Three Ways Exceptional Sci-Fi Authors Develop Themes

My favorite sci-fi stories always seem to be tight. The sci-fi elements, the characters, the world, and the theme are all closely intertwined. Whether the stories are relatively small scale (the movie Arrival) or full-blown trilogies (Jill Williamson’s The Safe Lands), they blend otherworldly characteristics with real-world issues to create a compelling narrative that not only entertains but explores and instructs.

But how? Theme was complicated before aliens and phasers and warp speed got in the way. Are you supposed to handle theme the same as you would for non-speculative genres?3_Ways_Exceptional_Sci-Fi_Authors_Develop_Themes

No, because genres differ for good reasons. Speculative stories are set apart by their diverse options for communicating theme. Sound scary? Maybe. But exciting too.

However, before we start discussing themes, we need to take a minute to talk about the genre.  Sci-fi stories are defined by their Primary Fantastic Element, which makes them surpass reality. For 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the PFE is the existence of the Nautilus. For the movie Passengers, it’s the ability to put people into hibernation while they hurtle through space for one hundred and twenty years. Perhaps your futuristic world features flying cars and surgically implantable bio-computers that enhance sensory detail, but only one element should be so drastically different from the real world that the story rotates around it. That is your story’s Primary Fantastic Element, and it is the axis of your theme. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Brandon Miller
Raised on C.S. Lewis and matured (to whatever extent) on Tolkien, Brandon Miller is a huge fan of Christian speculative fiction. His favorite stories artfully bend the physical reality to reveal spiritual realities which apply to all realms, kingdoms, districts and solar systems (including our own.)
When not writing fiction Brandon spends his time tending his blog The Woodland Quill, sportsing, or just struggling through that last-year-of-high-school/first-year-of-college which is really neither but is definitely both.

How to Develop Realistic Sci-Fi Technology

On the surface, sci-fi is one of the easiest genres to define: stories involving speculative science. But the word speculative has deeper connotations than you might think. When authors incorporate as-of-yet uninvented technology into their stories, they are speculating answers to different what ifs. What if people had the ability to indefinitely extend their lifetimes? What if the government had to completely restructure itself to deal with the changing population demographic? What if certain religious groups rejected the artificial life extensions and suffered persecution for continuing to procreate, which the rest of society worries could lead to overpopulation?

How_to_Develop_Realistic_Sci-Fi_TechnologySci-fi writers are equally nerds and philosophers because they explore the limits of mankind’s knowledge and the fundamental reality of human existence. But when writers fail to show the various ramifications of their fictional technological achievements, their story worlds ring false.

Thankfully, you can avoid this fate by tackling the following five questions in your sci-fi story.

#1: What is the Government’s Response?

One of the most implausible elements of most sci-fi stories is that a fantastic, life-changing technology is developed, yet the government does nothing—instead of flooding the scene with an overabundance of red tape and restrictions.

Marvel’s Civil War did an admirable job of addressing the state’s role by playing out what happens when lawmakers, international boundaries, and governmental oversight finally catch up to scientifically enhanced superheroes. Cap and Iron Man, who previously enjoyed a free reign as they thwarted evil, must choose between submitting to a questionable higher power or acting as vigilantes. [Read more…]

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Sierra Ret is a homeschool student who spent nearly her entire childhood with her nose buried in a book, and consequently decided she wanted to write one of her own (preferably filled with dwarves and elves). Actually getting her thoughts down on paper regularly has proven to be a far greater challenge than she first thought, but Kingdom Pen was kind enough to step in and give her some much-needed deadlines by honouring her with a temporary spot on their writing team. When not hermiting behind a laptop screen, Sierra enjoys gallivanting across Canada and adventuring near her home in rural Ontario with her family. Currently her chief fantasies include making a living as a travel blogger and someday moving to New Zealand. But above all, her chief aim is to live a passionate and meaningful life for the glory of God.

Three Types of Telling You Must Erase to Create an Intimate POV

You’ve just created a new character and are excited to share his point of view with readers. He’s witty, charming, flawed, and about to embark on the adventure of his life. You’re desperate to bring readers up close and personal with him. If you don’t, you’re worried they won’t love him as much as you do. Believe it or not, the key to accomplishing this is showing.

