- August 7, 2022
- Posted by: IGBAJI UGABI
- Category: General Writing Guide
Breeding a sci-fi concept into a complete work (novel)
I should take this opportunity to tell you about my newest sci-fi horror-themed Novel. How do you bring that lingering out of earth idea into book?
See the above as an actual question demanding an answer. Do you ever wonder how Margaret Atwood did her Oryx and crake or Gibson and his necromancy or rather a more popular one like Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, have you ever considered the behind-scene incident that lead to such written wonder?
Probably not, the only wedged preventing you from owning a complete work of fiction in this genre is not the creativity required, well it’s partly the creativity required, but more of what you should also look into as well is your approach, how you go about it.
You don’t know how to approach sci-fi that is why you haven’t written one yet, or that is why the one you’ve written has failure all over it. You might have a killer idea but your execution is one thing to also consider, a poorly constructed work irrespective of what kind of idea is put in place won’t give you your desired effect.
It is possible that you are putting to reason the very expected comparison of “is this not similar to structuring a normal novel” well yes it is similar that’s if you are writing a book that only you would pick interest in reading upon flicking the first page, but if you’re on a self- embellished quest to scribe down what wouldn’t beg for attention but earn it, then apply this point and that your idea, that simple line of thought would become a 789 page of finished work.
As quite similar to every written work, is there an idea you would want to express? If yes then,
- Identify your idea, your big idea: what has lasted for 100 years are already pre-existing and grand concepts partly tapped to structure the basis of a sci-fi novel by previous authors, as a writer at the dawn of his sci-fi writing career you would want to start by birthing an outside of the box concept that appears differently from the previously employed gimmick,
Michael probably grew tired of reading about space ships and space with star wars and their laser guns and saber and how mars were at the brink of colonizing earth or vice versa, so he thought otherwise, what would be new to the mind of readers, how about dinosaurs “killer” lizard that appreciate bloodshed and annihilation of everything not cold-blooded, that was his big idea, for you to even begin breeding an idea into a finished work you must have one at your back pocket. Not many authors would see the delight in you breeding their already created idea for them, except if you are a ghost-writer then it’d be advisable to begin from the next point.
If you are not very good at brainstorming and pulling ideas from thin air, take a dive into a series of already created sci-fi novels make an analogy, and try to pinpoint what the big idea was that birthed those chapters, paragraphs, and train of sentences.
Have you been informed yet? That the basis for a good science fiction novel is the idea, this is what distinguishes this very genre from a hand full of others take literary or mainstream fiction, for example, the configuration or structure of the character of challenges, growth, and transformation might be enough but this is different in sci-fi; the big idea is a compulsory step although the characters and challenges would also be necessary. So before you breed an idea into a book, have a hint of what you want first
- Recognize your readers: one of the most advantageous aspects of this genre is its diversity, unlike romance or comedy that is perhaps fixed on a singular ideology sci-fi can be initiated in different forms befitting the multi-diverse expectation of readers. You might not have been aware but readers do search for the synopsis of sci-fi books they would want to read now note, your idea must have either of the two
- Hard science: this is indirectly a tutorial on quantum, nuclear, basic physics, this is the exploration of scientific possibilities. Writing on this specific element you would have to dictate the complete mechanism used to run a car, how it is structured; how it works. You would have to deal with a lot of astronomy, biology, chemistry, and physics, most of these kinds are centred on time travel, space exploration, and human cultivation
- Soft sci-fi: as the name implies it’s the lesser version of the above. It however consists of futuristic elements but doesn’t deal much with math, engineering, biology, and computer science. It doesn’t need you to express Boyce or Charles law or Einstein’s theory of relativity, this deals with the societal and human aspect, with the lesser angles of science like psychology and anthropology a typical example is H.G wells, Invisible man.
Some readers would appreciate the mixture of both, as they gladly consume the contents emanating from that spectrum at large while some on the other hand narrow to a particular lane.
Now let’s use an example of a popular animated TV series Rick and Morty under which category can this be characterized? Obviously, both, the consistent display of possible theories and accurately derived scientific revelations coupled with the exhaustive use of numbers and physics has made it more like “hard” science, while the philosophical and centred political monopoly of the citadel of rick as well as the depicted fickleness of reality makes it more like “soft” science. So give yourself now the icebreaker, what will your idea adapt? Note, this phase cannot be skipped it’s like the puberty phase of a human, the transitioning into something bigger.
