User:Alucard vess/Sandbox4

From 118Wiki
< User:Alucard vess
Revision as of 02:27, 28 May 2016 by Alucard vess (talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Looking After Grammar

Written by Fleet Captain Diego Herrera

You’ve read through grammar tutorials and you’ve even dusted off those English books from your school days. You are a veritable grammar king! Or are you? Do you really have that black belt? Can you string two subordinate clauses together with a chain and use them as lethal weapons like Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon? And if so, do you make the same noises as he did.

Let’s hope not, especially if you type up your SIMs in a public library…

There are many pitfalls and stumbling blocks that are easily avoided by familiarising yourself with certain rules, examples of which are provided below. Some may look finicky (come on, you know you love finicky) but when they’re the difference between entering a writing challenge or the top SIMs competition and walking away with a victory under your belt, you’ll be glad that you took the time to brush up!


Sci-fi writing creates a range of difficulties when it comes to choosing whether or not to start a word with a capital. You have ‘Bajoran’, ‘Engineering’, ‘Commanding Officer’ and a variety of other things that are just waiting to throw a hyperspanner in the works. Fortunately, there are some handy conventions that can help you to keep your nose clean. Take a look below!

Alien Races

Whenever you refer to a member of an alien race, use the same rules as you would for nationality, which requires a capital letter. If someone hailed from Germany you would say:

“He is German.”

It’s the same deal if someone mistakenly thinks you’re drinking plome’ek soup when in fact your evening meal hails from a different Federation founder world‘s culture:-

“It’s actually Tellarite cuisine.”

Always use a capital! Of course, with rules come exceptions and this rule is no exception to the, er… rule. If you’re talking about Terrans, use a capital, but humans? Always lower case.


“Commander, I’ll be in Engineering.”

You will! ‘Engineering’ is a proper noun in this case, the name of the ship’s engine room. Notice it’s not the name of the ship’s Engine Room. If you’re using the title of a place name, such as ‘Ops’, ‘Engineering’, ‘Sickbay’ or ‘Ten Forward’ then you use a capital. If your location needs ‘the’ before it then you don’t in most cases, such as ‘the bridge’, ‘the observation lounge’, ‘the transporter room’. If you can put a ‘my’ in front of it then you’re also likely to be looking at lower case: ‘my quarters’.

Ranks and Duty Posts

Here’s where it gets a little more complicated. If you’re talking about ‘lieutenants’ and ‘chief engineers’ then you sometimes capitalise and you sometimes don’t! How can you tell? Well, this is the exact same rule as when to use, or not use, a capital letter for ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’!

If you’re addressing someone by their title or rank, or stating your rank as if it’s a name, use a capital:-

“I think I’ve found something, Captain.”

“You should probably ask Lieutenant Johnson.”

“I’m Kathryn Janeway, Commanding Officer of the USS Voyager.”

“I’m going to tell Mom!”

In all other cases, use a lower case letter. In some cases you might be using ‘the’, ‘my’ or ‘a’, which will give you a heads up:-

“I think I’ve found the captain.”

“You should probably ask the lieutenant.”

“Kathryn Janeway is the commanding officer of the USS Voyager.”

“I’m going to tell my mom.”

“How many ensigns does it take to change a light bulb?”

Using Commas for Subordinate Clauses

There aren’t many hard and fast rules for using commas by themselves and it can often come down to a matter of style. However, subordinate clauses need to be marked off with commas if you want your sentence to be understood the way you intended. Sometimes the meaning can be changed by omitting commas, or it can become ambiguous, or it can just look difficult to read. Here’s an example:-

He walked out into the snow although it was cold enough to numb his feet to collect his mail from the mailbox.

Without punctuation, that reads as a little stilted and it’s difficult to process. Some people might have to read that twice to get the sense behind it. With commas it becomes much easier.

He walked out into the snow, although it was cold enough to numb his feet, to collect his mail from the mailbox.

What we did there was mark off a subordinate clause, which is a part of a sentence that could be removed entirely without compromising the sense of what we’re trying to say, with commas. I did it again in the previous sentence! Suddenly this is everywhere! Below, so that you can see I’m not just making this up, is the example sentence with that whole clause removed (yes, I did just do it again!):-

He walked out into the snow to collect his mail from the mailbox.

Correctly marking off these subordinate clauses is what enables you to accurately write complex sentences, so it’s worth giving it a try!

The Dreaded Semicolon

The dreaded semicolon is a piece of punctuation often avoided because quite frankly what is it for? The answer is that it exists purely to save you time! This helpful and good natured little beastie can be deployed to join together two sentences that directly relate to one another (one might be explaining why something’s true in the other, for example), or it can join together two sentence fragments that would normally be linked by ‘but’ or ‘and’, or something similar. Here are some handy examples:-

He listened intently but there was nothing to be heard.


He listened intently; there was nothing to be heard.


Several members of the coalition decided to set a reverse course and head home in the knowledge that they were heavily outgunned and regrouping was the better option.


Several members of the coalition decided to set a reverse course and head home; they were heavily outgunned and regrouping was the better option.

Forcing Good Habits: Halting and Avoiding "All Dialogue" Sims

Written by Fleet Captain Kali Nicholotti

While it might come easy to some people, writing and including exposition and characterization in your sims isn’t always the most cut and dry thing. It doesn’t always flow naturally, and for those who struggle with this aspect of ‘better writing’, it can be frustrating to improve when you aren’t quite sure how.

Don’t worry though; you aren’t the first, and you won’t be the last to have this problem. Plenty of people play this game not because they are writers, but because they have a deep love for all things Trek, and the appeal of writing for a character of their choosing, in a world largely designed as we go, yet based in something we love, can be pretty strong. As an open group, Starbase 118 makes it a point to include everyone we can, but it’s obvious that some sims simply invoke more feeling and offer deeper insight than others.

So how do you join the ranks of the writers of such sims? Here are a few tips that can help force your hand into penning more epic words in more amazing structures, leading to sims that invoke feelings, paint mental images in everyone who reads them, and in general, help inspire your crewmates.

Force of Habit

You might be told over and over again to include characterization in your sims, but if you aren’t sure where to start, or what to include, it can be hard to build this kind of habit in your writing. In this case, it’s a good idea to follow this simple rule:

For every three or four lines of dialogue, include a descriptive block.

It might sound too structured, looking at it now, but ultimately, what you’ll be doing is forcing your mind – and your fingers – to build the habit you are looking for. Sure, it means you might have to go back through your sims, or stop mid-sim, to really think about what you might include, but when the sim is done, it will be of higher quality and more inspirational than the one you were going to originally send.

Regardless, make sure that you force yourself to do this for a couple of weeks. After a half dozen sims, you’ll start to notice that it will get easier and come more naturally. Before long, you’ll wonder how you ever wrote before.

The Scene, Character Thoughts, or Movements

Still not sure what to write about in your descriptive blocks? Generally, you’ll find that the blocks of text between the colons in a sim will include one of three things:

  • Text describing the scene around the characters, such as the color of the walls, the foliage, the smells, the light or absence of, how heavy the air might be, or a million other things that explain how the environment around your character looks. This kind of exposition can also include the description of events as they occur. (IE –  ::The ship exploded on the screen into a million tiny points of light that rivaled the very stars beyond.::)
  • The thoughts that are going through your character’s mind, that aren’t included in thought bubbles. Yes, thought bubbles are used for ‘real time’ thoughts, but descriptive blocks can be used for a kind of reflection your character might be having. (IE – ::She sat back and pondered the idea of what to have for dinner. Certainly steak was one option, but would her guest approve?::)
  • Movements your character is making in response to an event, something in the scene, the other person or people they are interacting with, or even as a result of something they did themselves. (IE – ::He turned and covered his eyes as the ship exploded to shield himself from the blinding light.::)

Mixing these three things is generally what happens, though, so if you can react to an event in a descriptive and make it seem as if it were really happening, or at least convey to other readers vividly what is going on, then you’ve met with success.

