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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.


Writing Alien Species

Writing for an alien species can seem daunting at first, particularly when there are nearly two hundred unique species permitted for use on the Intelligent Life Index (ILI). It can be a highly rewarding experience and a good way to look at the universe in a new way. The latest tutorial, brought to you for Writing Improvement Month 2014 focuses on highlighting the different considerations and things can be done to make them come to life.

As the guide will show, the key to writing for alien species is in knowing the species well. Use the similarities to give them their humanity and the differences to set them apart from humans. There are physical variations from appearance right down to how strong each of their senses are, with some having senses that humans do not such as telepathy, empathy or fielding.

Aliens have their own interesting cultural backgrounds and ideals. Some of these are quite well known such as the Ferengi commercialism and love of making Latinum, the warrior race of Klingons who have a strong sense of honour, or the emotionless Vulcans who are known for their strong focus on logic.

These are some of the things that affect how a character perceives and behaves in the universe. Even if a character isn’t typical of the rest of their species to have a deep understanding of the species makes it easier to see and work out how, why they vary from the mould. It makes it possible to explore alien characters on a deeper level. Read the full tutorial to see how to write more convincing aliens.

Even More Character Questions!

Last year, we bombarded you with 25 questions to really get you thinking about your character. This year, the list is a little shorter but more in depth – just how much thought has gone into your character and where can you flesh them out more? It’s always great to see well-rounded characters aboard ship and, quite often, when there are a group of them all in one place they have a tendency to develop themselves! Have a read through the questions below and answer them as honestly as possible. If necessary, ask your character to help you! Once your PC has gone through the gauntlet, throw your PCs at it too and see what happens!

1. How would your character sum themselves up in 3 words or less?

2. How would you sum up your character in three words or less?

3. What are your character’s immediate goals? Why do they have those goals?

4. What are your character’s long term goals and why?

5. Why did your character join Starfleet? What do they hope to get out of it? Are they career driven? Do they want to see new sights? Is there something else that motivates them?

6. What characteristics do they appreciate in other characters? Who are they likely to make friends with?

7. If they are confrontational… why are they confrontational? In what circumstances could you see that changing? If they aren’t confrontational, what would push their buttons to make them reach that stage?

8. What is your character’s biggest weakness? Are they aware of it? Does that weakness hinder your crew in any way, or is it more personal?

9. How do you think the other writers on your ship see your character? Have you asked them for their opinions?

10. Do you have any plans for character development that include other characters aboard your ship? What are they? Have you spoken to the appropriate writers about them?

11. What changes do you have planned for your character? How do you plan to see them grow over the next mission/6 months/year?

12. If your character was an acquaintance or friend of yours in real life, what would you think of them and why?

Blood, Fire and Wine- The DNA of a Klingon

This month’s article of “How To Think Like An Alien” focuses on Klingons. As the reader will notice, many of the steps in playing an alien race are going to be nearly the same from one species to the next, at least when we consider carbon based humanoids like ourselves. But once we cross into non-carbon based life forms, it starts becoming difficult, since in reality, we can’t relate to such a being. There are well known beloved beings in the “Trek Verse” that fall into this category. They regularly showed up on screen to be a thorn in Captain Kirk’s side. They were as much a mystery to the viewers as the Vulcans, though often times, had a far less developed backstory. It is only recently that we saw more depth added to their culture through television episodes, movies, and book mediums. Of the many species involved in the Trek world, this is very true of the notable Klingons.

The Wonderful World of Personal NPCs

We asked the leaders of our Fleet to share some insight into what and how they write. This Writer’s Workshop is part of this special subseries – designed to help everyone from fledgling officers, to those with lots of experience, enjoy all that Starbase 118 has to offer. A special thanks to Fleet Captain Toni Turner for sharing her thoughts on Personal NPC’s.

As a prolific writer, I found waiting 36 to 48 hours for others to respond to my Primary Character, sometimes boring, so I often used a name from my ship’s NPC list as a supplement, giving them a personality to my liking. There’s nothing wrong with doing that, but I found that another writer would come behind me, changing my quirky version of the character into something tame. It was then I found the wonderful world of Personal NPCs, which meant that I no longer had to worry about someone changing its personality, because I was the only one allowed to write for the character.

Playing a PNPC is a great way to explore additional avenues of writing, and write more often without overwhelming other members of your crew, but there are right ways, and wrong ways, to delve into them. Ultimately, you will find that there are generally two steps to success.

