In the real world, it’s a forgone conclusion that no person knows everything. It’s a day to day frustration that every person carries for their entire life. This is why it is, in writing, a tempting trap to use the information you are reading in other sims to guide your character’s actions. If writing is your fun escape from reality, what’s so wrong with having a character who is always right all the time?
This is a problem that is common between all role-playing games for the exact same reason. It feels good to be right and we feel good portraying our characters so we want to use all the information at our disposal to make the best decisions, even if our characters wouldn’t know that information in their situation. This could be called metagaming, power-simming or god-modding depending on your role-playing platform. But whatever you choose to call it, using information that you know as a writer but your character would not know in the story is a habit we can all work to break ourselves out of.
We have in previous articles discussed why metagaming or power-simming damages the narrative and hurts your collaboration with fellow players. But in this episode of writer’s workshop we’re going to explore why doing the opposite – purposely having your character overhear something and interpreting it wrong can be a fantastic source of entertainment and drama, as well as a stepping stone to breaking the habit of metagaming and enjoying using your characters in-scene knowledge more consistently.
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.
As we officially move into 2397 many people are thinking about resolutions, goals and changes for the upcoming year. But how can you plan to maximize the fun and enjoyment you get from simming?
One exercise that works well for many players is a wishlist. A wishlist means taking some time to plan out things you would really enjoy simming on several levels and then talking about that wishlist with your mentor, fellow crew and ship’s staff. This not only helps you focus your writing into key areas that you enjoy the most, but it helps you communicate and collaborate with your fellow players to create a better game overall.
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.
Join us for another in a series of interviews with winners of Duty Post awards from our recent 2018 Awards Ceremony. Our goal is to give you insight into how our fleet’s best simmers write, and imagine their characters.
This month we’re interviewing the writer behind Lieutenant Arturo Maxwell, better known as ‘Max,’ who is playing a Human tactical officer assigned to StarBase 118 Ops. He won the Sisko Tactical Cross: “Awarded to those tactical officers who have shown cunning and bravery in battle. Master strategists, and experts in targeting and shield power distribution, these officers have done the impossible to save their ship and the lives of its crew. “
TAYBRIM: Tell us a little about the writer behind the character — where in the world do you hail from?
Maxwell: Hey, well, I’m Iain and I live in Warrington, Cheshire in the UK.
What made you choose to create a tactical officer? Did anything in particular draw you to this duty post?
Oddly my first choice was a Marine character, but I went into Tactical as it was something I was unfamiliar with writing. I guess that was the main drive behind it really, as I was so used to “military fiction”.
What sort of real life knowledge or experiences do you draw from when writing Maxwell?
Max is essentially me, but in space. He’s a bit – a lot – of a dork, and tends to respond to stress by making a joke or lightening the mood. But then there are also little bits of some of my friends ins his character as well. Mostly me, though!
Captain Kerk got up from his seat and headed out to the bridge. Kerk looked at the viewscreen where the ship was in orbit around planet Sigma Iotis. Kerk smiled, looking at the lush Class M landscape below. Kerk was hoping that it would be the perfect spot for shore leave. “Let’s prepare an away team!” Kerk said.
The paragraph above shows a common issue that all writers struggle with, and that’s stagnancy in sentence structure. Many writers worry that their writing will boil down to a narrative of “My character said this, my character did that. My character went there and then my character did this other thing.” One of the reasons that this issue is a common struggle is because it is a fully functional way of writing, especially when you are focused on only one character’s point of view like we commonly do in our simming.
Because this is such a useful and functional form both for actions and dialogues, we can’t just get rid of it. No one wants to read paragraph after paragraph of needlessly complicated prose when the same thing could be said by writing “Captain Kerk was the first one to beam down.” So how can we keep the majority of writing straightforward while not feeling like every sentence is just a laundry list of things a character did, felt or said?
- Think about what is around the character. What is the setting they are in? Who is around them and what are they doing? Adding in some description not only helps add variety to your writing, but it helps create a clearer picture of the whole scene for your readers. In the above example you might focus on the setting of the planet Kerk has just arrived on: “Sunlight spilled through thick palm fronds on a white sand beach making Captain Kerk glad that he was the first person to beam down and experience this.”
