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Tips regarding science fiction stories
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Gideon
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Tips regarding science fiction stories

This question is prefaced with the assumption that the General Fiction area plays host to original stories as well as fan fiction.

It seems that science fiction's scale is much larger than any other genre of writing. I haven't written for enjoyment in a couple of years, but I was always considered to be a proficient author. My general problem comes from perfectionism and a habitual narrow focus; I oftentimes will become so fixated on a particular character that I humanize him or her or individualize him or her to a far greater extent than the rest of the characters. I also fear not giving each of them distinct personalities.

One of my questions is thus: for an original science fiction story, do you ever feel inclined to rationalize your background? For example, if your general story requires humans colonizing on other planets, do you feel obligated to go into great detail as to why and how that colonization happened? The preciptating factors and motivation, as well as the scientific advancements and technology that allowed it to happen?

Old Post Nov 4th, 2008 08:49 PM
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Col. Valerian
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I wouldn't necessarily write motivations and such, but I would include scientific advancements and technology. After all, it was one of the reasons why mas Mass Effect (even though it's a game) was so successful. Loads of players are drawn not only to the amazing story, but to the in-depth study of how and why do the humans find themselves where they are inside the game.


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Old Post Nov 4th, 2008 11:55 PM
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jaden101
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I've written sci-fi before...both SW fan fiction and original work

I, personally found it easy to be short and brief about preceding events...just give a year and a blunt answer...for example

2156: earth was devastated by a comet impact which was forseen in the early part of the 22nd century, while all the governments of the world were allied in doing everything possible to destroy comet(insert name) from colliding with the planet it was in vain. While these preparations were made, private companies invested heavily in technology that would allow them to leave earth before the impact. only the rich could afford to leave. and now the few people who had the economic power to save themselves float alone in space with only their greed and the greed of their fellow trillionaires to keep them company in the vast emptiness of space


while that example is hugely cliched it covers the base of showing that the technology was invested in and created to allow people to leave the earth without getting into huge amounts of detail.

you can also just briefly drop in technologies in the background description

a perfect example of technology that is believable without explanation is the way replicators and transporters are shown on star trek...they were just accepted as being in keeping with the future...and only later did they offer any brief explanation of how they actually work.

you can also just make up something that is scientifically impossible to cover a multitude of sins...for example the heisenburg compensators on the transporters on star trek...this covers a genuinely scientific problem in real life (the heisenburg uncertainty principle regarding particles in that both their position and momentum cannot ever be simultaneously known at any one time)...heisenburg compensators could never really exist...but in sci-fi they can...

if you have trouble in that you only concentrate on a single character then try and write a story involving a single character...it worked with i am legend as well as others...it doesn't even neccessarily have to be sci-fi..."duel" by steven speilberg is a great example of a lone character going out of his mind....


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Old Post Nov 5th, 2008 12:03 AM
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Jedireaper
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Hmm.. All good advice Gid'. You must to some extent have sub characters whoes background may be unimportant but the character must still act like he has one... take say uhm, my Star Destroyer Captians in my fic, one can be found ont the "last page" of the Star Wars fiction Versus thread, or Role Plays... Valerian? You can vouch that for me. Apparent history in the way they talk and act without the need for a true explanation...


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Old Post Nov 5th, 2008 12:32 AM
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Gideon
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Thank you for the feedback, gentlemen.

quote: (post)
Originally posted by Cpt. Valerian
I wouldn't necessarily write motivations and such, but I would include scientific advancements and technology. After all, it was one of the reasons why mas Mass Effect (even though it's a game) was so successful. Loads of players are drawn not only to the amazing story, but to the in-depth study of how and why do the humans find themselves where they are inside the game.


Mass Effect has been a tremendous inspiration for me, and is perhaps my favorite game. Star Wars and Halo are also sources of inspiration, though I remain ignorant of other major series such as StarCraft or Warhammer: 40,000.

I'm trying to find something original, though. Though I intend to incorporate some fantasy and supernatural aspects in this piece, there won't be an overarching energy field such as the Force nor an evil galactic empire (though there will likely be a major corrupt institution, but not necessarily all out evil).

There are just so many issues to work out.

Old Post Nov 5th, 2008 01:21 AM
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Col. Valerian
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Yes, that is one of the problems. Including such things as technological advances or background theories, or even explanations, could be difficult to sort out, especially if you're trying to write something very original.


