Genres: Tips for Writing Science Fiction

Sci-fi can be a difficult genre to write in, so here are a few tips.

Know your science. I once wrote a sci-fi story in which there was a temperature of minus a thousand degrees. Such a temperature does not exist. Yes, you’re allowed to change things, but it’s better to know how the real universe works before you do so.

Science isn’t everything. There’s going to be some science in your story because you’re talking about space travel or planetary exploration, but your characters probably don’t all live and breathe science, and a balance needs to be found. Some of your characters, possibly even the majority of them, probably don’t know how spaceships function. They may not ever need to learn that either. They probably want to just get on with their lives. Even the ones who do know won’t talk about it or even think about it all day. There’s so much more to science fiction than science. There can be romance, politics, espionage, education, war, disease, friendship, and everything else we have in contemporary life.

This is sort of part of the previous tip, but I’m giving this its own paragraph. Try not to explain too much. You can have a character who likes to give lectures if you need your Readers to know things, or one might be reading a book, but try not to overdo this. Ask yourself: does your Reader need to read thirty pages about how spaceships work? If you say yes, then divide it up into smaller chunks and make sure whoever does the explaining does it naturally so the Reader doesn’t feel “talked at,” and better yet, might come to share your love of how spaceships work.

Sci-fi is one of the most fun genres to write, and also one of the hardest. You want to make it interesting but you might need to explain things if you are tampering with the universe as we know it, or if things are very technical, you want to avoid the pitfall of too much explaining, and include just the right amount of information in the right place, at the right time, from the right character. You also probably need to do some research, depending on your scientific knowledge.

If you do end up with a temperature of minus a thousand or something else that doesn’t make sense, a Beta Reader or Editor can spot it and you can decide if you are changing the rules or you can fix the factual error before publication.

Next week, I’d like to talk about horror.

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