The Science and the Fiction

Genre Exploration Notes


Writing in science fiction is not the most straightforward task. Unlike other genres like poetry or a personal narrative, the work that goes into a piece of science fiction can be disproportional; there may be a lot more work in one part of the process that wouldn’t be as high priority as it would be in the process of writing a piece of poetry.


That being said, here are a few hints as to this process to writing sci-fi.


  1. Get creative


The very first thing that spurs a piece of sci-fi is considering a whole new world in which a story may take place. This is the fiction part of ‘science fiction’, and the process of brainstorming and creating can be very fun. The world cannot be totally chaotic in its order — according to Hollow in Writing Science Fiction: a beginner’s guide for historians, the divide between science fiction and fantasy is that sci-fi presents some logic in their worlds. There is some element of cause-and-effect, and it’s not just a free-for-all in terms of events that can occur and characters that can exist.

These worlds are allowed to be based in reality. Although creativity is essential to adding a sense of mystique and fascination for the reader’s sake, reality is very easy to tweak for a good sci-fi story. Take Star Trek. Humans are still main characters and people’s institutions exist in the universe — such as the Starfleet Academy, a post-grad vocational institution — but the universe isn’t restricted to just Earth and just humans. We have aliens and are able to travel all throughout space.


  1. Background information and logistics


Again, there must be some sort of structure to the universe and to the story of a sci-fi piece. Before jumping into the writing process, taking the time to jot some notes down about exactly what you want to have happen and what is allowed to happen in the created universe can help with the entire writing process. Characters are particularly important, as stated by Hollow. They are the agents through which a reader experiences exactly what is happening in the universe. Thus, knowing exactly who the characters are before beginning to write can help in understanding why certain characters to the things they do.


  1. The actual writing process


While writing, refer back to the notes taken on what is allowed in the universe and who exists and what they do. Feel free to bluntly put across any messages you may want to send — in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, there is some heavy-handed commentary on the role of government in private citizens’ lives, but its presence in a sci-fi novel makes it enjoyable to read and think on. Also, continue to create. Although you may have a certain structure for the universe and a certain list of characters that are intended to exist, that isn’t necessarily ground in stone. Hitchhiker’s plotline is a snowballing premise, picking up new characters and plot points all along the way. The insertion of an important character or deletion of an event can and should occur in the writing process.

2 thoughts to “The Science and the Fiction”

  1. I really enjoyed reading your blog post! I think your idea about planning out your characters and logistics is very important because that is something I struggled with when writing science-fiction. Science-fiction must be well thought out so that the reader understands the background information, and therefore, can then understand the plot. If the writer isn’t exactly sure about characters and plot lines then the readers will not be either. I also like your discussion on the use of commentary in science-fiction. I think this aspect goes unnoticed at times, but it is something that makes this genre very interesting!

  2. These are great tips for writing science fiction! In both the amount of imagination and the amount of research that goes into the writing process, I agree that it’s a lot of work. But you broke it down into simple steps, so now I feel like I can make any science fiction story in my mind come to life! I especially appreciate your last bullet point, about sending a message with your science fiction story. In my experience, heavy commentary on big social, political, and interpersonal issues can be more easily digested when written in the genre of science fiction, as long as it doesn’t get too heavy-handed. One example is a short book I recently read by Ursula K. Le Guin called “The Word for World is Forest” (highly recommend!). While a ridiculously compelling piece of science fiction, it’s also an interesting allegory for the destruction caused by the Vietnam War. Science fiction has the potential to be so creative and powerful, and I think you really captured that here!

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