Writing Comics! POW!
By David Noe
First oﬀ, there are a number of folks out there around my age who HATE that I POWed the title. There were literal decades of newspaper and book and TV articles that came out after the Batman TV phenom that used that cliché. We knew that comics were a legitimate art form. We knew they could be on par with “real” literature. It just took until the 80s to prove it to the world. Secondly, if you want to write comics, I mean if you actually want to make comics because you want to WRITE them, then you already know this.
There are certain things to keep in mind when scripting comics. Writing a comic book story and scripting it are two diﬀerent animals. Scripting is diﬀerent from prose or poetry but is related in key ways. You don’t count words; you count pages, and whether you have a single-page ﬁller or an eight-page short story or a twenty-two-page comic or a hundred-plus-page graphic novel, you are a slave to the page count. You still MUST have a beginning, middle, and end no matter the length of the story. Even continued stories must have proper arcs. Even if hardly anybody will ever read it, you need to do it right. If you don’t take pride in your work, you shouldn’t even be doing it.
I’ll avoid the many other aspects of the business to focus on just the scripting, but you should keep these other things in your thoughts, especially if you are going the self-publishing route (if you are going the work-for-hire route, you have other problems to deal with). You need to organize talent, deadlines and schedules, money and lack thereof, intellectual property, copyright and registration, interpersonal squabbles, and a host of other tasks that make it like herding cats. Onward to the nuts and bolts.
Just exactly what IS a comic book script? Well, you take a movie script or a play… and you throw it out the window. There are actually NO galvanized accepted ways of scripting comics. This is actually a good thing in most cases. If you are a writer only, you need to ﬁnd the best way to communicate with the artist the things you want on the page and the order you want them. Really, that’s it as far as the actual physical structure of a comic book script. Now, there are generally accepted ways to write a script, but they are general. You must choreograph every panel in a way that progresses the story, has the proper ﬂow and visual impact. Keep in mind that you want to be able to have the artwork tell part of the story too. Don’t try to get all the info in the panels, but have the two merge together to make something that is better than the sum of its parts. Some writers produce reams of description. Some writers draw little sketches for their artist. Communication is the most important thing, communication with the artist and colorist and letterer and publisher, communication and clarity in the script, communication on the page and in the story. That being said, there is another method of comics writing called the Marvel method, that I will not get into here.
There are also things to avoid. As a writer, you are going to want to use ALL the words. Do not do that. Learn to let the pictures tell part of the story. No reader wants a text-heavy comic. There needs to be a balance, and ﬁnding that balance comes with time and experience and many hours of failure and also talent. Panels. So many panels. If you want your artist to hate you, try making a story full of nine or twelve-panel grids. It’ll look crowded and muddy. It can be done, but only if it is used deliberately and rarely. Talking heads are the same way. Depending on the genre, you need to be very careful with a lot of talking head panels. Again, this can be used artistically, but you need to be sure that’s why you’re doing it. Try to keep your panel count down to six or fewer, depending on what the story needs.
Coming up with ideas is the same as any creative endeavor. Try to be original or add your own spin to something. Do not despair! This may be the actual hardest part for some people. If you have that idea burning a hole in your brain, you need to do some basic homework. Always keep in mind that you have to get it exactly right on page count. Not only does the story have to rise and fall in the right places, but it has to end on the exact right page on the exact right panel. Work on your characters, their motivations, look, backstories, etc. It’s the same as any story writing. You need to know your character. You Pantsers out there may have a little more diﬃcult time, if only because of the structure of the scripting. It’s hard to meander when you have to make it ﬁt (but that’s what ﬁrst drafts are for, right?).
My advice to script layout is to make a very clear delineation between your pages and panels. Use bold letters for panel description and regular letters for panel dialogue. Make your pagination larger so that it stands out on the scripted page. Always remember to put your name on the script. It’s also a good idea to put at the beginning how many pages long the story is, if you are dealing with a book that has diﬀerent lengths of stories.
