How to write Science Fiction
Image courtesy of Edgar Jansen/Flickr

What exactly is Science Fiction? Is it time-travel, alien invasions, a technology apocalypse, or a story revolving around one of Albert Einstein’s theories?

Everything we mentioned falls under science fiction, but what happens when the lines blur more? What happens when some other genre like horror, romance or fantasy is thrown into the mix?

What if you’re writing a love story between an alien and human? Is it categorized as “Romance” or “Science Fiction”?

The lines between genres are blurry. So, what can you do to make sure you’re on the right path when it comes to writing science fiction?

Focusing on your characters and focusing on their relationships is what you should be doing, according to Nic Kelman, a guest columnist for Writer’s Digest.

“The single biggest trap of writing science fiction is focusing on the science, not the fiction,” he writes in his article.

The biggest mistake writers make is that they fill their story with science, science and science! While writers should always take the time to do their research and try to understand the theory, technology or experiment they are referencing or using in their story, they also need to remember that their story is fiction.

Your readers will most likely not be scientists or researchers with a PhD in chemistry, quantum-physics, or space engineering. If you focus too much on the science portion of your story, you run the risk of losing your reader’s interest. If it’s too complicated to read, they won’t read it.

Now, the difference between science fiction and fiction is that science fiction does require some level of science. But, downgrade the science enough so readers have a good idea of what it is, but it’s not slowing down the pace of your story.

“Your premise is ultimately simply a tool for placing characters in situations that we as human beings could not experience except in science fiction,” Kelman wrote.

Once you’ve established your basic narrative, Kelman recommends that you establish what relationships you want to focus on. The story should revolve around these characters and it should be these characters that are affected by the science portion of the story. So, look at is as Cause-and-Effect.

If a character uses a time-machine to go to the past, for example, select a time period and then decide how they could change the future if they mess with something.

Here’s an example:

Someone goes back in time and stops the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. What happens? How does that change their “present?” How is history altered?

You need to find a cause-and-effect like this, but it will probably be easier if the change is more personal and less widespread, unless that’s what you’re going for.

So, perhaps your character goes back in time to stop someone from bullying their best friend. When they return to their “present” what has changed? Are they still best friends or have they gone separate ways?

By focusing more on the characters and their relationships, your readers end up caring more about the story rather than the science explanation, but like Kelman mentions in his article, if your interest group is hardcore science fiction lovers, they may be more into the science aspect.

Before you completely minimize the science aspect of your story, or you completely overshadow the fictitious storyline with facts and theories, make sure you decide what readership of the science fiction spectrum you want to reach and what is the best medium for your particular story.

In order to do this, you have to make sure you figure out how your story can best be told.

Your story may be more effective as a screenplay than a novel, for example, so compare your story with others that exist. What medium are they best told in?

This advice goes for all genres.

And if you want to read Kelman’s entire article, you can check out his Writer’s Digest guest post here.


Did you enjoy our thoughts? Did you enjoy his article? Let us know in the comments below and what tips and tricks you have for writing science fiction! And if you want to see more content from us, subscribe to our email list for more thoughts, quotes and writing prompts or follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagram or Pinterest.

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