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Old April 9 2014, 07:27 PM   #1
surak-toc
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Tips for writing a great Star Trek fanfiction story or series.

Do not be fooled by the title, I am wondering if all you Star Trek fanfiction writers on here could give me and everyone else a few good tips on writing a masterpiece of Star Trek magic, tips for plot creation, characters, ships and so on, hope anyone can help.

Last edited by surak-toc; April 9 2014 at 08:28 PM.
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Old April 9 2014, 09:17 PM   #2
NiteOwl
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Re: Tips for writing a great Star Trek fanfiction story or series.

Well, Characters are a semi-ongoing process.
For example, there are archetypes in the Trek universe that can be toyed with.
In my own fan comic I'm making, there's a Klingon serving aboard 'my' ship.
When I came up with his character, he was a security officer- naturally.
As time went on, I realized I'd love to see a Klingon in a different station.
So eventually he became a pilot, and chief conn officer.

Captain: "Can you pull off this maneuver?"

K'rux: "If not I will die a warrior's death!"

Captain: "Lets avoid the dying part for now, yeah?"

I'm not sure how helpful that is. But I'm getting at two things.
One, it's a process. Nobody strikes gold with a character right away.
Even the best characters in Star Trek evolved over time.
Secondly, a function can define a character. A Klingon pilot.
An Andorian chief of security. These stations can tell you something about the character. And it'll give you a canvas to fill in as the story goes on.
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Old April 10 2014, 12:52 AM   #3
surak-toc
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Re: Tips for writing a great Star Trek fanfiction story or series.

That's a big help, at the minute i am working on my team using crew also from my STO account from a while back, it will be a big help.

Any more tips on anything else is welcome
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Old April 10 2014, 01:43 AM   #4
NiteOwl
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Re: Tips for writing a great Star Trek fanfiction story or series.

If I think of any, I'll definitely let you know!
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Old April 10 2014, 07:39 AM   #5
Bry_Sinclair
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Re: Tips for writing a great Star Trek fanfiction story or series.

Don't do a Voyager.

Essentially, don't rely on overly-complicated technobabble (unless of course you're writing about an SCE team). Don't resort to fighting to get out of every situation, yes it's dramatic and exciting to write/read, but there are other ways to get that into your work. Keep track of the little things--torpedoes, shuttles, crewmembers.

Don't just have a character for the sake of having one, for example if you don't have an interesting person to be Ops Manager then don't have them as a main character but just someone recurring, that way you can give proper development to those who are more interesting/diverse to work on. Those characters that you do focus on, be sure to have them continue to grow and develop rather than stagnate--however, if they're not working for whatever reason, be willing to let them go (or even a well-liked character as well if the story calls for it).

Don't have the status quo resorted by the beginning of your next story, to all intents and purposes, these men, women and others are "real", they will change over time and experiences.
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Old April 10 2014, 12:32 PM   #6
jespah
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Re: Tips for writing a great Star Trek fanfiction story or series.

Do your research. But, that having been said, don't allow canon to handcuff you. Just because we never saw McCoy play squash doesn't mean he never has. At the same time, don't turn characters flawless. People aren't, so characters shouldn't be. They should fail. They should forget. They should sometimes be mean, or arbitrary, or impatient.
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Old April 10 2014, 01:12 PM   #7
NiteOwl
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Re: Tips for writing a great Star Trek fanfiction story or series.

jespah wrote: View Post
Do your research. But, that having been said, don't allow canon to handcuff you. Just because we never saw McCoy play squash doesn't mean he never has. At the same time, don't turn characters flawless. People aren't, so characters shouldn't be. They should fail. They should forget. They should sometimes be mean, or arbitrary, or impatient.
Completely sound advice!
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Old April 10 2014, 11:28 PM   #8
Mysterion
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Re: Tips for writing a great Star Trek fanfiction story or series.

Avoid characters that are related somehow to an established on-screen/treklit character unless we've already heard of them.

Don't have the characters quoting themselves from episodes and movies.