In Time

When your Commanding Officers and others around you ask for more, or you read the sims of another writer and wish you could invoke feelings and imagery like they can, don’t get frustrated. Like all skills, developing your writing skills can take time. The point of setting up definitive rules, like in the beginning of this tutorial, is to force yourself to do something until it becomes a habit. In time, you won’t need to stop and look over your sims to count lines of dialogue before you send a sim in.

And remember, no matter how far you might be in your writing development, there are always resources and help available to you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your commanding officer, command staff, or other crewmates. You might be surprised just how eager your fellow writers are to share information, hints, tips, and experiences. Not only will you gain new perspectives, but you’ll be building up your OOC connections at the same time. Keep this in mind and making your sims better will end up being simpler than you ever imagined.

Writing Alien Species

Written by Fleet Captain Renos

Writing for alien species can seem daunting at first and a lot of people may choose to write for a human because it’s more familiar to them, particularly if it’s their first character or they’re new to writing or roleplaying. This is a perfectly acceptable approach but this guide aims to explore some of the fun you can have and ways you can approach writing for an alien species.

If this is something you’re interested in, the first thing you need to do is choose which species you‘d like to write for. With nearly two hundred permitted species on the Intelligent Lifeform Index, finding the right one might seem a little overwhelming at first. Of the species listed some names are going to jump out more than others. Species like Bajorans, Andorians, Trill and Ferengi are immediately familiar because we’ve all seen them on the TV or read about them in the books or comics. These are generally a good starting ground, particularly if you have a favourite that you want to explore or want a well-established race.

The benefit of using a well-established race is that it gives you a lot of information to work with from the species’s home planet to their culture and society. This means you don’t have to come up with everything yourself and you have resources to draw upon. Some people are drawn to the lesser known species for that exact reason however and look at it as having a blank canvas. It can be a lot of work developing a species and there can be a lot of details to work out and keep track of over time which must be kept consistent. There can be a lot of reward in creating something new that can be enjoyed by the whole group. There’s no right or wrong answer but what you choose depends on what you want to achieve and experience when writing for an alien species.

Once you’ve chosen your species you should find out as much as you can about them. Physically, what do they look like; do they have any distinguishing features such as Trill Spots, Klingon ridges and dreadlocks or Andorian antennae? Do they have additional senses such as empathy, telepathy or fielding? If so how does this affect the world around them. It can be fun to pick up on other characters’ thoughts from time to time or find an object by fielding it.

Even if a species doesn’t have additional senses the ones we are familiar with may be stronger or weaker than we’re used to as humans. How would a character with a poor sense of smell and taste appreciate food? Perhaps they would be more interested in how the food is presented and the texture of it than then smell and taste. What are their senses like and how does it affect the way they perceive their environment?

How do they express themselves? Andorians do not use their faces to express themselves and smile only in the company of those they are particularly close to. Their antennae move independently and apart from being a sensory receptor are used for expression. So if they are angry you won’t see a frown or a scowl, but their antennae will sweep back. Vulcans have a very subtle way of expressing themselves too and tend to avoid touching others where possible.

What are their speech patterns like? Vulcans will tend to speak in an even, emotionless way and refer frequently to logic due to their cultural beliefs. A Klingon will be more passionate when talking about matters of importance to them such as honour. One of the most immersion breaking things can be to have an alien routinely using common human expressions. While each cadet will have spent four or more years at StarFleet Academy and having plenty of exposure to humans you can expect them to at least understand some of them. That said, they’re also exposed to a number of other species with their own phrases and sayings, not to mention the fact that they would have their own. Avoiding well-worn phrases in favour of creating something different would be much more fitting.

Finally, consider where they come from. Were they born on their species home planet or other colonised world? Know what the species culture and beliefs are like. Are they an arty creative people with a love of expressing themselves, or perhaps more driven towards developing new technologies and ways of thinking? The more you know about what the species is like in general terms the more you can decide how much of that they go along with and where their opinions might differ and, if so, why. Your character doesn’t have to be typical for their species but the deeper your knowledge and understanding of the species the more you can work out where the differences are and why, helping you to build a richer and more interesting character.

Advancing the Plot

Written by Rear Admiral Andrus Jaxx

The biggest part of simming is developing our characters. They are 60% of the stories we write. When looking at our favorite Star Trek episodes, it is easy to appreciate the plot that the writers have come up with. What drives the show is the actors and how they adapt to fit the role they are playing. Would Jean-Luc Picard be the same man if he were played by Avery Brooks? Would Scott Bakula have been able to sell the dark side of Captain Benjamin Sisko? The character is key to any story, but they cannot do it alone. While characters are the most important part, they are only highly developed ideas until you give them a world to live in.

Star Trek has followed many different formats. When we look at Star Trek: The Next Generation, we see a loose timeline that is followed throughout the series. It allows the viewer to miss a week, or twelve, and still know what is going on. For the most part, the plots for TNG were singular and did not rely on you watching last week. Things were a bit different with Deep Space Nine and Voyager. They had long term story arcs, and if you missed a week you could be missing out on references that you would not get. Let’s look at the Kazon in Star Trek: Voyager. They appeared in fifteen episodes, what happens if you missed the first few?

The key to good storytelling is keeping the plot interesting. We have all seen some episodes of Star Trek that start to get dull for a bit in the middle. It even makes some of them appear as if the writers took some extra time to add more ‘meat’ to the script, to fill the time slot. The good news is, we do not have to do that when we write for our characters.

We have an empty canvas each time we set out on a mission. Sure, there is a base concept of what is going on, or a problem that needs handled, but who is to say what will happen during the mission? You are. It is easy to see the problems each department faces during the mission, and finding a way to fix each problem is exciting. Have you ever had a plot that was like playing a game of Whack-a-Mole? You solve one problem, only to be faced with another…and then another.

Creating challenges for each other will keep a plot and moving forward. Ever see a department that did not seem to have a problem? Give them one! Maybe the science department is using the sensors to survey some local systems, but they keep getting strange readings that don’t make sense. It would only make sense to bring in the engineering and tactical departments to help make sense of it. You spotted an issue, what will they create? It is a great way to flesh out ideas that you have been thinking about.

While it can be complicated to know when there is too much going on, if everyone is simming and having fun, that is the goal. Some captains have deadlines on how long they like their missions to last. Some like to hit 6-7 missions a year, running 6 week missions with 2 weeks for shore leave. Other captains shoot for 8-10 weeks per mission. And there are always ships that continue on until the mission comes to a natural close. You have a good idea of how long your missions tend to last, so as everything is winding down it is not the best time for an epic plot twist…or is it?

As long you keep the story from becoming stagnant and you continue to sim and tag your ship-mates, you will be able to score storyline gold. Try not to make the plot all about your character, but about the ship and the crew alike. Some of the best ways to advance the plot are to create problems for others to solve, and sitting back to watch them squirm.

In the end, remember that the goal is for everyone to sim 3 times per week. If some people are having a hard time meeting that, you need to keep one thing in mind. Have you ever heard the saying, “The show must go on!” and thought it could apply here? It does! It is called, “The plot must go on!” Give them 48 hours and then move on. This will keep the collective group moving in the right direction. The last thing you want is half of the ship in the past.

The story is what you make it. Push the plot forward, but make sure it is interesting enough to involve other simmers. When you follow that simple rule, everyone will be motivated to write more, and you will be sitting on the edge of your seat, just waiting to see what will happen next. Those plots are the best plots.

