Forum Writing Etiquette
From Star Trek: Theurgy Wiki
- 1 How Does Forum Writing Work?
- 2 IC Action = IC Consequence
- 3 Thread Types
- 4 Posting Style Guide
- 5 Good Writing Etiquette
- 6 Bad Forum Behaviour
- 7 Resources for New Star Trek Writers
How Does Forum Writing Work?
When you do collaborative writing, you assume the role of a character. You either inherit or create a character and write from their perspective/role. Your character isn't you, and you aren't your character; you're separate entities. You can think of it like an actor in a movie; the actor is not the character. This is one of the most important things to remember: your character should be different from you. Otherwise, this can very easily lead to destructive forum behaviour. Simplest example; a player with a "self-character" may take offense at another character disliking the self-character. Keeping that in mind is very important for an enjoyable forum experience. Just because a character dislikes your character does not mean that player dislikes you. A fight between players does not mean characters have to start disliking one another (though it may be easiest to avoid drama by avoiding the writer).
Furthermore, realism is an important aspect of creating a flowing storyline. Even writing novels; if you create a world with rules and then break those rules later (especially unintentionally), it irritates your reader. Sim realism is not exactly like real life realism. Given the elements of space travel and highly advanced technologies, sim realism adheres to Star Trek realism, and that is especially important in collaborative writing because many people are writing in the same universe.
IC Action = IC Consequence
One essential of forum writing is remembering you are writing a story with many other players. Though your character is important to you, others' characters are equally important to them. Though there is great freedom in online forum writing, it's not absolute. It is important to remember that for your character's actions, there are often consequences. Though it was a fun plot when your character suddenly snapped, your GM may not approve. Don't expect to be able to do whatever you want at all times. If you do collaborative writing, there are other people writing, too. If your character does something, other characters will react.
Also, it should be pointed out that IC actions could lead to undesirable consequences and you should have them in mind (Example, Character 1 punch superior officer Character 2 due a debate they have, which logically lead to Character 1 being put into the Brig for some time). Have in mind that even if consent is given for the strike, your character's actions could prompt reactions. Discuss with your writing partners (and GM if needed) if you don't want surprises that could disable your options to write your character. Could be fun for character development but have in mind the consequences!
It is also important to remember that your character is not the central point of the plot at all times. Don't join a thread where there is clearly something going on between the other characters and expect everyone's focus to shift to your character. Play to the story; don't expect others to gravitate toward or even care about your character in any particular moment. This would be really rude in real life, and also really rude in collaborative writing.
Open threads, which may become group threads for more than just two writers, are free for any writer to join.
Private threads are intended for specific writers who were invited to that thread. You must always ask before posting. This is the typical standard of threads, so unless stated otherwise, you must always assume its a Private thread. Don't join private threads you weren’t invited to. Your post may be deleted or removed. Also, ask before you start a private thread for someone. If your thread demands their presence or requires it because of their character's position, it's kind of inconsiderate of their thread load, real life, other duties, and so forth. Sometimes writers of superior officers won't be able to join every thread they are needed in. Please be considerate and just inform them of the scenes intended. If you're not, your starting post may be deleted or removed. Have in mind writers can't join every thread in the forum.
Here, the posted scenes have been written out via PM or over Discord before editing, and they are a special kind of Private threads. JPs are useful for the quicker flowing conversations that occur when characters interact or when events progress or one-on-one scenes which does not include a lot of introspection and thoughtfulness, which might be better detailed in a solo post without loosing the pace of the scene. A JP can be written in the middle of a thread with solo posts too, if the situation allows for it and both writers think its appropriate for the situation. For more information, check the Joint Posts Tutorial page.
Posting Style Guide
First of all, this style guide should assist in understanding some of the quirks to how we indicate the various aspects of character interactions and posts in the written world of the Theurgy sim. The guide will be based off the following sample post which contains many of the aspects covered below:
[ PWO Rihen Neyah | Vector 01 Hull | "Helmet" Exterior | USS Theurgy ] Attn: @Other Writer
Blinking away the salty egesta from her eyes, Rihen Neyah tried to breathe deeper. Nonetheless, the nausea remained.
