Friday, September 19, 2008

Tips for writing a science fiction novel

by Currie Jean

From wars between worlds to the chemistry of human identity, science fiction is all about messing with the very groundwork of reality. The thematic limits don't end at what we know about the world, but reach onward to discuss what humans assume and wonder about.

What would extraterrestrial life say about humanity? Is cloning as scary as it seems? What are the true consequences for the members of a completely totalitarian state? How does probability really work? If you're up to discussing questions like these via fictional analogy, keep the following ten points in mind.

1) THE BASICS

Basic rules of language use span all genres of storytelling. That means that, unless you're quoting a character with a speech impediment, you have to use correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, and formatting. For the sake of your reader, please don't forget to start a new paragraph every time a new person speaks.

Spell check, also, is not an excuse to be lazy. It's not as good with language as you are, believe it or not, so it'll miss mistakes. Use it only as a safety net after doing your very best. Still, feel free to make up words as required. Science fiction is an incredibly creative genre, and you might need names for new concepts and technologies.

2) PLOTTING

The classic way to create an involving story requires you to build up the plot, gradually intensifying the reader's suspension of disbelief - that means convincing the reader to "lose" herself in the work. The characters face situations which appear more and more dangerous, and then the climax shows up, about 80% of the way in. This is when the big action happens, the story is resolved, and the reader's expectations are indirectly addressed, sometimes with an unexpected twist. The rest of the story is devoted to winding down and tying up loose ends.

Science fiction, however, is an innovative genre. Its definition often changes, and so can the way it tells stories. You're in no way required to end the story on a happy note (sad resolutions are resolutions too). You can leave some loose ends open even if you aren't planning a sequel. You could even have the climax at the beginning, and explain it in the rest of the story. If your science fiction story is on the philosophical side, let the plot take you to the conclusion of the argument you're using the story to demonstrate. Be innovative!

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