You’ve no doubt heard “show, don’t tell” before. Sounds like solid advice, but what does it truly mean? For the sake of this article, I will separate telling into three categories: telling in description, telling in thoughts, and telling in emotions. Once you eradicate telling in these areas, readers will feel much closer to your character and your book will be one step nearer a masterpiece.3_Types_of_Telling_You_Must_Erase_to_Create_an_Intimate_POV

Not All Telling Is Evil

Before we jump in, please realize that telling isn’t an enemy writers must avoid like gold-obsessed dragons or One Rings. Telling is simply summarizing. You can’t write your entire novel without summarizing; otherwise your book would double in size and slow to an unbearable crawl. The examples in this article are only suggestions, not rules you must obey. Your book should contain showing and telling, not exclusively one or the other. [Read more…]

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Gabrielle Pollack currently resides with her family and many cats amidst a small wood she wishes was Narnia. Her interests are varied, and when she isn’t writing or studying, she enjoys karate, archery, introverting, and hanging out on the Kingdom Pen forum. She relishes the cool wind that rushes in before a thunderstorm, the scent of fresh rain, black clouds, and in summary, all things storm. As a lighthearted INFP, she loves horses, spring, strawberries, and sitting on the roof of her house.
She fell in love with stories many years ago and immersed herself in epic books like The Kingdom Series and The Peleg Chronicles, living the adventures and loving the characters. It took her a while to realize she could write epic stories herself, but once she did, she was a lost cause. She never quite recovered her sanity and often rants about good storytelling to innocent bystanders. Gabrielle has written two books since, and has a plethora of other ideas swirling inside her brain, waiting to turn into people and worlds. She desires to glorify God through her books, short stories, and blog, and looks forward to learning more about her trade.

The Sheer Awfulness of Christianity

As much as I appreciate saying “you” instead of “thou,” I can’t help feeling that modern English has lost some of the richness our language once possessed. The word awful is a prime example. Today we use it to mean “bad” or “disgusting,” but its original definition was more along the lines of: “inspiring such awe and admiration as to border on terror.”The_Sheer_Awfulness_of_Christianity

I don’t think we have a word for that emotion anymore, or even any concept of what it looks like.

In my opinion, an understanding of the sheer awfulness of Christianity is the primary ingredient missing from Christian fiction today. I hope to combat this deficiency by delineating three areas where writers can improve their portrayal of Christianity.

God as an Antagonist

I will start with how we view God, since this forms the cornerstone for how we view everything else. We are in grave danger of misrepresenting God. Whatever led the ancients to craft gods in their own image is still at work today. Yet it has evolved. Instead of fashioning gods in the likeness of ourselves, we treat God as a servant who is beneath us. In Christian literature, God is often cast as the one prompting people to come to him and find the answers to all their troubles. God is essentially a mentor figure or sidekick. He is there to help the protagonist reach his goals through gentle reminders and friendly persuasion. Of course, God usually isn’t an actual character in the story. He’s seen indirectly, but this is still the impression we get of him. Although he seems nice, it’s like he’s tacked on to the plot. [Read more…]

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Daeus is the published author of two books, Edwin Brook and Treachery Against The House Of Fairwin. He is a Christian seeking God’s face when he remembers to and finding that that is all he was seeking when he seeks for something else. He is a joker who takes himself too seriously and a sack full of ambition who likes to relax. Among his top interests are poetry, reading, philosophy, theology, gardening and permaculture, athletics, marketing, psychology, and interacting with his friends. You can also find him participating in such activities as ranting about the glories of frozen raspberries or making impromptu music for every occasion.
He also is a fanatic over The Count Of Monte Cristo. Be thou forewarned.
If you would like to sample his work, you can get a free copy of his novella, Treachery Against The House Of Fairwin at the link below.

Five Methods to Flesh Out a Character

By Naomi Jackson

It’s happened to every writer. You push through thousands of words like butter, and then a pivotal character suddenly dries up. The voices in your head stop talking. You’re stranded without a plot or character arc, because it’s impossible to portray a person you know nothing about.