"I´m... almost done," she said inside the helmet of her EVA suit, chiding herself because she wanted to repair her allotted hull damage and not just quit because she was feeling a bit ill. The skin of her nose was rubescent by the heat, glistening with perspiration, and her eyes were dry like paper no matter how much she blinked. Likely a fever peaking after having felt fine when she began the shift. Her arms, as weak as a newborn's, still moved when she made them, but she felt that her entire body was slick with sweat inside the suit. Of course, she'd heard about Virus 117, but she was in denial. Well, perhaps she wasn't - already suspecting she had contracted it from the Resolve crew. Yet even if she had, she was not about to leave a job half-finished. She was almost done, and even if it seemed like the gloves on the suit were getting stiffer around her fingers, she could still push her thumb down on her plasma torch's trigger, and that was good enough. Just a little more...
Suddenly, the hull became brighter, and Rihen raised her heterochromatic gaze to the nebula. The vertigo or the motion almost made her eyes roll. The crepuscular sky above Vector 01 was filled with cloudy maelstroms - moving on winds unlike she'd ever seen in Suraya Bay or Nimbus III. Desultory, her eyes next discerned the umbrageous surface of the hull before her, whereupon spectres of malign fire danced. An explosion? she thought. How could she not hear any susurrous anlage of fire? She had momentarily forgotten that she was in space, and that there was no sound. Then, she saw the origin. Her mismatched eyes widened to the sight; fiery effluvium expanding, a silently roaring ebullition larger than her, and the sinuous motions of the molten flames.
A pocket of sirillium gas had just detonated, expanding towards the surface of the hull she stood on.
"Oh, no..." she said, but before she managed to contact anyone, there was a voice heard inside her helmet.
[This is Crewman Fok in Work Bee Zero-Nine to all engineers.] The voice sounded brittle, as if on the verge of carefully contained hysteria. Fear barely tethered. [I represent the Devoted, and h-here are our demands. Unless Captain Ives resign, and Sarresh Morali is m-made new Commanding Officer of Theurgy, I will detonate all the sirillium around the hulls. No more can we fumble blindly, dying because of Ives' ignorance. Let Morai thwart the enemy... and lead the way home.]
Screaming, Rihen had dropped her torch from her hand and started to run away from the firery cloud, but her legs weren't working as they should. Perhaps it wasn't her suit that was stiff, but her limbs swollen. "Neyah to Kalmil!" she panted, reporting to the only Chief outside the ship, "I can't get away!"
[Inform the Captain that h-he has ten minutes, but that's all. We are listening on this channel.]
Rihen cast her brown and blue eyes back once more, realising it was too late, and threw herself down unto the hull. Yet that meant her boots were no longer magnetically sealed to the surface. Still screaming, the shock wave of the conflagration swept her off the hull, leaving the back of her EVA-suit burning - the air trapped inside the suit's layers set alight.
The general format of the post is as follows:
- Copy-Paste if you wish: [ Character | Location | Deck ## | Vector ## | USS Theurgy ] Attn: @Member
- The Character indicates which crewperson is responding. Many Theurgy writers have multiple characters on the ship and also write disposable NPC characters at times as well.
- Location, Deck, and Vector help place the exact location where the post is. While locations such as the main bridge may be obvious which deck and vector they are, there are many locations aboard, crew quarters for example, that are spread across all decks and vectors. The Deck Layout can be found in the top menu of the forum, under Database.
- While most posts take place on the Theurgy , at times your character may be sent off ship so "USS Theurgy" may be replaced with another vessel, for example the Tactical CONN folks during fighter ops will use their fighter designation (Wolf-03, Wolf-06, etc.) or their callsign (Razor, Ghost, Icarus, etc.)
