Secrets to Writing Good Sci Fi part 2

Last time I talked about Genre, World Building, and Character Development. All important ingredients in the recipe that is Science Fiction writing.

And yet they are only part of the recipe. So today I want to talk about some other ingredients.

1. Voice

When I write stories, I always think about Genre and World Building when starting to write. These two things greatly influence the voice, or tone, of my story. If I’m writing a cyberpunk noir story in the vein of Bladerunner, I write in first person and speak of the world through the eyes of a hardened detective. Attention to little details like that are what give my story just the right voice. It sets the mood and helps push the story along. If Star Wars had been a first person narrative type of thing it wouldn’t have worked. There would have had to been one main character who was followed the whole time. That means we wouldn’t have many scenes with Vader.

WHO WANTS STAR WARS WITHOUT VADER?!?!?!?!

Appropriate voicing does a lot for a story.

2. Plot

Plot is very important to your story. DUH. But seriously you should spend some time on it. I write short fiction, but my plots can get pretty convoluted. The main thing to remember is that the plot is what will make or break your story. The plot is the story you are telling, not just events that unfold. Give it room to breathe. I know you want the cool scene in your story where there’s a bunch of cool tech and robots and bombs and cars and flying motorcycles and… but if there’s no point to that scene, why is it there? We all have cool Sci Fi ideas, that’s why we want to write. But if we can not organize those ideas into a coherent story line, we’re basically writing a magazine article for futuristic tech with no pictures. Boring.

3. Character Relations

Last time I talked about character development as it related to a situation. Now I want to talk a little bit about how they interact with other characters. I’m currently working on story, and the excerpt I gave last week was very character heavy. It opens with a conversation between a rich businessman and his chief of operations having a conversation about their workers and the cost of saving their lives. It reveals that one loves money and the other loves people. This affects how they interact with each other, and later with other people. The science of relationships is a hard one to pin down. I’m fortunate enough to interact with people on a daily basis, forming my thought processes when writing dialogue. This helps drive my story in a number of ways, and saves me time, and lots of prose, when developing character relations. One of my beta readers loves that my stories are dialogue driven ‘just like comic books.” He loves that I do just enough world building to focus my story into dialogue and build characters, their relationships with other characters, and their relation to the plot as a whole.

WOW. Lots of thoughts this week. Hopefully it will spur you to write more Sci Fi. I’ve got my plate full with this story I’m working on, and it’s already in novella range as far as word count. I hope all of you are having good writing days.

 

Keep it up!

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The Top 5 Reasons Steampunk is Awesome

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I know what you’re thinking.

I don’t need 5 reasons to know Steampunk is awesome.

And I agree. If nothing else, the name drips excellence.

Or you’re thinking:

What the heck is Steampunk? Is that some kinda band?

I’ve been delving into the wonderful world of Steampunk lately, taking a stab at writing a story in the genre. I’m really enjoying it, and I hope that other people like my story when I’m done with it. I’m right around 8000 words right now with little to no signs of slowing down. Hopefully I’ll get to 10k or even 15k and have a novelette or novella on my hands. It’s a fun ride to be on.

But Steampunk is a genre with roots that go way back. I mean waaaaaaay back. But here is my top 5 list of Steampunk that influenced me.

5. The Big O

The Big O was one of my favorite anime shows when I was in Junior High and High School. It’s set in the near future where something has erased everyone’s memories and Roger has to negotiate deals.

Yeah it’s kinda weird.

But in a good way. To quote my friend Grant Barnes, “It’s Batman with a Giant Robot.”

It’s more noir than straight up Steampunk, but it still has steam powered robots and cool gadgets. The series  goes more to the Cyberpunk side of things towards the end of the series, but I like that too. It’s just a lot of fun and worth a watch.

4. The Mammoth Book of Steampunk

I bought this several months ago and it is still filling parts of my day with interesting reads. It has a 3.5 out of 5 rating at Goodreads and Amazon, and that’s fair. It’s an interesting read that’s deeply entrenched in the genre, so non-steampunk fanpeoples probably won’t enjoy it as much as the true nerds. (Such as myself.)

3. Howl’s Moving Castle

Another wonderful anime set in a fantastical steam powered world. A gripping story with stunning visuals, it is a must see for steam fans and normal people alike. It’s an emotional roller coaster with everything you expect from Hiyao Miyazaki. You should probably go watch it right now.

2. Metropolis

A wonderful romp through a retro futuristic steam powered world. There’s robots, bird guys, and lots of other strange things to keep your interest piqued.

1. Final Fantasy IX

My absolute favorite Final Fantasy (and Steampunk thing in general). There are airships, steam powered monsters, and an entire city made of clock gears! What else could a steampunk want? Go dig out your Playstation or find a rom online. Great game.

Well there you have it, my top 5 Steampunk things. I hope that you will go check them out and become a fan of the genre. (if you aren’t already!)

And now I will leave you with a 500 word excerpt from the story I’m working on!

It’s unedited so be gentle.

Free writing! Enjoy!

“If I may sir, I don’t think doubling shifts will do us any good.”

Pennyworth jumped from his seat and leaned over the table towards Higgins.

“What did you say?”

Higgins shifted in his seat and then began his ploy.

“Well you see sir, the reason earnings are down is because we are losing workers by the day. They are working their hearts out to bring in the Glow, but some of them are so deep that their bodies can’t handle the stress and they tucker out. Forty two men were lost this past month alone! Forty two!”

