Thursday, March 17, 2016

How To Write: Science Fiction

Hi guys! Sorry for not posting on Tuesday; my spring break has been surprisingly busy. But without further ado, here's a post by my friend Victoria!

   Science-Fiction is a very popular genre. Well-known science-fiction includes Jurassic Park, Star Wars, and Star Trek. The genre revolves primarily around superior technology. This can be futuristic technology, alien technology, modern-day-hidden-by-the-government technology. Basically, advanced science hence the genre’s name. 
   This genre has been around for over a hundred years since man started dreaming about what the mysterious future would be. People such as Jules Verne or these French artists from 1899  fantasized about spaceships, underwater cities, and simplified farming devices. This is all science fiction, dreams of superior technology.
   What’s even more fascinating is that a lot of science-fiction has become reality. Communicators in Star Trek highly resemble flip-phones. Also Star Trek used memory drives resembling floppy discs decades before they were ever invented.
   With that in mind, let’s talk about some details.

1. Subgenres – Science-fiction has spawned many smaller genres. These narrow down the focus of what kind of science-fiction the story is. It can be very heavy like in Star Wars where there is no involvement of earth at all or lighter like in Back to the Future where Doc Brown invents a time machine in the 1980s.
   Here are some specified science-fiction genres:
   Apocalyptic: The apocalypse in an event that ends the world as we know it. For a genre, this is a story taking place during a world-ending event. In The 5th Wave, the Others aka aliens from another planet are ending the world. They’re creating a mass genocide of the human population with their superior tech. The main character, Cassie, watches this all happen and is one of the few survivors during the process.
   Post-Apocalyptic: A post-apocalyptic genre story is set after a world-ending event has occurred, so the world has already changed instead of watching it happen like in an apocalyptic novel. In The Maze Runner series, the Flare, a deadly disease caused by solar flares, has devastated the planet, rendering most of it a barren wasteland. This has in turn caused most of the big events in the series.
   Dystopian: Dystopians are often set in the future. A dystopian is an oppressed society usually by a totalitarian government. In The Hunger Games, Panem is ruled by the greedy Capitol who controls the districts, forcing them to labor for their pleasures and participate in the annual yearly pageant where children are forced to fight in a gladiatorial celebration.
   Space Opera: A space opera is a genre that happens primarily in outer space and distant planets. These usually involve aliens, though not always like in Firefly. In Star Wars, the films take place nowhere near earth at all, while Star Trek takes place on both earth and in space.
   Time Travel: This is pretty self-explanatory, but this is a genre that involves traveling through time, creating paradoxes, changing the past or future, having to fix an event, etc. Time travel can be a superpower like in The Time Traveler’s Wife or done in a time machine like in the TARDIS in Doctor Who.

2. The Setting – Science fiction is so diverse. Your setting can be earth, space, a distant planet, wherever you want. It can be in the future, the present, or the past. 
   When you write a sci-fi taking place in the future, think about how the world can change in however many years you’re setting your story. Think of politics, environment, culture, and primarily technology. Will they have spaceships? Did a big event happen that changed everything? Were there wars or disease or environment disasters? (Example: Cinder by Marissa Meyer and Divergent by Veronica Roth)
   When you write a sci-fi taking place in the present, think of what makes it sci-fi. Is it aliens? Is it secret technology? A conspiracy? Illegal experimentation? (Example: Transformers and Race to Witch Mountain)
   When you write a sci-fi taking place in the past, think of how the culture is going to react to such superior technology. How different is it from what they’re used to? Is an advanced culture trying to dominate a primitive one? Will the primitives stand a chance? Is someone on earth hurting an extraterrestrial or did someone invent something the government is after? (Example: Super 8 and Cowboys versus Aliens)

3. The Characters – Your characters are very dependent on the setting. They can be used to their science-fiction world or they can be brought into a world of science-fiction. How does the world affect who they are? Do they own advanced technology like Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon? Do they have new slang like “shiny” or “gorram” in Firefly? Have the politics affected them like the oppression of cyborgs in Cinder?
   Do you have aliens or different races like Wookees and Droids? How does their culture differ from ours like how Vulcans suppress their emotions? What do they look like? Are they green like Yoda? Do they speak a different language like Klingons?

4. The Technology – This where it gets fun. I personally love coming up with crazy inventions like robots and weapons. Transportation, medical devices, and communication devices are other things to consider. Is travel faster? Have cures been found for diseases? Do they use holograms? Are there microchips? Do your research and see what technology is already out there. Maybe you can expand on it and make it more efficient or make something high-tech now common use in the future.


   Science-fiction is a fun and diverse genre and host to many amazing stories. Try adding yours to the shelf! Thanks for reading!
   Have you ever written a science-fiction novel? Have you ever read/watched any science-fiction? Do you have a favorite science-fiction novel, show, or movie? Who is your favorite science-fiction character?

