While it might come easy to some people, writing and including exposition and characterization in your sims isn’t always the most cut and dry thing. It doesn’t always flow naturally, and for those who struggle with this aspect of ‘better writing’, it can be frustrating to improve when you aren’t quite sure how.
Don’t worry though; you aren’t the first, and you won’t be the last to have this problem. Plenty of people play this game not because they are writers, but because they have a deep love for all things Trek, and the appeal of writing for a character of their choosing, in a world largely designed as we go, yet based in something we love, can be pretty strong. As an open group, Starbase 118 makes it a point to include everyone we can, but it’s obvious that some sims simply invoke more feeling and offer deeper insight than others.
So how do you join the ranks of the writers of such sims? Here are a few tips that can help force your hand into penning more epic words in more amazing structures, leading to sims that invoke feelings, paint mental images in everyone who reads them, and in general, help inspire your crewmates.
Force of Habit
You might be told over and over again to include characterization in your sims, but if you aren’t sure where to start, or what to include, it can be hard to build this kind of habit in your writing. In this case, it’s a good idea to follow this simple rule:
‘For every three or four lines of dialogue, include a descriptive block.’
It might sound too structured, looking at it now, but ultimately, what you’ll be doing is forcing your mind – and your fingers – to build the habit you are looking for. Sure, it means you might have to go back through your sims, or stop mid-sim, to really think about what you might include, but when the sim is done, it will be of higher quality and more inspirational than the one you were going to originally send.
Regardless, make sure that you force yourself to do this for a couple of weeks. After a half dozen sims, you’ll start to notice that it will get easier and come more naturally. Before long, you’ll wonder how you ever wrote before.
The Scene, Character Thoughts, or Movements
Still not sure what to write about in your descriptive blocks? Generally, you’ll find that the blocks of text between the colons in a sim will include one of three things:
- Text describing the scene around the characters, such as the color of the walls, the foliage, the smells, the light or absence of, how heavy the air might be, or a million other things that explain how the environment around your character looks. This kind of exposition can also include the description of events as they occur. (IE – ::The ship exploded on the screen into a million tiny points of light that rivaled the very stars beyond.::)
- The thoughts that are going through your character’s mind, that aren’t included in thought bubbles. Yes, thought bubbles are used for ‘real time’ thoughts, but descriptive blocks can be used for a kind of reflection your character might be having. (IE – ::She sat back and pondered the idea of what to have for dinner. Certainly steak was one option, but would her guest approve?::)
- Movements your character is making in response to an event, something in the scene, the other person or people they are interacting with, or even as a result of something they did themselves. (IE – ::He turned and covered his eyes as the ship exploded to shield himself from the blinding light.::)
Mixing these three things is generally what happens, though, so if you can react to an event in a descriptive and make it seem as if it were really happening, or at least convey to other readers vividly what is going on, then you’ve met with success.
When your Commanding Officers and others around you ask for more, or you read the sims of another writer and wish you could invoke feelings and imagery like they can, don’t get frustrated. Like all skills, developing your writing skills can take time. The point of setting up definitive rules, like in the beginning of this tutorial, is to force yourself to do something until it becomes a habit. In time, you won’t need to stop and look over your sims to count lines of dialogue before you send a sim in.
And remember, no matter how far you might be in your writing development, there are always resources and help available to you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your commanding officer, command staff, or other crewmates. You might be surprised just how eager your fellow writers are to share information, hints, tips, and experiences. Not only will you gain new perspectives, but you’ll be building up your OOC connections at the same time. Keep this in mind and making your sims better will end up being simpler than you ever imagined.