Pennytop sank back into his high backed chair and pulled out his watch again. He rubbed it on his nose, then scratched his hair with it, and finally put it in his mouth and began tasting its golden shell.

“How do you propose we fix this problem Higgins?”

“Well sir, I,”

“And fix it cheaply…

Higgins cocked his head to the side as he produced the drawings he had been working on for the past month. Pennytop leaned over to look at them, then he looked at Higgins with an expression of bewilderment.

“What in the devil is this? It looks to be… a … mechanical…man…”

Higgins smiled through his bushy grey beard.

“Precisely sir. We build a few of these to take on some of the mining load, and we keep our workers while production and profit soar!”

Higgins had raised his arms as if to imitate an eagle, but Pennytop took no notice. The mechanical man had piqued his interest. He began calculating the cost in his head, noting every detail Higgins had written on the yellowed paper. The startup would be steep, per usual, but the returns would be far greater. The dollar signs had begun creeping through his corneas and into his pupils.

“Do it Higgins. I will spare no expense on this project. Get whoever you need.”

Higgins spent the next two days on a steam train to the city of Crucible. The university there would surely provide all of his needs. He arrived late, checked into his room at the boarding house, then hit the first tavern he saw.

It was full of miscreants; some playing cards, others trying to play with the ladies. He seated himself at the bar and raised his hand for a glass. The barkeep walked slowly; he appeared to be favoring one leg over the other. As he approached Higgin’s seat, steam could be seen rising from a hole in his trousers.

“What’s your poison stranger?”

“I’ll have a sarsaparilla ale if you have one.”

“I do.”

The bartender reached underneath his counter and pulled out a chilled mug. Higgins was intrigued by this, and continued the conversation.

“Well that’s nifty. Cold from right under the counter eh?”

The barkeep smirked and snorted.

“University town. Those youngsters come up with all kinds of stuff and want to sell it. Fairly cheap too. This system only cost me two gold and five silver.”

Higgins eyes’ lit up with the low cost.

“And where can I find some of these budding engineers?”

The bartender pointed to a table in the back corner where three young men were seated with a young woman.

“Them right there. They sold it to me cheap, then turned around and bought ale from me for a year straight now. I guess that means they actually paid me for their own product. But my leg here was a might more expensive.”

He slapped the side of his trousers then pulled up his apron to reveal a mechanical leg. Higgins slapped a silver on the counter and headed for the corner table. The barkeep picked up the coin and waved to the youngsters. They nodded in thanks and called for another round as Higgins approached the table.

“Hello young gentlemen, and lady. My name is Wade Higgins, and I represent Mr. Pennytop and the miners from the town of Silver. If you’re interested, I have a task for you. One that promises to be most fulfilling for your careers and your pocketbooks.”

Secrets to writing good Sci Fi

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If you’re like me, there’s something wrong with you.

You were normal once; just a carefree person who loved watching Trek and Firefly.

Then it happened. The one thing that could turn everything upside down.

You decided to write.

For me, it started in the spring of 2012.

My friend Nick had just finished his first novel, and he asked me to be a beta reader. I read it, and it is delightfully a thriller with a sci fi twist, and something stirred inside of me.
I thought about all of the sci fi I had read and watched. I thought about how many conversations I had with Nick about sci fi. And then I thought something else:

I can do that.

So I set out to write a novel!

And I wrote something that’s as long as a novel, but I wouldn’t really call it that. It needs some heavy editing, and maybe I’ll release it as a novella some day.

But back to my point: at some point in our lives we decided to write, and now our lives are different.

I find myself thinking of stories instead of thinking about someone else’s universe. I have a desktop full of unfinished and unedited manuscripts. I scour the web for places to sell my stories. I drew this funny little confused robot guy on my ipad and launched this blog.

All of this because I thought I could write, and write well.

And now I have this wonderful problem of writing stories all the time. And I do, I write all the time. I write at work, I write at home, I write when I’m away from home. It’s not just something I kind of do anymore, it’s becoming part of who I am. And through all of this, I feel that I’ve been getting better and better.

And since it’s now 2013, I thought I would share some of the things that help me write stories.

1. Genre

Science Fiction…duh.

But more specifically, what subgenre am I writing? I started a story today that I specifically wanted to be Steampunk. I wrote a Cyberpunk story that I wanted to be a noir detective story. My novel is hard sci fi with some mech thrown in. Knowing what specific corner of sci fi you want to fit into will help your story move along smoothly.

2. World Building

World building is something that I really love to do. I hold in my brain the ability to create whatever I want. I have created a city with integrated fiber optic cables in a seedy underbelly blocked from sunlight. I have created a world where war has divided society into castes of socialism controlled by capitalists. I’m in the process of creating a world with steam powered machines. Anything goes.

3. Character Development

Characters are tricky. When I set out to be a writer, almost every character I came up with was me. The main character was me. The supporting female was me. The robot was me. They were all me.

That’s lame.

Spend time on your characters. Some people like to write a full bio for characters before writing the story. Others like to make a small chart of every character. Perhaps you do something else.

The main thing is to understand genre and world building. Hard Sci Fi usually requires military, steampunk has mechanics; those sorts of things. Flesh out your character within the parameters of the genre and world they’re in. They don’t have to fit inside of a cookie cutter mold, but if they’re the one brownie in a world of snicker doodle’s, everyone is going to notice.

New Year, new stuff. I hope everyone is working on some sort of project!