The biggest part of simming is developing our characters. They are 60% of the stories we write. When looking at our favorite Star Trek episodes, it is easy to appreciate the plot that the writers have come up with. What drives the show is the actors and how they adapt to fit the role they are playing. Would Jean-Luc Picard be the same man if he were played by Avery Brooks? Would Scott Bakula have been able to sell the dark side of Captain Benjamin Sisko? The character is key to any story, but they cannot do it alone. While characters are the most important part, they are only highly developed ideas until you give them a world to live in.
Star Trek has followed many different formats. When we look at Star Trek: The Next Generation, we see a loose timeline that is followed throughout the series. It allows the viewer to miss a week, or twelve, and still know what is going on. For the most part, the plots for TNG were singular and did not rely on you watching last week. Things were a bit different with Deep Space Nine and Voyager. They had long term story arcs, and if you missed a week you could be missing out on references that you would not get. Let’s look at the Kazon in Star Trek: Voyager. They appeared in fifteen episodes, what happens if you missed the first few?
The key to good storytelling is keeping the plot interesting. We have all seen some episodes of Star Trek that start to get dull for a bit in the middle. It even makes some of them appear as if the writers took some extra time to add more ‘meat’ to the script, to fill the time slot. The good news is, we do not have to do that when we write for our characters.
We have an empty canvas each time we set out on a mission. Sure, there is a base concept of what is going on, or a problem that needs handled, but who is to say what will happen during the mission? You are. It is easy to see the problems each department faces during the mission, and finding a way to fix each problem is exciting. Have you ever had a plot that was like playing a game of Whack-a-Mole? You solve one problem, only to be faced with another…and then another.
Creating challenges for each other will keep a plot and moving forward. Ever see a department that did not seem to have a problem? Give them one! Maybe the science department is using the sensors to survey some local systems, but they keep getting strange readings that don’t make sense. It would only make sense to bring in the engineering and tactical departments to help make sense of it. You spotted an issue, what will they create? It is a great way to flesh out ideas that you have been thinking about.
While it can be complicated to know when there is too much going on, if everyone is simming and having fun, that is the goal. Some captains have deadlines on how long they like their missions to last. Some like to hit 6-7 missions a year, running 6 week missions with 2 weeks for shore leave. Other captains shoot for 8-10 weeks per mission. And there are always ships that continue on until the mission comes to a natural close. You have a good idea of how long your missions tend to last, so as everything is winding down it is not the best time for an epic plot twist…or is it?
As long you keep the story from becoming stagnant and you continue to sim and tag your ship-mates, you will be able to score storyline gold. Try not to make the plot all about your character, but about the ship and the crew alike. Some of the best ways to advance the plot are to create problems for others to solve, and sitting back to watch them squirm.
In the end, remember that the goal is for everyone to sim 3 times per week. If some people are having a hard time meeting that, you need to keep one thing in mind. Have you ever heard the saying, “The show must go on!” and thought it could apply here? It does! It is called, “The plot must go on!” Give them 48 hours and then move on. This will keep the collective group moving in the right direction. The last thing you want is half of the ship in the past.
The story is what you make it. Push the plot forward, but make sure it is interesting enough to involve other simmers. When you follow that simple rule, everyone will be motivated to write more, and you will be sitting on the edge of your seat, just waiting to see what will happen next. Those plots are the best plots.