- Focus on reasons why characters do actions, not just the actions. In the example above, if you put a reason why Kerk would be the first to beam down you might write “It was the job of a commanding officer to take lead, that’s why Captain Kerk always beamed down first.” This still describes the action, but gives us a little more insight into Kerk’s mindset.
- Picture the character in action and describe that action. This technique helps bring the scene action to life in a very descriptive way. Again, with the above example this might look like “Running ahead with a bouncing excited step, the rest of the senior staff held back to let Captain Kerk beam down first.” This is particularly good for scenes where characters are engaged in combat or a similar sort of dramatic action.
- Bring a ‘tight focus’ into the character and describe how they physically feel in a way that relates to the action or setting. Examples of this are feeling heat rise in the character’s cheeks from embarrassment or describing difficulty breathing from a alien poison. This puts the character front and center under a microscope, letting the audience know their inner workings before describing their actions. Working with the above example, you might get: “His heart was beating faster and faster, brimming with excitement – it had been too long since their last shore leave and Captain Kerk was absolutely itching to beam down first”
- Don’t sweat it. After all is said and done, straightforward statements are fast easy ways to cover ‘down time’ or explain simple things that don’t really matter to the meat of the story. Beaming down to a planet might be a big deal for a character – or it might be something totally boring for that character and writing “Kerk beamed down first.” is an easy way to move into action that Kerk and his writer are really invested in.
Hopefully this will help you consider new ways to describe scenes and actions, while also reminding everyone that sometimes just writing things out in a straightforward way to move the plot forward is the best way to go.
This month the chat team presents one of our yearly event chats: our fleetwide watch-a-long! Join us in the chat room for our monthly chat on Sunday, March 10 at 10am Pacific / 1pm Eastern / 5pm London / 4am+1 Sydney (AUS). (Click here to see when the chat starts in your timezone, and add this chat to your calendar with a quick and easy link.)
How does a watch-along work? Simple! Log onto the chat for instructions on how to join us via Rabbit so we can all watch the episode together. A link and instructions will be posted in our fleetwide chat, so be sure to arrive a little early. Once things get started we watch a great episode of Trek while chatting about everything we love and remember about it. Or joking about it!
Our theme this year, chosen by popular vote is alternative timelines and alternative captains featuring:
- Star Trek Voyager: S3, E2: “Flashback”
- Star Trek the Next Generation S3, E15: “Yesterday’s Enterprise”
Episodes will start fifteen minutes past the hour, giving everyone enough time to join Rabbit and log in.
Click here to launch the chat room now: https://www.starbase118.net/chat/
We’re here with another interview with a newer member of our community. The title of this column is “Lower Decks,” hearkening back to the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode titled “Lower Decks,” in which junior officers aboard the Enterprise-D speculate on the reasons for recent unusual actions taken by the command crew near the Cardassian border.
This month’s interview is with the writer behind Ensign Kayla Drex playing a Human female science officer assigned to the USS Eagle.
TAYBRIM: Tell us a little about the writer behind the character — where in the world do you hail from?
DREX: I’ve lived in Virginia essentially my whole life. I’m currently in the Richmond area. I moved up here to attend Virginia Commonwealth University (go Rams!), where I studied history.
What duty post are you playing, and how’d you choose it?
I’m playing a science officer. Honestly, the creation of Kayla’s character came first. Who is she and what makes her tick? What made her start ticking that way? Once I felt like I knew her, I just asked her what made most sense. IC, her father is a theoretical quantum physicist and her mother is an artist. The balance of the two grew in her an unusual lens through which she sees the world. OOC, after graduating from VCU I taught high school at a REALLY small school. They needed teachers to take on multiple subjects. I’ve always loved and had a knack for science, so I was landed with Earth Science, Biology, Chemistry, World History, and US History. All that coupled with my love of creating things … yeah, I guess I’m Kayla IRL.
I have to attend a fancy dinner party with my Tellarite in-laws. My mother-in-law is a terrible cook. How can I argue with her to be polite without truly insulting her food.
