When your writing a story that has aliens making first contact, there are several things to keep in mind.
First you must remember that the aliens would be seen with plenty of warning. That is unless they were using an anti-gravity drive system or something equally beyond us that would have no visible exhaust.
Secondly, and I can’t stress this enough, the approach matters. If the aliens are peaceful they will probably enter high orbit and open up contact via radio, they may not even get that close and stay a few AU away.
This would be done first their safely, having better tech does not mean they are immune to nukes after all. It also would be done to show that they do come in peace. They would have no reasons to land on earth without an invitation.
Such a contact would be delicate to say the least, the last thing they would want is for one side or the other to feel threatened.
Even beyond the stake’s being so high the fact that we would have no background for them would make things hard. We would not know their history, the only information we could use to judge them would be how they approached us.
They would have our entire history, and would have everything they would want to know at their fingertips. In such situations it would be very easy to assume the worst, they should know that and be willing to wait as long as it takes.
Space doctor by G. Harry Stine was published in the eighties (at least according to my copy) but it reads more like the fifties or late forties. Not saying that is a bad thing, although it is different from what you would think.
This kind of story is a lot more rare today then it was in the fifties, it was very refreshing to read. Rather then be about something epic in scope it’s about one man who is doing some very interesting things, almost slice is life-ish.
The story is about a doctor who is hired by a senator/business owner who is trying to get power sat’s working (solar panels in orbit beaming power down to stations on the earth). There are two sets of stations, one is in high orbit where the sat’s themselves are being built.
The main character is hired to be the head doctor on the upper satellites. That high up they can’t send people down if there is a medical problem, they have to deal with it then and there. He is in practice starting a new area of medicine, doing it all by feel and trial and error.
For example they have to invent IV bags that will squeeze themselves because there is no gravity. He has to talk the engineers into making sure he and his people can get around quickly when they are needed ect.
Its a very good relaxing and interesting read.
One thing it is too easy to do is to polarize people as dove’s or hawk’s. As people who want war or peace.
Few men are really going to be always for one or the other. The most ardent hawk will not want a war that he can’t win, and few doves will want peace if it would cost them the lives of everyone they know and love.
One exercise is to ask yourself what would cause your character to cross that line? What would cause your man of peace to go to war, or what would cause your man of war to sue for peace?
One thing I think Star Trek did well is show men of peace who are willing to go to war. Spock hates war, and would do his best to council against it or stop it, but there would be times and places it would be the only option and he would lead the charge. For example when it becomes clear who the Romulans are, vulcan’s who never embraced logic and who left home long before, he says war is the only way.
Kirk is more warlike for sure, and walks to the line more often then spock does. But even so he never likes it, he sees force as a last resort, but nonetheless it IS a resort.
One of the first thing you are taught when learning programming or game design is that complexity is the enemy. Its the price you pay to add the stuff you need to your project. I have found this holds true for any large project, including novels.
Every character you add, every new technology, everything makes things more complex. This is not to say you should not add more characters or add more technology, it means you should do so only with good reason.
To be clear, “It makes the setting feel more real,” is a perfectly good reason to add something. But you need to have SOMETHING to tell you to put it in, everything you add could bring new problems.
Think about the best movie you have seen, were there any wasted scenes? In most really good movies most scenes do several things at once and everything they do is necessary.