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Old Post Nov 5th, 2008 01:48 AM
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Gideon
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quote: (post)
Originally posted by Cpt. Valerian
Yes, that is one of the problems. Including such things as technological advances or background theories, or even explanations, could be difficult to sort out, especially if you're trying to write something very original.


You're telling me, lol. It's migraine-inducing.

Old Post Nov 5th, 2008 02:00 AM
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It is. I hate it. miffed


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Old Post Nov 5th, 2008 03:02 AM
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Gideon
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Have you written any original pieces or just Star Wars works?

Old Post Nov 5th, 2008 03:07 AM
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Col. Valerian
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Well, I haven't had enough time... That is precisely why I haven't continued the 'Mandalorian Wars' story. A while ago, I tried to write a SW story taking place 19,000 before the battle of Yavin, but I failed miserably. erm I didn't really put much effort onto it, but still.


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Old Post Nov 5th, 2008 03:27 AM
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Jedireaper
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I wrote something along the lines of a gritty London Gangster story, and several original sci-fi/fantasy pieces (not set in Star Wars EU, but inspired by amoung other things). It is very hard to come up with an original concept, but no easier to use someone else's concept to make as your own. I will always offer suggestions as your topic arises... your best bet, would be to have a few people hammer out the story with you. Then usually they'll spot your mistakes or errs before you do. I'll help if you like, but yea it is a major headache.


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Old Post Nov 5th, 2008 07:47 AM
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I have a friend irl who is helping it, but I'm slowly being reminded why it takes years by teams of professional writers to yield an intruiging storyline. Two seventeen year olds aren't gonna do it, hahaha. So I'd appreciate some more help. Might even be cool to get a couple more people from KMC to help me work on it.

Old Post Nov 6th, 2008 02:13 AM
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Jedireaper
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I call on that. I'm in.


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A long time have I waited for this, my little green friend!

Old Post Nov 6th, 2008 11:22 AM
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Col. Valerian
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Well, what's it about?


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Old Post Nov 6th, 2008 10:07 PM
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Keep in mind that this storyline and its setting are simply preliminary.

I was envisioning something along the lines of Mass Effect meets Halo and Star Wars.

I'm imagining, if the setting is in a single galaxy, that there is no overarching galactic government, but three major semi-galactic factions, each controlling roughly a third of the known galaxy (the major premise being that there are massive swaths of territory uninhabited and explored).

Unlike Star Wars, I wanted to truly accentuate the idea of scope and scale. So humans will not be the dominant species in the galaxy, though they play a large part. I want it to be seen as though there's always something bigger, stronger, or more dangerous. At the same time, I don't want them to be in the same scenario as Mass Effect, so my premise is this:

When the humans somehow managed to navigate their way to this 'new' galaxy (or perhaps even it is the Milky Way expanded), they stumbled upon an intragalactic war between two or all three of the galactic factions and sided with one, their presence breaking a deadlock or stalemate. This starts the human representatives (or one, a Palpatine-esque figure, perhaps?) to start using this debt as a means to bring galactic decisions closer under human control and power. The government that the humans join (and would later try to control) wouldn't be an evil empire, but how the United States of America is seen now. Some thing it's the best thing ever, others thing it is a modern day hellhole, some say its government is well meaning, others think it's corrupt -- to put proper perspective on the complexity of government as seen through the eyes of its various constituents. It will run the gamut. We'll see genuinely well meaning officials, efficient and effective ones, those who mean well but are hamstrung by the alliances they made to get into power, and outright sinister people.

I have no real idea exactly what my main character will be other than the fact that I want him to defy standards. I do better with morally conflicted or morally bankrupt characters, so I'd imagine he will be Machiavellian. But I don't want to rely on stereotypes and archetypes. For example, he won't be a battle hardened soldier who doesn't enunciate clearly or says "ain't" a lot. He also won't be a hardass who, upon confronting his wife's killer, won't threaten to kill him and eventually have a change of heart and drop the gun. I'd imagine it would be something like (and this is just out of my ass):

Protagonist: You killed my wife. I've spent years hunting your ass down and, finally, I have you literally in the crosshairs.

Wife-Killer: You wouldn't kill me! You're a marine!

Protagonist: Don't bet on it. Finding your wife raped and murdered tends to spin your moral compass.

Wife-Killer: You don't have the balls to pull that trigger.

