One of the biggest obstacles that we face when we are sitting down to write a sim for our ship within the Starbase 118 Fleet is figuring out a way to really and truly express ourselves. In many ways, we are not just writers; we are artists and architects, building on a story that is given to us with nothing more than a base and certain framework. With the rest of it left open to whomever chooses to add to any given side, it is as if we are painters who have been given a blank canvas. Sure, it has four sides and is ready to receive paint, but what ends up on it will wholly rely on the input that we choose to add.
There is no doubt about it; when we sit down to write a sim we often put a lot of work into it. For that reason, if no other, we want the other people on our ship to actually read the thing that we’ve put so much into. At the same time, you can lead your horse to water, but you can’t make him drink short of shoving it down his throat – something that we just can’t do with our words. Officers on your ship have to want to read the stories that you are weaving together, and that means that you need to know how to write something that will hook them from the very beginning and get them onboard with wherever your bit of the storyline is taking you.
We’ve all been there. You know, there, in one of those moments where you sit and stare at the blank email as if your sim were going to suddenly write itself. With your hands on the keyboard, you stare at your own blank canvas and try to will something creative out of your mind. But alas, as hard as you try, you can’t seem to come up with anything worthy of being grown into a sim. Sound familiar? If it is, then perhaps you just need a simple jumpstart.
It’s only natural for people to try to cover up their weaknesses. We do it every day in fact. By getting organizing and planning, checking the mirror multiple times before leaving the house, and by ensuring we look our absolute best we emphasize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses. But when you’re talking about the art of creative writing, covering up the flaws that we have can actually keep us from meeting our full potential.
There are plenty of members within the Starbase 118 Fleet who really do not consider themselves writers. From command staff all the way down to the newest Ensigns, plenty of officers join not because they enjoy writing, but because they want to immerse themselves into the world of Star Trek. With the lack of recent series, it’s easy to see why so many people want to join in the fun; not only do they get to jump into a world that is both unique and fun, but they also get to have a real and profound effect on that world. At the same time, if you can’t write, just how do you get an entire sim complete?
The realm of science fiction is unique in the fact that it can encompass many things. From futuristic spaceships to the idea that there really are aliens living somewhere out there, reading more science fiction will really give you a sense of what life might be like in many years to come, but it can also give you a very real sense of what might be going on in the now regardless of if anyone really wants to address it. You might be asking yourself ‘what?’ right about now, and I don’t blame you, but as io9 sets forth in their article titled ‘Read Science Fiction to Understand the Things that Mainstream Pundits Won’t Talk About‘, science fiction writing is so much more than just an idealistic vision of the future.
If you’ve ever watched Star Trek, the Original Series, then you know just how they used the science fiction medium to convey real world ideals and to discuss just how absurd things were in those days. From the first interracial televised kiss, to the war between the races who were half black and half white – just on differing sides – we can see just how easy it was to bring reality into the scifi world.
Everyone faces writers’ block from time to time. Even the very best writers out there suffer from the inability to string coherent thoughts together to form some kind of a story from time to time. And when it happens to you, you may not have seen it coming, so dealing with it can sometimes be difficult to do. As such, it is always important to have coping skills to deal with writer’s block just like you might handle any other obstacle that might come up along the way in your day to day life. Don’t have any particular coping skills? Have no fear, for the Literacy Education Online website has a great list of things that you can do to avoid writers’ block.
Writing in the Starbase 118 Fleet isn’t so much about perfect English as it is the feeling and emotional content behind the text. At the same time, presenting the best sims without checking to make sure you’ve avoided making one of these common grammatical errors can not only ruin the piece, but it can make you look a little less than the writer you really are. While some English conventions are made to be bent, mangled, and twisted, other grammatical rules are a little more strict. Breaking them won’t necessarily make your writing bad, but it can significantly take away from the experience that your readers get when they input your contribution to the story.
Of course we all want to excel and send out the very best sims that we can. Avoiding these common grammatical errors isn’t a difficult thing to do thanks to Copyblogger – who has come up with the five biggest grammatical law offenders – along with some helpful information that can help you avoid the error in your own writing.
It’s true that a lot of these errors are made in passing and can easily be found by proofreading your sims, so make sure that you are not only aware of the special rules surrounding these common errors, but also of the importance of always giving your sims one final look over before you hit the send button. It will make your contributions that much better without very much time or effort, making this just one example of something small that has a much bigger scope.
Ever get the feeling that your character has grown more than you originally planned. Have they picked up some kind of personality quirk that you didn’t intentionally create? While we might be in control of our characters ultimately, good writers often lead their characters down a path that may result in hurt and pain, as well as something completely unexpected; growth, depth, and personality. After all, it is only by falling down that we learn and grown. Our characters are no different.
Still, hurting our characters or putting them in a position where they might get hurt can be very difficult to the writer, who ultimately loves their character. We spend countless hours building and designing our characters, so why would we want to hurt them? The answer is simple; no one, realistically, has a perfect life. It is only by the trials and tribulations of our lives that we are given definition and strength. Why should the fragments of our mind, our characters, be devoid of the same thing? Should we not strive to make their lives as realistic as possible, even if it means bringing them pain?
Again, the answer is simple; a resounding yes.
Author and business owner James Chartrand explores this topic more in depth on her blog, Men with Pens, where she dedicates an entire post to pointing out why you NEED to hurt your characters in fiction writing. She stresses the need to not only hurt your characters, but the need to follow them to the depths of the hurt and back again. It might be difficult to do, but the result is well worth the nail biting, edge-of-your-seat, suspense, even if you don’t know for sure if your character will actually make it out alive in the end.
(Thanks to the Duronis 2 Embassy for finding this article!)
In the final segment of Lieutenant JG Blackwood’s Guide to Better Simming, she takes us to a few locations where you can find help if you need it. One of the things that makes Starbase 118 such a wonderful place to sim is the fact that we do have resources and long time members who are always willing to go out of their way to help where it is needed. Whether it is a graphic for your character, or a simple answer to your questions, it is a good idea to know where to go when you need help.
Lieutenant JG Blackwood has compiled multiple locations that provide various answers to almost any question you could possibly come up with. Take a look and keep this list handy so you know you are never alone in character, or out.
5) Where to find more help
Learn by example. Read the Top Sim entries critically and see what it is the others are doing that makes their writing good enough to get nominated. When you read something you enjoy think a moment about what you like about it… good descriptions? humor? respectable technobabble? Think about how you can use this (technique) to improve your own sims.
Have a look at the writers workshop – click in to any of the news articles that seem interesting to get the link to the main feature. There are articles on character development, where to find good, free writing resources and much more.
There are guild forums where you can discuss the joys, challenges of writing for specific things and share ideas – and socialise!
# Guild of Readers – telepathic/empathic characters.
# Lambda Alliance – LGBT characters.
# Guild of Vulcans – Vulcans
You can also get specific help/ideas and inspiration for simming your duty post from various places too!
Duty Post Forums – Meet other people who have the same duty post, share ideas and have some laughs.
Academy Resources – Find out what your duty post responsibilities are, what equipment you can expect to be working with, simming tips and ideas and notable characters.
Duty Post Responsibilities – Links to specific pages for each duty post. For refresher purposes remember there is the Cadet Section of the main website, with drop-down menus leading to a lot of tutorials.
Finally, if all else fails Poke the seniors. (aka department chief/first officer/captain etc.) they are always happy to help where they can.
Read the guide in its entirety on the forums: https://www.starbase118.net/forums/index.php?/topic/6346-simming-tips/