Avoid matching up a character's ethnicity to the name of the ship he/she commands (i.e. having Chekov command USS Potemkin just because it has a russian name).

Keep hybrid characters to a minimum. Vulcan/humans, bajoran/cardassians, Borg/Magnavox, whatever. These types of folk should be rare.
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Old April 11 2014, 12:06 AM   #9
surak-toc
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Re: Tips for writing a great Star Trek fanfiction story or series.

That ones a good point, the only hybrid on my crew is a Vulcan/klingon
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Old April 11 2014, 01:31 AM   #10
NiteOwl
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Re: Tips for writing a great Star Trek fanfiction story or series.

surak-toc wrote: View Post
That ones a good point, the only hybrid on my crew is a Vulcan/klingon
I have a Vulcan/Romulan, but it ties into a big story arc. I look forward to seeing this Vulcan/Klingon
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Old April 11 2014, 10:51 AM   #11
Bry_Sinclair
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Re: Tips for writing a great Star Trek fanfiction story or series.

Mysterion wrote: View Post
Keep hybrid characters to a minimum. Vulcan/humans, bajoran/cardassians, Borg/Magnavox, whatever. These types of folk should be rare.
I'd add to that and say if you are going to have hybrid characters, then have it two species maximum.

Have a Human/Vulcan individual, not a Human/Vulcan/Klingon/Bolian--after a point it just gets ridiculous. If you want a blue-skinned, lumpy foreheaded, pointy eared character, then create a new race to fit the bill.
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Old April 11 2014, 11:49 AM   #12
JarodRussell
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Re: Tips for writing a great Star Trek fanfiction story or series.

Also, the character setups from the Trek shows are designed for long running TV shows. They have a Klingon there for the potential of future stories, for example, and they didn't use him for quite a while. The whole setup Captain, First Officer, Navigation, Ops, Tactical, Chief Engineer, Counselor is based on that.

If you don't want to write a season full of stories, I think you should be asking yourself "Why do I want a half Vulcan/half Klingon in here?" What is the purpose of that character in the story? Basically, ask that for all your characters and you should come up with something that doesn't feel like it's been copied from a blueprint. If you want a crew full of aliens and hybrids, what are you going to do with them?
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Old April 11 2014, 05:41 PM   #13
GeorgeKirk
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Re: Tips for writing a great Star Trek fanfiction story or series.

Everyone has different tastes, obviously, so it's a little difficult to create a list of hard-and-fast rules beyond the basic rules of storytelling that apply to all genres. That being said:

OBSERVE THE BASIC RULES OF STORYTELLING THAT APPLY TO ALL GENRES.

I'm sure you know the drill. Characters should speak and act like believable people. (I find it helpful to say the dialog back to myself to be sure it sounds like something that would come from the mouth of an actual person) Be consistent: don't introduce a super-powerful alien creature like Q then have him defeated in a fistfight. Make sure your story gives your characters some kind of obstacle to overcome or problem to grapple with--don't just have them standing around and talking. This is especially true if your story is populated entirely by characters you created yourself. It may be enjoyable to see Kirk and Spock shooting the breeze, provided it's written well, because those are characters we have a preexisting affection for. Nobody will care about Captain Quigley and Mr. Kl'plorth unless you give them something interesting and exciting to do.

Apart from that, here are a few other things that I find helpful:

Use the vastness of space to your advantage
Space is big, and the things in it are really really really really really REALLY far apart. Use this to your advantage. If you're writing a story about a starship on an exploratory mission, they'd realistically be too far away for the Captain to call Starfleet Command and request instructions when he gets into a sticky situation. This way, the tough dramatic choices are forced upon your Captain, not delegated to some Admiral on a viewscreen.

Place realistic limits on sensing devices
The idea that a character can look at his magic sensor display or tricorder and learn everything about a situation, down to the DNA of the aliens aboard an approaching ship that's thousands of miles away, has robbed many a Star Trek story of the mystery and danger of space exploration from which the franchise theoretically derives much of its appeal. Don't let this happen to you. So what if it happened on Enterprise or Voyager? Don't let yourself be bound by other people's lazy writing choices. And don't feel obliged to "explain" via technobabble infodump why your ship's sensors can't instantly tell what color underwear the people on an approaching vessel are wearing. Figure out the parameters in your head and then simply have the story abide by them without overexplaining.