Protagonist: How clever. This is the best you can do? You're relying on every action flick in history. When the hero confronts the villain and has him at his mercy, the villain gives a ballsy monologue, daring the hero to pull the trigger, and after a few angst-filled minutes, he'll drop the gun and say something self-righteous like 'you're under arrest.' Is that it? I know what you're doing, and it won't work. All you have left is your sorry-ass life. You'd really have me believe that you don't fear death? Heh. I know better. This isn't a movie. And I'm no hero.

*pulls trigger*

Something that defies cliche. I'll try to eliminate character shields and deus ex machinas. If the hero or his sidekick are fighting the equivalent to the Empire's 501st Legion, he or she or they will not be outfighting them with anything short of a panzer or a Star Destroyer. They might get in one punch or one shot before being promptly executed by a combination of superior firepower, training, marksmanship, numbers, and intelligence. If there is a heroine who functions as a diplomat, she will not kick the ass of any trained thug simply because I feel the need to placate the feminists of the world. Unless there is an explanation for superiority, heroes aren't given it simply because they're the heroes and must move on.

So I'm trying to take the advantages of the events of reality and combine them with the fantastical opportunities of science fiction.

Old Post Nov 7th, 2008 02:01 AM
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Col. Valerian
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I very much like it. Just to have an idea, how influential or powerful are you planning on making the humans? And have you already decided how the other alien races will be like?

It would, of course, be understandable if you haven't come up with those yet.

EDIT- I think this story you're planning will turn out to be particularly difficult, since Mass Effect has taken care of destroying competition of creating anything realistic.


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Last edited by Col. Valerian on Nov 7th, 2008 at 03:18 AM

Old Post Nov 7th, 2008 03:15 AM
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Jedireaper
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I think you may be looking at something too ambitious... especially on this grand scale. Most of my experiance stems from Star Wars fiction and assorted other sci-fi/fantasy. So if you wish to have many characters and lots of different events happening at the same time then you are looking at a Tom Clancy esque story....


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Old Post Nov 7th, 2008 01:16 PM
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quote: (post)
Originally posted by Jedireaper
I think you may be looking at something too ambitious... especially on this grand scale. Most of my experiance stems from Star Wars fiction and assorted other sci-fi/fantasy. So if you wish to have many characters and lots of different events happening at the same time then you are looking at a Tom Clancy esque story....


I don't have the ability to write realistically en masse with huge quantities of characters. It will focus on only a handful. Four, perhaps? Five?

Captain, they'll be moderately powerful enough to tip scales in their favor, but not more powerful than all of the other races combined. They'll have rivals individually.

Old Post Nov 7th, 2008 03:40 PM
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quote: (post)
Originally posted by Gideon
It seems that science fiction's scale is much larger than any other genre of writing. I haven't written for enjoyment in a couple of years, but I was always considered to be a proficient author. My general problem comes from perfectionism and a habitual narrow focus; I oftentimes will become so fixated on a particular character that I humanize him or her or individualize him or her to a far greater extent than the rest of the characters. I also fear not giving each of them distinct personalities.
Maybe sometimes you get too close to a particular character (beware MarySueness). It's great to have backstory, but the actual story should include only what is absolutely necessary for the reader to know, nothing more. Be ruthless in proofing and editing. Thou Shalt Not Bore the Reader Nor Slow the Pace with Excessive Wordage.

On the same token: don't include more characters than you feel you can properly handle.

quote: (post)
One of my questions is thus: for an original science fiction story, do you ever feel inclined to rationalize your background? For example, if your general story requires humans colonizing on other planets, do you feel obligated to go into great detail as to why and how that colonization happened? The preciptating factors and motivation, as well as the scientific advancements and technology that allowed it to happen?
Keep in mind that readers are a lot more sophisticated than they were years ago. If I have a scene on a starship, eg, I don't need to explain how the FTL drive works. Today, readers raised on Star Trek/Wars take FTL for granted.

Basically: Read, read, read, and not just scifi. Get a feel for what other authors include regarding character development, backstory, etc (you also get to check out the "competition" and helps you to avoid been-there/done-that stereotypes). Short stories are easier to construct than novels, of course, and for the former, I would especially suggest reading Hemingway, to get a taste of his Spartan style. I know of no other author who can tell a maximum depth story with minimum wordage.

I've been writing for a few years and recently sold my first scifi short. It was from 1st-person perspective and had only two characters. I included only what was absolutely necessary for the reader to know, fighting every temptation to show the world how wonderfully creative I like to think I am.


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Old Post Nov 11th, 2008 04:08 PM
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Gideon
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I appreciate the advice.

Old Post Nov 12th, 2008 03:34 AM
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