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Author's Chapter Notes:

Part 1 of a subseries on writing genres.

If you read nothing else, read the end.

Having gone over the basics of preparing to write a story, I'll now take this segment to talk more specifically about fantasy/science fiction fan fiction. Now, before I get any further, I want to emphasize that this genre is not my forte, and as such, I'd especially appreciate feedback from those of you who are well versed in writing such fanfics.  That being said, I've decided to start with the hardest (for me) genre, and move forward from there (also a great approach when you feel as though you are facing a writing barrier).


Picture this - you have an idea for a sci-fi/fantasy fanfic.  You really want to write it......but you are quickly finding that this isn't like writing a canon fic or even a fanfic in which Michael is himself but in a different real-world setting.  Welcome to sci-fi/fantasy fanfics.  While it doesn't necessarily have to be more complicated, it is different in many ways.  For example, if it is set in a different world, you'll have to think about the rules of that world and how to convey them.  The following are a select collection of points that writers of sci-fi/fantasy fics should attend to when writing their fics.




Research: This can look a little different here. For instance, as science fiction often builds upon real world and attention-getting scientific developments, knowing a bit more about these can add to the foundation of a story. Also, if drawing from a series (e.g. Twilight, Hitchhiker's Guide), then having a solid understanding of the language used in each, the limitations of their abilities (e.g. magic, strength, Achilles' heels), and the characters' personalities, will all be very important to the believability of your fiction.  Reading or watching good series can become both inspiration and research if you are attentive to the details.




Check out the news: Remember that science fiction is often used to teach readers about their contemporary world.  This can also be the case for fantasy.  By packaging current events into an alternative universe or species, you add a touch of reality to unreality and infuse current events that you are interested in, in a way that removes some of the biases that people may have.  Such current events can include current advances in science.


daily show!

(Very much kidding.)


Think about the message you want to convey:  Science Fiction is often known for the meaning it is trying to convey. From 1984 to Star Trek, the message is often just as powerful as a romance that the story might contain.  Having a message can also help guide your plot, so that it isn't solely developed on a romance (if you do/don't even include one).  Stories with a meaning often have a greater impact on readers. 




Make your world relatable:  Remember that many people have a hard time following a world that is very different than the one they live in.  This is a problem that all writers deal with to some extent, but fantasy and science fiction writers face extra hurdles when they describe a world/species that dramatically different than can often look wildly different than what is found on Earth. For many people, they have a hard time following and understanding a world so different from their own. So, in between creating your super species, parallel universes, or magical creatures, think about how you can make it relatable to a mere mortal.  If you can ground your creativity in a setting or context that you can reasonably expect readers to be familiar with, then that is one less thing you have to create and explain. That common ground can help the world you describe, come alive for your readers.




Don't forget the culture: We all have a culture. If you are going to set your story in a different world or a different Earth, consider what the culture of the alien/animals/earthlings is like.  This will add realism and depth to your story.  Things to think about: music, favorite past times, beliefs, politics, history, race, economics, genders, social stratification.



No joke and not a gif, but I bet you still found yourself interested.


Color the environment:  Part of writing science fiction (and one of the parts readers often enjoy the most), is the creation of a different world. It's novel, interesting, and different from the reader's reality. So, if you do write sci-fi or fantasy, please remember to pay a lot of attention to the environment. Paint a portrait with your words.  Think about if it is based in a city, countryside, underwater, or in a station. Is it humid, wet, dry, hot, or cold? Is the land flat, mountainous, filled with valleys?



Imagine describing that environment ^


Select your struggle: Conflict, struggle, battle, hurdle...all words for what should ultimately be at least one of the major drivers of any story.  Is yours survival of the fittest? Is a kingdom under attack? Is there a scientific advancement gone wrong?




Place and Pace your story: When is it occurring? Is it happening or has it already happened? Review the segments on POV and preparing to write.


>>>If you read nothing else, READ THIS<<<

AKA: And now, the flaky crumbs that didn't stick with the above:


  • Don't think that all sci-fi or fantasy stories must end up with a series or a trilogy
    • Do recognize that sometimes one story is enough
  • Don't do tons of infodumps OR write tons of awkward dialogue just so that you can fit in the history/back story/rules of the land
    • Do balance them. Sometimes infodumps are helpful if they keep you from burying your reader in awkward dialogue. Gregory Maguire puts a map in the front pages of his story, Ann Rice posts a family tree, etc. Maybe you could begin with a vague timeline before you put in the first chapter. Maybe your prologue could be a series of journal entries. Maybe you could weave in articles from periodicals. Get creative.
  • Don't think that you need to juggle a lot of characters
    • Do cut yourself some slack. You've already decided to go fantasy and/or sci-fi. Think about who is necessary and who isn't. Neither you nor the reader want it to end up reading as though there is a hall of people waiting impatient to get called in, with nothing better to do than watch the leads oh no
  • Don't bury yourself in sci-fi cliches
    • Do use them sparingly, if at all. Aliens/the enemy doesn't always need to be bigger and more powerful. Rethink armor that is unbreakable or having people with advanced weaponry always resort to the basics in fighting. Reconsider having Alien races being strictly monocultural. Remember that the last minute rescue has been done...and done.
  • Don't bury yourself in fantasy cliches
    • Do think about how you could twist them/make them different, if you do intend on using them. When I say cliches, I'm thinking of: prophecies; one of the leads being an orphan; the wise old ____ figure (wizard, vampire, witch, etc); the unjustified villain; good vs evil; unrealistic fighting (one against 10? No); limitless magic; or a novice harnessing a power that even the most advanced struggle with.  
  • Don't make up new powers as you go along
    • Do your research. If you are using a specific story as your guideline, know the rules of that story and the boundaries of the characters' abilities.
  • Don't put pictures of your world up along with pictures of each weapon, each spell, each tree, each piece of armor, each....
    • Do describe. Show the scene with your words.
  • Don't rush ______ (the plot, the writing, the outlining)
    • Do wait to post it until at least two of these are hammered out. Sci-fi and fantasy require more thought and more of the details that might be considered extraneous in a different genre. The Night Circus was conceptualized years before it was written, and the writing itself took years...only for it to be first rejected by publishers. Then when Morgenstern added onto it....the result? Her first story was a huge and immediate success. Points being, don't give up if you can't immediately make it perfect, don't rush it, and be open to feedback that might make your story stronger. I'm not saying you have to want to be a published novelist, just that even they struggle.
  • Don't write something just because you think fantasy and/or sci-fi would be a nice challenge
    • Do write it because you love the concept and you will see it to completion.
Chapter End Notes:

Thanks to @TutThreeSevens for the idea. Please let me know what you guys agree with, disagree with, hate, and/or want clarification on. A reminder that sci-fi/fantasy are a mile away from a cross-country trip from my forte.

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