General Writing Q&A With Margaret Wander Bonanno

2013 Writing Improvement Month Event

<!FltAdmlWolf> ** We’re about to get “officially” started. I’m going to put the room on Moderated status in just a minute. This means you will NOT be able to send a message to the room until you are “Voiced.” When you’re voiced, you’ll see a + next to your name in the list of users in the room.
<!FltAdmlWolf> And there we go! If you want to ask a question, you can click on DiegoHererra’s name in the user list, or you can message him, like so…
<!FltAdmlWolf> >> /msg DiegoHerrera your message here
<+MWB> Hi, everyone! Ready whenever you are. 🙂
<!FltAdmlWolf> Once he knows you have a question, he’ll Voice you in the room, and you’ll be able to ask it.
<!FltAdmlWolf> Our esteemed guest, Margaret Wander Bonnano is here, under the user name “MWB” 🙂
<@DiegoHerrera> Hi Margaret! On behalf of Starbase 118, I’d like to say a huge thankyou to you for agreeing to join us for a Q&A tonight. 🙂
<@DiegoHerrera> We’ll see what we can do about fixing you a curry!
<+MWB> 😀
<!FltAdmlWolf> Margaret is a published Star Trek & scifi author, You can find her list of books here:
<@DiegoHerrera> OK – I think it’s time to open the batting. 🙂
<@DiegoHerrera> Our first question: When writing for a character or group of characters over an extended period of time (up to and including novel length), what do you think is the best way to keep them interesting?
<+MWB> I do flashbacks. Hint a little in Chapter 1, then drop a “When he was a child, he…” in a subsequent chapter. That kind of thing.
<@DiegoHerrera> So slowly reveal information about them instead of letting it all slip in one go?
<+MWB> Sprinkle little bits about the character through the narrative is I guess what I’m saying.
<+MWB> Oh, yeah. Don’t want to get bogged down in a whole lot of narrative at the beginning.
<+MWB> Just tease a bit.
<@DiegoHerrera> Good advice, thanks. 🙂
<@DiegoHerrera> Our second opener: If writing for an inhuman character such as an alien or monster, how would you go about communicating that inhuman quality in writing?
<+MWB> Good one! Depends on just how alien it is. If it’s *really* different, start with the physical stuff. For instance, I’m fascinated by sea creatures. Created a species of telepathic jellyfish in *Preternatural* and tried to see the world through their eyes (or non-eyes, as happens to be the case). Did the same for a species of giant intelligent earthworms in *Unspoken Truth*. Start with the physical differences from humanoids, and try
<+MWB> …you try to do it through dialogue. Think of the number of times Spock has made bemused observations about human behavior. That’s really what aliens are about – holding up a mirror to what fools these humans be. 😉
<@DiegoHerrera> Great! 🙂 I can imagine that writing for a race of telepathic jellyfish must have been quite a challenge!
<+MWB> Give you an example: When I was a kid (See how I did that?) I inherited a bunch of old storybooks from a babysitter. One was a collection of fairy tales from Czechoslovakia. Real Grimm-type stuff, not the Disneyfied version…[more]
<+MWB> One story was about a princess who’d been kidnapped by a witch, who steals her eyes. Stumbling around the cabin while the witch is away, the princess finds a chest full of eyes, and starts trying them on…
<@DiegoHerrera> (Definitely not Disney!)
<+MWB> The first is a pair of eyes stolen from a wolf. Through them the princess sees a world that’s blood red and fraught with terrors. She takes the eyes out.
<+MWB> The next pair of eyes is from a fish. The princess sees the world as if underwater – dark and full of horrifying sea creatures ready to eat her. She throws them aside…
<+MWB> Finally she finds her own eyes. That’s all I remember of the story (the princess probably kills the witch a la Hansel and Gretel, but that wasn’t important to me). The part about “seeing through another’s eyes” was what stuck with me, and that’s what I try to do…whether it’s an alien or an atypical sort of human. 🙂
<@DiegoHerrera> That’s a fantastic example and a really good insight into how to tackle writing from another perspective. 🙂
<@DiegoHerrera> So, let’s open the floor!
<@DiegoHerrera> Our first question is from Alleran Tan (Alex_Richards, stand by!)…
<+AlleranTan> Hi Margaret! 😀 My question is: Do you have a specific style guide you follow, or any particular style you adhere to or recommend? For example, I don’t capitalise the word “Human” if there are no other species in the story, but I do if there are (e.g. Toralii, Kel-Voran, Human). Just to muddy the water some more, I don’t capitalise ‘human’ or any other species/race in my fantasy work at all (orc, kobold, human). What is you
<@DiegoHerrera> I think chat ate some of that- What is your preference is the question, I think. 🙂
<+AlleranTan> Ahh, it came through for me. Oops. Note to others: post shorter questions. 🙂
<+MWB> Good question! I don’t think I’ve ever capitalized Human, though I would probably capitalize “Earther” if and when I used it.
<+MWB> And of course I adhere to the Pocket guidelines when it comes to Vulcans, Klingons, etc.
<@DiegoHerrera> Guidelines laid down by the publisher, is that right?
<+AlleranTan> My understanding is that it’s the difference between common noun and proper noun, since “wolf” and “fox” aren’t capitalised, but say, Timber Wolf is.
<+MWB> Yes.
<+AlleranTan> But I know author preference does play a part in it all.
<+MWB> Probably right, AlleranTan.
<+AlleranTan> Cool. 🙂
<@DiegoHerrera> Alrighty, thanks Alleran!
<+MWB> And for my original aliens, I tend to make up silly names.
<@DiegoHerrera> Do you have a method for doing it?
<+MWB> Well, the name for the giant intelligent earthworms is Deemanot, which is an acronym for – wait for it – nematode.
<+MWB> Oops, I meant “anagram,” not “acronym.”
<@DiegoHerrera> I see! So based on a scientific term. 🙂
<@DiegoHerrera> Sounds like a good way of picking names that make sense.
<+MWB> Yep. Then there were the jellyfish in *Preternatural*…
<+MWB> …their name for themselves is S.oteri. If you pronounce the “S” as “ess,” you get ess-oh-TER-ee, as in “esoteric.”
<@DiegoHerrera> I love it
<@DiegoHerrera> We often have to create alien races for our collaborative writing here, so that approach will come in handy for our writers. 🙂
<@DiegoHerrera> You ready for another question?
<+MWB> Yes, please!
<@DiegoHerrera> OK, this one is from Alex_Richards (stand by Kali!)
<+Alex_Richards> Hello Margaret. When writing, I often find myself relying heavily on dialogue to set a scene rather than descriptive text/exposition. [more]
<+Alex_Richards> My question is twofold. First, how would you advise someone in my situation to be more inventive with their exposition, and second, what do you fell [more]
<+Alex_Richards> is the right balance between dialogue and narrative text?
<+MWB> The answer to both, IMO, is: When you’re done, read it aloud. If the dialogue conveys the information you want it to, but also sounds as if it is real people talking…[more]
<+MWB> …then you’ve succeeded. You want to avoid the Victorian melodrama effect of the maid stepping downstage to tell the audience what’s going on…[more]
<+MWB> The same thing with finding the balance between narrative and dialogue. You’re wise in understanding that too much narrative can read like a lecture, and you want to avoid that…[more]
<+MWB> …but, again, when you’ve finished a scene that’s a mix of narrative and dialogue, try reading it aloud. You’ll know if it “sounds.” 😉
<@DiegoHerrera> Do you find reading aloud is a good way to run a self-edit as well? I.e. to pick up on any grammatical anomalies etc?
<+MWB> Definitely. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve found typos, words omitted, or general “WTF were you thinking????” glitches in my work. It’s a sad fact that you can’t always proofread your own text, because the eye sees what it wants to see.
<+MWB> So reading aloud helps there, too.
<@DiegoHerrera> Great. 🙂 Thanks, Alex!
<@DiegoHerrera> Next question is from KaliNicholotti!
<@KaliNicholotti> Hello Margaret and thanks for coming! My question is this…
<@KaliNicholotti> How do you motivate yourself to write, especially when you don’t feel especially like writing? Have you ever had to force yourself to just sit and write?
<+MWB> LOL – it helps to have a contract and a deadline, as in “You’re getting paid for this. The clock is ticking. Get on with it!” Then again, sometimes the work itself just pesters you to get done…
<+MWB> Right now I’m working on something on spec. No contract, no money, just tinkering with an idea. And I’ll be in the middle of something else entirely, when I have to grab a pen and scribble a thought on the edge of a crossword before I lose it.
<+MWB> Generally, if you want to write, you’ll write. If you don’t, you’ll make excuses. And some days it’s better to just tidy a closet or work in the garden. 😉
<+MWB> Hope that helps, Kali.
