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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: Tricky Definitions

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

~The Princess Bride

Our language is full of words that get used incorrectly more than they get used correctly. Maybe they sound similar to another word; sometimes they have an obscure meaning or grammatical pitfalls. This month we will be looking at a few words that are commonly misused both in the mass media and in our own writing. By picking them apart you can give yourselves some mnemonic hooks to use them correctly and even find ways to incorporate them into your character’s vocabulary!


Like the words decimal and decagon, the deci- at the beginning of decimate implies a power of ten. The literal definition of this word is to ‘slaughter one of every ten’ but the more accepted definition is to ‘destroy a portion of the whole.’  This is a noticeable but not overwhelming portion. If you want to say ‘every last thing was destroyed’ opt for a word like massacre or annihilation.

Writer’s Workshop: Twelve quotes from Authors to Remember When Starting Your First Book

In writing like in any skill it is always important to find little ways to improve. Sometimes it’s even easy to do then in big broad strokes. One of the easiest ways to do that is through the advice and help of those who have been there before. Now while there is no guarantee you can easily and readily tap into the knowledge of the worlds greatest authors there are some great places you can go to find some little shots of knowledge. As a result that is what I bring to you today. This is a neat little article that gives some insight into how to handle being a writer. From F. Scott Fitzgerald to Michael Crichton even including a few words from Issac Asimov on the subject, the article provides some good tips and hints as well as insights to remember in order to survive as a writer.


Writer’s Workshop: How to Be a Better Writer

writing-ideas-originalThe title of this article might have captured you, and now you’re expecting a magic formula on how to write better, or how to make your sims the best the can be. Unfortunately, that’s not quite how it works. Writing, like all things, requires practice and repetition that can take years. Even then, it can be difficult to master the art of writing, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t improve over time.

Character Creation: Avoiding Mary Sue

So, you need a character — and you’ve heard that you want to avoid creating a “Mary Sue.” But what is a Mary Sue character? She can be  wish fulfillment on the part of the author, presenting him- or herself as an idealized individual without noticeable flaws. Then, too, there are Mary Sues with enormous flaws or an outrageously disastrous past that moves the character from tragic to saccharine. Mary Sues are often highly unrealistic in experiences, abilities, and their interactions with other “normal” characters around them; many are far too young to have amassed the experience for their job, like a 15-year-old bridge officer or a Jedi Master. Mary Sues are often identifiable, too, by their unusual looks: unnatural hair or eye color described in more detail than what the story needs, almost as if those attributes were characters themselves. Mary Sue isn’t always a female; as a male, the character is often known as Gary Stu. Gary Stus are similar to their female counterparts, but will often protest that he has too many girls chasing him around.

The name Mary Sue originated in 1973 with a Star Trek fan fiction whose central character was named Mary Sue. The original Mary Sue was smart, sexy, and was a bridge officer at the tender age of fifteen; Kirk, McCoy, and Spock were infatuated with the character in an impossibly short time. The most notable Mary Sue/Gary Stu to Star Trek fans is Wesley Crusher, named for and designed by Gene Wesley Roddenberry.

But now that you know what a Mary Sue is, how do you avoid it? There are a few tips that you can follow to help avoid the pitfalls of a Mary Sue. And even if your character’s not in danger of Mary-Sue-dom, following some of these tips can make your character even better.

Vanquishing Those Silly Grammar Monsters

There are a lot of different things that go into writing these days, especially since we have limited space and time in which to create a compelling and inspiring scene using only our words. We must find ways to weave words together to create pieces of art, and the understanding of what our characters do and react to lies in our ability to convey those scenes in our sims. As we begin to paint our pictures though, it is important that we consider the way we use words; it’s a fact that difficult to read sims or sims full of grammatical errors can be less powerful simply because readers are sidetracked. Yet, at the same time, some errors are both common and easily fixed.