You will be surprised when you start to see the art. Sometimes the artist will get exactly what you were thinking and portray it perfectly… and it may stink. It might also be a remarkable, intense, elevating moment in your life when you get to see another creator examine and interpret your material, and then present it in another format than how you ﬁrst created it. Other times, the artist may totally miss the mark or not obey your directives, or go oﬀ on his or her own tangent. How you react and what you do about it will have to be dealt with early. You will need to decide how you will handle this. It may ruin or enhance your story, but writers can be as wacky as any other type of creative individual. You have to remember that the artist is interpreting your words and is not inside your head. Make yourself very clear. Some artists need that and some artists resent that. Writers and artists both can sometimes have diﬃculty dealing with diﬀering points of view or constructive criticism. However, you must remember that this is a collaboration between two diﬀerent art forms. That’s what makes comics an art form, a POWerful art form.
David Noe is the cofounder of InDELLible Comics, publisher of full-color graphic novel anthologies (all available on Amazon). He also writes novels and other sundry books.
Visit InDELLible Comics:
Comics available on Amazon. com
PopCom1 by Steven Butler
PopCom2 by Marvin Mann
PopCom3 by Kevin Frear,
Tomb1 by Paul Rose,
Spades1 by Josh Deck
Writers Unite!’s Featured Blog Series!
Writers Unite! is fortunate to have among its members, many bloggers, and essayists who write content about the writing process or their author’s journey or both. We will be posting their articles for your information and enjoyment. Please read and comment, visit the author’s website, blog, or Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram and share!
By Enzo Stephens
The Great Plague of all writers throughout the course of history. Writer’s Block. It’s such a big deal that both words get capital letters!
Just had a comical image pop into my head of an ancient writer encountering writer’s block as he’s trying to etch scribblings on a stone tablet. Doesn’t make a lick of historical sense, but there it is.
For as many writers as there have been throughout history — and I venture to say each and every one of them has hit the proverbial wall called Writer’s Block, well, just as many have the solution to the problem and are more than eager to share their wisdom.
Add me to the ranks of the eager.
Writer’s Block is a problem (for writers).
Understanding the root cause of the problem is typically one of the first and foremost steps in resolving the problem. Makes perfect sense to me.
But I’m more of a Doer instead of a Thinker; I’m not cerebral by any stretch — even though my pappy used to kvetch at me about being stuck inside my own head all the time; so my solutions tend to be pretty basic, though they’re effective for me.
For me, as with many prolific scribblers, my brain is a non-stop hamster wheel of stories; and not ‘stories’ per se, but scenes and snippets, dialogues, action shots, what-if scenarios, and Great Ideas for a Story.
So, from the very outset, sitting down to belt out a story requires an immediate discipline to corral my thoughts and stop that hamster wheel. And the bigger the story, the greater discipline required, and for me, that’s a huge Writer’s Block. Hell, half the time I just don’t feel like containing the chaos!
I don’t struggle for words or to figure out how to say things that are impactful; I have too much to say! Reining all that in is a JOB!
(You should see how much of a battle I go through to do a novel! Yeesh! Hello, brain… you suck!)
Ergo (I really like that word!), seems to me that my solution works whether I’ve got too much to say and I need to nail stuff down, or if I have nothing to say and I have to break the logjam. I have two proven, tried-and-true solutions to share with y’all.
I really like this technique. Dialogue is — in my opinion, some of the easiest stuff to write. It’s just two people talking. Happens all the time, everywhere across the world, and it happens for everyone.
“But Enzo, an imaginary conversation?”
Nah, screw that. Look, all of us have conversations that just don’t go the way we want them to go. Maybe we left things unsaid that should have been said.
So say them!
Write it out.
Don’t punctuate, don’t dialogue-tag, just write it. What was said, and then you make it fiction by finishing off what you WANTED to say, or what SHOULD have been said.