<@KaliNicholotti> Insightful, thanks! =)
<@DiegoHerrera> Awesome! 🙂 Our next question is from Vie!
<+Vie> Firstly, welcome to the chat today – thanks for coming! I’d like to ask how you approach writing for an established series – Startrek for an obvious example – do you research the existing material first and draw ideas from it? Or do you come to it with an idea and see how that could be explored within the context of the existing material? Thank you in advance.
<+MWB> Trek is actually the only media tie-in I’ve done (though I’d love for there to be a series of nuBSG novels. Ron Moore, are you listening?), and I have the advantage of being hooked on the Original Series since the beginning. In some ways I know these characters better than some people in my Real Life…
<+MWB> …however, when it came to mixing in characters from several series, as in *Catalyst of Sorrows*, I had to go back and rewatch episodes and read other novels (and the reference books – they’re very helpful)…
<+MWB> Because readers will catch you out if you make mistakes, so you have to be extra, extra careful!
<+MWB> But, yes, research is essential regardless of what you’re writing. It’s just that with Star Trek it’s fun as well! 🙂
<@DiegoHerrera> Gotta watch out for those canon hawks!
<+Vie> Heh, good point, and I heartilly agree. Thank you.
<@DiegoHerrera> Thanks Vie!
<@DiegoHerrera> Our next question is from Captain Vetri!
<+MWB> Canon hawks – there’s a term I’ll remember!
<@Vetri> A pleasure to h
ave you with us, Margaret 🙂
<+MWB> 🙂 <@Vetri> A science fiction story may well include a protagonist from a very different culture to the one they are operating in, even if they are otherwise quite similar to those around them…
<@Vetri> What sort of methods would you use to convey some of that, without letting it overpower the rest of the narrative?
<+MWB> I think it goes back to the “through someone else’s eyes” thing I mentioned earlier, because it’s not limited to science fiction and actual from-another-planet aliens…it can be anyone in a strange situation…
<+MWB> I think a lot of people become writers – or artists, actors, etc. – because they feel out of place in so-called “normal” society. It’s tapping into that and saying, “Okay, how would I feel if I were the only member of my species on this world?” that’s a good place to start.
<+MWB> Or just think of how you felt in a strange situation, Vetri, and work from there.
<@DiegoHerrera> Good advice. 🙂 Thanks!
<@Vetri> Thanks, indeed 🙂
<+MWB> 🙂
<@DiegoHerrera> Our next question is from Leo Handley!
<+Handley> Hello Margaret, thank you so much for coming! Leading on from an earlier question, do you have any advice for someone pitching a novel idea to a publisher that is set in the Star Trek universe? Are there any problems with writing for your own characters in an established (and copyrighted) universe?
<+MWB> Best advice I can give you there is to check the publisher’s website: I’m not sure what their current policy is regarding Trek novel submissions, but I can tell you it’s never been easy…
<+Handley> Thanks 🙂
<+MWB> Basic rule has always been: You must have published something else first. Generally for any kind of publishing in the U.S., you’ll need to have representation through a literary agent.
<@DiegoHerrera> Sounds tough! Get scribbling, Leo! Our next question is from Karynn Brice!
<+MWB> And in recent years, Simon & Schuster/Pocket have undergone some “downsizing,” so that makes it even more challenging.
<+Cmdr_Karynn_Brice> Thanks for joining us Margaret. Have you ever gotten bored with a Character that you’ve written for a long time? If yes, what (if anything) did you do to make it interesting again?
<+MWB> Wow, never thought of that, Karynn! If it ever did happen, I’m sure I could think of a creative way to kill them off…unless, of course, they’re one of the Star Trek regulars, in which case I could just not include them in most of the scenes.
<@DiegoHerrera> Blacklist!
<+Cmdr_Karynn_Brice> lol. Thank you, Margaret.
<@DiegoHerrera> The next question is from Hutch!
<+Hutch> Hi Margaret and thanks again for joining us today
<+Hutch> When writing a novel, how far ahead do you plan? And how much detail do you get into at that stage? Do you leave room for your characters to do the ‘unexpected’ if the story calls for it?
<+MWB> If I’m under contract (the usual case), I’ll have had to submit an outline, and that serves as a road map to keep me from getting lost (not saying it doesn’t happen, but at least I have a template to get me back on course)…
<+MWB> But characters do have a tendency to try to go off on their own, and sometimes you can argue them back to your POV, but other times you may as well see where they’re going to take you.
<+Hutch> That’s something I tend to find!
<@DiegoHerrera> I know I do!
<+MWB> Characters often have better insights than the author. Sounds crazy, but it’s very often the case.
<+Hutch> So you “go with the flow” but use the synopsis as a guide?
<+MWB> They’ll smack you upside the head and say “Look, I’d never do that, okay?”
<+MWB> Exactly.
<+Hutch> Excellent, thank you very much!
<+MWB> Because the outline may be 10-15 pages, but you’re building a 400-page manuscript around it. 😉
<+MWB> You’re welcome!
<@DiegoHerrera> At this point, I’d like to make an announcement if I may…
<@DiegoHerrera> Thanks, Hutch for your question – we’ll be taking one from Alex Matthews in just a second, after which we’re going to pause questions momentarily…
<@DiegoHerrera> ...because someone is going to win a copy of Preternatural! 🙂
<@DiegoHerrera> So… with that on the horizon, Mr. Matthews, take it away!
<+AlexMatthews> Margret thank you for coming, My question has been asked already, but how do you combat the witers block?
<+MWB> I’ll do something mindless. As I mentioned, housework, gardening, or taking on a project like painting the living room – something where your hands are busy, but your mind is floating loose. And sometimes I find, at least, that I have to just wait…
<@DiegoHerrera> Good advice – hope that helps, Alex!
<+MWB> I’ve always envied writers who can write pages and pages every day. I’m lucky if I get 1,000 words on a really good day. And sometimes you get stuck in one of those “Okay, what happens next?” situations, and you really have no clue…
<+MWB> I’ve tried tinkering, tossing it out, tinkering again, tossing that out, tearing my hair out, banging on the walls. Finally, you just have to walk away. Do something else, anything else, and the exact thing you need will sneak into your peripheral vision like a cat peeking around the furniture, and you’re saved!
<@DiegoHerrera> Not to mention the housework gets done! 😀
<!FltAdmlWolf> As promised, we’re now going to draw to see who gets a copy of Margaret’s book, “Preternatural”! Thank you to everyone who participated today. Margaret is going to continue answer questions for a few minutes until she has to go, so stick around 🙂
<!FltAdmlWolf> I did the equivalent of putting everyone’s name in a digitial hat — added you to a spreadsheet — and then had a random number picker pick a line. The winner is…
<!FltAdmlWolf> Lt. Anora Manar of Duronis II Embassy!
<!FltAdmlWolf> Congratulations, Lt. Manar. Please email me at so we can arrange delivery 🙂
<@DiegoHerrera> Congrats Anora!
<+MWB> Yay!
<@DiegoHerrera> While our lucky winner celebrates, let’s take our next question, from Arden Cain!
<+Arden_Cain> It’s great to have you here Margaret. How do you avoid placing too much of yourself into the character/s that you are writing. For example, my character here, has morphed into a partial reflection of my real self (history to an extent, personality traits and the like)
<+Arden_Cain> even though it wasn’t my intent in the very beginning. How do you prevent situations like this to ensure that your characters are all fresh and unique?
<+MWB> Hmm, good question. Depends on what I’m writing. There may be one character who’s most like me, and I’ll go out of my way to make some things as *not* like me as possible. With Trek, that’s easy, because I tend to identify most with the Vulcan characters, and as anyone who knows me can tell you, I am *not* always in control of my emotions. 😀 [more]
<+MWB> OTOH, the *Preternatural* trilogy was built around a protagonist who’s almost completely autobiographical…except that Karen’s in touch with telepathic alien jellyfish, whereas I’m not. Or am I? 😉
<@DiegoHerrera> LOL!
<+Arden_Cain> 🙂
<+MWB> So if you *want* the character to be recognizable, pull out the stops. If not, then tinker with things. Make your character a different gender. Try a different age, hair color, ethnic background, etc.
<+Arden_Cain> Thats good advice, thanks
<+MWB> 🙂
<@DiegoHerrera> Thanks, Arden!
<@DiegoHerrera> Next up is T’Mihn!
<@DiegoHerrera> (Bear with us – T’Mihn has been having some keyboard issues!)
<+MWB> Standing by…
<!FltAdmlWolf> Computer, please locate LtJG T’Mihn Ah’my’gahn 😛