- Make the science fundamental to your novel: you within yourself would understand that a movie without the intoxicating revelation of science can be more of an action or thriller than sci-fi, once your novel doesn’t reflect what is expected from a sci-fi genre it seizes to be sci-fi, you don’t have to necessarily create a cyber-punk style of environment, that’s science over-kill, you don’t have to give your book too many details on science especially if you are not keen on that area, you can simply just endow the background with a little bit of science adapted element, but it’s your choice.
- Leave space for understanding- don’t let science overwhelm the story: all novels are working to carve out one thing, the character(s) and their life experience. This, in particular, affects all genres, fantasy, comedy, horror, paranormal, and even sci-fi, people read stories to make discoveries and co-habit with characters, through the use of subconscious visualization influenced by written words, and go along journeying with them all the way to the end.
- Understand that as you set to place your hand on the keyboard to make express your idea you must make it as relatable as possible, even if you have chosen to trend down through the path of hard science, not everyone understands or can grasp the full concept of the interplanetary expedition, time travel, and artificial intelligence. But the human aspect, people do understand that people do relate to that so the application of more human skin and what is most relatable to them would be a nice way to express your idea that can be understood by readers, even if the setting is located in a foreign land, like the Andromeda galaxy which you would want us to believe have life forms, create them with human characteristics that humans can relate
– for example in Nebulon 4454 the inhabitants are insect-like creatures that inhale carbon monoxide and possess a delight in the taste of sulfur for sustenance(just like humans inhale carbon dioxide and possess a taste for food), relate them more to humans so your book can be understood, do they have fear? Do they have needs and wants? Are they hoping for something? These are things that link other life forms to humans, this makes them relatable.
Dial down the scientific aspect because if not, what you really would make out of your idea would be more of a theorized scientific textbook than a fiction story. Do you understand
- Display the characters’ motivation:
What are your character’s needs?
What does she desire from her environment and for her environment including the humans around? Answering these questions has given you an automatic pass to the next point for consideration, these are seed-like elements where stories grow out from it’s typically- the main character wants something, but there is an obstacle, her want for that particular thing moves her to challenge the obstacle from there on conflict unfolds, you can heighten tension by increasing the magnitude of her want and also making that her desired wants more of impossible to achieve
Take for example
The only thing Luca wanted was to see his father, it would be typical of any adolescent to visit the communal cemetery and drop a few heart-melting speeches of how much relevance their deceased loved one had in their lives, or he could have just grabbed a shovel and dug out his dead father, but no, he decides to go to hell and speak to his father face to face.
Of course, there would be a flare of interest as well as tension, it seemingly looks like something impossible to achieve. How would Luca achieve such? does that mean Luca would die at the ending? Does that mean he would go to hell? This way you see Luca’s want being of strong reasons, tied by family bonds, but then again his obstacle appears much of something that can obliterate his chances of ever achieving his want. But now how would you communicate this to the readers?
Ever heard of interiority? Monologue? Or Soliloquy? They are literary techniques that enable characters to communicate their emotions and motive to readers, aside from employing that you can simply go for the use of dialogue and actions.
Here is an example of dialogue that expresses Luca’s motives
After a series of lightning bolts pierced the sky sending an impulsive flash of light down the little city of Stephen’s point, a creature appeared at the doorpost the house was owned by Marcus Dinero
The atmosphere still carried around the fragrance of his perfume it was almost convincing that he was alive, but his burial had just been concluded it proved otherwise, “so Luca what now” the creature at the door asked, as she walked in, the death of her husband hadn’t been easy on her, “I would find him, we weren’t done talking”, Luca replied, “how”,” how do you intend on doing that”, “in case you haven’t noticed” he is everything other than alive, Luca stared at her without saying a word
“fine grab a shovel and let’s back “she blurted, “dad is dead”, he said “what good would it be talking to a corpse I might as well talk to a table to prove I am indeed mad”, “ we are Latinos ese we don’t have necromancers how do you intend on speaking to your father, would you travel half the world looking for one?” “No mama it’s too far, the journey to hell seems shorter”.