   Victoria Grace Howell is an award-winning, aspiring writer of speculative fiction. In 2014 she won the Teen Writer of the Year Award at the Florida Christian Writers conference and in 2015 she won the Beyond the Steeple Award. In April 2016, she will be published in Splickety: Havok Magazine for her short story. She also edits for the Christian site Geeks Under Grace. When not writing she enjoys drawing her characters, blogging, learning Kung Fu, cosplaying, and a really good hot cup of tea. 
   Be sure to check out her FacebookTwitterPinterest, and blog.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

How To Write: Steampunk

Today, we've got my awesome friend Aimee, here to teach you about the wonders of steampunk.

Behold. It’s me, Aimee, guest-posting on Krissy’s blog because she’s awesome like that and I love to shove my thoughts onto the internet whenever possible. (So thanks for that, Krissy, you wonderful human being you.)

Krissy’s asked me to talk about steampunk and how to write it. This is a mistake because 1) I have no clue what I’m doing myself most of the time and 2) I am still personally trying to figure out how to write steampunk and how to not write steampunk.
This is partly because there’s no actual way to write steampunk.
Yes, I can see the horrified gasps now. Allow me to explain to you a thing. (many things, actually. Sorry. I basically never shut up.)
There’s no way to write steampunk. There’s really no way to not write steampunk.
That’s the beauty of the genre. (By the way, do you not know what steampunk is? Go Google it. Look up some pictures. Be amazed. It’s the coolest.) It’s a genre for rulebreakers, genre-mashers, people who like to use cool words, people who like to have machines and Victorian Era dresses in the same context, people who are too lazy to do a ton of research, and basically doing whatever the heck you want. It’s weird, as weird as you want it to be. There are no limits to the creativity, the imagination, the smashing-together of things that shouldn’t make sense but do when you put them together like that.
So you want to write steampunk? Just dive into the middle of it.

Read steampunk. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld and Airborn by Kenneth Oppel are wonderful places to start if you want a feel for how this genre works. Every single steampunk world is different, creative, its own little thing, but you’ll start to feel the wonder of it all, the focus on inventing and new ideas and lush worlds teeming with life of all kinds. That’s probably helpful. (But really, reading is a helpful way to write any genre better. Read all the books, peeps.)
Try it out. Honestly? Just jump right in. There’s no wrong way to write steampunk. Make up some kooky machines. Slap a corset and goggles on a Victorian lady’s dress and make her an airship pirate, or a doctor, or a high-society evil queen, or whatever. Go crazy with it. Experiment. Write about people experimenting. Do whatever you want! This is the no-rules genre.
Don’t forget worldbuilding. This is the most important part of steampunk books, I think. A lot of the time the setting can function as a character of its own, something that drives the plot forward. In Leviathan, we explore an alternate version of WWI, filled with genetically-fabricated animals and hulking metal war machines. That changes the way the war goes, it changes the way characters interact with each other, it creates conflict between creepy-genetic-animal people and hulking-war-machine people. Airborn takes place almost entirely on a hydrogen-powered airship filled with mechanikal gear-and-clockwork gadgets. Lush, detailed worlds are what make steampunk...well, steampunk.
Look stuff up. You’re a grown-up writer-person, I’m sure. You can Google things like “how to write steampunk.” Steampunk is all about visuals, so scroll through some Pinterest boards for a while! Read examples. Look up the weirdness that is steampunk bands if you need inspiration. (Abney Park is a good place to start.)
Experiment. I’m repeating myself at this point, but...pretty much the only mistake you can make with steampunk is being afraid to do stuff. (And, possibly, not including at least one mad scientist/inventor character.) Do whatever you want! Get a feel for the way steampunk goes and invent your own feel off that. Go crazy.
Basically: Smash stuff together. Break rules. Don’t be scared. Add plenty of clockwork and cool outfits. Give people British accents. Be rebellious. Be creative.
Be steampunky, y’all.

Once again, thank you to the ever-wonderful Krissy for letting me guest post! I’m sure I screwed it up. *waves at you all*

   Aimee Meester is a reader, writer, watcher, and lover of all things weird and/or sci-fi. When she's not busy reading, writing, watching, or otherwise procrastinating she's a homeschooled extrovert who happened to find the internet and build up a bizarre little blog of her own. Her love for Les Mis knows no bounds.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

How To Write: High Fantasy

   Hi guys!! So, remember that Big Exciting Thing I told you about? Well, it's finally here!

*cue fanfare*

   I don't talk much about actual writing on this here "writing" blog, and I decided it was time to change that. Over the next weeks, some friends and I are going to give you tips for writing different genres. We've got sci-fi, steampunk, mystery and more coming up, but this week I'm kicking it off with none other than my favorite genre ever, fantasy.