Step One:
Select a species, rank (usually one rank lower than your PC), a suitable name, and personality for your character, and then ask yourself, “Can I effectively make the character believable?” If yes, continue to the next step.

Step Two:
Before introducing your PNPC into the sim, it’s important to introduce it to your Captain. Captains can help to choose a department that has need of another character to round out a department that is lacking enough personnel. Some captains even have “rules” governing their use, such as your PNPC cannot be in the same department with your PC. This prevents one person from dominating an entire department.

Once having gained approval for your character, you’re free to make the character’s debut.  “Break a leg!”


Need an Idea of What to Write? Use a Plot Bunny!

There were plenty of ideas behind the episodes that made up the Next Generation series, and now, you can get a generic view of those ideas and put them to work for you. Whether you are looking for something cool to write about, or something that will help you get over your writer’s block, here are quite a few ideas that can help you get started!

Star Trek NextGen Plot Bunnies

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

Writer’s Workshop: The Tone in Your Writing

All you have to do is read a few different sims or a writing challenge entries from members of the Starbase 118 Fleet to see that each and every officer and member has their own style. That style can manifest in a variety of ways, but perhaps the most pertinent, and the one we see most often, is something we know as the tone of their writing. From dark, to comical, each writer here sees a scene from a perspective all their own. Using that perspective, they strive to convey things from the point of view of their own character. And over time, we come to know, and love (or hate) that persona.

Without the tone that inevitably conveys a steady character, regardless of whether the character themselves is actually steady or not, characters never quite become real. It takes time to develop your tone too, which can be frustrating at times. Thankfully, there are plenty of writers out there who are willing to share their experience and knowledge. Take, for example, this article on Tone. Not only does it explain more about what it means when someone talks about this seemingly ambiguous term, but it also offers some help on developing your own.

Why is it important? One of the pinnacles of every character is the moment where the being we created on a piece of paper steps from the shadows to become something more than a two dimensional thing. Developing your style, and your very own tone, is perhaps one of the most important steps towards the goal of truly bringing your character to life. So take a moment and read, learn, and grow, using your own voice to nurture your characters until they too step off the page and into memories.

Writer’s Workshop: Adding Depth to Your Character

Some writers find it challenging to know when and how to add depth to their characters. It can be easy to stay too focused on the present, acting and reacting to current events and dialogue, while neglecting to show WHY your character should feel or behave that way. When your audience has a better understanding of your character’s background and belief system, it adds more power to almost any decision that character makes and allows for more impact and meaning in your writing.

Everyone had a different technique, and like with most creative art there’s really no wrong way to do this. Here are a few different methods you can use to add character depth, tailored specifically to the nature of SB118’s simming format:

1. Back Story/Flashback Sims

There may not be a more effective method than doing a good, ol’ flashback sim. You can just step away from present events and take us back to a formative moment in your character’s past. This requires a bit more narrative writing than the usual back-and-forth, tag-and-respond simming we do with our shipmates. You are entirely responsible for the cause and outcome of your sim, so you may need to put more forethought and even create an outline for how you want the sim to go before writing.

So you want to SIM a fight scene….

Writer's WorkshopThroughout my years as a SIMmer, this has always been my Achilles heel. Maybe because I am so used to writing in a certain way, I always found my character’s fight scenes to be way too drawn out. Most fights don’t last for very long. Consider for a moment being caught offgaurd and being hit from behind. You are still conscious, but your primary focus is on what just happened. Not the starry skies, not the blooming flowers, but on your present situation of what just happened to you, and either seeking out reasons why, or retaliation. In order to illustrate the difference between a good fight SIM, and a great fight SIM, I’m going to use a SIM of mine written a few years back and edit it in front of your eyes.

Fight scenes shouldn’t just happen. We all don’t just go to school and work everyday and happen to get into a fight with someone. There should always be reasoning for the fight. It should relate to the overall SIM in some fashion. In the following SIM, the reasoning is that my character entered a holodeck sword practicing scenario. An attack was imminent. It was why she was somewhat prepared for it. Here is the original SIM:

Being a Better Storyteller

Writers Workshop4Starbase 118, and the sims we write, are more than just actions for characters within the Star Trek realm; they are stories woven with words that give others on our ships, and throughout the Fleet, insight into a story. By participating in the act of simming, we are, at the very core, storytellers. Our words can take our fellow officers to new places, they can show others new things, and they can present new and old ideas in a way that is unique to our own insight.

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