Narration is what makes a sim come alive, and many of the strongest sims we read have a harmonious blend of great dialogue and great narration. But if we pick apart the narration of our sims, what makes the difference between a functional sim and a sim that is exciting to read? A lot depends on your balance between action and reaction in your writing. If we break it down there are two major aspects of narration in sims: plot and drama.
Plot narration is action based. It describes the action of the scene as well as providing details to the characters and setting. Descriptive text is plot based, as is any scene-setting narration. Having good plot narration helps a writer clarify what is going on in the scene to the other players. The stronger your plot narration the more you can push the action of the scene forward allowing your character, and your teammates to be proactive. Plot narration is the basic building block of strong narration. If you are at a starting point with adding more narration to your sims, focus on describing your character’s actions clearly. Add in setting details and character details as appropriate. Then focus on making sure your character’s actions contribute to the plot and help push the narrative forward.
A good example of plot narration would be:
Lieutenant Wharf’s muscles tensed as he hid behind a thick tree trunk in the lush forest of Vadon II. A trio of Breen soldiers, armed to the teeth, were only a few meters away. Soon they would discover the away team’s hiding spot. He had to act now, and he needed his teammate’s help. He looked over at Ensign Rho and caught her gaze, gesturing for her to ready her phaser. He waited until she gave an indication that she understood before pointing in two directions: she would take the left side, he would take the right. If they blanketed the area with phaser fire on heavy stun they should be able to stop the Breen long enough to get back to the runabout. He gave a signal countdown. Three… two… one… He pointed at her to move, and then leapt up on his side, firing at the Breen squad.
This narration clearly describes the scene and the action, allowing Ensign Rho to understand what is going on – the Breen are approaching, the plan is to split and fire phasers on stun and the retreat, and the narration moves the scene forward. Plot narration describes the setting, clarifies what is going on and then moves the action forward.
The second type of narration is dramatic narration. Dramatic narration focuses on a character’s feelings, emotions and reactions to other players. While plot narration will clarify what is going on, dramatic narration will build up your character and make your sims more fun for other players to read. Reacting to what the other characters do makes your sim more interesting for other people. Your fellow players want to see that you have read what they wrote, and your in character reaction to what is going on not only validates the other person’s sims but makes your own sims more entertaining for the reader. This is the place to describe your character’s thoughts and feelings as well as to play off the other character’s actions.
A good example of dramatic narration would be:
Ensign Rho was nervous about firing upon the Breen soldiers. To her this felt like Lieutenant Wharf might be opening up a can of worms – what if the Breen weathered the attack and countered with force? Or what if this started a violent conflict when they should have approached this with diplomacy. Still Wharf’s demeanor was confident and he had more experience than her. She had to trust that he knew what he was doing when it came to the Breen. Heart pounding in her chest she jumped when he pointed at her and took aim, praying that this was the right decision.
This narration focuses on Rho’s feelings as well as how she sees Wharf – she respects his experience, but also wonders if there are other options such as diplomacy. She decides to trust him in and hopes that everything turns out ok. The more a player can include narration that reacts to what the other players have written the more dramatic and engaging the sim becomes.
The best sims have both dramatic narration and plot narration, though depending on the situation some sims may lean more heavily in one direction or the other. A thrilling action scene will have more plot narration as the characters chase down a shuttlecraft thief through a craggy canyon, while a deep conversation with the characters sitting at a table may have almost all dramatic narration. You will find your perfect balance between the two as you practice narration in sims!