Getting the best out of our writing isn’t something that you should have to spend hours working on, but when it comes to these 15 Grammar Goofs, learning the difference can make a difference in your writing. From the dreaded you’re/your type homonyms, to words whose meanings often are confused with each other, this handy infographic can help you learn the difference while keeping it stuck in your mind for the future. Ultimately, avoiding these errors can actually make your writing that much better, while helping you to create something even more powerful and inspirational than you know.

The Setting of Simming: Invoking Imaginations

One of the most important aspects of any sim is the setting that you create for the events you are simming about. While some people might argue that the action is much more important, it is vital that the action take place in a location that makes sense. At the same time, the scene is also one thing that often gets overlooked when a writer is guiding their character through any event – whether it is something calming or something action packed.

For this reason, because it is so often left too vague, or out entirely, this week’s Writer’s Workshop focuses on setting the scene in your sims. Using strong characterization to let your audience know where your character is and what’s going on around them, as well as their own actions and reactions that are not expressed verbally, is important if you want to invoke the imagination of your readers. Regardless of what rank you hold, painting a picture for those who read your sims can make yours stand out and offer others inspiration for sims of their own.

Unsure of how to go about this process? We’ve found one site that helps walk you through some of the intricacies of scene setting. Take a look at this article on how to Create A Vivid Setting and put some of these tips to work in your next sim.

Writing Tips for Modern Writers

Everyone wants to write sims that give insight and provide entertainment to the people who are reading them. While we all enjoy writing for our characters, ultimately, we also enjoy seeing our audience enjoy what we’ve written. To accomplish this seemingly small feat, however, can sometimes be difficult, even for those of us who have been writing our characters for a long time. We all run into the pitfalls of writing from time to time, which is why we should each take a moment to refresh our minds with some of the tips that history’s best writers have left for us.

It’s important to note that, as the world moves into a more digitalized state, there are fewer and fewer writers out there. Most communication lacks the passion and depth that existed in writing before the computerized age, which leaves much to be desired in most types of written communications these days. Thankfully, there are some gems, tips left behind by the world’s greatest masters of literature, that can help you make your sims, and any other writing that you have, that much more powerful. Check out this article from PickTheBrain.com on the Art of Writing and see what you can’t incorporate into your next sims.

It’s All in the Details

One might argue that the world we write in, and the world our characters live in, is pure fiction, but the reality of it is that it all rests in the details that you provide. Think about it; a good book always sets the scene and provides enough pertinent detail of the characters in question to give readers the ability to paint pictures and see images in their minds. Almost like a movie, the details allow entire scenes to play out and characters to come to life, which can not only inspire, but can leave a reader wanting more.

Since the story we weave here at Starbase 118 is perpetual, that’s just the kind of reaction we want. What’s that mean? It means that we can’t afford to ignore or leave the details out of things, especially if we are trying to help others learn what it means to be a part of one of the epic stories we create. But figuring out the details, and what details are important can be difficult. For those of us who don’t quite consider ourselves writers, it can seem almost impossible. Thankfully, this article on Details can help you find just what you need when you want to create a real world that pops out and evokes imagination and emotion in your readers. Keep this advice in mind and you will soon see the difference that including these details can make in your sims.

Adding Excitement to Our Sci-Fi Realm

While we certainly aren’t writing the scripts for the next Star Trek series, we still want our stories to be every bit as powerful and exciting as each episode of the series we loved so much were. Though it’s not something we can expect from every sim we come across, it is something that each of us should work towards as we add to the stories that our ship is weaving. Whether you are creating a new addition to the mission plot, or you are adding in something of a more personal nature, making your sims more exciting is something that everyone on your ship can benefit from. But how do you do it?

The last thing we want is to provide a batch of bland sims to those we share a list with, which is why we should all take a moment to read this article – Writing Tips to Make Science Fiction Stories More Exciting. Not only does the author provide some solid tips that we can employ fairly easily in our writing, but he also has experience with Star Trek. Avoiding pitfalls involved in writing science fiction can be difficult, at times, but if you strive to inject your story with excitement, you can really come out with something amazing.

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