<@DiegoHerrera_> Sorry about that folks
<@DiegoHerrera_> Tagging in Anora, will come back to T’Mihn
<@DiegoHerrera_> What’s your question, Anora? 🙂
<+AnoraManar> Hey Margaret, thanks so much for taking the time to be here today and answer all of our questions. It’s greatly appreciated 🙂 I tend to constantly find myself in the same problem over and over again. I always have problems starting my writing. I have a middle and end, but I can’t ever work out the beginning. Any advice on how to tackle that problem?
<+MWB> Happened to me once. I began in the middle of a novel, wrote it to the end, and by then I’d found the beginning. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the beginning to mesh with the middle without a major rewrite of the middle, so I wouldn’t advise trying that – LOL…
<+AnoraManar> Sounds like a plan. I have an outline of ideas all the time, but never seem to have a beginning to put with them though
<+MWB> How about this: Ask yourself why. Why are you writing this? Why does this story want to be told; why are these characters rattling around in your head? Maybe see if you can work backwards from “this is where they ended up” to “this is where they started.” Maybe that will work.
<+AnoraManar> Thanks 🙂
<+MWB> If all else fails, “Once upon a time…” 😉
<@DiegoHerrera_> The old faithful 🙂
<@DiegoHerrera_> Thanks Anora!
<@DiegoHerrera_> Our next question is from Jalana!
<+Jalana> Hello Margaret, thanks for being here, great to have you 🙂 Earlier you’ve spoken about alien characters and seeing through their eyes. Though if you do not write from their viewpoint how do you remind the reader of their unique features without getting repetetive? Do you have a trick for that for us?
<+MWB> Little descriptors might help. “He tilted his head before he spoke so that his antennae could pick up the others’ voices…” “Like most of her species, her rapid heartbeat could be seen pulsing in her forehead…”
<+MWB> Not all the time, but start with a full description, then abbreviate it as you go along. “Her forehead pulsed…” Or use bits of dialogue from the non-aliens. “Can you believe those extra thumbs? I was trying really hard not to stare at her hands…”
<+Jalana> Ah yes, good ideas. Thank you 🙂
<@DiegoHerrera_> Thanks Jalana 🙂
<@DiegoHerrera_> To be honest, people comment about my extra thumbs when I attempt to do the gardening 😉
<@DiegoHerrera_> Hehe. 🙂
<@DiegoHerrera_> Our next question is from Silveira!
<+Silveira> Good evening Margaret, thankyou for coming. Now as one of the non native english writers I admit some times I have trouble “translating” in english what I really mean to say. Any tips to make it easier?
<+MWB> That’s a tough one. Probably the more you expose yourself to conversational English – in public places, conversations with friends, TV and film – the easier it might become. Quite a challenge all the same, and you’re courageous for doing it! 🙂
<@DiegoHerrera_> We’re lucky to have quite a few members for whom English is a second language!
<+MWB> Also, reading. The more contemporary [good] fiction you can read, the better.
<+MWB> Diego, maybe your group can draw up a reading list of well-written fiction to help your ESL members.
<@DiegoHerrera_> That’s not a bad plan at all. 🙂
<+Silveira> Thanks. It is sometimes harder to find the best english translation to some more popular portuguese expressions. <@DiegoHerrera_> Idioms are always tough to translate!
<+MWB> Very true.
<@DiegoHerrera_> I’ll contact you directly as well, Silveira if you’re OK with that – I’m a linguist so I might be able to help. 🙂
<+Silveira> That would be perfect Diego. Thank you.
<@DiegoHerrera_> Awesome!
<@DiegoHerrera_> Our next question is from Marcus Dickens!
<+Dickens> Hello, as others have said, thanks to spend some time to talk with us. It’s a great oportunity specially for us non-english speakers. When you write about a scene, do you prefer for the scene to lead the characters actions or does the characters with their personality develop the scene?
<+Dickens> I mean, you prefer them to be drawn by the circumstances or that they force those circumstances
<+MWB> Great question! Other writers have different techniques, but my stories always begin with the characters. My very first Star Trek novel, *Dwellers in the Crucible* began with the thought “What if the Kirk/Spock story was told from the POV of two female civilian characters?” The story just evolved from there.
<+MWB> First you ask: Okay, who are these people? Then you explore what sorts of situations they might find themselves in, based on who they are.
<+Dickens> Quite interesting thought. So you don’t like your characters be forced to a scene or situation where they can’t get out?
<+Dickens> or better than like, don’t tend to drive them there?
<+MWB> Oh, on the contrary, I love putting my characters into tough situations, because that shows what they’re made of. Will they be brave, self-sacrificing, resourceful, or cowardly, selfish, sneaky?
<@DiegoHerrera_> Thanks, Marcus. 🙂
<+Dickens> I’ll have it in mind. Thanks again for your time
<+MWB> Sure! 🙂
<@DiegoHerrera_> Do you have time for 2 more questions, Margaret? 🙂
<+MWB> Yes.
<@DiegoHerrera_> OK, Dueld taJoot, the floor is yours!
<+Dueld_taJoot> Thanks for helping us out today. My question is this:
<+Dueld_taJoot> I find I end up using the same physical shorthand over and over, constantly focusing on characters’ eyes and eyebrows, mouths and shoulders. I’m afraid it will become some kind of kabuki caricature, which will jar readers into thinking about my lack of technique, rather than about the story.
<+Dueld_taJoot> Have you ever found yourself relying too much on some motif? What did you do to find alternatives? Alternatively, what, if anything, has helped you expand your own mental Stock Footage Archive of body language and expression?
<+MWB> Wow, tough one! Because I do the same thing, especially around eyes and hands. One trick is, after you’ve finished the entire manuscript, do a Search and count how many times you’ve used the same or similar description (“His hazel eyes danced with glee..”) and either find another expression, or just delete the descriptor altogether.
<+Dueld_taJoot> Smart. 🙂 Thanks.
<@DiegoHerrera_> Find and replace!
<+MWB> The magic of computers!
<@DiegoHerrera_> Thanks Dueld 🙂
<@DiegoHerrera_> Haha, yes!
<@DiegoHerrera_> Our final question is from T’Mihn!
<@DiegoHerrera_> Take it away! 🙂
<+T-Mihn> thank you for joiningnus.:)
<+MWB> 🙂
<+T-Mihn> In character creation, is it normal for them to take on a life of their own different from the original plan? As if he/she had become a living breathing person?
<+MWB> Oh, yes! I’ve had outright battles with some of my characters. Character: “You want me to put my life in danger here? I don’t think I want to do that.” Me: “It’s in the outline. Don’t be so stubborn.” Character: “Easy for you to say! You’re sitting there at your desk, and I’m the one who’s out the airlock. Nope, not doing it!”
<+MWB> Most times you let them loose and see where they’re going. Sometimes they’re like balky children, and you have to be the Responsible Parent…
<+MWB> “Listen, I’m the Omniscient Author here, right? I’ve got my finger poised over the Delete button. Don’t make me do this!”
<+T-Mihn> lol. yep. as for the putting thwm i character building situations. they hate it after its done. they might forgive you.;)
<@DiegoHerrera_> “Don’t make me set my telepathic jellyfish on you!”
<+MWB> LOL…oh, you have no idea what those jellyfish are capable of!
<+T-Mihn> hehe.
<+MWB> But, yes, eventually we do forgive each other. 😉
<@DiegoHerrera_> Thanks for your question, T’Mihn!
<+MWB> Yes, thanks! Great questions, everyone! I’ve had a blast here!
<!FltAdmlWolf> Thank you, Margaret!
<@DiegoHerrera_> That concludes our Q&A with Margaret Wander Bonanno – Margaret, we’ve had a blast too and I’d like to thankyou once again on behalf of Starbase 118 for coming to talk to us!
<!FltAdmlWolf> And the moderation is off, so everyone, please feel free to thank Margaret. Don’t forget to check out her books at
<@FltCapt_ToniTurner> We’re pleased that you came today. Thank you 🙂
<@Vetri> Thanks again 🙂
<Jalana> Thank you so much for coming Margaret 🙂
<Handley> Thanks for a brilliant chat 🙂
<Cmdr_Karynn_Brice> Thanks Margaret!!
<Tracey> Thank you 🙂
<Alex_Richards> Thanks a lot for taking time out to speak to us Margaret 🙂
<@KaliNicholotti> Thanks again! =)
<@FltCapt_Jaxx> It was great having you, thanks for coming! 😎
<AlexMatthews> Thank you very much
<Reinard> Thank you very much for your time, tips and advice. Very informative and enjoyable session.
<Silveira> Thank you for putting up with us 😉
<Arden_Cain> I had a great time, thanks for coming today Margaret!
<T-Mihn> Im glad Im not nuts . I guess making a character so real they come aive is a good thing.
<Vie> Thank you for comming to our little enclave of… ..moderate sanity.
<+MWB> Wow, thanks, everyone! See you ’round the galaxy! 😀

