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Witty Wordsmith: Leadership in action (words)

You did it! You just got that second (or third) pip, you gained the confidence of your CO and are the shiny new assistant chief or chief of the whole department. Are you ready to order your fellow crew and NPCs around? For some players and character this is a big step. Going from being the person following the orders to the person giving the orders is a whole new world of writing skills to explore.

If you’re having some trouble with making this shift or if you’re frustrated that other players aren’t following directions in game, consider how you are presenting orders to them. The language that you use to give directives to fellow characters – especially PC characters – will have a direct effect on how your fellow players respond. Your orders can be precise or open ended. They can be flexible or dictatorial. We’re going to look at how these styles of language can affect how others view your character’s leadership style and how other players react to your in game orders.


The Science in Science Fiction: Seismic Activity

Am I the only one holding five tabs next to my half-written sim to add science jargon and try to explain what is going on while still abiding to the laws of nature or am I just not made to be a science officer? Our lovely characters have had years of training at the Academy, but, sadly, we have not! So there is a gap between what our characters know and what we know. Let’s try to make that gap smaller, starting with: seismic activity.

Normal circumstances
Planetary layersUnder normal circumstances, a class M planet would look a bit like this from the inside. The crust would be divided in plates, which we call tectonic plates, and would drift on the mantle. The friction between plates, so at the fault lines, build up and when the stress becomes too much, it suddenly moves, aka seismic activity. In these areas also volcanic activity is very common.


The Fun of Worldbuilding

Worldbuilding is a cornerstone activity for writers and gamers alike. Without it, our characters would not have a place to live or props to tell stories. This short primer will show you how to make a basic planetary concept with just a few basic ideas.

One of the first places to consider starting is with a species, then a planet, and then possibly their language. You name them, then design small aspects of each of them.

With species, start with the basics and get a clear vision of them in your mind. This can be anything from skin tones, eye colors, legs, arms, hair colors, and if they have unique abilities such as tremor sense, telepathy, or empathy. Are they a matriarchal or patriarchal society? Do they value gender equality? Do they have deities? What is their main cultural focus, like music, education, art, mining, etc.? Once you have these, you can move on to creating their planet.


Witty Wordsmith: Devil in the Details

Narrative. Exposition. Telling.

These concepts get a bad rap in writing circles because all too often an overly long and boring narrative can put an audience to sleep. But we need narrative in fiction – whether that’s a simming post or a fiction novel – to communicate setting and character details to the reader. Narrative is the glue that binds the story together and prevents the reader from being confused.

One of the best ways to get great narrative in fiction and simming is through clever use of details. But, with great power comes great responsibility – details have the potential to turn a boring narrative into a great one but they can also turn to the dark side and drag a narrative down.

So how do you use details hone your narrative skills to create exposition that your fellow players want to read?  Here are a few tips to work with:

Start With Details.

“He grew so big that 42 axe handles plus a plug of tobacco could fit between his eyes”

From: Collected Tall Tales and American Folklore

Adding detail to a narrative makes it seem more realistic to the reader. General description in narrative is boring and easily forgotten, but adding little details (such as the plug of tobacco in the quote above) gives the reader something to focus on and visualize in their mind. When describing a scene or character, a few details can really make the narrative memorable. Consider the following two examples:

Doctor Brusher was a pretty woman in a medical coat. She was very nice.

vs

Doctor Brusher’s brilliant red hair stood out against the teal of her medical coat. She turned and offered me a welcoming smile.

The first one is very bland. Doctor Brusher may as well be a mannequin in a labcoat rather than a doctor. In the second one the reader gets a few details to help them picture the doctor, such as the color of her hair and how it contrasts with her uniform. Adding some details to your narrative can really help it communicate, but we’re about to talk about one of the downfalls of details…


Saturday reading: How scriptwriting dialogue is essential in simming

With the official release of Star Trek: Beyond in theatres and announcement of Discovery as the title of the new television show, there’s a lot of new Trek in the air. For all the initial praise the movie and show have received, they had to start somewhere. That’s where scripts come into the picture. A good script can make or break a show or movie. Good scriptwriting has a lot in common with good simming. That’s why this post from the BBC’s series on scriptwriting essentials, focusing on dialogue, is just as important for us as for scriptwriters.

Indeed, dialogue is a common feature of both formats. Who doesn’t have a favorite line from a character, or love the tone or inflection of a character? Dialogue is an essential aspect to creating a good character, whether for a movie or for your own sim. Do you want your character to speak in clear, perfect and precise English phrases every time they talk? Do they have a particularly Vulcan style of logical rhetoric? Maybe they don’t use contractions, like Data in The Next Generation.

However you portray your character in your sims, remember, “Great characters have an identifiable voice.” Can you imagine if Spock had used long, rambling sentences? Or if Sisko didn’t refer to Dax as “Old Man”? How different would their characters be? Their dialogue is an intrinsic part of their character.