- And the last part is the Attn: block. Basically, it's to show other writers who is to respond to your post next. Typically the writer (not the character) is referenced here, and usually by utilising the forum's Mention function (@Member). That specific format is used by the forum software itself to indicate a writer has been tagged in a post. You have to type @, then start writing the name of the member, and then pick the name from a small pop-up menu. If you don't, the name will be white instead of blue, and no Mention notification will be made. Moreover, Mentions don't work in "Quick Edit" mode if you want to add one afterwards. To do that, you have to use "Modify Post".
- Most of the time, writers tend to insert a picture of their character under the header with a spoiler using the following code, and a few even go out of their way to make those images links to their character pages in the database (copy-paste into the forum, where the [Show/Hide] button will work):
- Posts are written third person past tense. The action is written as if you were the camera watching the scene and reported what had just happened. If I said, "Ryuan Sel tossed Wenn Cinn the phaser", that is past tense whereas if I said "Ryuan Sel tosses Wenn Cinn the phaser," that is current/present tense. Note the verb used tossed vs tosses.
- Posts that consist of “text-walls” (without paragraph breaks, as one solid block of writing) are bad. They’re very hard on the eyes. Separate your posts into paragraph form. Enough said.
- Quotation Marks - Used to indicate character speech that is audible to those immediately around the writer. Can be anything from muttering under their breath to outright yelling, the exact volume is often noted in the descriptive text around the speech. See further down in regard to unspoken thoughts, which doesn't have brackets or quotation marks.
- Brackets - Used to indicate speech heard (but not sent) over the comm system, either via combadge, computer console, or helmet worn by the pilots (amongst others). The reason we do this is to distinguish that the dialogue read does not come from a person present in the physical location of the scene. Brackets can also be used between paragraphs to indicate a shift in location, or in time such as [ 5min later - Bridge ]
- Italics - Italics have multiple uses, but it shouldn't be too confusing. Essentially, italics are used for:
- Illustrating the thoughts of one's character, the worded thoughts not having brackets or quotation marks.
- Flashbacks from past events in the middle of current scenes. These italicised flashbacks include both dialogue and prose.
- Denote the dialogue of preceding posts from other writers, this, however, with [brackets] or "quotation marks." In larger threads, this helps the reader understand the overall continuity of the post, ie, where is fits into the overall plot and who it is in response to.
- Alien/Foreign languages - A common way to denote speech in another language, but written in English for sake of readability, is to use <these kinds of brackets> or ~ even using the tilde grapheme ~ for such speech. If you want to use actual Klingon words, for example, it is recommended that you include a translation in an OOC comment (see below).
- Besides for alien languages, the tilde grapheme (~) is known to be used for telepathic speech as well.
- Textual colouring - Some writers employ textual coloring to indicate speech in addition to the use of quotation marks. While not required, some writers do and some don't, the highlighting of speech text can make reading easier as speech stands out from the rest of the body of the post. At the same time, highlighting speech might make readers gloss over important information in the overall prose. If you do want to use coloured dialogue, please use bright colours to make it stand out against the dark site background!
- Forum Profile Signatures - If you want to add a more permanent comment or links to your characters' pages in the database, you can do so in the Forum Profile section on the forum.
- OOC comment - If you need to leave an Out-of-Character message to the readers in general or the other writers involved in the thread, we usually separate the OOC area with a horizontal line, and we also make the OOC note in italics to not confuse it with the body of the post. Something like this (copy-paste into the forum):
Good Writing Etiquette
Don’t respond to every bit of speech. Give non-verbal responses — nods, stares, shakes of the heads, funny looks, waves of the hand, thumbs up, smiles, grins, shrugs, crossing of the arms, and so forth. This simplifies the thread and can help prevent awkward speech patterns between writing characters. Also, don’t overthink. Don’t immerse yourself completely in the character’s head. It’s great that she’s thinking of her dead parents in this somber moment, but it gives the other writer very little to reply to. Make sure your post doesn’t consist solely of thought — it’s very difficult to reply to. Don’t overdo the action, either. Don’t over-stuff with action, changes, and alterations. A slight change of scenery, like the sun beginning to set, is great. A major shift — such as a cliffside cave beginning to flood — may not be so appreciated by the other writer(s).
