Writing questions

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by BrentMc, Nov 11, 2013.

  1. DonIago

    DonIago Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I haven't exactly done any professional writing (though I was just published in a conbook, woot!), but when I have passed my stuff to people for feedback I've tended to adopt a policy of, "If it's one person saying it and I don't necessarily agree, I'll ignore it. If multiple people say it...I have to do something."

    That said, I haven't yet found myself in a situation where I only had to deal with one editor who I could safely assume knew what they were talking about. Cloest I've come to that so far is my parents. :p
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    A scene of someone giving a tour of the ship feels contrived. It could be made to work, though, if the admiral getting the tour were someone significant to the story and had some kind of difference of opinion or tension with the tour-giver that would come out during the scene, so that it wasn't just a travelogue. For instance, in Forgotten History I wanted to write a scene describing how the Enterprise's engineering section was laid out, to put all the various parts we saw in TOS and TAS into context, and so I had Kirk, Spock, Scotty, and Commodore Delgado traveling through the section while they debated with Delgado over whether they should undertake the time-travel research mission seen in "Assignment: Earth." That way, the travelogue wasn't what the scene was about; it was just a bit of background texture that gave some movement and variety to what would've otherwise just been a long conversation.

    Of course, even that was a bit self-indulgent of me. In general, if the layout of the ship isn't important to the story, then it shouldn't be addressed in any detail. I guess it was kind of relevant in FH, since it established the relationship of the engineering section to the rest of the ship, and that played a role in the story as it unfolded.

    Ideally, you should try to avoid writing a scene that's only about giving exposition. There should always be some kind of character subtext or dramatic tension, something to give the scene emotional stakes that the audience can get invested in. Even just having a new crew member who's lost and trying to figure out how to get around the ship to find their duty station could do it, because then it's a scene about a character who's trying to solve a problem and achieve a goal, rather than just an infodump.
     
  3. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    Yeah, I figure most of it's not going to be in the book. It's mostly just to keep things consistent. I just want to make sure that a brunette doesn't suddenly become a blond, or that my deaf character who only speaks through sign language doesn't suddenly start talking verbally, things like that. I don't always have the greatest memory, so I just want to make sure I have all of that I kind of stuff written down, so if I forget something I have a consistent record I can double check.
     
  4. BrentMc

    BrentMc Commander Red Shirt

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    Thank you for your reply. I think I'll skip the tour and keep the description of the ship to a minimum, as needed basis.
     
  5. Tiberius

    Tiberius Commodore Commodore

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    I suppose this is easier if the person giving the critique also suggest a solution. For example, referring back to your passive protagonists, it's much more helpful when your critic says, "Why don't you have it so your protagonist sets the particular chain of events into motion?" rather than just, "Your protagonists are so passive."
     
  6. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    This is more of a general technical question, but I don't have anywhere else to ask.

    Is there a specific set up for writing dialogue in American Sign Language? Do I still still use quotes, or do I do it in italics or something like that? What about if one character is interpreting for another?
     
  7. Tiberius

    Tiberius Commodore Commodore

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    Just speaking for myself, I'd use some other symbol as a quote mark for that. Perhaps something like:

    <<Hello,>> she signed. <<How are you today?>>
     
  8. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Do keep in mind though, that if this is your style, then it is your style. It's not "wrong" to write exposition scenes. Maybe you break them up with humor or something, I don't know how you write it.
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I think that sign is a language like any other, just another way of talking, and I don't like the idea of treating it as something less than that. Translating sign into written English is no different from translating, say, Klingon or Bajoran into written English. So my preference would be to use quotes normally, and to use "said" for it, albeit with an initial indication that the character was saying these words manually rather than vocally. I'm not sure if there's a standard policy for that, though.
     
  10. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    I'm not aware of an accepted convention or house style when it comes to ASL. Perhaps a professional copyeditor can weigh in?
     