After you write it, go grab an adult beverage, come back and read it. You’ll love it! Why? Because it’s what you wanted to say; the conversation went the way you wanted it to go, even if it’s only fiction.
Aka, Stream-of-Consciousness writing.
I absolutely love this technique. Here’s what to do:
1. Put yourself in a place with no distractions.
2. Set your alarm for five minutes in the future.
3. Open a blank document, wordpad, whatever.
Sounds a little ridiculous, doesn’t it? But really, this is hugely effective when stuck for verbiage.
Here’s what to write about…
One other rule for this exercise: don’t punctuate or paragraph.
So the end result ends up being a big fat blob of nonsense. I did this once and wrote nothing but profanity, and then I spent the next several days laughing hysterically at it. It was good sh^t; funny as all get out and outrageously graphic.
Here’s the hidden beauty of doing this; somewhere in that mess you’ll discover the kernel, word, verbiage, thought, whatever that kick-starts your Muse right in her tukas.
This isn’t to get you over your particular block; it’s to encourage you to remember what you really love about telling stories, even if it’s only just to tell stories.
Re-Discover your JOY.
Next from Enzo Stephens: Planning vs. Pantsing
For more of Enzo’s writing visit him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Enzo.stephens.5011 or check out the monthly archives here on the WU! blog.
( Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.)
Recently, in the Writers Unite! Facebook group, a member asked a question about the process of finding a responsible beta to review their work. Another member commented that she was reluctant to be a beta reader for fear of being too harsh. This article addresses both of those issues and we hope brings some clarity to the beta reader process. It’s a valuable resource for a writer but needs to be effective.
The Better Beta
By Deborah Ratliff
“Who wants to beta my novel?”
How many times have you seen this question posted in an online writing group? Often, and with good reason, as beta readers provide a valuable service. They are the buffer between your best friend who loves your story and the editor who could tear it apart.
Along with finding a qualified beta, the question of determining the expectations of the relationship between author and beta is important. Confusion over the responsibilities often keeps both the writer from seeking a beta and a potential beta from offering their services.
A beta reader most often will be someone who either reads or writes in your genre or is willing to learn the nuances of the genre to provide proper feedback. They are usually unpaid participants who enjoy helping writers and usually not trained in editing or story development. They provide feedback on plot, characters, narrative, dialogue, and continuity. The beta is judging the readability and plausibility of the story for the general reader.
Choosing a beta or group of betas to read your manuscript can be daunting. As stated above, finding betas in your target audience is ideal, but someone with experience in offering feedback can be equally as effective. Most online writing groups on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and writing groups on the Internet, are ready sources for finding suitable betas. Websites such as Writing.com or Goodreads.com have beta-reader sites, and there are several Facebook groups including Writers Unite! and Beta Readers and Critiques that offer beta readers. If you are familiar with and trust these sites, you should start your search there.
When you request a beta, the question posed at the beginning of the article should be more definitive. Ask, instead, would anyone be willing to beta my 84,000-word fantasy manuscript. By clarifying the genre and length upfront, you will receive responses more attuned to your needs.
Also, ask potential betas about their experience. Have they reviewed manuscripts before in this genre, and what do they like about it? What time frame do they usually take to provide feedback? Once you feel comfortable with one or more betas, provide them with an edited manuscript. The manuscript does not need to be perfect, but respect the beta by giving them a readable one.
One of the ways to achieve your goals of what you as a writer need to know about your manuscript is to send a list of questions to the beta pointing out the areas of interest you have.
Your questions can include the following:
- Did the opening of the book hold your attention? If not, why?
- Was the main character relatable? Did you feel a connection to the character and his plight from the beginning?
- Were the characters believable? If not, what suggestions do you have to make them believable? Were there too many characters to keep track of while reading?
- Were the setting of the story and the descriptions interesting and clear?