   So, what are some ways you can improve your fantasy writing?


   Okay, so this is a fantasy, right? Which means it's make-believe, right? Fake. Not real.
   So why is most fantasy based on medieval England? Seriously, people. The awesome thing about fantasy is that you can literally do whatever you want(within reason, of course). Combine real-life cultures. Tweak an existing fantasy world. Make one up from scratch! You, my dear fellow author, are the creator of this world. You've got infinite possibilities, so make good use of the opportunity.
   (Let me just say one thing, though. A generic European-based fantasy world can totally work; we've just seen a lot of it. With a creative plot, unique culture, or interesting characters, you can pull it off.)


   "But Krissy!" you say. "This is a fantasy! I don't need to research. That's for historical fiction writers!"
   Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong.
   Research is actually really important. From sword-fighting and battle strategies, to politics, court life, and hunting and farming techniques, there's a lot of basic info that will make your writing better and more realistic. You don't need to be an expert, but your characters shouldn't do ridiculous or impossible things, just because you didn't feel like doing a Google search.
   Also, if you're including mental illnesses or different sexualities in your story, please please please do your research. This applies to all genres, not just fantasy. Romanticizing or inaccurately portraying these things is both insensitive and harmful. Do your research, guys.

The "Brick" Epidemic

   (no I didn't just make that term up for this blog post what are you talking about)
   If you ask someone to list some famous fantasy writers, chances are J. R. R. Tolkien, Brandon Sanderson, and J. K. Rowling will show up on there. And what are something all three(and many other fantasy writers) have in common?
   The biggest, thickest bricks books known to mankind.
   I don't know about anyone else, but I definitely feel some pressure to write books like that. Not only are they very long books with very long chapters, but they also have a very distinct writing style. You know what I'm talking about, right? It's almost thick, very flowery and descriptive.
   Your writing does not have to sound like that.
   When I was first writing Children of the Nameless, I felt so much pressure to write chapters of equal length, full of generic fantasy prose. And as a result, my writing sucked. It was so uncomfortable and awkward. My writing flowed much better when I wrote how I wanted, not how I felt I should.
   If writing like that comes easily to you, write like that. If not, write however is easiest for you. Don't force yourself to write like Tolkien if you aren't Tolkien.


   This part is so, so important. Worldbuilding is one of my favorite things about fantasy. A world rich in detail does wonders for a story. My advice?
   Almost overdo it.
   Note the "almost". That's very important. We writers can get caught in the surprisingly-sticky web of worldbuilding, creating a detailed backstory for the king who lives two countries over because "it's writing!" My friend Lily wrote an excellent blog post about the dangers of this.
   When creating a fictional world, figure out all the necessary information, and then a little more. I love when authors slip in extra details; it makes their story come alive. Something as little as mentioning that your character "looked up at the moons" reminds the reader that something is different, in a very good way.

I felt the need to include this.
   Some important details you might want to include are climate(weather, mountains, seasons, foliage), religion(most/least common, god(s), worship technics), culture(common phrases, "swear" words, acceptable/unacceptable behavior), and politics(local and central government, law enforcement, war strategies).

Pronounceable Names

   There's actually a really easy cure to this one. Write the names of different characters/countries on a piece of paper, hand it to a random stranger, and ask them to read it.
   Just kidding.
   A better bet might be asking a friend, family member, or fellow author. You know how the name is supposed to sound in your head, so the spelling makes sense. Others, however, might be really confused. Also, a friend's pronunciation might sound better than yours and prompt you to officially change the pronunciation of a character's name. True story.
   But remember, starting out right is easier than fixing a mistake. So, when you're creating character names, make sure that they're readable and don't sound too much like the name of a different character/place.


   "To cliche or not to cliche" is the question every writer asks. Cliches are time-tested, but that's exactly the problem. We've seen too much of them, and it can get really annoying. The best way I've found to combat this is to twist the cliche. 
   The main character is the Chosen One? Maybe he finds out he really isn't, halfway through the story. Or maybe the Chosen One is the sibling/best friend/love interest/niece of the main character.
   The old bearded mentor character dies? Maybe that's not such a bad thing after all, because he was secretly working for the enemy.
   The princess character kicks some major bad guy butt? Give her a secret(or not so secret) love for shoes, frilly dresses, or boys with curly hair.
   While this isn't the only way to keep a story from being dreadfully cliche, it is a fun one.

   So there you have it. While is is by no means a comprehensive list, it'll definitely liven up that awesome fantasy novel you're writing.
   And, since I'm fond of lists and have lots of great friends, here are some resources to help you even more.

I hoped this has helped some of you! Be sure to check in next Tuesday; I've got an awesome guest poster for you.