Lastly, don’t be over-controlling. It’s important not to entirely direct the course and flow of a thread. Allow the other player to make some decisions, even if it’s an unplotted thread—this is easily done by leaving open-ended replies. For example, if two fighter pilots are hunting a pirate ship, the first character’s reply could detail their approach, the second could detail the selection of fire solution, the first can then detail the actual attack, while the second write about the fallout or counter attack, and so forth. Each writer gets to dictate a different part of the interaction and advance the storyline a little; it’s more fun for everyone this way.
Starting a Thread
When you start a thread, certain things are important. Where is the thread set? What time of day is it? What's going on? It's important to describe the scenery for the other writer. It may be confusing if you set the thread at night, and the other player replies as if it is day.
For the best response in Open threads, pick a well-trafficked area of the setting. If you set the thread in the middle of nowhere, far from where most characters are, the replies you get may be limited as it may be difficult for other characters to access those areas. Make sure this is a place the other character(s) can access, and a place where it makes sense for them to be.
Note your character’s quirks, movements, body language, gestures, and so forth. Don’t overload your posts with action. Do remember that if your post is all thought and speech, there’s very little for the other writer to respond to. If you throw in a little bit of action into each post, it makes the thread that much more interesting!
Respond to Action
If the other character made a move, action, or betrayed something in their body language (and your character was likely to notice), do respond! If their character stepped forward in their post, perhaps your character steps backwards. Or — doesn’t, depending on the interaction. Make sure you’re not skipping over anyone else’s action that requires response, either — such as a handshake, high five, etc.
Don’t Forget the Scenery!
Especially in long threads, the scenery is sometimes neglected. If the characters are standing outside in a forest talking for hours, maybe the sun starts to set and they have to begin making their way home. This can change the flavor of the thread from simple idle chat to a real adventure — and a great way for two characters to bond. If the characters are sitting in the bar of the Below Decks lounge late at night, perhaps a few NPCs join them for drinks?
Replying to Threads
Posting pace in replying is important. Too lax, and you may lose inspiration for your threads. Too strenuous, and you may find yourself overwhelmed. It's very important to set a good pace for yourself, and keep it up. If you are feeling too pressured to reply to your threads, you can always finish off a few ahead of what you'd planned. Don't feel pressured to reply to a thread quickly because the other writer replied quickly; it is very important that you are comfortable replying at your own speed! Remember, it's supposed to be fun. It is normal in many forum to wait a few days for a reply.
If you're having trouble keeping track of your threads, check out Roleplay Post Logs. These are custom mini-templates writers use to keep track of their current threads.
If your thread participants are too slow for your liking, please consider that they may have real life, other duties, or other threads to reply to, too. Your thread may be plot-centric to your character, but not so plot-centric to their character. If you feel as though you're not getting enough writing due to slow participants, you can always pick up inheritable characters, make a new one if you're eligable, or start new threads with new writers.
Some threads are plot-centric and should be kept as a priority. You should keep this in mind as you're picking up threads.
Threads with Multiple Writers
Group threads are awesome — it's a chance for a lot of people to come together and work toward one end, and they're often essential for larger, board-wide plots. However, a common problem in large threads is the tendency for each character to react to each thing that happens. It's easier to summarize and breeze over non-essential interactions if you can, however; a larger amount of participants naturally means there is more to read throughout the course of the thread. It's good forum etiquette to keep replies short and succinct. There is no reason for your character to verbally reply (or even mentally react to) to everything every other character said. If you're in a group and several people are talking at once, are you listening to and responding to every conversation? Quite unlikely.
In some threads, a strict posting order is good forum etiquette.
- One-on-one threads should be replied to in turn. Posting twice to the same thread can be very confusing.