Writing Q&A With Melinda Snodgrass

2014 Writing Improvement Month Event

[13:16:03] <@Diego_Herrera> So, Melinda, officially, thank you hugely for coming to chat to us on behalf of everyone at UFOP: Starbase 118!
[13:16:14] <+ScriptBabe> Happy to be here. You guys are fun.
[13:16:42] <@Diego_Herrera> Thanks! 🙂 We’re glad to have a chance to share in your expertise again!
[13:16:57] <@Diego_Herrera> I’d like to get the ball rolling with a quick couple of questions that we may or may not have preplanned… *shifty eyes*
[13:17:12] <+ScriptBabe> So how can I help? And I’m ready for Shifty. 🙂
[13:17:25] <@Diego_Herrera> The first of those being – what approaches do you use to make your narrative and descriptive passages involving?
[13:18:25] <+ScriptBabe> Well, for starters I find description agonizing to write. It’s why I much prefer writing screenplays. I have a set designer for all that. So, knowing I’m terrible at it and don’t like it I try to make sure I have 3 of the five senses mentioned and acknowledged in every scene.
[13:19:07] <+ScriptBabe> Touch is one that people frequently overlook, and it’s a useful tool. How does that paper towel feel against your fingers.
[13:20:09] Danielle [] has joined #wim2013
[13:20:15] <+ScriptBabe> On to narrative. Are we talking plot and structure? How do you define narrative?
[13:20:41] <@Diego_Herrera> For the purposes of our group, anything that isn’t dialogue, so scene scetting, description of actions, that kind of thing. 🙂
[13:21:34] Tommy_Gunn [] has joined #wim2013
[13:22:20] <+ScriptBabe> Okay. Damn I wish we could talk. This may be a bit rambling. I enjoy writing action scenes and I generally approach them as if I’m writing for Jackie Chan. What can I put in the room that can be used in interesting ways for this particular action sequence.
[13:22:42] <@Diego_Herrera> You ramble away! It’s all valuable 🙂
[13:23:30] <+ScriptBabe> There should have been a question mark at then end of that sentence. Doh! Anyway, the other thing I ask myself is “What does this scene actually do in the book or the movie? Does it move the plot forward? Present a new problem? Explicate character? If it doesn’t do one of those things then it probably doesn’t need to be there.
[13:24:47] <+ScriptBabe> One of the best lessons you can learn as a writer is how to “kill your babies”. The other sad fact is that a scene you absolutely love, love, love is probably a terrible scene.
[13:26:14] <@Diego_Herrera> Good advice!
[13:26:16] <+ScriptBabe> Gozar the Gozarian has just landed in my lap which is going to make it super fun to type. And not actually the demon — he’s one of my cats.
[13:26:34] <@Diego_Herrera> If he would like to answer a question then we’re up for that ^^
[13:26:48] <+ScriptBabe> Sure, ask away.
[13:27:22] <@Diego_Herrera> So, following on from the initial question, and as you’ve mentioned you like writing in the script style you’re the most awesome person to ask – you just wrote a scene that’s too dialog heavy. What do you do?
[13:27:42] <@Diego_Herrera> (To Gozar OR Melinda!)
[13:29:52] <+ScriptBabe> Gozar has left in disgust. Puny mortals. To answer. When it’s a script I’m very aware that four lines/sentences is about the right length for dialog. If you find you’ve got more than that it really better important or an impassioned speech of some sort. When I’m writing dialog in a book I try to keep it West Wing short and snappy, a tennis match with the conversational ball bouncing back and forth between the characters. Long speeches
[13:30:26] <+ScriptBabe> over. don’t know why that word didn’t finish
[13:30:52] <@Diego_Herrera> Gozar ate it!
[13:31:09] <+ScriptBabe> As for a scene being too dialog heavy. I love dialog so I don’t think that’s ever a problem assuming what is being discussed is interesting.
[13:31:30] <@Diego_Herrera> Do you represent characters’ internal thoughts as you go along?
[13:31:57] <+ScriptBabe> What I really hate even more than description is internal dialog which you often have to have in a novel. I tend to keep it to a minimum. (And you are a mind reader because I was typing this while you typed the question.)
[13:32:09] <@Diego_Herrera> Hahaha! I am! Well known for it 🙂
[13:32:40] <+ScriptBabe> Sometimes I just make the internal dialog obvious and let the characters say the words unless it’s going to ruin a big plot point.
[13:33:18] <@Diego_Herrera> So they make their internal thoughts clear through what they’re saying. 🙂
[13:34:02] <@Diego_Herrera> Our next question is from Kali: Do you ever feel like you can’t do more with a character?
[13:34:20] <+ScriptBabe> Yes. or even better with what they _do_. That whole showing not telling thing which can also become annoying if done in excess. Sometimes there is nothing wrong with a simple declarative sentence telling people what the heck is going on.
[13:34:49] <@Diego_Herrera> Agreed!
[13:35:32] <+ScriptBabe> I suppose so. You write about a character because they are experiencing the most important moments in their lives. Once that is past is there really more story to tell? Maybe not. Some writer’s will say, “that person’s story has been told.” That was the case with Tachyon in the Wild Card books. His story is done.
[13:36:34] <+ScriptBabe> Now if conditions change or a new problem arises then that person’s story can start again, but they have to be different when you come back to them. Characters do need to have “arcs” despite that becoming a silly cliche in Hollywood.
[13:38:00] <+ScriptBabe> Another one?
[13:38:11] <@Diego_Herrera> Absolutely! Got em racked and stacked here –
[13:38:18] <@Diego_Herrera> The next question is from Amanda
[13:38:41] <+ScriptBabe> Racked and stacked, just like missiles. 🙂
[13:38:51] <@Diego_Herrera> You mentioned Wildcard just now and she is a fan. She would like to ask: “One of my problems in my writing is I feel like I don’t create very good plots. How do you keep your plots from falling flat?”
[13:38:55] <@Diego_Herrera> Indeed!
[13:39:01] <@Diego_Herrera> (These hurt less than missiles though!)
[13:41:05] <+ScriptBabe> One hopes. It’s the photon torpedoes that really sting. If I’m not passionate about a story/plot then it will feel flat. I’ve never really had that happen because I have always wanted to tell that particular story. Now there are points along the journey when things get dull. What Walter Jon Williams calls Kansas/Nebraska scenes. Dull and flat, but they have to be there or the plot won’t make any sense. What you do is look forward to
[13:41:19] <+ScriptBabe> Ugh. Why you’re tell this story. Why does it matter to you.
[13:41:56] <@Diego_Herrera> So if you’re not feeling it, it’s maybe not worth writing?
[13:42:02] <+ScriptBabe> And always remember. The events you are writing about are the most important events in your character’s life. How will it affect them?
[13:42:38] <+ScriptBabe> I think that’s true. Readers and viewers know when you are phoning it in, when you aren’t sincere in what you are saying
[13:43:14] <+ScriptBabe> I never try to jump on a band wagon or write what’s popular. I write the stories I want to tell.
[13:44:11] <@Diego_Herrera> On a related theme – Reinard asks, do you have any advice for people who find it difficult to write dialogue?
[13:45:31] <+ScriptBabe> Say it out loud as you write it. I look like a crazy person in my office. I speak all my dialog aloud. Another good trick is to have friends read it aloud and you listen. Now that doesn’t mean you want ti to sound just like real conversations with the ums and uhs thrown in, but you want it to flow and to be succinct, but still sound natural.
[13:46:28] <+ScriptBabe> Remember every word you write needs to have a reason to be there. Even dialog. If the person is hedging and talking to cover for something else you need to craft it so that’s clear to the reader/viewer.
[13:47:25] <@Diego_Herrera> Awesome 🙂
[13:47:49] <@Diego_Herrera> Leo HP asks (while we’re on dialogue) – is it difficult to get your characters to sound different when they speak?
[13:49:48] <+ScriptBabe> Yes, that is hard. Especially in scripts because a first reader at a studio reads hundreds of scripts and they read very quickly so they may not notice the change in name. In novels there’s nothing wrong with Jane said, John said. It helps anchor your readers, but it’s nice when readers can tell the difference without the cue. Now, that doesn’t mean you want to write in dialect. Never, ever do that. Only a few masters like Terry Partc
[13:50:37] <+ScriptBabe> accent made it hard to understand her, or something like that. I really dislike seeing Pleeze ow are you?
[13:51:01] <@Diego_Herrera> Do you find that makes it difficult to read?
[13:51:31] <+ScriptBabe> The other trick I use is that I listen to people talking in cafes and restaurants and malls. I try to imitate the cadence of their speech patters.
[13:51:49] Thanks for advice. 🙂
[13:52:13] <+ScriptBabe> I do, and I think you run the risk of throwing someone out of the story if they are looking at all your fake accents. They’re not being swept into the narrative. You also run the risk of looking racist or insensitive.
[13:52:22] <@Diego_Herrera> I have both hands on the dumb stick as I say I never thought of listening to people!!
[13:52:37] <@Diego_Herrera> Very good points
[13:52:56] <+ScriptBabe> Proudly hold that dumb stick high! Writer’s are terrible eavesdroppers. 🙂
[13:53:15] <@Diego_Herrera> I have a new mission for Saturday mornings >:) Ready for the next question?
[13:53:30] <+ScriptBabe> I have lifted entire dialog from some person seated at a table next to me. And yes, go with the next question.
[13:53:42] <@Diego_Herrera> (Just let us know when you need to go – can’t remember how to do the maths between my timezone and yours!)
