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Monday, September 27, 2010

Writing Science Fiction, part 5 Showing

Last time, I established that the choice of the use of science fiction to put forward a theme is a cognizant choice by an author--or it should be.  This is similar to the choice of the use of first, second, or third person in writing.  Because I think this is an important topic, and I haven't written about it before, I'll mention it before I transition to my main subject.  An author should choose the point of view of the novel based on the main character of the novel.  Usually, the third person (he, she) is appropriate for characters and novels about normal people or where the focus of the novel is not about a certain person's eyewitness view of events.  On the other hand, if the focus of a novel is a special person or a special person's specific eyewitness view, then a first person (I) point of view  is appropriate.  I begin with a first person point of view in my novel The End of Honor,  The main character is Lyral Neuterra, she dies in the first page of the book, and the rest of the first half of the novel is a recollected view of the events that led to her death.  At that point the novel switches to third person and concludes sans Lyral (she's dead).  The reason I wrote the novel like this is that I was trying some advanced techniques with my series The Chronicles of the Dragon and the Fox,  I chose to make Lyral and her story the main focus of the novel.  This worked well because she was a critically important character and the entire work revolved around her and the the revenge her dead caused.  She was the telic (beginning and end) cause of the plot.  She was one of the most important persons in the universe and the created world of the Dragon and the Fox.  This made the use of the first person until her ultimate death very appropriate.  You saw the world revealed through the eyes of Lyral and this gave you the ability to understand both the horror of her death (a loss of honor) and the horror of the revenge (a loss of honor) made in her name.  Thus, in The End of Honor, I used the first person as an intentional means to draw your eye to Lyral and keep it there.  Your world was her world, and so you saw her view.  This is where the use of showing in revealing the scientific background of the novel becomes the subject point.  Her view was your view; therefore, when she says this:

"I was the Duke of Neuterra’s eldest daughter, his only daughter, his only child. He and his dame, my mother, could not bear another child. Though they tried, their vitality was gone, and the Codes of the Noble Accords forbade them from any artificial means of increasing their fertility.
They were stuck with me, and the only hope for our House was an alliance marriage. With this in mind, my father groomed me to attract the attention of another great House, one that would willingly accept the Duchy and the name. With the approval of the Landsritters, the Emperor would be forced to accept the new House Neuterra descended through me.
I was well prepared to fill this position. I was made to be a Princess. I was educated to be a scientist of political solutions and ventures—an advisor, steward, mother, ruler, lover, and I was all of these and more. My heritage and intelligence allowed me to excel in these studies as if I was truly born to them, which I was. But I was not the Princess my Father hoped I would be."

We begin to understand the focus of her world.  You had no idea about The Codes.  Now you know a little.  You didn't know about Lyral's problem, now you begin to see it.  The undergirding of the issues and the science of this world become clear.  Later, in one of my favorite scenes, she reveals:

"He was kind to the last. “My lady, I’m at your service. Until you decide, I am obliged to you.”
In spite of my tears, I turned. “Obliged?”
He looked directly at me. “Yes, obliged.” He took off the sash that marked his rank as an Imperial Prince and thrust it at me.
Unconsciously, I put my hands behind my back. “You wouldn’t dare.”
“I dare, and I have.” He thrust the sash toward me again.
“No, I can’t accept that. You put yourself under my complete authority. How can you justify placing your very self under my control? Already, you intend to reveal your plans in their entirety to me.”
“I pray they would become your plans also, and you would safeguard them and my honor just as I would.”
“You know I can’t make that commitment.”
“...but you will protect my interests. Don’t shame me, Lady Lyral, take my oblige. I will protect you and your House. I will be yours until you decide my honor and my arms no longer defend you.”
I know he could see the tears that glistened on my cheeks, but he took no notice of them. I didn’t want to soften to his proposal. I wasn’t sure where I stood, but I could not lightly dismiss the offer of oblige, especially from the son of the Emperor. I reached gingerly for the sash, and he relinquished it with a look of relief. I curtsied to him and backed away."

The concept of "oblige" might have been foreign to you before, but now through Lyral's eyes you should have some understanding.  This "oblige" isn't a science fiction concept.  It is an Anglo-Saxon concept that later we recognize as the chivalric idea of a woman or man carrying a token of honor for their knight or lady.  In this exchange we see the deeper overtones of what "oblige" means to the inhabitants of the universe of the Dragon and the Fox.

So, I gave you examples.  Perhaps not the best examples, but ones I thought might begin to show how to bring the evidence of culture and scientific background into your science fiction writing.  Plus I wove into it an explaination on how to choose the point of view of your novel (tricky, tricky).  I'll try to put some more examples together next time.

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