- Was the narrative concise and understandable? Was there a good balance between narrative and dialog?
- Did the dialog seem natural and appropriate for the genre and period?
- Were there any confusing passages? If so, why were they confusing? Did the story lag at any point? Explain. Were there any consistencies in the storyline or timeframe?
- Were the tension and conflict in the story, as well as the ending, satisfying?
- Was the story a fit for the genre?
- Were there any obvious grammatical errors? Spelling, punctuation, or grammar. (Remember most betas do not check for these errors but will note what they find if you request it. Do not expect the beta to offer suggestions or corrections. That is the job of your editor.)
The beta reader also has responsibilities. A lot of the author’s time and soul has gone into the creation of the manuscript sent.
Beta readers should do the following:
- There are several areas of review that a beta should follow when reviewing a manuscript. If the author supplies questions, address those, as well as any discrepancies found. (See link at the end of the article for a comprehensive list of beta reader duties.)
- Be honest. Beta reviews are not the time to spew platitudes. If something is wrong, bring it to the author’s attention.
- Be specific. Vague feedback is ineffective. Give a thorough explanation of what you felt was wrong.
- Meet the deadline agreed to between the author and beta. If you cannot meet the author’s needs, do not accept the assignment.
- Be respectful. Pointing out errors to an author can be difficult, but if you explain your reasons in a courteous and straightforward manner, the author will accept the feedback positively. Also, always mention the good things that you have found in the story, mentioning positives, followed by the negatives. We all make mistakes, but a little nice goes a long way.
When selecting betas for your manuscript, selecting a few readers is wise. You may write both short stories and novels and wish to have betas who may prefer one or the other. Also, if you are a prolific writer, you may want to rotate your betas.
One thing as a writer that you do need to remember is not to confuse yourself with too many opinions. It could take time to find the right beta who communicates well and understands your work. Sorting out the opinions of several people can complicate your corrections, especially if the betas differ in the things they like and don’t like about your work.
When people are offering their services for free, as most beta readers do, the outcomes are not always what you hope. The good thing is that the vast majority of beta readers are doing it for the pleasure of reading new stories and helping authors and are responsible.
This beta reader checklist is from Goodreads Community Forum and is quite comprehensive. https://www.geads.com/topioodrc/show/18274464-beta-reader-checklist
Writers Unite! on Facebook: A list of WU! members willing to beta and the genres they prefer can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/145324212487752/permalink/1039706383049526/
WU! On “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” Podcast!
If you missed Writers Unite! on “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” today here is the Podcast of the segment.Characters
If you would like to listen to the show in its entirety (and it’s a lot of fun), click on this Podcast link for Friday’s show!Dr. Paul’s Family Talk Friday November 08, 2019
IMPACT RADIO USA strives to provide the best in news, talk, sports, and music 24 hours a day, 52 weeks per year. Our goal is to keep you as the most informed and entertained Internet Radio audience.Impact Radio USA
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Visit Impact Radio USA’s page on Facebook!Click here for Impact Radio USA’s Facebook page!
DRABBLE ME THIS!
A Writers Unite! Workshop Project
In addition to our Write the Story! project, we thought it would be fun to do something that is one of the best exercises you can do to hone your writing skills. The Drabble.
A drabble is a piece of fiction that is exactly one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is to tell a complete story within limited words which encourages word choice, conciseness, and editing skills.
Drabble Me This! is a monthly contest. Each Saturday of the month, we will post a single word prompt. Members will write a 100-word story. During the week, all members will have the opportunity to “LIKE” an entry. The weekly contests will end on Friday nights, a tally taken, and the post removed. The next week’s post will go up the following Saturday morning. At the end of the month, we will post the winning Drabbles from each week plus an Admin choice on the WU! Blog and share the post across our platforms.