  11. borgboy

    borgboy Commodore Commodore

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    Too much exposition does get clunky, but I do really like getting details that flesh out the environment. Working those details into the action seems like it works best.
    Only sort of related, I do like to get a physical description of characters. I know some writers deliberately don't describe the character so the reader can make up their own images, but I find I keep waiting for clues to the appearance. I hate to start building my own image only to have something contradictory come along later.
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I did some research, and I can't find a definitive style guide, but here are some opinions:

    Writing Dialogue for a Deaf Character -- Absolute Write Water Cooler

    Advice on Writing Dialogue With Signing Characters (Caution: NSFW language in site name)

    And here's an interesting one on "gloss," or the literal transcription of ASL:

    Gloss in American Sign Language (ASL)

    The thing that comes out most clearly is that ASL has a very different grammar and structure from spoken English, and that the basic vocabulary words are heavily modified by facial expression and body language. So a literal transcription of the words would sound very strange and incomplete -- much as a verbatim translation of any foreign language into English would be.

    (It often annoys me that when the media cover gorillas and chimps that have learned sign language, they always translate it verbatim so that it reads like a childish pidgin, whereas if they translated the exact same signs from a human speaker, they'd render it into proper English grammar. It's a double standard that makes the apes' communication sound cruder than it probably is.)

    So my preference would still be to treat it the way you'd treat any foreign language that you were interpreting into English for the reader. A lot of people in that first link recommend using italics, and apparently some books have done it that way; but the normal convention is to use italics for untranslated foreign words and Roman text in quotes for translated speech. So I'd prefer to do it that way. But it would help to be familiar enough with ASL communication to be able to describe at least some of the gestures and body language for embellishment, as suggested in the second link.
     
  13. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    Yeah, I'm definitely going to do some real reseach before I get to far into my writing. This is one of my two main characters, so there's going to be quite a bit of it.
    Thanks for the help, it is much appreciated.
    EDIT: My narrator is hearing, and his girlfriend is deaf, so I'm thinking I'll write it out as standard English in quotes, and I'll describe some of the signs and body language that goes with what she's signing.

    I don't actually know sign language myself, I just thought it would be interesting to include a deaf character. So I'm thinking it would be really helpful to actually try and learn some sign language myself. I figured I could just get away with saying she was signing whenever I had a dialogue scene, but I see now there is a lot more to it than that.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2013
  14. BrentMc

    BrentMc Commander Red Shirt

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    I think it's funny how many sites there are that have Star Trek fan fiction, but when I look for tips on writing Star Trek I just don't find much. I have read the advice written by Dean Wesley Smith for people who wanted to enter Strange New Worlds back in the day, but I just can't find much else. Do you think I should start a thread under fan-fiction and make a place to post anything I find? Would any of the authors here like to contribute advice? Does anyone remember a Star Trek book or magazine that had advice for writing Star Trek?

    I Started out writing my first Star Trek story just for fun awhile back and now I am interested in learning to write fiction. I have a whole stack of fiction writing books that I enjoy reading when I have time. I am looking for more Star Trek specific stuff. To give you an idea I am thinking of things like "writing a Star Trek space battle," or "Star Trek species character traits" etc.
     
  15. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

  16. BrentMc

    BrentMc Commander Red Shirt

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  17. trampledamage

    trampledamage Clone Moderator

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    I don't know if you already have or not because I'm not down in that forum very much any more but you could try asking in the fan fiction forum itself. If anyone's going to have found internet resources for writing Star Trek it's those guys.
     
  18. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    The main difference between writing Trek and writing general fiction is that, at this late date, you don't need to explain or describe the basics. For example, you don't really have to describe the bridge or transporter room in detail or mention that Vulcans have pointed ears--unless you're telling a scene from the POV of a character who is unfamiliar with such things. "Her eyes widened at the sight of the stranger's pointed ears," etc.
     
  19. BrentMc

    BrentMc Commander Red Shirt

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    Thanks for the tips Mr. Cox. I am having fun learning about writing fiction. Every time I read a little more in one of my books on writing I think of a way to improve my story. It's been fun.
     
  20. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    We should compare notes, JD. :) I'm writing a sci-fi/fantasy book (for the challenge and to keep me occupied) - it's fun, isn't it? I've sketched out the basic skeleton of the entire novel, and currently I'm about a third of the way through when it comes to writing it out in full. Around 150,000 words so far. I'm running it by family members and selected friends for feedback on the first draft.

    I try to write a page a night if I can.