There’s nothing I love talking about more than writing science-fiction and all the things that flow into it. I’m aware that many great minds have said many great things about this genre, and many brilliant writers have left their spectacular mark on it throughout the years. I’m also acutely aware I haven’t published any work of science-fiction yet—and most of you who are so wonderful and supportive of my blog, haven’t read any fiction of mine and ultimately don’t have any proof whether I know what the heck I’m talking about or if I’m just shooting in the dark. It’s a constant thorn in my side, I can tell you that, but the only thing I can do is write at my best, and be patient. And talk to you about what I love.
As a followup to a previous post on the Top 5 Things I Want To See Done In Science-Fiction, and in the absence of a published novel to show you what I’m all about, I’ll just tell you the top 5 things I want to accomplish with my writing.
I believe it’s important to know where we want our fiction to go, not necessarily before we write it, but certainly after we have a good pile of words to look at. It’s part of my growth process, to check if I’ve managed to do what I set out to do, if I succeeded to get my ideas on paper. Ultimately, only the readers will tell if these points were accomplished or not, but it feels good to have a bull’s eye to aim at.
1. Bring science-fiction up-close and make it personal
I’ve made this my tagline, my mission statement, my mantra if you will. I know it’s a bit melodramatic, but it motivates me, so screw that. I like it!
I want to create fiction that is closer to the characters, that moves the focus toward deeper characterization and more intimate conflicts, and less toward external matters. And I want to create a more personal experience of the story for the reader as well. The way I’m trying to achieve that is through writing style and technique, such as intimate points of view and immediate prose, even stream-of-consciousness at times, and by having no page without the strong presence of a character and his interests or conflicts.
This is what I love to read most of all, and what I want to write.
2. Show how conflicts form, not just how they play out
To say that I’m fascinated with the workings of the human mind is an understatement. I’m in love with psychology, psychiatry and neuropsychology, have red dozens of books, case studies, manuals and reports, yet I’m a constant novice, and I’m always trying to figure out WHY people are who they are, WHY they do what they do, and how these two are related—how actions come to be, and what they are meant to fulfill.
I’m fascinated with psychological causality, and it’s influencing my writing greatly. In my stories, I always strive to show how conflicts come to be, how they derive out of character, choices and actions, and how the conflicts themselves intimately affect the people involved. I’m not so much interested in the boom! and bang! of conflicts as they play out, but in the terrible friction and the deep discomfort they create on a personal level.
3. Aliens with issues
My novel’s not just about humans dealing with trouble. It’s about people dealing with trouble, aliens included. My aliens have their own personal issues, and not just general cultural issues relevant to their species or society. They are individuals with own personalities and own problems, they get caught up in situations and make the wrong choices, and they affect the lives of others and are affected by them in return. They know hope and despair, hatred and affection, are rash or wise and sometimes tormented.
I believe that any and all intelligent life is complex and thus inevitably conflicted, and there are common traits to these conflicts across the species, regardless of the exact elements that form them. Take for example territorial behavior, the instinct of self-preservation and the drive to reproduction, the reserve toward the different, etc. All of these can give rise to very specific behaviors, but they are nonetheless quite common causes.
4. Evil is not always evil, and good is not necessarily good
And I don’t mean vacillating characters, or sudden turns of 180° for shock value.
I don’t have classic heroes and villains in my stories, I have people who sometimes do the right thing while other times they falter, and people who unwittingly hurt others and then struggle to make amends. I have people who commit heinous crimes for the right reasons, and people who help others out of ruthless selfishness. It’s not meant to disparage one morality or another, it’s my way to show that in life, things don’t come in black or white, they are sometimes crimson or dark green.
5. Size is not objective
No matter how great the problems of a nation or species are, the personal problems of an individual will always be greater to him. Any parent who’s ever lost a child can tell you how much of a shit they give about global warming in that moment. Any lover who’s ever had to witness the torture of his better half can tell you that no distant war can ever be more terrible. And any addict who wakes up in the ruins of his family can tell you that nothing is more scarring than the inability to undo one’s past. The size of conflicts is not objective, it’s a subjective perception, a choice based on either reason or feeling.
Science-fiction more often than not deals with “big” problems that affect entire cultures, even though they are exemplified through the stories of individual characters. I’m not interested in writing about how war or a universal threat changes societies (it’s hard to say “global threat” when you have people spread across several globes). I’m only interested in writing about big problems happening on small scales, about big bombs detonating in confined spaces, about tiny glitches becoming life altering disruptions.
So how about you? What do you write about — what do you write for? What is it you ache to show most of all through your fiction, and how do you go about showing it?