- Strict posting order also tends to hold true in larger threads that are plot-centric. The thread should move at a certain speed to make other things sensible within the timeline. Slow repliers may be skipped. If you're skipped, you should ask. Sometimes you can reply to the post out of turn. Other times, it's best to just wait for your next turn. In other threads, even very large ones, strict posting order is unnecessary. Writing is typically more related and these threads aren’t key to the plot. If you’re not sure about posting order, ask.
Trauma, Disorders, -Isms, Etc.
A sensitive issue in writing is the use of certain plot devices or character “flaws.” Among them are rape, molestation, mentally challenged characters, characters affected with a particular mental disorder, characters affected with a particular disability, and various other sensitive issues.
If you want to write about a sensitive issue (e.g., a character who was raped, or a character who has a condition of some sort, or a character who is transgender) treat these issues with respect. It is important to remember that these issues do not entirely shape that character and their perception. Your character with a condition is not just “a character with said condition” and you should explore aspects of their personality, history, and interactions, too. Don't let the disorder/disability/past define the character. Avoid cliches, tropes, and stereotypes — there's more enough of that in real life.
On the flip side - if someone is writing a sensitive issue but doesn't seem to be doing it right in your eyes, please remember that humans all have a very wide variety of experiences. We're all different. Maybe that person is doing it wrong in your eyes, but what they're writing is actually true to what they have experienced? Maybe it's therapeutic for them to write about certain subjects in a certain way. The end lesson in all: be kind to your fellow writers, please!
Bad Forum Behaviour
There are several bad collaborative writing behaviours. They are often employed by those new to forum writing. This is because these things are specific to group storytelling. It's no wonder newcomers don't know all the ropes yet. However, bad collaborative writing also may come from experienced players. While bad writing may seem harmless, it is at best irritating to other players. At worst, it's against the General Rules. Don't worry about making mistakes though. If you've accidentally done some bad collaborative writing, please don't feel bad about yourself. Your mistakes don't make you a bad person. It can be an honest mistake. It can be difficult to separate what you know from what your character knows, after all — metagaming can happen accidentally.
Godmoding refers to several types of bad forum writing as an umbrella term. All godmoding attempts to shift the story in the godmoding writer's favor. In essence, godmoding is any attempt at giving a character an advantage that does not normally exist in-game. The word comes from video games, where godmode includes features such as invincibility, unlimited ammunition or lives, or similar power boosts. Forum writers can't use exploits or cheat codes to power-up their characters, but certain writing behaviors can achieve virtually similar results.
Puppeteering or Powerplaying
This is the most common example of active godmoding. It is also possibly the most serious form of bad forum behaviour. Damage-based powerplay inflicts damage on another character without the writer’s permission. Stating, completing, or otherwise interfering in any way with another character’s actions, thoughts, emotions and dialogue may be powerplay. Assumptions can also be powerplay. Assumptions are assumed interactions (things that didn’t actually happen "off-screen"). It is one of the oldest and most well-known forms of bad forum writing.
How to avoid it:
- Unless consent is given, you cannot write your attack and damage in the same post. Hands off your writing partners' characters. Period!
- It is fine to state what could happen. It may be hard to word without power-playing, though. Post your part of an attack but let your opponent post the resolution. Write in a ‘tentative’ mode”, i.e. using words like attempted, aimed, and tried.
- Contact the writer before you make an assumption about their character.
- Could be good to script out a fight scene between characters via PM or on Discord, but you need to remember that it is a two-way street. You need to be willing have your character take damage too.
- Very minor action powerplay may be okay with certain writers (i.e., those you are familiar with or in certain plotted situations).
- Leave room for objections and always note your powerplay in the OOC section of your post.
- If you’ve written with someone many times before and you know they are okay with it, you may be able to assume her character nods, moves along with your character to a new location, etc. This is not the norm, however.
Metagaming is using OOC knowledge in In-Character thoughts, actions, or behaviour. Metagaming is a frequent issue in forum writing. It often occurs with new players who do not know to keep their OOC knowledge out of IC interactions. However, seasoned players do sometimes intentionally use OOC information to give their character an advantage. When intentional, metagaming is definitely bad forum behaviour. Remember what your character knows is separate from your knowledge. Pay close attention to his or her setting to determine the appropriate knowledge level.
