The Future is Right Now

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How can you write a better Science Fiction story?  By avoiding some of the traps unique to the genre.
The Future is Now

The Future is Right Now

When we write a Science Fiction, or Time Travel based story, we sometimes get caught up in the whole fantastic world we imagine. We lovingly describe all this marvelous technology in long, unnecessary paragraphs. We make the characters discuss the new technology ad nauseam.  We love this new bright shiny world and are determined to describe every block of the new city on the hill, every corner of the Jetson-like abode.

Don’t do this.

It’s not just about future world.

Make the future (fantasy, time travel) part of the plot, or give technology or lack there in, a hand in the crisis point, make it a joke or an aside.  Just avoid making future technology the whole reason for the story.  Even I Robot had something else to do.   

For your main character – all this is old 

The heroine is not living in the future , she is living in the present.

This does not mean you can’t describe cool technology, just describe it from a different view point.  Part of the tension (and fun) of   science fiction is how the fantastic inventions of the future are quickly reduced to the frustrations of the present. Ever since George Lucas created alternative worlds packed with dusty rotting computers and hyper-drives, we’ve been able to visualize the future not as always clean and organized, like the bridge of the USS Enterprise, but as dusty and junky, a ship made of as many random parts as fools. We bang on the hood of the hovercraft and swear about the all the bad flyers out in the sky today.   

Normalize the Fantastic

Once the essential plot is established, often Man versus the Machine, forge ahead with the real story:  the journey; love; discovery. Create a compelling  plot, a strong story arch and a full, flawed main character – then dump the characters into a world that looks common place to them, but is crazy interesting to the reader.     

Follow Your Own Rules

If Time Travel is only possible when the potential traveler holds the true  philosopher’s stone, then you cannot, in chapter six, change your mind because you got stuck in the plot and now anyone can time travel if they touch something that looks enough like a stone.  Stay true to your own world and your readers will follow you anywhere.  Keep a running list of what is and is not possible.  Make big mind map (Scapple is a good option) and track what the heck the world is doing.  It’s worth the effort.

Probably the most egregious mistakes made in Science Fiction is failure on the part of the author to follow his or her own fictional rules.  Don’t do this; readers will rebel.  (Who did this well?  CS Lewis.  Lewis published  the creation story of Narnia – the Magicians Nephew –five  years after the first book, The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe.  He already knew what the world was about so it was fairly straightforward to write up scenes that explain anomalies like a gas light growing in the middle of a forest.   Who did not do this as well?  Phillip Pullman in the Dark Materials series.  What was real in The Golden Compass suddenly was completely changed by the Subtle Knife (book three)– don’t be that guy).

Consider the Exchange

We are already aware of the complicit as well as hidden exchanges we make every day in the name of convenience and on demand information.  Take those concerns and escalate them to an unbelievable level.  Now you have a weird, wonderful futurist world.  Just remember to give your hero a  name and make sure he has something to do.

Catharine Bramkamp is the author of Future Girls

See the Book Trailer for Future Girls

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