tips for writing void and water navies
So, since I actually work around boats all day and also have a thing for blathering about the voidfaring life, here’s a few things I wanted to share that maybe other people might find helpful for adding some realism and believability to their own fictions involving the same things.
Ships are often referred to incorrectly in fiction. A ship’s name does not have “the” in front of it, unless that is actually part of the name of the vessel. Example sentence:
Correct: Vengeful Spirit was an exceptional vessel, the only Scylla variant-build ever constructed of the ancient and intimidating Gloriana pattern.
Incorrect: The Vengeful Spirit awaited them, a hulking monstrosity cruising slowly just above atmos as she waited in low orbit.
Now, this is not a hard and fast rule. There is a time that you can call a ship “the -name-,” and that is if the ship has been destroyed/sunk/decommissioned, is a piece of history thought to be destroyed, etc. Examples of this: The Black Pearl, the Edmund Fitzgerald. Just be aware that, generally, if your ship in question is still in service and has not become a legend yet, she probably doesn’t have “the” in front of her name. However, you /can/ name a vessel The Fickle Female, or something like that,in which case “the” is part of the name and is fine. Also, pirate ships and privately-run vessels may have “the” in front of their names, though this can make them sound a bit hokey and corny. Another semi-exception is when using the vessel’s full name/title, example “the U.S.S. Enterprise” or “the H.M.S. Titanic” (although Titanic could also call under the “historical indicator from “the.” Passengers who are not familiar with shipfaring may also think of the vessel as “the Glorious Name,” but your crew, and most likely your omniscient narrator, would not.
Long story short? If your vessel left for her maiden voyage ten or a hundred years ago and hasn’t yet left service… no need for “the”– especially if it’s a crewman doing the talking.
Ships have their own words for everything. Here’s a quick rundown:
Berth/Berthing: places where crew or possibly passengers sleep.
Quarters: Same as above, but generally insinuating more luxurious accommodations.
Bow: The front/nose of the ship, as a noun
Stern: The rear/ass end of the ship, as a noun.
Prow: The very front of the bow, the “nose” of a ship.
Transom: The flat “ass” of a ship.
Engines: Whatever makes your ship go. Boats may have motors, but ships have engines.
Bulkhead: An interior wall of a ship.
Gunwale: Pronounced “gunnel.” The outside “wall” of the ship as created by the hull.
Hatch: A door or doorway. You can close a hatch or walk through a hatch.
Hatchway: Doorway. You cannot “close” a hatchway, but only walk through it.
Porthole: a window
Ahead: To engage the engines in a way that the ship moves forward, as in “full steam ahead.”
Astern: To engage the engines in such a way that the ship moves backward/in reverse.
Deck: Any “floor” in or on the ship. Stuff you walk on.
Topside/abovedecks: the “outside area” of a boat. Where you can stand and feel the air on your face.
Belowdecks: “inside” the ship’s hull. “below” is a shortening of this.
Bilge: A pump that removes water (or whatever) from inside the vessel.
Scuttle: to trash something or throw it out.
Scuttlebutt: Rumors and gossip, trashtalking.
Galley: The kitchen.
Bridge: The part of the ship where it is controlled.
Helm: Phrase for describing the person actually controlling the ship’s movements. The person “at the helm” is the person making the decisions, not the person with the wheel in their hands. If your captain tells his first mate, “Six degrees to starboard, steady on”, the captain is at the helm. If the first mate is making that decision himself because the captain can’t, he’s “at the helm.”
Moorings: attachment to a dock. “moored” meaning attached in this way.
Flotsam: Stuff floating in the water, or in space.
Masts: Big posts that sails fly from.
Boom: Big post going across the mast that sails attach to.
Make fast: tie shit down
Eye: a round thing to tie to or pass a rope through.
Cleat: a thing for tying shit to.
Hold: Any large space inside of a ship to put shit, or “stow” it.
There’s lots more, and lots if you want to get into sailing vessels involving the names for the different sails and masts and such, but this is enough to get you started.
Directions and time:
Ships have their own way of designating the “directions” on the ship. Aft and stern are not synonyms: aft is a direction, the stern is the actual physical part of the ship. Same with forward and bow.
Forward: The “front” direction, anything from the middle of the ship to the very tip of the prow.
Aft: The ass end direction. Anything from the middle to the very farthest back part of the ship.
Port: If you are standing on the ship and looking forward, this is going to be on your left. It’s easy to remember because “left” and “port” both have four letters.
Starboard: Pronounced “starberd.” The “right” side of the ship, if you are standing on the ship, looking forward. Two R’s in starboard– “right.”
This is helpful in writing because you can use these words to describe how your characters move about their surroundings, IE, “She looked up, lost, heading what she assumed was aftward.”
Ships generally have their own clock and specific time. Even today in real life, submarines will have their own times and clocks, often with each crewmember on his own clock.
Summary: Idk people, talk about the cool shit in your spaceships more! Hope this helped.