Other Irritating Forum Behaviours
After you get past this point it's fairly nitpicky. Especially if you're a beginner to collaborative writing, you will probably make some of these mistakes. As long as you learn from your mistakes, though, you'll be fine!
A writer who plays a non-competitive game in an aggressively competitive manner, no matter how deleterious their actions are to collaborative writing, the storyline, fairness, logic, or the other players. These bad writers create characters in an open-ended, non-combat game with intent to win or completely dominate. Usually, this behaviour is encountered with players solely interested in fights or battles. Fighters and warriors have their place, certainly. Just remember when creating this character make sure you give it depth beyond their fighting abilities. Give it a personality and make sure the character interacts with others in ways that do not involve combat. As with the second example, though, this behaviour can occur in other ways. The characters created by Munchkins almost always dance on the line of godmoding, and it's loathed behaviour in general. It should be avoided. Overall, let your characters fail. Let them bleed. Let them embarrass themselves, and you'll find that you'll have more fun writing them as well.
The Geardo (or The Hoarder)
This kind of writer treats the collaborative narrative of a storyline like it was a video game, where their characters hoard fictional weaponry and items. It's a variation of the Munchkin, who's often an overachiever - the eternal winner. These are often self-characters as well, in how they try to make their superhero representation of themselves unbeatable. A character is not their inventory - having them defined by the coolness of their weaponry is juvenile.
The Drop and Swap
This bad writer picks up characters like it's going out of style. Only, they drop them shortly thereafter. Forum writing requires active and dedicated participants, and if you're switching characters every third month, you're not establishing yourself or your characters. You may have future trouble finding writing partners, if you gain a reputation for Drop and Swap. Another variety of this player hops from sim to sim, never settling down.
This bad writer is quick to demand thread requests, but will rarely reply to requests made by others. This writer may also employ behaviours to twist threads and plots to their own desires. Remember, it's a collaborative effort; you need to take and give! An especially heinous OOC variety of this player attempts to make the writing cater to them in entirety. They may request rules changes, alterations to the story's basis, etc. The key difference between the OOC Selfie and a good writer? The good writer suggests, the OOC Selfie makes brusque requests or even demands.
The Corner Whiner:
This bad writer wants the community to welcome them, drown them in thread requests, and otherwise shower them with attention, yet they make zero effort to put themselves out into the community. This behaviour is often accompanied by whining about not getting enough attention. Sometimes, this progresses into the writer leaving the community, only to later accuse it of being unfriendly. Remember, you have to put yourself into the writing community. This is especially true in big sites like the Theurgy.
Resources for New Star Trek Writers
Here are some useful pages to check out if you want!
- Memory Alpha - The one stop shop for most Star Trek information. Many of you already know about this site.
- Memory Beta - Expanded universe information. Goes into more detail than Memory Alpha, but in most cases the extra detail is not canon information.
- Warp Speed Calculator - Simple, yet effective.
- Stardate Calculator - No stardate calculator is entirely accurate, but this is our official one that we should use. It's new so old stardates we've added in the story had not been updated to this standard yet.
- English to Klingon - Translates to, and from Klingon. As well as a good deal of earth languages. Handy for the Klingons in the group. Qapla'!
- Klingonese Another helpful Klingon resource.
- Vulcan Language - Really helpful for those writing the point-eared ones!
- Daystrom Institute Technical Library - Starship information, and not just for the Federation. Pulls information from many sources like the shows, books and tech manuals to create a complete picture of each ship. Includes a size comparison for each ship in relation to others. Also adds logical speculation to fill in the gaps. Good information to know if the Theurgy has to face another ship.
- Cygnus-X1 Blueprints< - A great resource for canon ship blueprints. Some of them drawn by the actual ship designers for the show. Also includes other manuals like the Starfleet Medical Reference Manual.