[13:53:50] <@Diego_Herrera> Haha! Best kind of thievery!
[13:54:08] <+ScriptBabe> No problem. I will let you know. And let’s try to work out this tech glitch. I’d love to just talk to all of you.
[13:54:20] <@Diego_Herrera> Velana would like to know your opinion on whether or not it’s better to go with self publishing or traditional publishing when your novel is complete!
[13:54:24] <@Diego_Herrera> (No problem, we will!)
[13:55:50] <+ScriptBabe> I am not a fan of self-publishing, particularly for new writers. The number of books a new writer sells is generally 0, zero, null, none. I also don’t want to have try and pick my cover art — I’m not an artist, I’m a writer. I also hate self-promotion. Publishers have marketing people to handle that.
[13:56:09] <@Diego_Herrera> So traditional all the way!
[13:56:43] <+ScriptBabe> I also think not having an editor is dangerous. Your mom or boyfriend or girlfriend may think your book is awesome, but it might actually need work, and the eyes of a professional are very helpful. My books get better because of my editor.
[13:57:31] <@Diego_Herrera> Fantastic 🙂 Thanks!
[13:57:40] yes, thank you:)
[13:57:42] <+ScriptBabe> And with a published book you know there are gate keepers, that the money you are spending will garner you a competent piece of work.
[13:58:04] <+ScriptBabe> REady for the next one.
[13:58:10] <@Diego_Herrera> After this question, we’re going to be announcing the lucky winner of our competition – one of you lucky people will be receiving a copy of “This Case Is Gonna Kill Me”, by Melinda
[13:58:20] <@Diego_Herrera> Shameless link!
[13:58:33] <@Diego_Herrera> Phillipa Bornikova is a pen name
[13:58:33] <+ScriptBabe> Well, by Melinda’s alter ego — Phillipa Bornikova. 🙂
[13:58:37] <@Diego_Herrera> Hehe 🙂
[13:59:01] <@Diego_Herrera> So we will now ramp up the tension by having another question first – please do check out that link, though!
[13:59:11] <+ScriptBabe> This is one place where I was crassly commercial. Bornikova put me close to Jim Butcher on the stands. 🙂 And PHillipa means lover of horses.
[13:59:59] <@Diego_Herrera> This brings up an interesting question – why did you choose a pen name? Is it to distinguish from a different genre, or another reason?
[14:01:20] <+ScriptBabe> It was mostly reader identification. The readers who enjoy Melinda’s novels probably wouldn’t be huge fans of Urban Fantasy. I didn’t want reader confusion. That’s the real reason the B was the commercial thing. Media has developed so you can tailor your reading/viewing an listening pleasure and I want to give my readers what they want and expect.
[14:02:03] <@Diego_Herrera> Thanks!
[14:02:27] <@Diego_Herrera> So… everyone brace themselves…
[14:02:49] <+ScriptBabe> Yeah, why don’t they put seat belts on the bridge? But everybody hang on.
[14:02:49] <@Diego_Herrera> The winner of our competition and the proud owner of a copy of This Case Is Gonna Kill Me Is…
[14:02:53] <@Diego_Herrera> Hahahaha
[14:02:56] <@Diego_Herrera> *screen shake*
[14:03:01] <@Diego_Herrera> *torpedo impact*
[14:03:06] <@Diego_Herrera> *inordinately long pause…*
[14:03:12] <@Diego_Herrera> Eileen McCleran!
[14:03:12] <+ScriptBabe> The tension is killing me.
[14:03:16] <@Diego_Herrera> Hehehe
[14:03:26] *prays*
[14:03:26] Congrats!
[14:03:28] <@Diego_Herrera> Eileen, I’ll be in touch to arrange delivery!
[14:03:33] Woo!
[14:03:38] Congratulations!
[14:04:01] Hee! Many thanks.
[14:04:03] congratulaions
[14:04:11] Congrats! 🙂
[14:04:15] <+ScriptBabe> Congratulations. If you’re going to be at LonCon in August I’ll happily sign it.
[14:04:18] Well done
[14:04:41] <@Diego_Herrera> Make a note in your diaries, guys! 🙂
[14:04:49] <@Diego_Herrera> While we get that set up
[14:04:56] <@Diego_Herrera> Amanda has another question: How do you write with other people to make the result seamless rather than it LOOK like two people have written it?
[14:07:03] <+ScriptBabe> I’ve only really done that on screenplays, and in that case the other writer and I sit in the room together and take turns typing and bouncing dialog off each other. for novels there are various techniques, and now that I think about it I did write The Runespear with Vic Milan. We divided up characters, and wrote the chapters for those people. Then we exchanged pages and we did a rewrite on each other’s pages. Then we sat and went over
[14:07:29] <+ScriptBabe> good working relationship with that person and small egos.
[14:07:47] LtCmdr_Zerxes_ [] has joined #wim2013
[14:08:10] <@Diego_Herrera> So dual editing rights?
[14:08:47] Zerxes [] has joined #wim2013
[14:08:52] <+ScriptBabe> Yes. You have to work closely with that other person. You should also have plotted it out in advance so each person knows exactly what they are doing. That’s how James S.A. Corey works.
[14:09:12] <@Diego_Herrera> Have you ever written anything with George R. R.? You guys are friends right?
[14:09:20] lieutenant_Richards [] has joined #wim2013
[14:09:21] <+ScriptBabe> Oh, and you better clear any changes with the other person.
[14:09:35] <@Diego_Herrera> No stealth editing!
[14:10:00] <+ScriptBabe> Yes, George and I did a draft of A PRINCESS OF MARS together. Ours would have been better than that mess that ended up on movie screens under the title JOHN CARTER.
[14:10:36] <@Diego_Herrera> We would love to see it! I saw that movie and it wasn’t my favourite
[14:10:50] <+ScriptBabe> GRRM does love description though. I spent a lot of time cutting that way down when I’d get his pages. Too much description makes a script read slow and that’s death in Hollywood.
[14:11:10] <@Diego_Herrera> He approached it from the novel standpoint?
[14:11:16] <+ScriptBabe> ‘John Carter was a mess.
[14:11:38] <+ScriptBabe> Yes, George is by nature a prose writer and I’m by nature a screenwriter.
[14:11:45] <@Diego_Herrera> ideal combination!
[14:12:08] <@Diego_Herrera> Another general quesiton on that theme
[14:12:32] <+ScriptBabe> More about Princess when we can actually talk. And sure, ask away.
[14:12:32] <@Diego_Herrera> How do you go about writing for characters that have already been established? Such as ones that belong to a franchise like Star Trek?
[14:13:55] <+ScriptBabe> Oh that is so much easier than creating interesting characters from scratch. You do have to be a good mimic, however so they sound right. When I got so mad over the end of Mass Effect 3 I wrote my own Shepard story, and it was a cakewalk. All the work had been done for me. I just had to create the shrink and a sleazy journalist. 🙂
[14:14:45] <@Diego_Herrera> I still love that you did that – for those of you that missed last year and our podcast, Melinda had Mass Effect rage just like we all did!
[14:14:45] <+ScriptBabe> I didn’t have to describe how an Asari looks. I just sent out my space opera proposal to my agents and having to describe all the alien races, the political set up etc. was a lot of work. It was fun, but work.
[14:15:15] <@Diego_Herrera> A question from Zerxes on this topic: When you have a central character like Data in “Measure of a Man,” do you spend much time with that particular actor to get any input?
[14:15:25] <+ScriptBabe> I’m much calmer now that I wrote that story to end it properly for my Shepard. 🙂
[14:16:53] <+ScriptBabe> Actually no, frankly it’s not the actors job to tell us what to write. It’s our job to tell them what to say. Trek was weird because we were blocked from having much contact with the actors. On Reasonable Doubts the actors knew they could come in and tell us if a particular line was hard to say and we’d fix it, but the shape of the story and how it develops is our task.
[14:17:37] <+ScriptBabe> Guys, I think I can take one more question and then I need to grab a bit of lunch and pull on my riding boots.
[14:17:48] <@Diego_Herrera> No problem!
[14:18:11] <@Diego_Herrera> If writing for an inhuman character such as an alien or monster, how would you go about communicating that inhuman quality in writing?
[14:20:40] <+ScriptBabe> I think you do it by showing their reactions to things. Not have them react in what would seem like a normal way. I also think it’s hard to write from the POV of an inhuman. Humans are interested in other humans. Data tried to understand and become more human because that made him interesting. If he just acted like a computer he would have been dull. When I wrote Ensigns of Command I had the aliens be so legalistic they were inexplica
[14:21:23] <+ScriptBabe> dealing with that alien quality. Jack Williamson once said a human can’t actually craft a truly alien character because if it were that alien it wouldn’t be interesting. I think he was right.
[14:21:43] <@Diego_Herrera> I actually loved the Sheliak
[14:22:04] <@Diego_Herrera> Cheeky followup question – did you have total leeway with them?
[14:22:17] <+ScriptBabe> go to my website under WRITING and read the original script before they messed with it.
[14:22:26] <@Diego_Herrera> Ah – will do!
[14:22:41] <@Diego_Herrera> Well, Melinda, on behalf of UFOP: Starbase 118 I have to say it’s been fantastic chatting to you
[14:22:46] <+ScriptBabe> I did have total leeway, and yeah you are a cheeky fellow.
[14:23:02] <@Diego_Herrera> (So I’m told! ^^)
[14:23:22] <+ScriptBabe> Thank you. It was great and I’m so sorry the camera/mic/talk thing didn’t work. Let’s work it out and try again. I’d love to do this when it’s more free form.
[14:23:28] <@Diego_Herrera> We’re going to let you get sorted and get ready for riding and we hope you have a great time!
[14:23:29] <@Diego_Herrera> Sure!
[14:23:35] <@Diego_Herrera> I’ll be in touch. 🙂
[14:23:39] <+ScriptBabe> Thanks again. Bye all.

