Month: October 2017

Pushing Your Characters

The best way to understand anything is to push it to its limits, to see where it breaks.

After you establish the basics of your characters, of who they are and what they believe you put them in scenarios. Situations where you try and think of what they would do.

If your character is brave look for situations where he would act cowardly. If your character is smart look for situations where he would act stupid. This helps you humanize your characters and to know their limits. No one is brave all the time, or smart all the time.

Will your main character, who is a man of peace, kill to protect himself? If so, what level of danger would he have to be in?

The best example of this I can think of is in Game Of Thrones. Ned Stark was an honorable man who served his people, his kingdom and his king. He would never lie. However he did, just before he died he lied to try and save his children.

Everyone has breakpoints, situations where they act in ways seemingly against their nature. Knowing where these are also helps you write them, it can make them more human.

Review of Geostorm (7/10 stars)

Just to get it out of the way the science on Geostorm is… not good. It reminds me of The Core or Armageddon. You just have to accept it and move on, I feel it unjust to judge the movie on something that they obviously put little emphasis on.

The basic idea is that is that thanks to global warming we needed a net of weather control satellites (literal a net, as in they are connected in space) to keep weather from being insanely bad. They start going bad and doing stuff like freezing an Afgan village, or cooking part of a city like a microwave. Two brothers try and find out what is going on a fix it. One goes to orbit the other stays on earth.

It had two threads and many characters and used them well. It’s a spy thriller with a large dose of a natural disaster movie thrown in.

I could have done without the environmental message but it did not really get in the way, also the science was so ridicules that you could not really take it seriously.


Soft Sci-fi and Science Fantasy

Science fantasy is a genre that most people will not know the name of but will have seen examples of.

Its the use of magic in space to put it simply. The best example of course is Star Wars, you could easily change the setting to a fantasy one with air ships. As a rule the themes it uses are more fantasy based then science fiction based. So fighting evil empires and such not trying to invent something.

Soft science fiction is where the science of a story is largely not based on what we know today. This can mean just having FTL, with everything else being grounded in reality. Or it could mean a dozen basic advances that defy what we understand of physics today.

You can tell good stories with either of these, however you should know going in which one you are going to do. It is easy to slip from soft science fiction to science fantasy and that can cause problems. If for no other reason then reader expectations you should make it clear.

You learn there is something more then high tech early on in A New Hope, if you only learn in the last parts of the movie that the force exists that could piss of people who started thinking it was a normal scifi.

When your writing science fantasy you can treat your technology like magic, it does what it does and that’s it. When your writing a science fiction you need to follow more conventions. For example in Star Wars the power needed to move the larger ships would be ridiculous, with that you would hardly need a death star.

If you are writing a soft science fiction, you shouldo think about things like how much power drives use and what that means for the rest of the setting.

That is really the difference, in a science fiction of any type you should think through the implications of the technology, if they have X, that means they can do Y, and that causes A, B and C problems. In fantasy you can’t extrapolate easily if at all.

You Can’t Do Everything at Once.

One thing you learn early on when you work with complex systems is that you can’t build anything and expect it to work the first time.

A novel very much is a complex system. The setting, characters, and plot intertwine around each other, effecting each other and being effected in turn. This means that you can’t just sit down and write one without writing the others, and you can’t know one without knowing the others.

I know that sounds tautological but stay with me.

The only way to deal with this kind of situation is the iterate. First you define your plot, setting and characters as best you can, but not defining them so much as to stifle yourself. Then you start writing, or outlining depending on how you work. You know that parts, maybe even large parts, will be unused. You accept that because the first draft’s only purpose is to get your second draft.

On your second draft you have a better understanding, you can move things around and can work with a finer hand then before.

Don’t be afraid if you don’t have a lot of details when you start, there is nothing wrong with finding your characters as you go, or even changing the direction of the plot. There are two major events in my first outline that never made it to the first draft, I only realized when writing that they were mistakes.

The first one was unnecessary and would add bulk where I wanted to build momentum. The second was cool in theory but my main character would not be doing much but watching, he had no useful skills in that situation.

As you go forward things like that will happen to you, you’ll see mistakes you did not see before, and each time you go through the book you will get a better handle on it.