Never fear! Below I will describe five ways that have helped me uncover more random facts about my characters and delve into their motivations to understand who they truly are. Once you’re inside a character’s mind, it’s easier to predict what he wants and where he’s going.5_Methods_to_Flesh_Out_a_Character

Interview Your Character

You’ve probably seen graphics on Pinterest that prompt writers to jot down ten or twenty details about their characters that readers may never learn. These lists can be a great asset. Scribble down whatever pops into your head first and feel free to be silly, but it’s crucial to dwell on the tougher questions too. What is your character’s worst fear? Favorite childhood memory? Why did she choose this profession/quest/etc.? What drives her forward? [Read more…]

How Villains and Side Characters Can Deepen Your Protagonist’s Character Arc

The core of story is conflict. If your story contains no struggle, it’s just a tale about nobody important who never overcame anything. Conflict takes many forms; physical, mental, and spiritual conflicts are all crucial, and even necessary. Ideological conflict, however, is invaluable to developing character arcs. Without it, your protagonist won’t grow because his beliefs are never questioned. Ideological conflict is often facilitated by villains and side characters who challenge the hero’s beliefs and worldview. If you start with your protagonist, creating these characters is relatively simple.How_Villains_and_Side_Characters_Can_Deepen_Your_Protagonist_s_Character_Arc

How to Create an Effective Villain 

Let’s say your hero has a positive change arc. This means your protagonist initially has a negative Experiment in Living and clings to a lie that damages or hinders him somehow. Over the course of the story he learns the truth, which he eventually uses to replace the lie and defeat the villain. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Gabrielle
Gabrielle Pollack currently resides with her family and many cats amidst a small wood she wishes was Narnia. Her interests are varied, and when she isn’t writing or studying, she enjoys karate, archery, introverting, and hanging out on the Kingdom Pen forum. She relishes the cool wind that rushes in before a thunderstorm, the scent of fresh rain, black clouds, and in summary, all things storm. As a lighthearted INFP, she loves horses, spring, strawberries, and sitting on the roof of her house.
She fell in love with stories many years ago and immersed herself in epic books like The Kingdom Series and The Peleg Chronicles, living the adventures and loving the characters. It took her a while to realize she could write epic stories herself, but once she did, she was a lost cause. She never quite recovered her sanity and often rants about good storytelling to innocent bystanders. Gabrielle has written two books since, and has a plethora of other ideas swirling inside her brain, waiting to turn into people and worlds. She desires to glorify God through her books, short stories, and blog, and looks forward to learning more about her trade.

Beyond the Evil Overlord: Three Dynamic Character Arcs for Villains

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a hero in possession of reasonable talents and good looks must be in want of an arch nemesis.”Beyond_the_Evil_Overlord

Although the above statement is nothing more than a bad Jane Austen paraphrase, every writer knows that a story is vapid without a villain. Without darkness, how will the light shine through? No one can test, provoke, or push the hero to reach his full potential the way a villain can. In all likelihood, without the villain, the hero would still be a poor moisture farmer in a planetary backwoods.

But even though we recognize that a villain is essential to the success of a story, we tend to focus our efforts on fleshing out our protagonist’s motivation and personality. We may create the most unique and compelling character of the century, but if our main villain is a lazy, dark-lord-Sauron imitation, the story’s overall quality will be reduced.

A stagnant villain is a boring villain. With that in mind, let’s examine three dynamic character arcs villains can follow. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Sierra
Sierra Ret is a homeschool student who spent nearly her entire childhood with her nose buried in a book, and consequently decided she wanted to write one of her own (preferably filled with dwarves and elves). Actually getting her thoughts down on paper regularly has proven to be a far greater challenge than she first thought, but Kingdom Pen was kind enough to step in and give her some much-needed deadlines by honouring her with a temporary spot on their writing team. When not hermiting behind a laptop screen, Sierra enjoys gallivanting across Canada and adventuring near her home in rural Ontario with her family. Currently her chief fantasies include making a living as a travel blogger and someday moving to New Zealand. But above all, her chief aim is to live a passionate and meaningful life for the glory of God.

How to Write an Unlikable Hero

A dark, brooding hero isn’t particularly nice to anyone, and he is particularly mean to a few nice people. A tragic event in his past has shaped his sour outlook on life. He might live on 221B Baker Street, or he may call up CIA agents just to tell them they look tired. He’s conflicted, fearless, and terrified.