From the brief excerpt, we get an insight concerning the situation and the motivation, how he felt about his father’s death, and his next line of action, and all this was achieved through dialogue.
- Start with the quagmire, introduce the conflict early: this is otherwise known as the introduction of conflict, conflict is essential for every type of novel. The more of this your character is faced with the more drama is created, the more drama is created the more readers keep flicking pages, this is one of the most effective ways of relating write-up with actual human experience, and your character becomes a living thing. the earlier the conflict is introduced the more space your character would have to grow and change the more people would want to read on to eventually find out where it all ends, and how it all ends.
- Believable characters should be the base of your characterization: have you ever read a book that you so much hated the antagonist even though you were aware that he isn’t real, or was there ever a time you got pissed off with the protagonist of a story because he was too annoying or dumb? You were aware he wasn’t really real but you reacted that way simply because you understood that indeed people like that do exist, they are bitter, they are wicked and their actions tell of it, they are naïve they are dumb, they are the perfect structure for how your characters should be, they should be appreciated even if not liked, for at least one thing that they boldly stand for, its sci-fi and what would most define a person is his outstanding quality, how well do you see Luca? Probably as an explosion of determination even though his actions would express much folly that’s exactly the attribute of a determined person, they will always remain obstinate till they achieve the cause of their battle even if it involves them stooping low and doing foolish unimaginable things. Remember you are writing a sci-fi novel this is one of the best genres to mirror such.
- Adapt a different time zone and location: do not adopt another person’s gimmick, do not copy the world of another writer, and remember you are breeding your own individual idea, the purpose of reading other sci-fi books is to understand their pattern of write-up and not copy, do the opposite and come up with your own word, readers would read your book to escape reality so take them on a literal journey away from reality to a different time zone to a place they have never seen before it could be a world where time moves backwards, remember George Lucas star wars the original book – the third installation took us to the desert planet of Tatooine
Similar to what you should bring out from your idea, an entire civilization, society, and time zone new to the minds of readers one that would amaze them to the point of believing it does exist, it can be of post-apocalyptic design like Philip K. Dicks do android dream of electric sheep? Or a cyberpunk-style reality where everything is digital and robots are fast taking over the world.
- Break your protagonist-
Push him/her to his/her limit: do you know how fast a reader would lose interest in your novel if it is predictable? How long would you read a novel that the storyline hands out an apple and a win to the protagonist? You won’t read on for long because there is no twist, no breathtaking revelation, no close point of death, no mental or emotional breakdown, it’s just win, win, win, and more win for the good guy. How fast you can emotionally scath a reader’s essence would determine if he would stick to reading or not, have you ever wondered why books with 3 parts always end badly in the first instalment?
Like the hero loses something so dear to him that he is broken and out of balance, displaced, and weaken? Let’s make an analogy with this and the avengers how fast did it take you to watch the Avengers end games upon its release? You were watching to see what would happen to the injured Thanos and the rest of the Avengers that were displaced in infinite time right?
Would that same energy be reciprocated for that same movie if Thanos was dealt with upon his arrival to earth in the first instalment (infinity wars) no it won’t have, if the avengers had won the fight you won’t have gone back to watch the next sequel because there would have been nothing to watch, similar with your book if you make it so emotionally teasing, readers won’t want to quit flipping pages anytime soon, of course, this should be done in the three-act structure:
- Act one: exposition and inciting incident
- Act two: Rising action
- Act three: falling action and resolution.
While writing a sci-fi novel you would have to expose your character to unimaginable dangers, and push them out of their comfort zone, the challenges they face should be lived defining it at times should even be bigger than they can overcome.
- Deliver the awestricken climax: this is the most important part of a novel without this, the story may appear to be, well, useless. You should deliver a mind-blowing climax the climax is the most referenced and remembered part of any novel it must indeed be an explosion one loud enough to give a reader a heart attack. The climax is the point of highest dramatic tension, this should be followed by a very surprising but satisfying resolution, this doesn’t necessarily mean the guy must get the girl it could be in another format that effectively details the close of the novel.
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