Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ten Little Things

Ten Little Things about writing Science Fiction Romance, from the world according to Xandra.

1. No matter what you're writing, Story Is King. It's always all about the story you're telling, and when you boil them down into their most basic elements, every story is some declaration of a truth about the human condition. Even when it's about forty foot-tall extradimensional squid-beings.

2. No story happens in a vacuum. The most exotic setting, however, still needs to be appropriate to the story you're trying to tell--that truth you're trying to express. All those interesting tidbits about the political convolutions of the Gorklemmians of Bizonga 6 won't mean a thing if they aren't relevant to your story.

3. No story happens to nobody. Or everybody. If you can take a character out and replace that character with another character, then you probably don't know enough about that first character. Always ask, "Why you?" And keep asking. Around the 20th time you ask, you start hitting truth. The characters need to be unique and appropriate to the story.

4. Worlds are brain-candy for your audience. When you create a world, you are giving readers a buffet of sensory perceptions to go along with the main dish of characters taking their attention. Make sure you offer them a balanced meal--and don't be afraid to do so. Fantastical worlds can be fantastical without losing a sense of reality, and it's worth your time and effort to put work into finding that balance.

5. Science is interesting. As long as it's relevant to the story, the science and technology going into your SF/Spec romance can be used as an element of storytelling in itself. Do yourself and your readers a favor and spend a little time thinking about the rules of science in your world.

6. Chances are, somebody's already thought of it. In the world of speculative fiction, there are a lot of wacky, crazy ideas. That means the ones you come up with have a likely chance that they will have appeared elsewhere. Accept this, and understand that it is your unique take on that concept that will freshen it and keep it relevant. Somebody may have already done it, but they haven't yet done it your way, and that's where the really interesting stuff happens.

7. Never shut down the playground. Your imagination--your ability to speculate--must always be at work on some level. Speculative fiction is not about following the recipe, it is about experimentation. About breaking the model and creating a new one.

8. Expect some explosions. Speculative fiction is about winging it, sometimes. About trying new things and doing odd things to familiar ideas. Some of those odd things will make those familiar ideas act awkward, feel vulnerable, and not want to call you the next morning. Great discoveries never were made without some stumbles, and if you're not risking something, then you're not in the running for the big payoffs, either.

9. Believe in love, but don't sweat defining it. The fun in speculative romance is that there is no model you're required to follow, and that goes for the romance part as well. In addition to letting your brain swing on the monkey bars of the creative imagination, don't force your heart to sit on the sidewalk with its hands in its pockets while looking longingly at the big twisty slide at the top of the jungle gym. That's just mean.

10. Stories are part of the divine spark of creation. Every story, if you're going to work on it, deserves to have its author(s) spare some of that creative spark for it. If you're hacking it and just writing for money, it'll invariably shake out, even if you're skilled enough to mask it with good craft. You owe it to the story and the readers to give it a spark. If you can't find one thing about the story that you can say you love (but please don't do this when you're in revisions, because then it's okay to be sick of the damn thing), then put it under the bed until you can.

2 comments:

Skylar Masey said...

Xandra~

Great list!!

I especially hate #8, but with only so many plots and things to plug in, as well as wo many of us writers out there watching the same thing, it's bound to happen.

As for #8, right on girl! I love a good explosion!

And I think everyone will love you for #9--that love doesn't have to be defined :0)

Savanna Kougar said...

I have to agree. Great list! Xandra, you explain things in such a wonderful way.
"forty foot-tall extradimensional squid-beings."
Okay, I haven't thought of those yet!
Sure, my plots or ideas may be similar -- but the truth is, there's nothing new under the sun, or ten suns -- it's the story and the characters, and the world(s) as a character -- that make or break it for the reader, IMH.