Treaty of Peace

Between the Romulan Star Empire and the United Federation of Planets

Negotiated by subspace communication Stardate 1200.5

Part 1: The terms and conditions having been negotiated and agreed to be identically understood, the Romulan Star Empire and the United Federation of Planets mutually pledge to each other their solemn word to immediately cease hostilities between the two parties effective Stardate 1200.5.

Part 2: Between adjacent territorial boundaries of the two parties there is established a neutral zone, seven hundred and fifty parsecds in width in the galactic longitudinal plane, and extending to the outer boundary of the galaxy in the vertical plane.

Part 3: All persons and facilities of any manner whatsoever identifiable with either party shall be immediately removed from this zone. Effective Stardate 1210, no persons or facilities of any manner whatsoever identifiable with either party shall be intruded into this zone. The Romulan Star Empire and the United Federation of Planets mutually pledge to each other to faithfully maintain the neutrality of this zone thereafter.

Part 4: Any intrusion whatsoever by any person or facility identifiable with either party into this neutral zone shall be considered to be a hostile action and breach of this peace. In such an event an immediate state of war shall be declared to exist between the Romulan Star Empire and the United Federation of Planets, except only where:

Part 5: Such intrusion by any person or facility identifiable with either party can be undeniably demonstrated to be the accidental result of conditions beyond the control of that person or facility and did, in fact, occur without hostile intent

Part 6: To this end,