Monday, April 19, 2010

SciFi Kaos: Like Mystery Central, except not about mysteries and not centralized

Tip of the Day: For fantastic information on writing and submitting speculative fiction, check out the SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) website, especially the Information Center for writers.

Over the past few Tuesdays, Emily provided some tools and resources for writing an MG/YA mystery, and I was so impressed (seriously, check it out if you missed it, starting here) that I thought I'd try something similar. I'm writing a science fiction story, so maybe I could do SciFi Central? Only I'm afraid I'm nowhere as organized as Emily. This is my first full-length sci-fi work, and I'm learning as I go. So I'm presenting what I'm learning as SciFi Kaos.

Just like with mysteries, a science fiction story requires a considerable amount of up-front planning before you get to start writing. And even before you start planning, I'd recommend asking yourself these three questions about your sci-fi idea:

1. Who is your audience? It's a good idea to know that about any novel, sure. But books like Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer and The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson opened my eyes to the fact that I could write science fiction for teen girls. I can do that, really? Awesome!!

2. What is your time period? Sci-fi can be set in the future, but it can also be set in the present. Think of The Stand by Stephen King. That worldwide plague or asteroid hitting the Moon could happen this afternoon, y'all.

3. What is your "What if" idea? There's something interesting you that makes you want to write a science fiction story, and it can probably be phrased as a "What if" question. What if corporations took over space travel for profit? (The movie Aliens.) What if people could be turned into hologram copies and something went wrong? (The Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson.) What if people whose bodies failed in old age could live in virtual reality? (Otherland by Tad Williams.)

Once you've figured out your What If question, that will tell you what nonfiction to read: stuff on space travel, holograms, or virtual reality. That would be the next step. Before you start outlining, you'll have to know if your ideas are practical. After all, science fiction should be a story that could actually happen.

That's what makes it fun. It could happen. A good science fiction story should be a way to see things we take for granted in a new way.

Try not to get too hung up on the asteroid hitting the Moon, though. That probably won't happen this afternoon. Probably.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages


Andrea said...

Great post - especially the part about how you should know if your what if is something that could really happen. Even though I'm not writing science fiction, lately, I have to keep reminding myself of that -- especially when trying to come up with surprising twists. Note to self: the way to get protag out of trouble is NOT to invent a miraculous new gadget.

DeenaML said...

Andrea -- lol! And the way to have the protag get out of trouble in a paranormal is not to suddenly discover a hidden power? Darn. ;) Seriously, that totally bugs me in scifi/fantasy/paranormal so I'm glad you mentioned it!

Kate -- I'll call you Kate Kaos for the duration of these posts. :)

Christina Farley said...

I use to not be much of a sci-fi fan but lately it's really intrigued me. I just finished the World as we Knew it and though I had a little hard time connecting with the characters and the plot was slow, I was intrigued with this world the author created.

I'm starting this new one called Shadow Speaker which is set in Africa in the future. It's pretty good so far.

Anyway, I think sci-fi is the next big thing in children's publishing. The wave of the future (hee hee!)!

Kate Fall said...

I think it's the wave of the future, too!

I'm coming up on one of those surprising twists that I think could really happen based on what we understand about science, which means I'm going to have to research things scientists are still arguing about. Me and my stupid plot ideas.

Christy, I also thought Life As We Knew It started out slow, but by the end, my heart was racing and I was inventorying my refrigerator obsessively. It scared the pants off me.

Emily Marshall said...

Kate you are too funny. You seem pretty organized to me :)

I wouldn't even know where to begin with a scifi book. It scares me the thought of making up a whole world. But I love the light-sciFi stuff such as Life As We Knew It that really makes you think this stuff could happen in our own world.

Good luck on you book Kate. I'm excited to get to read it!