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Filling in the Universe

Posted on Sat Oct 17th, 2015 @ 12:28am by Commander Tyro Adina

Firstly, I added a box to the personnel bios where you can select the deck your quarters are on. It's not super expectant, but maybe it will stir up some interesting inspirations!

There are a few ways to think about a setting when you're writing. I thought it might be fun (for me) to share some places that I look when I'm thinking up a new post idea. I love Science Fiction because I think it uniquely explores its own infinite settings. That's probably why they call it Worldbuilding.


Seeing the Matrix


We are lucky enough to not have to stretch our imaginations too hard, because Trek is already full of possibilities. I think the goal of worldbuilding is to fill in the spaces. We have a firm structure of canon and whatever to follow, and that means we can fix ourselves to established ideals like coral. We're not painting with broad strokes here. We have a great place to start, and we can tell a lot more intricate stories that way. There's nothing wrong with letting things be complex, because the world is actually complex.

Good ideas come out of trying to understand that things aren't the way we see them at first glance. This is such a great theme for Science Fiction especially. The Federation is tiny and the galaxy is enormous. A starship is minuscule and a planet is gargantuan. Look at how things work, or how they came to be, or what direction they are headed. Connect things together, or explain something that doesn't seem to work. There is a story in everything, but we often end up wanting to tell the same ones over and over. I think that can be fun for sure, but I also think that we have to stop expecting it from each other. Making a story interesting can really come down just to letting it stand on it's own legs.

In that sense, we do have to try and decide where an idea ends. It's very easy to tap yourself by making something top heavy, or feeling you need to continuously explain it. More interesting than laying out the idea like a dead body, is interacting with it. We have this magical replicator technology that just sits in a corner all day... instead of describing it though, we can watch it break and see how the engineers fixing it act. Populating the universe with cool ideas is all about knowing how your characters might respond to them. That's the way they become real in a story, and start to feel like an aspect of the lore, instead of just random information.

Overall, I think looking at what you know about the setting is the best place to start. Lurk on Memory Alpha, or reread posts, or even look at other sims. Think about your own character, even reread your bio. I do that a lot if I need to remind myself how to write Tyro. There is always a nice structure you can start with, and add to. When it comes to making a fantasy feel as close to the real world as possible, it's not about information. We don't have access to all the information in the real world, we just know a lot about a little bit. We have a good idea about the things that are important to us, and it's the same idea I think we should consider when we fill up the Tranquilitiverse.


Your Domain


This is probably the best thing to consider actually. Most of your characters run departments, and that is their little kingdom. When you think about all the stuff I mentioned above, another space to work inside is where your character is the focus. A character's quarters, or their department, or anywhere that they have the deciding voice is a wonderful and worry-free place to make your mark. At least... generally. The main thing is that, inside your own department, you know all the limits. In theory, everyone knows what the captain wants, and they can organise their own little crew in a way that satisfies those limits. Limits and barriers are IMPORTANT to creativity. If you don't have one already, you won't likely pull one out of nowhere... so when you're stuck, a good strat is to find a familiar landmark.

This is about worldbuilding though! Your own personal space is always what you make out of it. By making sure you have a mark on your department, or your areas, you help to make the ship feel diverse and real. You also give yourself material and resources that you can rely on later. Every characters does what they can to make themselves comfortable where they work, and on a starship, where they also live. Could anyone except a vulcan keep all the federation standards in place and NOT go crazy? Probably not... and if that's your choice, make it a purposeful choice. Maybe it does have an effect on your mood, or your ability to feel fulfilled. Work is hard, and living on a space-ship isn't a dream to our characters doing it. The point is, I want people to feel empowered to take responsibility of their character's domain. I may be the GM, but Tyro is just the captain. Marking out your personal space also has another benefit to you, it tells everyone else where it your turn to take over.

I don't just mean departments however. Your domain as a writer is also your character's history, and her future. Time is also an aspect of setting. Of course, whatever your character does in private in their quarters is important too, but it's not the limit for building up the setting. Going backwards a little not only gives everyone insight into the character, but it makes her life something that actually took place, and not just inside the confines of her bio. We learn that it's part of the story, and not trivia sprinkled into posts on occasion, so it colours the way we think about the timeline leading right up to where they are now. Sometimes, and this is probably a bit much, but it can be really interesting to let other players play some role in a life-story post, like as an NPC or something. That's a compassionate way to force players to get to know you :)


The Way it Fits


Now, these last sections have everything to do with writing as a member of a group. This is really important to me, although I know it can be hard. As roleplayers, we're responsible for making the stories we write accessible to other writers. Don't we like making things up with other people? I think the greatest skill a roleplayer can have isn't being an idea person or having a great character... it's being able to trash an idea because you know the sim won't be able to use it right now.

Sometimes, that's just kind of the way it goes, unfortunately. It usually has nothing to do with the idea itself. So I think it's also a great skill to think of ideas that fit well into a story. All that means is keeping the story in mind, and being reminded what your goals are. I know not everyone finds this easy, and that's definitely okay. Keeping track of a lot of information is hard, but that's why we work as a team. Nobody on the sim should feel afraid to point out an oopsie, or an inconsistency with something that already got covered. The only way that people will be willing to open up about things that have them stuck or confused, is to make sure we're ready to say, "Thanks for the snag, Jag!" or something. Just be friendly!

But it's really cool and feels really right when something fits in without a problem. I wonder if that's often down to how well the mission is structured or communicated, but knowing where the story is headed, or at least having an idea, seems to be the best way to make ideas flow cleanly. New ideas you have might be really interesting, but sometimes they will distract people from the main arc of the story. Not to be alarmist, but too many detours is terrible for a sim. It's not that they aren't interesting, but they don't usually go anywhere. They are immediate problems, which need to explained. A good way to think about it, is deciding if a new idea will need to be justified later. How hard do you need to justify it to other players to make it work? Did I just write four paragraphs about that random specific thing that isn't important to the story? For me, that's probably something I have overexplained. Ideas add weight, and if something is too top-heavy it probably isn't good for the story.

Going back to what I was saying about seeing the Matrix: you don't have to make problems in order to stand out. Every situation is already full of intricate things you could be looking at, and that's what gives other people ideas. Your characters are amazing starfleet professionals by themselves, and often you'll have more interesting experiences adapting to problems that others create. In writing, you can be a good friend by giving someone else a problem to solve, rather than creating problems just for yourself. People appreciate that, people like having their characters meet challenges, and it's more interesting to try and rise to face something you don't know the answer to.


Fin


Last of all, making the game Universe feel vast and dynamic and interesting is a thing you can do for the whole crew. It's something people can play with, expand on, or not. That makes it a generous, and rewarding part of the game, because it feels great when someone picks out a little detail from your update and uses it with you. Because I think we should look at it like giving, I also think it's a good idea to be respectful as well. Everyone should respect each others ideas, and also whether or not your own ideas restrict the creativity of others. That's an honest mistake to make, of course, but everyone knows how hard it is to try working with an idea they just... don't like at all. If something makes anyone else miserable, then they should speak up, and we should all be able to find let go if we need to. I promise that good ideas won't be missed, because a strong setting makes everything else better, and it's so much more fun that way<3



If you read through this entire thing, congratulations and thank you! The Sisterhood is looking for new members :3 The player who writes my favourite worldbuilding post by the time I move on November 10th, may just earn themselves a special place among the chosen...

 

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