Writing Improvement Squadron/Creating Original Material
Creating a World Within Your Sim
Written by Lieutenant Commander Colt Daniels
As writers we work very hard to “flesh-out” our characters, procedurally generating every aspect until we have person who is interesting and (hopefully) believable. What we sometimes forget is that this same process should apply to the settings we place our characters in also. The universe in which we write in is well-established and it sometimes allows us to make mental short-cuts that can detract from the story that we are trying to tell. We can easily insert our character into a familiar environment from one of the TV shows or movies as we write, giving us a very clear picture of exactly what is happening in the scene. Unfortunately, this sometimes causes us to assume too much of the reader and the carefully sculpted scene we see in our minds eye doesn’t appear the same to someone who isn’t picturing things exactly the way we are. The solution is to write as though our audience has never seen an episode of Star Trek and assume as little as possible when it comes to how they might visualize a given setting.
The simming format doesn’t lend itself to lengthy descriptions of setting as easily as a true 3rd person narrative format, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take steps to ensure that our character dialogue and actions are given the appropriate environmental context. Think about a scene from the Next Generation; when Geordi and Data are walking down a corridor having a conversation, is the ship devoid of activity other than the two characters that are the primary focus of the scene? Of course not, The Enterprise is always bustling with activity. A crewman walks by carrying a tool, a pair of Ensigns pass by having a conversation of their own, an engineering officer emerges from a door and almost collides with the Geordi and shuffles away flustered.. These seemingly subtle things help lend to the feeling that what you are seeing is real, that each and every person has a task that they are trying to accomplish, and that the characters are a part of an overall story that is bigger than the tiny piece of it that we get to see.
These very same principles can apply to our sims and provide the same sense of realism. We can use the descriptive text in our sims for this purpose when our character is alone of by allowing our characters to take a moment to examine his surroundings before, after or during the natural pauses in dialogue sequences. Anything that the character sees or feels can potentially be used to bring the scene to life from architectural features such a the materials of a table or the deck plating to the intangible “mood” of the room and the way it influences those within it. Finding a balance between what should be “spelled out” and what should be left to the imagination of the reader can be a difficult task but with time and a experimentation, we can all learn to weave intricate, believable worlds without forcing ourselves to go into excessive or restrictive detail.
Making Your Sims Realistic in a Fictional World
Written by Rear Admiral Andrus Jaxx
Many writers find themselves worrying about the sense of realism in their sims. It is easy to watch a show or movie and see something that does not fit. But not everyone has all of the knowledge it takes to identify everything wrong in a movie. It can be the same within a sim. There comes a certain point when the writer may have knowledge of a situation and disagree with the probability of it happening. We have to remember that we write in a fictional world. Many things about the Star Trek universe are not possible. Did you ever wonder why you can hear the Enterprise zipping past you in a scene? We all know that sound cannot travel in space, so where is that “whooshing” sound coming from?
There comes a point, for the sake of the story and writers working on it, that one must suspend disbelief. This is not a new term or anything that any good sci-fi writer ignores. To suspend disbelief one must have a willingness to overlook their critical faculties and allow their self to believe the unbelievable for the sake of the story. There are times that something can be written that you know is not possible, but it made for a great situation or plot arch.
At the same time, if you take a look at the Using Research to Improve Your Sims tutorial, you will already know that it is possible to do some research to find the answer to a situation that we do have knowledge about. The greatest example comes from Medical Officers. Many of them find themselves looking up illnesses and treatments online, and then adapting what they know about the Star Trek universe to combine the two. Many times a character may make it known that they have a scar. We all know what the dermal regenerator can do. It can heal small cuts and burns. It can also be used to revert surgically modified skin and remove scars.
This is a great example that we need to suspend disbelief for that character. Perhaps there is a reason that they never had the scar removed? It could be a character development thing that we have no idea about. Perhaps some sort of archaic surgery had to take place on the battlefield and a dermal regenerator was not available. It is easy to take what we know and find a reason for some things to work. But it is possible to add more depth to a sim or story by doing just a little bit of research. Different species act in different ways. If something is out of the norm, there needs to be a good explanation for it. If a Klingon appears to be docile, why? It is easy to overlook some of the technical aspects of the universe, but a better sense of realism can be found with a bit of leg work.
At the same time, there are some things that you just cannot get over. It brings us back to the sound traveling through space. Is it absolutely cool to hear the Enterprise zip passed you? Of course it is! It is an effect that is used to heighten the enjoyment of the show or movie. The same can happen in a sim. If an idea for something pops in your mind, do not be afraid to do a little research and see what would really happen. If you need to alter things slightly for dramatic effect, do so.
With so many missions and sims flying through the fleet, it is easy to pick them apart and find the things that do not make sense in our minds. We have to remember that we, as writers, come from different backgrounds and we cannot expect everyone to possess the knowledge we do of a particular area of science. Instead, seek to be more understanding. If that doesn’t work always suspend disbelief. In the end, you will find that you will be able to enjoy the story a lot more in the process.