Why setting a scene is so important

This article was first posted on Starbase 118’s blog, but I thought it was so useful I’ve posted it here. Make sure to check out their other articles with tips about writing

Pixeltrek

We all know that dialogue is important. Dialogue is how we interact with other character and it is a critical part of our simming style. We write dialogue and leave tags for other characters to interact with.

But what about the parts of a post that are not dialogue? The action and description in a post is as important as the dialogue, but sometimes we forget it or leave it out entirely. Learning how to add good description in your posts is a vital part of becoming a stronger writer. Today we’re going to look at the scene set – the description at the very start of a post that sets up the rest of the action.

Consider the following sample of a post:

((Bridge – USS Trekia))

CAPTAIN KERK: Lieutenant Wharf, you are late for your shift!

LT. WHARF: Yes, Sir. Sorry, Sir. It won’t happen again.

KERK: You had better make sure it doesn’t. Where were you last night, Wharf?

WHARF: I left the party with Commander Troy. I had something important to tell her.

KERK: Important? How important?

WHARF: It couldn’t wait, Sir…

If this was a real post, it assumes that the reader had been following Wharf’s story and they know both characters intimately. However if someone does not know the characters well, this dialogue could have a variety of different tones and moods. A scene set at the start of the post will immediately let the audience and your fellow players know what sort of scene this is. Consider the same scene with a scene set and some extra description:

((Bridge – USS Trekia))

::It was the third of five days of restful shore leave and Captain James P. Kerk was feeling in a playful mood. The senior staff party the previous night had been a merry affair, complete with much deserved promotions and awards. Then there was the rumor that newly-promoted Lieutenant Wharf was finally going to pop the question to lovely Commander Troy, and ask her for her hand in marriage. Kerk decided that he would prod the dutiful young lieutenant and see if he could get the man to spill the beans, or at least hint at the outcome of his date with the counselor.

As Wharf came to the bridge Kerk affected a stern face, but his eyes flashed with good humor.::

CAPTAIN KERK: Lieutenant Wharf, you are late for your shift!

::He watched as the Lieutenant did a quick double-take on the chronometer, before he stammered a confused answer::

LT. WHARF: Yes, Sir. Sorry, Sir. It won’t happen again.

KERK: You had better make sure it doesn’t. ::He couldn’t help cracking a smile:: Where were you last night, Wharf?

WHARF: I left the party with Commander Troy. I had something important to tell her.

KERK: Important? How important? ::he was practically grinning now::

WHARF: It couldn’t wait, Sir…

::Oh yes, now Kerk needed to know all the details…::

Or an alternative:

((Bridge – USS Trekia))

::This was the third time this month Lieutenant Wharf was late. Captain James P. Kerk stalked the bridge, counting every second that ticked by on the chronometer. He didn’t know what was going on with the young officer, but he had seen him absconding with the ship’s counselor several times over the last few weeks. There was something up, something that Wharf hadn’t shared with him yet.

He wanted to know, but doctor-patient confidentiality prevented Counselor Troy from divulging what was wrong. All he knew was that the issue was not something that would jeopardize the ship. It didn’t stop Kerk from being angry about it.::

CAPTAIN KERK: Lieutenant Wharf, you are late for your shift!

LT. WHARF: Yes, Sir. Sorry, Sir. It won’t happen again.

::Well, at least he had the decency to look embarrassed by it.::

KERK: You had better make sure it doesn’t. Where were you last night, Wharf?

WHARF: I left the party with Commander Troy. I had something important to tell her.

KERK: Important?  How important?

WHARF: It couldn’t wait, Sir…

::Kerk grumbled, stewing on the problem as Wharf took his seat. It was starting to affect his ship, if Wharf couldn’t complete his duties or arrive on time. Kerk resolved to hunt the counselor down and see if she could shed any light on this problem::

some of our best writing tips
SEE ALSO: Some of our best writing tips

In both cases the scene setting provides vital clues as to what is going on in the scene, and why the characters are saying what they are saying. Oftentimes one piece of dialogue can be interpreted in many different ways and the only way to make your character’s intentions clear is to add extra setting and description to your post.

Scene settings not only clearly communicate your character’s intentions, they allow the other players to better understand and visualize what is going on. This means that other characters can react better in character because they understand the intentions and actions your character is taking. This is especially helpful if you are responding to tags in an antagonistic way. Taking a moment to clearly set the scene and let the other players know why your character would react to something with conflict or aggression really helps everyone understand the in-game story.

Scene setting also helps foster new players on your ship. If someone is confused about what is going on in a mission, a well written scene setting can clear things up for everyone. You can describe the area, who is in it and what they are doing to help players who are confused navigate the scenes they are in.

As a challenge, for a week try starting every single post you write with a few introductory sentences. This is a simple improvement that any writer can work on to make better posts and improve our game overall!

The post Witty Wordsmith: Why Setting a Scene Is So Important appeared first on UFOP: StarBase 118 Star Trek RPG and was written by Sal Taybrim.


The top image is from PixelTrek.

Published by

David Ball

David is a web developer, and the creator of OngoingWorlds