Welcome, I’m going to try and tell you a little about my thought processes when I’m writing, in this part, the title explains it all.
Every genre has its own requirements and trade-offs. For example in Historical Fiction you need to recreate in detail something that everyone already has a hazy idea of and fit your characters into the weave of what has already been. It’s enormously important not to take liberties with the period or the overall style of your world. Action writers on the other hand use the familiar territory of now and have to make things that happen very quickly believable, expressing a lot in a few words.
Science Fiction has its own particular set of problems; in a way it would appear to be the easiest thing to write because on the surface it seems that you need to do very little research. After all your setting doesn’t exist and there is no reference to things that are or have been.
At least that’s what I thought at the start; when you actually sit down with a blank sheet of paper you find that there is a lot of basic science that has to be put in place before your fiction can exist.
But to borrow from Asimov, ‘nothing has to be true but everything has to sound true,’ so you can afford to take a bit of license, after all everything that is today, was science fiction yesterday. And expanding on the theme, as long as what you’re describing has a basis in recognisable science, you can modify it to your hearts content.
So I start from what is and think about where it could lead, for instance the domes at Eden in Cornwall led me to Ribbonworld and the computer game Elite, played on my ZX Spectrum inspired the Freefall universe. However my foray into Steampunk is based on a lack rather than anything real. Like the genre itself, it’s a sort of retro sci-fi; I imagined a technological civilisation without the development of electricity and played with it to see where it led. And it led to some exciting adventures; check out a sample on the ‘Steampunk’ page under ‘More Writing’ to see what I mean.
Once you have the world you can give it laws, such as gravity or sunlight, don’t forget that the geography is a character in its own right; even the number of suns and moons can help to create an atmosphere, especially if they cast shadows or aren’t quite the same colour as the ones we are familiar with.
And after you have created the world, you need people to inhabit it. I say people because I’ve never tried to create any other species as a main character. Of course if I did, I would then need to invent a whole new moral code. I’m sure that an alien race wouldn’t think like we do, or they might just be instinctive. They could have a communal telepathic mind even or something else that we can’t imagine. They wouldn’t necessarily be a benign race, at least not in the way we see the term. And they might not find us, we could find them. (I like to believe that if a species is intelligent and collaborative enough to conquer space and find us then they would have got over the need to destroy everything they found. Perhaps we will have by the time we can).
At times when you’re creating people it seems like you’re almost omnipotent and to a certain extent, in the limits of the book you are. You hold the keys to the actions and behaviour of your creation.
At times though my characters surprise me, they say or do things I hadn’t expected (via the keyboard) which sounds weird, believe me when you read it back and it’s not what you remember writing or intended to say it is!
And then of course we come to the hardest part, when its time for one of your creations to expire. Now I don’t know if this will sound silly but I always feel guilty when I kill a character off. After all, I created them, I gave them life and emotions and words, I gave them a job to do, moving the story along. It may have only been a little thing but it was crucial to the narrative. And like a used paper cup, I cast them off when I’ve finished. I can’t even recycle them like I could with the cup. The feeling is one of loss, obviously not the loss of a real person or a beloved pet but a loss just the same.
To ease my conscience I’ve tried making them disappear instead, by sending them away on some task or just by dropping them from the story but it lacks the impact of death. There are times when the narrative demands a sacrifice, so to speak. And of course if you make disappear after a while they start poking their noses into your thoughts; sort of waving for attention, you then have to write a sequel where they exist and do other things.
Which of course begs the question, where do these people come from, are they really just a figment of my mind?
I think that’s probably a subject for another time.