A quick history of the Drabble
The term itself comes from Monty Python’s 1971 Big Red Book, which declared the drabble a word game in which two to four players compete to be the first to write a novel, Drabbles emerged within the British Science Fiction Fandom in the 1980s, The Birmingham University SF society is credited as being the organization that set the length at 100 words. (From folklore.com)
October 2019 Drabble Me This Winners
Twelve jurors sat around the table debating the case. John Smith summed it up, “The video clearly shows the murderer was left handed. The suspect is right handed. Despite all the evidence, I don’t see any way to convict.”
“I know how it was done,” Bob Jackson said. “Look at the room in the video. Everything in it is symmetric.”
“So what?” Kelly Myers asked.
“So the suspect arranged for it to be filmed using a mirror. Everything is reversed, but we don’t notice. The power cut off just after, so he had ample chance to change the angle afterward.”
Friday. Four-forty-five. Fifteen more minutes and it’s freedom from the drudgery of my nine-to-five. What I’m really looking forward to more than freedom is the package from Momma. Douglas called and told me it arrived. I’m stoked. A package from Momma means a tin of home-made chocolate chip cookies, my fav. Soft, chocolaty, and yummy. I can practically taste them now.
All the way home, visions of Momma’s cookies dance through my head. Come on traffic, move. Douglas isn’t anywhere around when I get inside. I know why when I pick up the tin – the cookies are gone – it’s empty.
Your body deserved to be burned in the hottest of fires.
Would it hurt for you to offer a bit of warmth? Would it have bothered you to think of something I might have liked? Did you bother to think about me during the day? Of course not, you soulless bastard. I couldn’t express to you how I felt in life. Only after your death do I have the drive, the guts to tell how you deserved to die.
Signed, the Idiot.
I folded up the letter and stuffed it in an envelope to watch it burn in the fireplace.
You twist me in circles, for days, months, and years. I check with you over and over to make sure I’m not off course or running too late or too early. Maybe I should take comfort in your consistency, but I feel myself slip farther away from being me because you rule my day. The alarms go off with a predictability that scares me. Sometimes I wait for the blows, the ringing in my ears that’s about to come. The ticking is the next bomb that will explode. The bruises you say I deserve. What will it be this time?
I felt it as soon as I opened the door. Something was wrong. Energy, painful and unwelcome, danced along my skin. The lights I’d switched on, usually so bright and welcoming, had done little to dispel the darkness.
When my eyes adjusted, I saw them. Hundreds of forms of gossamer white. Angry and pulsing with rage and fear. Red eyes turned to me.
Why? From where? My blood ran cold. The mirror. From the sale. Samuel had declared it to be a portal for the damned. I hadn’t believed him.
I needed to get out. I knew I never would.
Thanks to all who participated and who read and voted. This has been a fun project and we are looking forward to more drabbles!
If you would like to participate and are not a member of our WU! Facebook group, please join us!Join Writers Unite!
Please note: The Writers Unite! Admins are selected on a rotating basis for the Admin Choice. The drabble selected is at the sole discretion of the admin. In those months containing five weeks, an Admin’s Choice selection will not be made.
“Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” on Impact Radio USA
Host Paul W. Reeves of “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” on Impact Radio USA has provided many interesting and informative interviews with authors, some members of Writers Unite!, who have impacted the world of writing. We will be posting these interviews periodically so that you can enjoy listening to the experiences and advice these authors offer.
Join host and WU! admin, Paul W. Reeves as he talks with award-winning author and writing coach Les Edgerton from the first interview they did on February 26, 2018.
Click to listen to the podcast of the radio show interview: https://pod.co/impact-radio-usa/author-les-edgerton-2-26-18
Les Edgerton, a highly prolific and gifted author and teacher from Indiana, called in to discuss his books, the writing process, his life, and his writing classes.
From his Amazon page: “Les Edgerton has published eighteen books, the latest being “Bomb!” from Gutter Press and the black comedy crime novel, “The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnapping” from Down & Out Press. One of his most popular books is the writer’s text, “Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One and Never Lets Them Go.” His own favorite is his collection, titled, “Monday’s Meal,” which received a glowing review from the NY Times in which he was compared favorably to Raymond Carver.”
