Writer’s Workshop

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Writer’s Workshop: Commonly Misused Homophones

Homophones are words that are pronounced the same, but have different spellings and frequently very different meanings.  They trip up anyone learning English whether you’re a student or have English as a second language and are the bane of auto-correct and spellcheckers.

Here’s a guide to ten of the most commonly confusing homophones.  Whether this is a reference guide, or a quick refresher, hopefully you can catch your next homophone before your sim gets sent!

1. there-their-they’re
There- is used as a pronoun or an adverb in a sentence

There will be a lot to eat at dinner tonight.  (pronoun)

Put the PADD over there.  (adverb)

Their- is a pronoun

The students put their uniform coats in the closet.

They’re- is a the contraction for they are

They’re going to attend the holodeck party.

2. accept-except
Accept- is a verb that means to receive something

The Bajoran Temple will accept donations through the first of the month.

Except- is a preposition that means to exclude

You may donate all items except weapons and yamok sauce.

3. lose-loose
Lose- To be defeated

If you do not think logically you will lose this game of three-dimensional chess.

Loose- Not fitting tightly or properly

Tugging at his dress uniform, Captain Kerk wished he had made the collar a little more loose.

4. it’s-its
It’s- is a contraction of it is

It’s too dangerous in the nebula, so we will stay here until the ion storm passes.

Its- is a possessive form of the word it

The cat is licking its paws.

5. bear-bare
Bear- Either the animal or the act of supporting

Did you know they have a brown bear at the Starbase 104 zoo?

Let me help you bear this burden.

Bare- Not being clothed or covered

He walked out of the sonic shower as bare as a Betazoid wedding.

6. aloud-allowed
Aloud- referring to something said out loud

The teacher read the assignment aloud to her class.

Allowed- referring to something that is permitted

Tribbles are allowed so long as they are properly sterilized.

7. you’re-your
You’re- is a contraction for you are

You’re going to be cleaning warp core manifolds if you talk back to the Chief Engineer again.

Your- is a pronoun

Please bring your completed assignment to class tomorrow.

8. week-weak
Week- is a period of seven days

You have one week to finish fixing this shuttlecraft before we will use it on a mission.

Weak- is having little physical strength or energy

The Romulan Ale hangover left her feeling very weak.

9. prey-pray
Prey- is a hunted animal or person

Separated from his away team in a warehouse crawling with hostile Breen the Ensign was feeling like easy prey.

Pray- is to beseech a higher power or make a devotion

Before going on duty the Bajoran officer stopped at the temple to pray to the Prophets.

10. weather-whether
Weather- The state of the atmosphere at a particular place and time

The constantly changing springtime weather is driving us crazy.

Whether- Expressing a doubt

Please tell us whether you would prefer Vulcan or Klingon cuisine for dinner.

Witty Wordsmith: Show and Tell

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

One of the most famous openings in English-language literature, Charles Dickens’ classic is quoted by Admiral James T. Kirk after receiving the book as a gift from Captain Spock.

Beyond being a famous quote, this opening passage of a Tale of Two Cities is a noteworthy example of masterful telling, not showing.  But wait… isn’t that the other way around?  We’re all aware of the rule ‘show, don’t tell’ so have we been wrong all along?  Well, yes… and no.

The rule ‘show, don’t tell’ is a critical piece of advice for a writer who is on their journey towards improving their craft.  It’s a reminder for us to progress past the most rudimentary stages of writing.  When you are a child you first learn the beginning art of storytelling by telling other people – often your parents – what happened.  Children need to learn how to tell stories, whether they are factual or fabricated, as one of the basic building blocks of communication.  They start with the act of telling because it is the most straightforward and clear means of getting a point across.  “He took my toy, so I hit him!” is both trying to get your parents to understand your point of view and a very simple story.  These are the building blocks that we start with when we start fiction writing.

Witty Wordsmith: In Character Conflict

Conflict is the bedrock of drama in storytelling.  It is often the most exciting and memorable part about a story.  In a roleplaying game like StarBase 118 it is easy to approach a main mission conflict where your character and your fellow crew mates are pitted against an adversary or problem.  This is the classic us versus other set up; even if the other is not bad nor evil (a common theme in Star Trek stories) the crew is unified against the same problem.

But how do you handle it when your character has a conflict with another character?  Even if you are on the same team, character can have conflicting viewpoints on how to solve the problem.  As simmers become experienced and mature as writers they may also explore more personal conflicts that reflect the complex relationships we see in real life.  But if you are new to roleplaying these conflicts can feel frustrating and overwhelming.  Here are some tips to practice writing in character conflict so it turns into healthy and enjoyable story drama rather than a frustrating out of character situation.

Witty Wordsmith: Get Yourself Involved

You’ve done it!  You’ve graduated from Starfleet Academy, been posted to your first ship, you have your assignment and you’re on your first mission.  Everything is falling into place except… what?  Your Captain just told you that you’re part of an away team to collect a bunch of water samples to see if a new planet is viable for colonization?  But you’re not a scientist, or a medical officer or even an engineer… you’re a security officer headed down to a peaceful planet.  What do you do?

Certainly your team and your ship’s staff will always try plan missions with opportunities for all departments.   But no matter how well planned the missions are, there will always been some missions where your character is perfectly suited for the action and other missions where your character’s skills don’t really fit the main mission.  What do you do when you feel your character is sidelined by their skill set?

Witty Wordsmith: Eavesdropping For Better Character Development

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.

Witty Wordsmith: Action for Plot, Reaction for Drama

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.

Writer’s Workshop: Coffee fuelled sensory description

Keep your descriptions fresh and infuse them with the lexicon of coffee!

The Coffee Tasters’ Wheel is a tool to help professionals and hobbyists articulate the complex flavours and aromas of coffee. There are several variations of the wheel, with World Coffee Research contributing to the latest re-designs. Have a google and pick your favourite one! For most wheels, tasters start in the middle of the wheel and work towards the outer edge, distinguishing the tones and hues of the blend as they proceed. For the enthusiasts among the fleet, the Speciality Coffee Association describe the methodology in a step-by-step guide – all you need is a cup of your favourite roast!

Using errors creatively with “yes and …”

Yes and …” is a technique used in improvisational comedy to create fictional scenes collaboratively. At Starbase 118, we too create fictional scenes collaboratively, albeit in a different medium (writing) and genre (sci-fi). In the case of simming, “yes and …” is more a mind-set than a writing prompt. The “yes” means you take what the other character has written as the given reality – you don’t “shoot it down”, explain it away or ignore it. Instead, you embrace it! The “and …” means you build the scene by adding to the situation. This could be your character’s perception of events or their reaction to it.

This Writer’s Workshop looks at how “yes and …” is a great way to resolve “out of character” (OOC) blunders “in character” (IC) and create additional opportunities to write collaboratively with your crew!

Writers Workshop: Writing Physical Descriptions

Whether you are reading a novel or a sim, visualisation is a huge part of the experience. We allow our minds to imagine the scene we are reading, the descriptions helping to form the pictures in our head. We are fortunate to have an incredibly talented bunch of people who help create images for our characters, but what about side characters – those specific to a mission, or a background character for example? Whilst we may have an idea of how our crewmates look, we may not always know just how those around them look.

In this article, we are going to be looking at how you can improve the descriptions that you write about characters.

Writers Workshop: Simming Wishlists

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.

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