Also, he’s very popular in modern YA fiction.How_to_Write_an_Unlikable_Hero

But, unfortunately, failure awaits those who attempt to write him. A dark, brooding, unlikeable character is … unlikeable. The chances are slim that he will hold readers’ attention through a book.

Many authors try to skirt the problem by throwing in backstory that explains how the hero became such a jerk. They think readers will pity and ignore the hero’s rough edges if they understand that he lost his parents at a young age.

Wrong. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Brandon Miller
Raised on C.S. Lewis and matured (to whatever extent) on Tolkien, Brandon Miller is a huge fan of Christian speculative fiction. His favorite stories artfully bend the physical reality to reveal spiritual realities which apply to all realms, kingdoms, districts and solar systems (including our own.)
When not writing fiction Brandon spends his time tending his blog The Woodland Quill, sportsing, or just struggling through that last-year-of-high-school/first-year-of-college which is really neither but is definitely both.

How to Cope When Your Manuscript Is Black and White and Red All Over

You did it. You sent your manuscript out to be appraised by someone else—and you’re not sure whether to shout hurray or groan. Maybe you’re trying to get published, or maybe you’re just seeking feedback. Maybe this is the first time you’ve shown your work to someone, or maybe it’s the one-hundredth time. Whatever the case, you’ve placed your writing in someone else’s hands and now you’re trembling and biting your nails as you await the results.

Black_and_White_and_Red_All_OverThen you hear the flutter of paper, the ding of an e-mail, or the shuffle of the mailman, and your precious bundle arrives. But as you open it, you gasp at all the bloodstains marring the pages, and you wrestle with one of two thoughts:

  1. I must be a horrible writer!
  2. This person doesn’t understand me or my piece, and they don’t know what they’re talking about.

Both of these reactions are wrong, and neither is good for your morale as a writer (although at least the first displays humility). You’re understandably feeling stung, but before you start sobbing or chopping off any heads, pause to pray for wisdom. To endure criticism and emerge a more astute writer, you need to analyze five factors. [Read more…]

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Brianna was born with a rumble in her veins. She finds the tap of a keyboard to be soothing like the pitter-patter of rain. She has been a writer for a decade, a freelance editor for a few years, and a bibliophile from the moment she pronounced her first syllable. Proudly a Silver Member of The Christian PEN, she serves on their team as Graphics Coordinator. She exudes her passion for speculative fiction and helping young writers by being an Associate Editor at Castle Gate Press and the Copy Editor/Director of Graphics for Kingdom Pen. When she isn’t poring over words, she may be spotted shooting her Canon, riding The Breeze (an all-terrain vehicle), or romping with her dog, Zookie. Purple is her signature color, and she refuses to recognize all other claims to it.

How to Use Personality Types to Deepen Your Characters

If you’ve been an author for any length of time, you’ve probably heard about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Maybe you’re enthralled with it. Maybe you’ve glanced at the confusing muddle of letters and given up deciphering it. Or maybe you’ve heard others talk about it. Whatever the case, if you aren’t acquainted with MBTI, welcome to your introduction to personality types.

How_to_Use_Personality_Types_to_Deepen_Your_Characters

Although other personality tests and categories exist, MBTI is one of the most popular. With eight letters in pairs of two (Introvert or Extrovert, iNtuitive or Sensing, Feeling or Thinking, Perceiving or Judging) and sixteen possible combinations, the range is comprehensive without being overwhelming.

This topic is fascinating for those of us who enjoy delving into other people’s minds, but do personality types have practical applications in writing, and what are the limitations? [Read more…]

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Hope Ann is a speculative fiction writer who lives on a small farm in northern Indiana. She has self-published three Legends of Light novellas and is the Kingdom Pen Writing Team Captain. Reading since the age of five, and introducing herself to writing at age eight, she never had a question that the author’s life was the life for her. Her goal is to write thrilling Christian fantasy and futuristic fiction — stories she longed for while growing up. After graduating from homeschool, Hope now teaches writing to several of her eight younger siblings. She loves climbing trees, archery, photography, Lord of the Rings, chocolate, and collecting shiny things she claims are useful for story inspiration. You can claim one of her stories for free at: https://authorhopeann.com/rose-of-the-night/