To learn more about Les Edgerton and to order his books and register for his classes, please visit the following websites:
Host Paul Reeves
A product of the Detroit area, Wayne State University, and Eastern Michigan University, Paul W. Reeves, Ed.D, has spent over 30 years as a professional educator and musician, as well as his work as a radio talk show host and author.
IMPACT RADIO USA provides the best in news, talk, sports, and music 24 hours a day, 52 weeks per year. Launched in the spring of 2017, their goal is to keep you as the most informed Internet Radio audience. Click on the link below for the station’s complete show lineup!
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What We Read!
If you missed Writers Unite! on “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” on Friday here is the podcast of the segment. Join host Paul W. Reeves and WU! Admin Deborah Ratliff as they discuss the topic, “What We Read”.
If you would like to listen to “Dr. Paul” in its entirety (and it’s a lot of fun), you listen to this podcast of Friday’s show.Dr. Paul’s Family Talk Friday October 4,2019
DRABBLE ME THIS!
In addition to our Write the Story project, we thought it would be fun to do something that is one of the best exercises you can do to hone your writing skills. The Drabble.
A drabble is a piece of fiction that is exactly one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is to tell a complete story within limited words which encourages word choice, conciseness, and editing skills.
Drabble Me This is a monthly contest. Each Saturday of the month, we will post a single word prompt on our FACEBOOK group, Writers Unite! Members will write a 100-word story. During the week, all members will have the opportunity to “LIKE” an entry. The weekly contests will end on Friday nights, a tally taken, and the post removed. The next week’s post will go up the following Saturday morning. At the end of the month, we will post the winning Drabbles from each week plus an Admin choice on the WU! Blog and share the post across our platforms.
A quick history of the Drabble:
The term itself comes from Monty Python’s 1971 Big Red Book, which declared the drabble a word game in which two to four players compete to be the first to write a novel.
Drabbles emerged within British science fiction fandom in the 1980s; the Birmingham University SF society is credited as being the organization that set the length at 100 words.
The Drabble Me This Rules:
- Every Saturday morning, the admins will post a single word prompt.
- Members may submit only one 100-word drabble based on the word prompt per week. Word count must be one hundred words or entry will be deleted.
- All members may vote by using the LIKE button only. (The other reaction emojis are invalid.)
- On Friday night, an admin will tally the votes, the submissions saved on Google drive, and the post removed.
- This procedure will continue each Saturday during the month.
- At the first of the following month, we will post the highest vote-getter from each week and an Admin choice on the Writers Unite! blog and share across our platforms.
- You must be a member of the Facebook Group Writers Unite! in order to participate. Please request permission to join WU! here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/145324212487752/
- No foul language, excessive gore, or erotica allowed.
Science Fiction Today
Science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology.”
— Isaac Asimov
From the early days of pulp science fiction, the 1920s and 1930s saw the popularity of science fiction begin in earnest with Philip Francis Nowlan’s first Buck Rogers story, Armageddon 2419 published in 1928. In 1937, John W. Campbell was named editor of Astounding Science Fiction and thus began what many consider the Golden Age of Science Fiction. There is a debate on how long that Golden Age lasted, some feel into the 1950s, but there is no debate that the novels from that era stand today as classics in the world of science fiction.
Among those classics, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series followed over the years by the dystopian Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, Theodore Sturgeon’s More Than Human, an exploration of the future evolution of humans, and Robert Heinlein’s military sci-fi novel Starship Troopers.
