MY LOVE OF SCI-FI
I love writing Science Fiction. Even the abbreviated version of this genre, SciFi, is cool. And if the current state of entertainment is any indication, the popularity of SciFi is growing rapidly. Blockbuster films based on hit novels (The Hunger Games) and television shows (The 100) are helping diverse audiences develop an appreciation for my beloved genre. I’ve loved SciFi for a long time now. I fell in love with the genre ever since I first read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and watched Star Wars on cable (over and over and over again). So what is it that makes SciFi so compelling? Let’s take a look at a few things that set it apart from any other genre of writing and entertainment.
To start, let’s look at Merriam Webster’s definition of Science Fiction - fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets. Even by definition, SciFi takes the reader to another world. The realm in which we live in no longer exists. The characters that we connect with become real in our minds. The fate of the world around them hangs in the balance of the protagonist’s decisions. What I love most about writing SciFi is the ability to create characters that drive storytelling way beyond race, creed, color, gender, or sexual orientation. In SciFi, we have aliens and technology; there is no time to discriminate one human from the other. Usually, the fate of a planet obliterates any need to worry about such futile things. No, we become more interested in how characters will put aside their differences and come together for the greater good. Officer Spock said it best in Star Trek: “The needs of the many far outweigh the needs of the few.” He got it right.
But there are rules to writing SciFi, and those who fail to follow them end up with a garbled mess that doesn’t flow. Here are some rules to follow when creating a great SciFi tale.
1. Novels tend to go wrong due to lengthy character descriptions and the complicated world-building. Somewhere in the realm of 90-100 thousand words is typical.
2. Third person omniscient is becoming a thing of the past. In this style of writing, the narrator can see what's going through any character's head and can flip around as the story requires. Nowadays, this phenomenon of head-hopping has been shunned because it can be confusing to keep track of which character is the focus. First person or deeper third person is preferred because the reader can better dive into the minds of the characters. I write The Star-Crossed Saga in deep third person.
3. Avoid info-dumps. It’s always better to show and not tell. Sometimes there’s a horrendous load of backstory or technical schematics that hunker down the story. On the other end of the spectrum, authors go out of their way to avoid it, insomuch that they lose the finer elements of world-building that is necessary to the reader. This too can make the story grind to a halt.
4. Fantasy and SciFi stories thrive off of series potential, not standalone tales. There is nothing like starting an epic trilogy on a long trip or snuggling up to a four-part saga to get your mind humming, and most entertainment junkies agree. Twilight and The Hunger Games are powerful indicators to our love of series novels.
5. No unsympathetic characters. No one likes a jerk. Honestly. You can start off with a character who you love to hate, but he or she must make the critical transition or at least make the audience believe he or she will change at some point. You have to root for the protagonist in order to stay engaged. That evolution maintains the one critical element that all good books have: hope.
Even in collaborating with Mel Kling Jr. in writing the screenplay adaptation for my novel PROTOSTAR, I was very conscientious of keeping the main character, William, somewhat likeable through his transition from kill-hungry Bounty Hunter to love-struck protector. Since I had to transcribe over 90 thousand words of a novel into a 30-thousand-word screenplay, only the integral parts could be salvaged. Then the considerations of acting talent, special effects, director coaching, and editing come into play before it hits the big screen. It all comes together to create stories that solidified my childhood experience and shaped me to be the SciFi junkie I am today.
Hats off to Ray Bradbury for putting me on a great path.
Braxton A. Cosby is a dreamer with a vision of continuously evolving and maximizing the untapped potential of the human spirit. Braxton received his Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Miami. His first novel, Protostar: The Star-Crossed Saga has won the Readers Favorite Book of the Year Award for Romance: Fantasy-Sci-Fi category and the Literary Classics International Book of the Year Award for Sci-fi Young Adult published under Cosby Media Productions/Tate Publishing. Protostar and Supernova are available in print and e-books.