There is one thing that all fictional writing has in common, regardless of the universe or realm it is set in, and that is quite simply the goal of telling a story. Whether your character is standing on the bridge of a starship, or you are wandering through a yet unexplored place on a familiar, or unfamiliar planet, it is your job as a writer to bring both the character, and their surroundings, to life. Doing this, however, is far easier said than done. It can be very difficult to add the magic of ‘life’ to a story, especially if you are unsure of what is there yourself. But, that is the very reason why you should add at least a little bit of magic to the fabric of words that you and your fellow writers weave. It is with that little bit you add that the story really can be brought to life.
Some of you are probably wondering what ‘magic’ I’m speaking of about this point, because we all know that magic, in and of itself, doesn’t exactly exist. And if it did, why would we want to add it to our writing? Let me elaborate. Come, join me now, and step into a tale of two scenes…
“Take us to warp,” said the commanding officer as he sat down.
“Aye sir,” said the helm officer as she plugged in the commands.
“Someone’s following us!” yells the tactical officer.
“It must be him,” the commanding officer mutters. “Speed and course?”
“They’re gaining on us!” yells the officer at the operations station.
And then the ship was hit.
“All stop! Arm weapons!” yelled the Captain.
Now, we get quite a bit from this scene, but not near as much as we could if a bit of magic were sprinkled in. Certainly, all the dialogue gets quickly to the point and the action of what’s going on, but do any of the characters seem realistic and alive to you? Indeed, in this case, they seem very much like two-dimensional cardboard cutouts. Let’s look at the same scene now, with a bit of magic thrown in.
“Take us to warp,” said the sandy haired commanding officer, as he sat heavily in the chair. The fact that they’d arrived in time to save the civilian ship was nothing short of a miracle, though they still had this other ship with which to deal. With his fingertips tapping the arm of the chair in fast succession, he silently dared the enemy to follow.
“Aye sir,” said the helm officer as she plugged in commands. The keys on the console beeped, masking the worried sigh that had just escaped from her. She knew there was another ship back there and she could guess what the Captain was doing, all of which made her very, very nervous. This was a heck of a mission for her first assignment. Still, at least she managed to meet the demands of the orders and take a deep, calming breath just before the tactical officer yelled.
“Someone’s following us!”
The Captain slammed his fist down on the arm of the chair, grinning as if he not only expected the action, but knew it would happen. At the same time, he was slow and calculating, asking what he needed to know before acting.
“Speed and course?” he asked as he flexed his fist.
He never got his answer. Instead, another nervous voice jumped into the fray.
“They’re gaining on us!” yelled the officer at the operations station, nearly frantic. Her eyes wide as she jolted her head towards the Captain.
And then the ship was hit. Sparks flew in various directions, but most of the officers managed to hold on and hold their positions. The wide eyed officer who had just yelled was the only one who had been thrown across the bridge. Dim, red lighting replaced everything else as all of the officers focused completely on the task at hand.
“All stop! Arm weapons!” yelled the Captain, already knowing what was coming and how to react. This was the end of the road for that ship, but only if he played things carefully. They were already beaten up; they couldn’t afford too much more. Before issuing the orders that would likely destroy the ship that had followed him, he thought of his crew and his responsibility to them as well as that civilian ship out there.
At this point, step back and ask yourself, which of these scenes seemed more real to you? Which of these passages was easier to get into? Sure, one was much easier to write, and took far less time for the author, but that’s never the point of our writing, is it? If you want to ensure that your writing is the best that it can be, never hesitate to add characterization.
Regardless of what we are doing at any given time, there are always thoughts that wander through our minds. There are always things going on around us. Finally, there are always emotional and mental reactions to the stimuli that we are subjected to. As such, it is important to include these things in your writing, otherwise, your characters will only be cardboard cutouts that don’t really exist.
When you sit down to write, make sure to think about how to get into your characters mind. Don’t just tell us their actions (IE – moving to the chair, getting a drink, jogging up to someone) but tell us what they are thinking as they do that. Tell us what they are feeling as well. Maybe they are thinking about their family, or a childhood memory, or the cough they’ve developed. Are there things around them that they notice? What about sounds from the computers or landscape nearby? Are there other characters that are doing things not far away? Consider these things and work them into your writing.
While it will take more work, the quality of writing you will end up with is far above something that is only dialogue and action. Beyond that, it will serve to inspire those around you. When you create a scene, it is much easier for others to jump in and get involved with it. When you lay down some neat mental images, you can expect others to really get a feel for what you are trying to write.
And in the end, it’s all about conveying our inner thoughts to those around us. By adding this magic, you can go beyond that, and bring it all to life.
(Written by Captain Kalianna Nicholotti)