You might want to describe alien flora or the strange markings on a derelict vessel.  Small details might spark the imagination of your fellow players allowing you to build the mission in new ways.
The third question is the most important and can be the most difficult, but focusing on this will help you become a better writer.  Figure out what is the most important information in the scene.  This might be the focus on the mission (‘find the source of the strange emissions’ means that strange emissions would be an important detail in the scene).  It might be a source of drama (the away team was ambushed by threatening Klingons, so Klingons with weapons is an important scene detail) and it might be personal to the characters (Commander Hiker was bitten by an alien bug last mission and he is slowly starting to hallucinate from undetected poison.  Important details might be Hiker describing his hallucinations or other characters describing the sudden odd behavior of their away team leader.)
Once you know what the most important information in the scene is, make sure you mention it in the description!  Not only will this make your description more vibrant and engaging, but it will help you as a player focus on the most important aspects of the drama as the scene moves forward.
Try this out at the start of your next sim! Can you identify all three aspects of the scene and add them into your opening description? Let us know how it goes in the Writing Improvement forum.

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