During this time the first attempt to separate science fiction from fantasy began when Hugo Gernsback, at the time editor of Amazing Stories used the name scientifiction to describe the genre. He defined the term as “…a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision…”
Notable authors such as John W. Campbell J, Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clark, and others added their own opinion to Gernsback’s definition over the years. One point all of these authors agreed on was that the basis of science fiction is scientific theory and technology. Robert Heinlein’s term ‘speculative fiction’ written in a 1947 essay has remained the term most used to this day. The attempt to redefine the genre never completely took hold although speculative fiction is still being used.
In the 1960s and 1970s, a new term arose. New Wave Science Fiction was used to describe a more literary and artistic feel to a sci-fi novel. Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris dealt with human limitations. In 1965, Frank Herbert introduced an incredibly complex and intricate future society in the amazing novel, Dune. Phillip K. Dick, whose novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? spawned the film, Blade Runner. These years also saw an explosion of social and feminist science fiction as exemplified by Ursula K. Le Guin.
The last forty years of science fiction has introduced us to a myriad of sub-genres such as steampunk and cyberpunk as seen in Neuromancer, William Gibson’s first novel published in 1984. Themes such as the environment, the Internet, biotechnology, nanotechnology, post-apocalyptic worlds, and the increasing list of sub-genres like steampunk, biopunk, and others have opened the genre to new horizons.
The most recent trends in science fiction discussed at Speculate, the Speculative Writers Festival in 2019 were as follows.
- Climate Fiction – Dealing with climate change
- New Space Opera – A grander, more technology-based and character-driven version of the old Space Opera.
- Generation Ship – Where original colonists and their descendants travel on slower spaceships. A recognition of the vastness of space and that faster-than-light speed is impossible.
- Gender-Focused – As we see in our society now, the question of gender fluidity is central to the story.
In reviewing the amazing and innovative stories that form the history of science fiction, it is evident that from the beginnings of Buck Rogers to Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, science fiction continues to evolve with compelling stories to tell.
Common Characteristics of Science Fiction
While there are many aspects of science fiction that are shared with other genres, there are some characteristics that are unique to the genre. These identifiers should be present in the story.
1. Time Frame – This is the one area where there is some flexibility. While most science fiction is set in the future, a sci-fi story can be set in the present or in the past but other identifying characteristics must be present.
2. Advanced Technology – In the early days of science fiction, advanced technology while imaginative was not as difficult to create. In present day, technology advances at an exponential rate. It is considerably more difficult to imagine technology for advanced civilizations and stay ahead of current tech. Consider the tech, computers, communication, spaceships, ground transports, etc. that you want your characters and those they encounter will have, and be consistent.
3. Worlds and world-building – Probably the most formidable and most exciting aspect of writing sci-fi is alien world building. Some authors spend weeks building and creating their worlds. When you are presenting a futuristic Earth or an alien world and civilization, pay attention to detail. Think about how your characters will live, eat, breathe, and what kind of clothing and transport they will have. Every detail is important and will add depth and reality to your story.
4. Characters – Creating a cast of characters for your story can be as much fun as world building. As we know from some favorite movies, there is no limit to the imagination. Again, pay attention to detail. How they breathe, ambulate, dress, communicate, and appear.
5. Plausibility – This is possibly one of the most important characteristics of your writing. Remember that your reader has one frame of reference, the current world they live in. You need to keep your worlds, characters, and technology within a scope that most of your readers can understand. This does not preclude you from being innovative, but always remember to be plausible. Another thing to remember is to allow your characters to live in this world—nothing that you provide them with, from weapons to transport should surprise them. It should be normal. These guidelines apply to all genres except for fantasy where you can suspend belief. Which is a good thing if you are writing science-fiction fantasy.
Writing science fiction is challenging and exciting. Pay attention to these aspects of the genre and have fun!
We will be covering world building, character development, and plots in upcoming articles.
Asimov, “How Easy to See the Future!”, Natural History, 1975
Quoted in  in: Stableford, Brian; Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter (1993). “Definitions of SF”. In Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. London: Orbit/Little, Brown and Company. pp. 311–314. ISBN 978-1-85723-124-3.