4 August 2013, Writing Ideas - Writing Science Fiction, part 4 Without Telling
Announcement: My novels Sister of Light and Sister of Darkness are about to be published. I write this blog about 2 months prior to its publication. I just heard that the proofs will be here soon--likely before the end of the week. My publisher also wants to put the entire set of novels based on Aegypt on contract--that's 5 more novels for 8 total. They also want to put my other novels on contract. The release schedule should be one novel every 2 months. I'll keep you updated.
Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through this blog, I gave you the entire novel in installments that included commentary on the writing. In the commentary, in addition to other general information on writing, I explained, how the novel was constructed, the metaphors and symbols in it, the writing techniques and tricks I used, and the way I built the scenes. You can look back through this blog and read the entire novel beginning with http://www.pilotlion.blogspot.com/2010/10/new-novel-part-3-girl-and-demon.html.
I'm using this novel as an example of how I produce, market, and eventually (we hope) get a novel published. I'll keep you informed along the way.
The four plus one basic rules I employ when writing:
1. Don't confuse your readers.
2. Entertain your readers.
3. Ground your readers in the writing.
4. Don't show (or tell) everything.
5. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.
I do like to present some deep descriptions of technology in my science fiction.
Since I design aircraft, wrote a dissertation on insect flight, and have a
patent for a winglet, I think I have some basis for giving my readers a degree
of scientific explanation and excitement. I teach classes and write technical
papers about this stuff, so I should be able to get it right. In my mind, that
is the brilliance of science fiction. That is, to be able to express a new
technology or a new idea within the context of a story or novel and make that
new technology alive and reasonable to the reader. That, of course, isn't the
primary purpose of science fiction, but it is one of the primary building blocks
of science fiction. So then, what is the purpose of science fiction? And what
does this discussion have to do with what I left you with last time--"how to get
across the framework without telling about it." Let's go back to the basics of
writing. I already made the point that writing is about storyline, plot, and
theme. All three have to support each other and all three are critical to any
writing. There must always be a reason for your choice of writing genre and
style. The choice shouldn't be just to sell books, what you like, or whatever.
You chose the style and genre to get across the theme. A science fiction theme
is well suited by the exposition of an idea that can't be conveyed by a historical or contemporary
novel. My series, The Chronicles of the Dragon and the Fox, www.DragonandFox.com
is a great example of this. I wanted to write a series of novels about honor as
a theme. I wanted to reflect on ideas that in the modern world are not as black
and white as they were in the past. I could have chosen to write a set of
historical fiction novels, but the ideas I wanted to express were timeless and I
wanted to put them like a gem in the center of a black velvet cushion. That
cushion was the science fiction world I created to set off the theme of the
novel. This wasn't a backdoor choice; it was a cognizant choice to express a
theme that would otherwise not have a mode of expression. And that's the point.
The choice of the genre and style and person (first, second, third) are not
choices of convenience, they are choices of expression for the
That comes full circle back to the point from last time--"how
to get across the framework without telling about it." The choice of the
plotline is derived from the theme. The storyline flows from the plotline. When
I set up the universe of the Dragon and the Fox, my theme was honor (you can see
the details in the secret pages about each book). I needed a means to set up a
culture that was driven by honor. The basis for this culture was genetic
manipulation that developed leaders. Those leaders became eventually feudal
style aristocrats. They fulfilled their functions too well, but they were a
society ordered and controlled by honor. Against this background, this
framework, I could write a set of novels about honor. Broadly, since one of my
uhmm...hobbies is ancient Anglo-Saxon, I could make a world like that of the
ancient Anglo-Saxons, driven by honor, but set in a future to make the concepts
as timeless as possible. The undergirding of the culture was gene manipulation
to make leaders; the outcome was a feudal based society and hierarchy. The
framework was critical, but it is hidden and known by the characters--the
unspoken truth, the 800 pound gorilla in the corner. I used a prologue in each
novel to convey and build on the basis of the culture. This was an old Jack
Vance technique that I loved in his novels. He usually used it throughout. I
only build the prologues to convey the background. The prologues in Dragon and Fox
are short, simple, to the point and written as though they were encyclopedia
entries by a verbose and pompous academician. The point is to give a little humor.
You can read the books without reading the prologues--you'll still get every
point, but the prologues set the stage for each novel. They give hints and flashes
about the culture and universe you are about to enter. Still, they are not
completely necessary. I use other methods to convey the depth of the issues in
the culture, but I'll show you some of those next time. The main points
here--the theme chooses the genre. The purpose of style, genre, and person are
to forward the theme and for no other reason. Writers shouldn't pick science
fiction as their style just because they just like it--they need to have
something to say and chose the best means to say it. That is the ultimate point!
For more information, you can visit my author site www.ldalford.com/, and my individual novel websites: http://www.aegyptnovel.com/, http://www.centurionnovel.com, www.thesecondmission.com/, http://www.theendofhonor.com/, thefoxshonor, aseasonofhonor.