"Some Tips on Posting, or, How to Polish Your Post so it Shines"
Opening your post:
There are several ways to start a post. My favorite is to make the reader create the scene in their head, and then twist it around.For example, in one post I described Dr. Kestrel looking at piles of trash, debris, and strange objects. Starfleet uniforms were partially buried in the debris. That led the reader to imagine a battlefield. Then, when he is described as stepping into the room and complaining about the mess, the reader learns that it's not a battlefield, just a messy room.
Here are four other ways to open a post:
Remember, if the reader is hooked by the opening paragraph, they'll want to finish the rest. And don't use static openings. Be dramatic!
Static: Ensign Nobody sat in his quarters, thinking. He didn't like his thoughts. He wanted to get off this ship. He started packing his clothes, because he had to get out soon before he got caught.
Exciting: Ensign Nobody flung his clothes into a suitcase. He wouldn't tell the captain he was deserting. She'd stop him. He pushed down the suitcase lid. Suddenly, his door opened to reveal three armed security officers. He cringed. The captain already knew.
Yes, this is a Star Trek sim. And yes, we do need to use technological words in it. But just don't overuse them. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices to make the story flow better.
Wrong: Dr. Nobody picked up the dermal regenerator, the cortical stimulator, and the coagulation activator. He'd need to use the dermal regenerator, cortical stimulator, and coagulation activator all together to help this patient.
Right: Dr. Nobody quickly picked up one medical instrument after another. He'd need them all on this patient.
Dialogue is very important to your character. When you put words in your character's mouth, why not say them out loud to yourself? If it doesn't sound like something someone would say, rewrite it. Say the next piece of dialogue out loud:
Wrong: "I don't think that's a good idea because it exposes the ship to too much danger from the pirate ships coming from that nebula," Ensign Nobody said.
Run out of breath yet? <grin> Now try the next one:
Right: "I don't think that's a good idea," Ensign Nobody said. "If the pirate ships come out of the nebula, we're screwed."
In dialogue, it's easy to make run-on sentences without even realizing what you're doing. You can always shorten long sentences with commas, periods, and descriptive text.
Commas and Periods:
You can use periods and commas to help you break up run-on sentences. Commas also help to break apart your dialogue from your descriptive text, separate items, and show pauses. But every character won't pause in exactly the same way, and sometimes you can use run-on sentences intentionally. To show stress or panic, for example.
Breaking up a run-on sentence:
Breaking apart dialogue from descriptive text:
When you relate what your character is doing, don't just give us the basics. Try to put yourself in your character's body. Remember, your character has five senses too. Think of the colors, sounds, smells, textures, movements, and other images you might describe. Really use your imagination. (Beware of run-on sentences here, too! Use punctuation to break it up.)
Plain: Ensign Nobody went into the Arboretum. He thought the trees and flowers were pretty. "This is nice," he said.
Descriptive: Ensign Nobody stepped into the Arboretum, then paused, stunned. It looked exactly like pictures he'd seen of the rain forests on Earth. "It' s beautiful," he whispered to himself.
Sometimes numbers need to be spelled out, and sometimes you can leave them the way they are.
Stardates, formulas, decimals, and percentages should have numbers.
Right: "Captain's Log, Stardate 29334.01. Captain Nobody recording."
You can also use numbers if there are 10 or more of an item. If there are under 10, you should write it out (though personally I like to write those out anyway).
Right: "I have 12 days leave coming up, you know."
Wrong: "I want 2 gallons of whatever that is." (there's under 10, remember)
Names of places, people, organizations, and races should be capitalized.
Right: "We're about to land on Betazed."
Then there are department names, and rooms with a specific name. If you're not referring to a specific place, you don't have to capitalize.
Right: "Are you going to Engineering or Astrometrics?"
Rank should be capitalized when you're talking to (or about) one specific person, AND using their name right after their rank. Otherwise, don't capitalize it.
Right: "There goes Lieutenant Nobody."
And speaking of rank...
Rank (specifically, Lieutenant Junior Grade):
In a crew listing, or at the beginning of a post, these crew members should be referred to as Lt. (j.g). Note that, technically, there is no second period directly after the "g."
Right: This post is by Lt. (j.g) Nobody.
In conversation between characters, drop the (j.g). After all, if you put it at the beginning, the readers will already know about it. And wouldn't it sound strange to say "junior grade" or "j.g" all the time? Of course, a Lieutenant can still tell a Lieutenant (j.g) what to do. Both characters are aware of their rank, and no one has to say "j.g" for the order to be understood.
Wrong: "Hello, Lieutenant (j.g)!"
Communicating via communicator:
When your character is speaking to the computer, or to someone over the communicator frequency, you can use normal quotes for your dialogue. But the voice that's coming out of the communicator (or the computer) should have a communicator symbol in place of the quotes. Just use your equals key (=) and your back slash and forward slash keys (/ and \ ).
=/\= Bridge here. Go ahead, Nobody. =/\=
Pauses and hesitation:
I've noticed that on some computers, when I try to put three periods after a sentence, it doesn't always post correctly. Sometimes there's only one period there instead, and it looks like my sentence stopped in the middle. I think it's got something to do with how MS Word formats documents. Anyway, now I put a space in between them and the problem is solved. If you're also having the same problem, you might want to try it.
Example: "I don't know. . ." he sighed.
Continuity and foreshadowing:
When something important is happening, or will happen, to your character, don't write one post about it and then forget it. Sure, it may make a good short story, but it's not necessarily a believable life for your character. Just like your life, every day affects the days that come after. When something happens to your character, try to think of how it will affect your character's feelings and actions in the future.
Also, you can stretch events out over time by mentioning them in other posts. For example, if your character is going to embark on a dangerous adventure next week, then mention it in any posts you write before that. You could take a paragraph, or a sentence or two, and mention a feeling of uneasiness about the future. Make your readers anxious to read your next post to find out what's going to happen.
What to do when you're out of the main plot:
If you feel your character is always being left out of the main plot, talk to your GM or deparment head about it. They can then suggest ways to get more involved or may even be able to focus the next plot on you or your department. Suggesting improvements (or secondary approaches to the main plot) to your superior will at least get you noticed. And who knows? It may generate an assignment for your character to do something that could even become critical to the plot. Character interaction and joint posts can also be a great way to get involved too.
In a situation where you are not highly involved in the sim's current main plot, create a sub-plot (recurring ones are best). Some suggestions include: romance - asking a fellow crew member to share a holodeck program with you; rivalry - use the holodeck or challenge someone to a game of darts in the lounge; party - throw a surprise birthday party for another character. There are numerous other types of sub-plots. Some that may require approval from the GM are: recurring villain NPC or recurring technical/mechanical problem.
Please spell-check all of your posts, either mentally or by using your spell-check on your computer. You may not think it's important, but badly spelled posts are very distracting to the readers.
Based upon Some Tips on Posting, or, How to Polish Your Post so it Shines written by Mark Plemmons for the USS Endeavour SIM.