-Disruptor Rifle Wedding
Well step number one is to visit your doctor before the visit and get a tongue-numbing agent. Trust me, this has saved face in many inter-species dinner parties for centuries.
Second is to read up on Tellarite cuisine and learn as much as you can. Your in-laws will be impressed by your knowledge and willingness to learn about their culture.
Third is to learn and then practice the careful art of making points about cooking without making them personal. You can argue about the types of spices used or traditional cooking methods without directly insulting someone’s hard work. Think of it this way – you could say ‘That dress has an asymmetrical cut that draws the eyes horizontally across the fabric creating an illusion of width. I think it would look great on someone who was very tall and wanted the illusion of a rounder figure.” Or you could say “You look fat in that dress.” Which one do you think will get you punched? Learn not to say that.
Should I headbutt my half-Klingon boyfriend to show him I like him?
-Young and Curious
Dear Young and Curious,
Then make him read love poetry to you and be sure to throw some chairs at him.
Also, book an appointment to see a doctor afterwards. It will probably get rough, but it will be oh so worth it.
Dear Kr’Abby is written by Doctor B’Rusk, the Federation’s foremost half-Klingon psychologist who specializes in tough-love advice. We take submissions from across the galaxy!
Welcome to the final day of the awards ceremony. So far this week we’ve announced the recipients of the Staff, General, Length of Service and Special Awards. Today we present the duty post awards. Each award focuses on a different department from the major ones such as medical, operations or engineering to the more unique – like diplomacy, intel or marines. Even civilians have a chance to be recognized for the valuable contributions that can be made to our stories by those who prefer the path less worn.
Each of these awards recognizes a player for excellence in simming their duty post. Since only one award per duty post is given each year, only the very best are chosen and they are highly coveted awards. You’ll see from our spread of winners – who range in rank from Ensign to Captain – that every player has a chance to be considered for one of these by consistently simming to the best of their ability and striving to improve their craft.
In closing this year’s awards ceremony we’d like to thank the people who made this possible and make one final, special presentation. Our thanks and appreciation goes out to:
- Awards facilitator Rear Admiral Renos, who is facilitating the awards ceremony for the third year running.
- The Awards Committee, comprised or Rear Admiral Renos, Captains Brell and Sal Taybrim, Commanders Oddas Aria and Maxwell Traenor, who voted on the Duty Post and Special Awards and who volunteered to help pull materials together to help prepare the announcements. They put in a considerable amount of time and effort to help ensure everything was accurate, prepared and ready for awards day. Their help has made this the smoothest awards ceremony yet.
- The commanding officers of the fleet, who put in a lot of time and effort to review the nominations for their ships and ensure that the right people are selected for awards.
- The first officers of the fleet, for voting on the staff awards to provide recommendations to the EC about who they should choose to receive each award, for determining the recipient of general awards where their CO was nominated, and writing awards presentations where needed.
- Captains Nugra and Roshanara Rahman for helping to update the wiki with this year’s recipients.
- All of you who submit wonderful, heartfelt nominations each year!
Finally, while we’re all rockin’ them feels for all the awesome fun and friendship we’ve got going on here for a crack-a-lackin’ 24 years the awards facilitator, Rear Admiral Renos, would like to give a special shout out to the community’s founder, Fleet Admiral Wolf.
It’s not always easy to see just how much Fleet Admiral Wolf pours into this community because a lot of his tireless work is done in the background. Whether he’s working with the website, forums, WordPress, wiki or other resources we have, he makes sure everyone has accounts, and troubleshoots issues ensuring we can all enjoy everything the community has to offer all of the time. His inbox is always open to everyone, whether you’ve been working as a staff member for years or you’re a brand new ensign. His passion, drive and determination keep this community thriving and going strong in an age where there are more real life pressures, more options for entertainment than ever before. On behalf of the whole community I want to take a moment just to that him for everything he continues to do for us.
Find out who this year’s duty post super stars are first by heading down to the forums today where you can read about and congratulate our talented award recipients. The full awards ceremony is now available, in full, on the wiki.