The same principle applies in your simming. Your character interacts with others through their dialogue. What they say is as important as what they do, if not more so. Writing consistent dialogue for your character helps bring them to life for you and the rest of the fleet. If your character is normally taciturn and quiet, it will be out of character if they suddenly give a long speech. Remember that when you’re responding to tags or leaving some of your own. Each character in the fleet has their own, unique voice. Use your character’s dialogue, not just your action prompts and thoughts, to bring out their voice.

Head over to the Writing Improvement forum to talk with other players about how you write dialogue.


Witty Wordsmith: With Great Resources Comes Great Writing

Ok, so maybe that’s not how the famous Spiderman quote goes, but have you ever found an article that was so great that you just had to share? This one happens to be a fantastic piece of advice for both beginning and experienced writers alike.

Charlie Jane Anders published advice on 11 Ways to Write a Character-Focused Story that Still Feels Action Packed over on i09 and it’s one of the best pieces of advice for simmers that we’ve seen in a long time. While the author is focusing on her struggles in writing her latest novel All The Birds in the Sky, she describes the balance between character development and pulse-pounding action. This combination is a simming nirvana that many games struggle to reach.

Anders’ article throws the conventional wisdom that stories can really only focus on either plot or character out the window and argues that great stories focus on both. Then she gives aspiring writers 11 great pieces of advice on how to do just that.

Whether you are just starting out simming, are looking for some new inspiration or want to hone your writing skills so you can move up in rank or maybe write a novel of your own someday this is a great article to check out. Once you’re done reading, head on over to our Writer’s Workshop forum and join the discussion. You can tell others what your favorite part of the article was, and whether you’ve used any of these tips in your own writing!


Witty Wordsmith: Roleplaying the Lone Wolf

We see the character archetype in movies, books and comics all the time – the solitary loner who’s too tough, cool or tormented to keep the company of anyone but him or herself. It’s a favorite of fiction writers because it allows an author to focus on the motivations and character journey of just one character while all others fall into the background; however in a roleplaying game like SB118 the lone wolf character is frequently a frustrating disruption to the game. A book or movie can choose to focus on a single character or an ensemble cast; but a roleplaying game must focus on an ensemble group of characters. Because the game is comprised of multiple players portraying unique characters, the best roleplaying stories focus either on shifting action that allows all characters to get involved or encompassing action where all characters work together.

Either way, the majority of fun in a roleplaying game comes from character interaction – whether you are working together to accomplish a goal or simply building relationships with the characters around you. A ‘lone wolf’ character can feel disconnected from the action (and therefore the fun) of the game; or they could fall into the danger of ‘grandstanding’ – which is when one character overshadows all the other characters in a scene, stealing the spotlight at the expense of others. These are two things we very much want to avoid in games because they create animosity and frustration between players.


Sci-Fi Writing Tips

You’ve got a fantastic idea for a new character or background. It’s so brilliant, and so obvious now that you think about it, that you wonder why someone hasn’t thought of the idea before. Or maybe you’ve got a fantastic new direction for your ship’s plot that you’re just dying to try out. You’re all set to create a bio or write that development. But take a moment first to think if that’s the best move.

We all want to write brilliant, engaging stories that make both readers and writers want to become even more engaged. Characters are what drive stories, and stories and what allow characters to grow, change and develop. The two work in tandem to create good fiction. But no matter how seasoned a writer you are — whether you’re writing your first sim or short story or you’ve spent decades perfecting your craft and have countless published novels — there are some important tips to remember for creating that good content.

Thankfully, the good folks over at OngoingWorlds provide 12 useful tips.


Witty Wordsmith: Building Character Through Action

“You gotta walk the walk before you talk the talk” – it’s a popular idiom that holds a surprising amount of truth and good playing advice for simmers.

It is tempting in a script-based RPG to focus on only the dialogue you write, however your character is developed through actions, not dialogue.  Any character can say they can fix a warp core breech – but the character that actually runs into the engine room with a toolkit gets the glory at the end of a mission.  Simming is all about what your characters do to influence the story, making the number one job for every player: to do stuff.


Witty Wordsmith: Developing Great Characters

So your bio is filled out and submitted.  You have a great picture to go with it and even picked out the perfect name.  Now you need to move that character to the (electronic) page.  Or maybe you’ve been playing the same character for years but need to get the spark back into them.  For every simmer in the game, your character is your window to the story, and this article will present some advice on how to make a competent character into a great character that your fellow players will remember for years.

Once you have the bio and concept for your character done, your character exists only in your mind.  The challenge is getting that character written in a way that engages your fellow players.  The first step is to let everyone see your character’s point of view, and our simming style provides a great foundation for this.  Focus on really re-writing the action you see posted by the other characters in your character’s point of view.  Put their spin on it, and let your fellow players know what your character is thinking and how they are reacting to what is going on.


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