Month: August 2017

No One Can Write A Novel

A large number of people who first learn I am writing a novel say that they could never do that. That it is too complicated or something to that effect.
They are partly right, very few people, if anyone can just start writing one day and have a masterpiece on the first go. The trick is to break it down far enough that each part of the task is doable.
Most people never see anything but the final product, they don’t see the first several drafts or the outline.

To give you some idea what I mean, and to understand what I say when I say that everyone could write a novel I will explain how I got where I am now (working on third draft and expecting to be done with the book by the end of the year).

The very first thing I did was to make sure I had something that was unique enough to be worth peoples time. While a 100% unique work of art is not possible, a work of art that has no uniqueness is not worth the paper it is printed on. This could be as simple as putting two elements together that do not normally go together or it could be built around one good idea that has not be used before.
This something unique should work as your hook, something to tell people about why they should read your book.

Once I had the handful of ideas that would form the core of my book I made some setting details. Because this is a science fiction I had to consider what basic advances were made, and what kinds of changes that would mean. For example they have nearly unlimited power, that changes a lot of other things. How they travel to other stars also changes things. Same with medical advances.
I am not going to lie, this took a while, but it was needed because stories don’t happen in vacuums.

Once that was done I could start piloting out my plot and main characters. I wrote rough notes on my main characters, not too much just enough to get a good mental picture of who they were.

My plot I had to do in stages, like a lot of complicated things it was best done in several iterations with each being longer and more complicated then the last.
The first was just a vague brainstorming list about what I wanted to happen.
For the second one I taped three pieces of printer paper together and wrote one main character’s actions on one side, the other main characters actions on the other and general plot stuff in the middle. This gave me a sense of timing and thinking about who was where when.
The third was a basically typing that on my computer, and thinking it out more, making sure it was structured at least close to correctly.
After this I wrote out the characters in more detail, not as much as I would like but I wanted to find them, rather then feel restricted by a super detailed backstory and personality I wrote before the first draft.
The fourth was a real scene list, each scene in the book had the POV character, three sentience summary (beginning, middle, end of each scene), the day the scene took place as well as notes.

The scene list underwent several changes, three times I ended up rewriting it, but it was nonetheless important. I don’t know how to write a novel but I can write a scene and with a scene list that is all I need to know how to do. You just go down the list and write one scene after another until your done with the first draft.

Making the future

When your laying out the timeline of your setting there are a few core technologies that will touch most everything else, these are the things you need to decide first.

Power Generation
Most everything you do cost power, either when you use it or to make it. A great many things would become cheap if power were nearly free (like aluminum or desalination plants) or be all but unobtainable if electricity cost a lot more then it does today.
And of course mining or farming whatever it is that you use for power would be an important activity.
If your setting is going to change how we gain power (fusion for example) you need to put some research and thought into it.

This covers not only speed, but how people communicate and what it costs to do so. One way to get this set in your head is to think about how people who are poor, middle class, and rich talk to people who are nearby, a city way, and a world away.
Today communication is assumed to be instant, if we do go out and settle the planets then it won’t be anymore, light lag will be a real factor. Going to other stars would make light lag be even worse, easily a decade to get a reply.
And of course even if we make some sort of FTL engine that does not automatically mean we have a FTL comm system. Or that FTL comm’s are cheap.
For most of human history we could only send messages as fast as we could send a person, we may return to that someday.

Honestly I would say this is the most important, how easy it is to move people from one place to another is the most pivotal part of your society. It changes where buildings are, how big cities are and where people live.
If you can’t travel faster then you can walk you have to live near where you work. If you can teleport anywhere you want you could live on top of a mountain and then work at a fishery. If we could teleport we might not even have cities.
It also effects the gritty details of your story, how does your character get to his job? When his mom wants him to visit him across the city would it take him a day or an hour to there?

Cost of living technologies
By cost of living technologies I mean the technologies we use to get food, lodging, water, and medical care for everyone.
A society that requires half its resources just to provide the basics for its people would be very different from one that needed only 0.1% to do the same.

REVIEW: Dark Tower (7/10 stars)

Before I start I will note I have not read the books (will change that when I get a chance).

The first and most important thing that The Dark Tower did was to built a large and complex world(s) without being an info dump or sacrificing everything else to do it. When needed it even let you just absorb the scenery. It reminded me of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume One in this respect.

The plot was not huge and complicated. While all the necessary bits were there many of the why’s were not explained. Honestly I am okay with that, if I can think of several reasons for an action and which one is true does not matter then I don’t really need details. The movie does that several times for several things. I like the idea that the movie respects me enough not to feel the need to spell everything out.

The action was good, I really liked the way they showed Roland’s gunslinging, he could do ridicules bullet bouncing and such but nothing too out there. He did nothing that could not in theory be done if you were good enough and had enough information (unlike say curving a bullet).
They also showed the man in black’s magic well, it was consistent and logical the way he used it. He was far from all powerful but he was smart and knew his limits.
The final fight was made much better because of this, it would have lost all its punch otherwise.

I will say that main character wise the movie does look to be of two minds, it seams to flip between Jake (the kid) and Roland. This does not hurt the movie as much as you would think but it does make me wish the movies was a bit longer to allow for more development.
As far as characters go one thing I did not realize until after I left the theater was that Roland treated Jake as an adult. There was no cliché having to prove himself an adult phase.

I really did like the movie, even if I think the characters could have been developed more. Its worth seeing just for the interesting and vast world it shows, let alone everything else.

All reviews on IMBD

Making a world come together

A large part of any science fiction author’s job is creating a world, far from a chore this is a large part of the appeal of science fiction.

The great secret of course being that we can’t really create whole worlds, creating everything a whole world holds would be the work of thousands. However like all artists you can cheat.

You create enough details to make people think the world is full and whole. There are any number of large and important things that effect the whole society, however you also need the small things.

The first is entertainment. This is not just what people do for fun but what media do they use? Do they do full VR, holodecks, books, TV ect. Also how much do they cost? Do rich people have access to holodecks, while the poor have to settle for books and movies and the middle class has VR?

And of course if they are anything like us they are going to have some taboos. How would people feel about a VR where strangers can having sex with them?

And of course don’t neglect to think about shows or VR’s or whatever people talk about over the fusion cooled water cooler.

Next of course is what people dislike about the government and how things work. There will always be people who have a problem with the government. Make sure to distinguish between grumbling and real rebelling, you don’t want someone who just started your book to think the character is a revolutionary because he is grumbling about the 2% tax hike.

Sayings and swearing are next. Both sayings and what swears people use do shift over time, not as much as you might think but they do change. If your writing a book set in fifty years you might not really need to change anything, but if its set in five hundred? Yes you should change them, even if just a little, just enough to show the difference.

Where do people meet? By this I mean where do they congregate, after all things like shopping, working and maybe even being taught could be done from home. So think about how people would meet, you may have a lot of social clubs that exist solely to get people out and let them mingle for example.