Top 5 Things I Want To Do With My Fiction

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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?

25 Replies to “Top 5 Things I Want To Do With My Fiction”

  1. Agree with point one entirely. One of my beefs with S Baxter, for instance is that too often the concept and hardware, and the immensity of space which he is good at, dwarfs/overwhelms one dimensional characters

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    1. Large scale stories have a firm place in science-fiction, and there are many writers who do great at them. But I think it’s good to have balance in anything, and there’s too little intimacy in this genre. One can still have great concepts, cool technology and awe inspiring actions, while remaining personal and immediate, and allowing for a direct connection to the characters.

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  2. Big things tend to escalate from small and very personal conflicts, if you have enough space, manpower, and reasons, of course.

    I think it’s good to blast things on all scales: from tiniest and very, very personal to all-out culture/species clashes. And it’s exciting to see these things happen through someone’s deep and unusual perspective — when the story is turbulently character-driven by their personal goals, desires, wants, which are, in turn, grinded and polished by the outer massive force.

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    1. Exactly, Jelena. All big conflicts are born small, and being there—inside the skin of the people who live through those initial moments and influence them—creates a sense of involvement that is hard to match with generalized stakes.

      Thanks for the comment! 🙂

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  3. Really interesting post. I’m not sure I could articulate the five things I want my writing to accomplish – and I sure do a whole lot of it, so I ought to be able to. Your insights make me want to read more of your stuff…

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Liv. 🙂 Glad I sparked your interest (yippiiie!)

      It’s really not easy to clear our heads and figure out what it is we’re actually trying to say. Working with words every day gives us that “can’t see the forest for the trees” impairment, and it can be really refreshing to step back every once in a while, and figure out where we’re going.

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  4. You and I definitely share these goals, especially number five. As dramatic and explosive as large scale conflict can be when done well, I think personal conflict is always more compelling to me. My favorite stories are those that manage to weave the two, showing the personal stakes and motivations of those tied to the big problems.

    In fact, when I return to the novel I was writing a couple of years ago, I’m actually thinking about scaling the scope down a little—less galaxy-hopping, maybe even to the point that it all takes place on one planet—as I think the personal conflict in my story is so intense that the big “galactic” problem seems almost insignificant in comparison when you’re in my character’s head, and that hurts the story a little.

    I love this list, Vero, and I think if you’re able to nail these down, you’re going to have one hell of a book on your hands!

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    1. When I initially came up with and expanded the concept for my story, I too had grand visions of many solar systems and many worlds, but as I worked at it I gradually scaled it down—and then one day just took out an ax and chopped it apart. Now I have a core cast (and an even tighter selection of deep-pov characters) whom I can explore in depth and through them, experience a fragment of this grand world. And besides, leaving grand things to the imagination of readers keeps them grand, otherwise they become bound in momentary limits.

      I was certain we’d share this goal of writing more personal science-fiction, by the short stories I’ve read from you so far. I can’t wait for you to eventually get around to that novel—and share your process and experience as you go!

      Thank you so much for your support and vote of confidence, James, it means a lot to me. 🙂

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  5. Most of science fiction is plot based. Not too much out there that is centered around characters. I think that will bring more of an air of “legitimacy” to the genre.

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    1. Yup, most science-fiction stories are definitely plot based, and the next in line are milieu base stories (exploration of new worlds), and then next in line are idea based stories (hard science-fiction), and then next in line… yeah. 😐

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  6. “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.”

    The proof is in your informative, reasoned exploration of themes and science and genre and writing goals. Plus, you are writing what you love. OF COURSE your book is going to be awesome.

    To answer your question on why I chose to write about my subject matter, and what I hope to accomplish is a fun one to think about. Like you, I wanted to write what I myself love to read, and provide my readers with a thrilling adventure from the safety of their couch.

    I wanted to poke them in their thinking parts and make them look at the world in different ways. I want my readers to think about *possibilities* outside the normal, routine, everyday reality as they know it.

    I would LOVE to make them think “that would be cool if that were true/that could happen.” I did a lot of research and peppered it into my MS, hoping to blur the line between what is known and proven to be true, and what is made up for my story.

    I’d like my MS to be a present to the reader. Half the fun is opening the wrapping and peeling back the layers. Shaking it first for a clue to what it could be. Eyeballing the size and seeing if they can guess what is inside. Solving clues as they read and potentially learning something new as they go.

