There are lots of things that go into writing a good SciFi, well any story really. The plot, the research, the background stories, the hidden agendas of the characters (and the author), the structure of the story (you know…the three acts thing). One can go on and on and on.
But of all the things that make a good story, what are the three most important elements? What are those three critical ingredients that is guaranteed to make your story a page turner vs a page burner (assuming you have a good agent and/or following of course).
Like many of you, I have done some research into this and have my own extensive list that I could bore you with. But to save you from the pain of reading about all those things, I have managed to boil it all down to just three simple constituent parts. And I believe that after telling you these three elements, you too will know just about everything there is to know about how to write a good SciFi story.
Now, the talking head literary experts and agents will cast doubt on what I’m about to tell you. They will say I’m dumbing down a complicated topic that can take authors a lifetime to master. And perhaps they are right, but who has time for all that?
But I have analyzed all the elements of storytelling. It’s that long hard road of showing not telling. It’s the agony of laying out the bare bone torments from your life, that tale you want to tell the world only to suffer the humility of having to shed to the cutting room floor those precious story tidbits that are important to you but not to your audience. Yes, I have reduced all these things into three precious pearls and over the next few postings I will tell you.
So, for this first post, it goes like this . . .
Number 1: The most important thing in SciFi writing is . . . a bad romance.
Look at the top SciFi stories. There’s a love twist that drives the story hidden in there somewhere. Hans and Leia, Padmé and Anakin from “Star Wars”; Lois and Clark from “Superman”; Alex and Roberta, Naomi and James from “The Expanse”; Deanna and Will (Riker) from “Star Trek the Next Generation.” Even Picard had a love interest in that flick, namely the Enterprise. Then, there’s Aeryn and John from “Farscape”; and of course, Neo and Trinity from “The Matrix.” And then there’s the quantum entangled love relationship between Yahweh and his deceased wife Gwendolyn in my SciFi book “God Games.” It may be hard to spot the love interest in some of the real good shoot’em up SciFi stories but look carefully, it’s there.
Look hard, because throughout all of these stories is the basic element of attraction to someone (or something). Almost all SciFi stories are based on the human condition. Even if there are no humans in the story, we are still there as the basis for the underlying motives of the characters.
Human desire for someone or something moves the story! The “boy gets girl” theme is always there. Of course, there are variations such as boy gets boy or girl gets the spaceship or whatever. But the end result is usually the same, except for those stories where the love interest (or desired thing) dies or crashes into a planet or something like that. And this brings me to the type of romance necessary for a good SciFi story.
Now, it can’t be just any old romance and certainly not one where the boy gets the girl in the first chapter. Ooooh no, he’s got to go through pain and agony to reach that promised land!
And once he gets there, he must discover the place is not as advertised. Yes, it’s the troubled road of love (of someone or something) that drives a good SciFi story because, like it or not, we humans want to see a struggle, or a conflict that brings about a change.
So, whether it’s upfront or a hidden subtext, a bad romance is an important ingredient in a SciFi (or any) story.
Next posting I’ll explain the second most important thing in SciFi writing . . . and you’ll never guess what it is.
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Speaking about the human condition, check out Keyla Damaer’s book “The Halden Army.”
Part of Keyla’s tag line says “A coward is not the one who is afraid. It’s what we do about fear that makes the difference.”
Now that’s all about the human condition!
Check it out by clicking here or the image.
2 thoughts on “The Three Most Important Things for A Good Science Fiction Story- Part 1”
Your post made me ponder, and I think you’re right about bad romance in science fiction.
Aside from the books you mention, I immediately thought about David Brin’s Uplift series. And then I realised there’s bad romance in many of my stories (short and/or long). I’ve never thought about this aspect of good sci-fi stories. If I think further about other sci-fi books I read, most of my favourites had one. Great sci-fi is nothing like ‘they lived happily ever after.’ If I wanted that, I’d be reading romance. I don’t.
Now I’m curious to know about the other two elements.
Thanks Keyla for your wonderful comments and self observations.