Avoid alien stereotypes and monocultures
The only country on Earth where everyone dresses, acts, and speaks alike is North Korea. So unless you're writing about an alien planet that's a similar kind of dystopic totalitarian hellhole don't make everyone on it act, speak, think, and dress alike. And keep the same thing in mind when writing about established Star Trek races. All Klingons are not war-obsessed Space Vikings; they can't be, or there'd be nobody to design starships, build buildings, or fix the plumbing. All Romulans are not sneaky humorless guys with soup-bowl haircuts. Again there is no reason for your to abide by the lazy writing choices that other people have made.

Canon? Schmanon!
For understandable reasons, anyone who writes an officially-licensed Star Trek novel or comic has to abide by the Offical Canon Policy. But you're writing a fanfic, which means you can do whatever the heck you want. The important thing is to stay true to the spirit of Star Trek and the essence of the preexisting characters, organizations, and alien races that make up the Star Trek universe. If Douchey McNitpick wants to point out your story's "canon violations" don't let it bother you. If you're writing good stuff, people will enjoy it.
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Old April 11 2014, 08:07 PM   #14
MacLeod
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Re: Tips for writing a great Star Trek fanfiction story or series.

You could also do background bio's for your characters.

Where they came from
Age
Service history
Key events
etc..

But keep adding to the bios as you use the characters. During my PBEM days I created plenty of characters and the bios evolved as the character did. And yes some of them had flaws and issues in part due to events that happened to them. In many respects is was more fun to write for those characters than the ones with fewer issues and flaws.

I would also agree with hybrid characters keeping to a minimum of two (mother and father), with one provision. If you must have a character with a multi-species i.e 4 generations ago they had a vulcan ancestor then make sure it's for a reason for mentioning it or raising it in story and not just for the sake of it.

As for plot, keep technobabble to a minimum.
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Old April 11 2014, 10:14 PM   #15
GeorgeKirk
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Re: Tips for writing a great Star Trek fanfiction story or series.

Honestly, what's the point of hybrid characters? The only good reason to have one is to hold a mirror up to the human condition in some way.

Spock's Vulcan-human mixture highlighted the internal struggle that most, if not all, people face at some point in their lives. But you can't really do that kind of "torn between two halves" thing anymore because it forces you to ignorantly assume that all races EXCEPT humans have built-in, predetermined personality traits. It's not okay to assume that all Asians are computer nerds or all African-Americans are rappers, so why would it be okay to assume that all Klingons are warriors or all Ferengi are greedy? It's not believable

Ziyal's hybrid nature nicely illustrated the condition of people whose parents belong to two different national or ethnic groups that do not get along. Ziyal was never "torn between two halves". She was a whole person-Ziyal-who at times found herself torn between two cultures without fitting into either of them. This is a dilemma faced by many folks here in modern society, so it resonates. In my opinion, this is the only way you can pull off a hybrid character believably now.

But 99.9% of the time, especially in fanfic, the only point in having a "hybrid" character is just to be all fanwanky. Your helm officer is a Klingon-Bolian hybrid? What does that even mean? Either it doesn't figure into the plot at all, or the author does that "character torn between two halves" thing that the Original Series already did, only they do it way worse.

Also, a profusion of hybrid characters makes a story veer too close to comic book science, in my opinion. If two mammals from Earth-say, a horse and a moose-can't interbreed, why the heck would two people from completely different planets be able to interbreed easily? On the 1975 album "Inside Star Trek", there's an "interview" between Gene Roddenberry and Mark Lenard as Sarek where it's revealed that it took a whole lot of medical intervention for Spock to come into being. Such hybrid births, therefore, should be exceedingly rare and not possible in all cases.

Again, just my two cents.
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