Task Force Writing Guidelines

From Bravo Fleet
Revision as of 12:26, 22 May 2022 by Beckett (talk | contribs) (→‎Writing TF Fiction)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)

These guidelines apply almost exclusively to Bravo Fleet Command.

For most members, the guidelines on bridging your OOC dossier with your IC writing is relatively straightforward. Your avatar command is the starship assigned to the Fourth Fleet, your primary character is (usually) its commanding officer. Your writing remains in the bounds of member canon, as stand-alone stories other members can choose to engage with as they prefer, and written with the scope to match.

Some of this changes upon becoming a member of Bravo Fleet Command, especially a member of Task Force Senior Staff.

Overview

There should always be a separation between your storytelling as a member and your storytelling as a staffer. As a staffer, your work exists to provide storytelling inspiration to others, and contribute to the sense of a fleshed-out setting. To put it bluntly:

  • Nobody else should have to care about your avatar command’s missions.
  • Nobody else should have to care about the personal life and development of your staff characters.

You are no longer writing for you. You are writing for others. Any formal task force content released should advance a storyline in which others can engage, enrich the setting in which such stories are written, or at the very least establish good writing practice for others to follow. This section will be better discussed later, but this is a fundamental principle: separate your personal writing from your staff writing, and your staff writing isn’t about you.

Primary Characters

Because your primary character is the face of your dossier, impacting announcements, awards, etc, it is useful for them to also be the character in your most notable role. Once you’re a member of Bravo Fleet Command, that’s not your starship commander - that’s your staff character, who by policy should now be your primary. IC, this is the character who holds that staff role in the command echelons of the Fourth Fleet.

As per the above, your staff character should not be your avatar command’s captain. This person isn’t just a starship captain, they’re a unit leader or a senior staffer. They have personnel assigned to them and infrastructure to oversee and need to keep a weather eye on the goings-on of their task force or department.

As ever, the character’s rank is restricted to either Captain or your dossier rank - whichever is higher. Characters don’t get a bump to an admiral’s bars just because the member is a task force or departmental staffer.

Task Force Headquarters

TFHQs are the heart of a task force - all IC infrastructure is there, and they are all located in a region with challenges that suit the task force’s theme.

Because TFHQs vary in size, from Task Force 17’s 2,000-strong Deep Space 17 to the floating city of Starbase 72, how they are used will differ. This is also one of the reasons the TFCO is not the IC commanding officer of the TFHQ - a Captain might command a Narendra-class, but not a Spacedock.

This also frees up members to use the TFHQs in their own writing without necessarily having to OOC consult the TFSS whenever they want to do something - recurring NPCs as TFHQ staff can provide briefings or act in the background if needed.

Furthermore, overseeing the region around a TFHQ is only part of a TFCO’s duties. Their mandate is usually galaxy-wide, and it doesn’t make sense to nail the TFSS to the floor in one sector.

Task Force Flagships

Each TF has a flagship, brought in OOC to facilitate TFCOs appearing in storylines and locations beyond their TFHQ/region. While we rule against TFCOs being the commanding officers of HQs, they can command their flagships as well as their task forces. This is largely in the interest of convenience; an NPC in this role might make more sense IC, but it doesn’t necessarily add anything or make anyone’s writing easier, in contrast to the NPC TFHQ CO.

Flagships are most likely to feature in official TF releases or in fleet-wide campaigns; stories where it makes sense for the TF senior staff to be boots-on-the-ground, either around the vicinity of their TFHQ or deployed far away. Remember - TFHQs and their surrounding areas are not the primary responsibility of a TF, their operational mandate is, and that can be galaxy-wide.

Writing TF Fiction

This all provides a framework for how the TF might look and operate IC. It is this framework which will likely underpin any official fiction releases by task force staff. However - not all TF fiction needs to use the TF staff. It can use an NPC ship encountering something pertinent to the TF, or depict a hotspot of trouble somewhere in the TF’s region or relevant to its theme, etc etc.

TF fiction is expected to meet certain quality standards. Nobody needs to produce Shakespeare, and simple English can be perfectly effective. But spelling and grammar should be accurate, and tone must be appropriate for the content. This is, more than anything else on BFMS, writing for other people to read, rather than writing for your own pleasure. Think about what makes writing accessible to an audience, think about what is the key point you want to convey, and how your writing can most quickly and efficiently do that.

Even if you want to write with someone else - another staffer, another TF member - avoid writing this like it's an RPG post, where you each take turns writing line-by-line. Worse here is RPG writing where someone builds a framework and all the other writer can do is have their character deliver one immaterial line, the response pre-determined; this leads to generic and flabby writing. This is a situation where you should think of the characters as storytelling devices, not as member avatars. If you want to write collaboratively, plan out the scene ahead of writing - what will it achieve? What will the different characters contribute? Does one ask questions so another can provide exposition? Are these characters disagreeing to convey the tension of a scenario? Are they problem-solving, each of them suggesting approaches which tell us about them as characters but also highlights how there might different ways to tackle a situation? Remember, short and simple is not a sin.

If a TFCO’s skillset is not in creative writing, this is a responsibility that can fall to a TFXO. The Lore and Ops offices are also available to help with brainstorming or even writing if necessary.

Report Fictions

TF reports should include at least a snippet of fiction. This can be simple flavour, helping remind people of what their TF is about and how it feels. It can be a very broad story hook, suggesting something is going on that anyone in the TF is welcome to work into their own storytelling. It can work to flesh out the world of the TF - perhaps the region, the TFHQ itself, or say something about the staff relevant to TF members.

Report fiction should not:

  • Centre a story about a specific avatar command;
  • Be nothing more than character development for a task force staffer;
  • Be overly long.

Think about how you’d feel as a member, reading this story. Be brutal with yourself: would you care to read about the TFCO drinking coffee or having their own self-contained adventures? Or would you find it more fun to read something which immersively develops the TFHQ or somewhere close to it?

Bigger Storytelling

Task Forces aren’t huge, and members participate in a variety of activities - not all of them writing with their avatar commands. As such TF-specific plotlines outside of fleet-wide campaigns are not always the most efficient use of a task force senior staff’s time. It is best to focus your efforts on setting a good example as a member with your avatar command and assisting your members on how to best tell their own stories.

If you are committed as task force staff to present your HQ or region as a dynamic area where things are always happening, be mindful to not place expectations on your members to keep track of it, do not make it too disruptive, and always write in a way where members could pick up and play with these plot ideas if they wanted to. In practice, members have left many of these plot threads well alone. This doesn’t mean they’re not enjoyed, but expecting members to come play in the sandpit you’ve built is perhaps optimistic. Think of such things as inspirational rather than something to be engaged with directly.

I can also under no circumstances recommend trying to brainstorm storytelling with the TF at large. Know your members - pay attention, and you’ll figure out who has the interest and talent for storytelling. If you want to do something with members, approach such individuals directly. Throwing open a general statement or question in your lounge is likely inviting at best silence, at worst a light engagement which you’ll try to work around and then find is dropped. This isn’t a criticism of members; they seem happy getting on with what they’re doing. Fill the trough with water, but don’t bust a gut trying to make them drink.