    I also did my best to provide my characters enough depth that the reader can perhaps learn something about how circumstances might shape different people’s world views even if they are someone we’d avoid in real life (i.e., religious motivation, granola hippy new-agers, abused kids who grow up wounded). That would be a worthwhile accomplishment as well.

    I truly think a writer/artist/creative soul notices subtleties about the nature of people and relationships, and need an outlet to process it all.

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    1. Aw, thanks a big bunch for the support Courtney! You’re awesome. 🙂

      Writing what you love to read, making people see the world through a different perspective for a while, and “poke them in their thinking parts” (gotta love that line!), all that sounds just great. It’s what all fiction is for, and science-fiction in particular — exploring the otherwise unexplorable, and showing different possibilities and ways to see life and reality. Peeling off the many layers of a good story is an added treat indeed!

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    1. Thanks, Misha! Epics have a way of being farsighted, but as long as the characters are three dimensional and their conflicts engaging, anything is possible! Heck, there are thousands of good examples! Wish you the best with your novel. 🙂

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  7. Wow… I am totally stealing this topic for my own blog down the road…

    I particularly like your items #4 and #5. In the first novel I put out, I was lucky enough have my favorite kind of conflict, namely two good people with opposing aims. It’s not that the bad guy is evil. He just wants the opposite of our hero, and when it all hits the fan, there’s no more room for compromise.

    As for the scale issue, that hints at one of my other favorite kinds of stories that I call “little in big” stories. Sure, there’s some epic, sweeping change blasting across the galaxy, but we’re following this one little guy who is struggling just to survive. But then, at some critical moment, our little guy does something critically important to the larger cause, but he does it for his own personal reasons. I enjoy it because it gives us a sense of scale larger than ourselves and tells us that what we do matters to the rest of the world.

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    1. “Two good people with opposing aims” is a great way to build conflict! I’m frankly tired of the “villain” in stories, of the Dark Overlord or the psychopathic mass murderer. The strongest conflict (in the reader, as well) comes from watching someone we relate to, so something that harms himself and others, and understand why he had to do it while at the same time loathing the action. If that then comes to hurt our beloved protagonist — we have fire!

      Also, watching the little guy do something to fight his problem, and thus ending up fighting the big problem, is a very compelling way to create a sense of scale and importance. You’re dead on with that.

      Thank you very much for the comment, Dan. I’m glad the post resonated with you. 🙂

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  8. Awesome post, Vero. Taking the sci-fi aspect out of the equation, you and I aim for pretty much the same thing 🙂 You’re not surprised, are you? I believe you’ll find success with your goals–I’d definitely read your stories, and I’m no sci-fi fan *at all*.

    Vero, I’ve gone rogue and tagged you in a blog hop. Please forgive me, and spare my life–no, not the vaporizing laser gun! Please, no! Wait, *wait*–no obligation. Really. Just ten quick ques–okay, just five then. One. *One*. Just–just take a quick look at the post. Yes, it’s over 100 words, but–no, no! Please, I don’t want to die!

    😀

    http://guilie-castillo-oriard.blogspot.com/2012/12/my-next-big-thing.html

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    1. Yeah, it doesn’t surprise me that we have a similar scope for our writing, Guilie. Thank you very much for being supportive, and saying you’d read my story! (*siiiiigh*) 😀

      Thanks for tagging me as well –> but I beat you to it! LOL It’s good that we thought of each other there, though, right?

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  9. Vero once more I love your ideas. I do write science fiction and love the complexity of watching human nature deal with life problems. I take a character with quirks and personality and drop him into a “situation” to watch how he bounces off other characters and attempts to solve the problem, whether it’s a crashed alien probe or romantic dilemma.
    Right now I am focused on your #1…trying to make events more up close and personal so that the reader becomes immersed.

    Still, plot has to make sense and I love the unexpected twist where the reader falls off his seat muttering, “I never saw that coming.”

    #3 Aliens with problems is intriguing and down the road, after the invasion, I plan to explore that interesting idea further. Great blog.

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    1. Thank you, Sheron!

      Watching humans in their natural environment—and especially OUT of their natural environment—is always a very intriguing experience. Making the reader feel like he’s witnessing something extraordinary is a real achievement. 🙂

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  10. So yeah, I really can’t wait to read whatever you produce. I want to create gray characters, people who do bad for good reasons or visa versa. I also love watching how things build up and how that series of events cause the effect to unfurl. It’s all really fascinating stuff, and yeah.

    Great post, as usual. 🙂

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