Putting The Science In Fiction – A Book Review

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

 

Putting the Science In Fiction

This compilation of articles from various authors/experts has the lofty goal of helping authors create more realistic stories. It includes advice and information on medicine, the human body, wildlife, computers, planet earth, rocket science, and space travel.

This volume would serve most authors well as a reference tool and even as an idea generator. Writing a whodunit? Check out chapter seven on toxins and poisoning (my favorite). How about an apocalyptic story? There’re a couple chapters on pathogens and plagues on how to wipe out the population. Need an alien with tentacles, a hologram, or faster than light travel? This book covers it!

While “Putting The Science In Fiction” fulfills its purpose and is worth purchasing, I have two main criticisms:

  1. Since the chapters are coming from various experts, their writing styles range from boring to delightful, creating an unpleasant mental whiplash. I’m not sure how much editing Koboldt actually did with the book contents, but it would have been helpful to have more consistency
  2. Despite the title of the book, some of the contributing authors were too vocal in their disdain for fiction. “You can probably get away with a lot of stuff, but you want your novel to be authentic, don’t you?” Along with the hardliners were some who simply chided authors to be more accurate, while a few encouraged creativity and suggested story possibilities.

The reason this book initially got my attention was its possible ties to the SciFi genre. I wanted to see where it stood in the hard science fiction vs. soft science fiction debate. The answer? It was a mixed bag of playful “do what you want” and “get it right or don’t bother”. As far as I’m concerned, if I’m writing fictional stories about space, space travel, or aliens, I can do whatever I want. Our current scientific knowledge and ability are far too limited to make interesting fiction, and most readers would throw back their heads and howl if authors restricted themselves to it.

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My second fantasy story, Dragon Valley, is now in the hands of my beta readers. What’s up next? I am trying to decide of I should move ahead in the current timeline or do a prequel to Dragon Child, providing back story for the dragons. On the other hand, perhaps I am wasting my time entirely! I don’t have the funds to publish the work in any format right now, and the target audience is “iffy”. Should I re-work the entire idea to include more action and drama? It’s also possible to allow the main character to grow up, which would then shift the appeal to older readers. Decisions, decisions…

I think I’m going to put the angst on hold for little longer and simply enjoy writing. That’s not such a bad idea, is it?

Weekly Roundup 8-22-18 Caring About Your Characters

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Creating characters readers will love has a downside in that I grow to love them too. They become something like my own children whom I want to see happy and successful. So what’s the problem?

In my current manuscript, Traitor’s Moon, it became evident early on some of the characters would die. I knew I would have to handle it carefully or risk damaging the story arc and alienating my readers. As much as I want all the good guys to live long and prosper and the bad guys to bite the dust, the story demanded an injection of stark realism. Theoretically it sounds easy enough, but I had no idea it would be so emotionally difficult!

The real kicker is that I haven’t even written this part of the book, and yet I’ve already lost sleep and agonized over what I knew I had to do. Mind you, no major MC’s are involved this time, but the loss will still be wrenching. When I’m writing, and my emotions are engaged, I’m fairly confident my readers will be touched in the same way. This is a good thing of course, but it makes for some very uncomfortable moments as the tears fall and I get all choked up.

Is it reasonable, or even normal, to be so passionate about something which isn’t real? These people don’t even exist for heaven’s sake, so why all the fuss?

As a writer who creates characters out of whole cloth, I can tell you I am emotionally invested in their lives and well-being. If it were otherwise, readers wouldn’t be able to identify with them and the story would fall flat. To be quite honest, I often prefer their company over the flesh and blood beings all around me. So when something bad happens to my loved ones, I’m going to grieve and cry without shame, and hope my readers do too.

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  • Current manuscript: I hit a bump in the road this week with chapter seven of Traitor’s Moon. It’s a common occurrence for me to underestimate how many words it will take to get from point A to point B. There were, I thought, just a few quick threads to cover before the highly anticipated attack scene and its aftermath. I was wrong. The story insisted on telling itself, and I had to follow along obediently or lose some great content. Anyway, those few quick threads became the entirety of chapter seven, meaning the aforementioned scenes will now be featured in chapter eight. Word count now stands at 54,000+.
  • Have a look at some of the great reviews I’ve received this week for Expectant Moon!

“Wow. Just wow. This book was wonderfully written, a ton of fun to read, and the plot was great. I seriously haven’t gotten this much enjoyment out of a book in a long time. I read it through kindle unlimited but liked it so much that I’m buying it. I just have to have this for my permanent collection.”

“OMG, what a wonderful amazing imagination in this book!!! I can’t wait to read the second in this series. Amazing twists and turns.”

“Wow, wow, wow. Absolutely took my breath away…amazing, beautiful, delightful, intense, naughty, and I loved every moment. You Rock!”

  • I love hearing what my readers have to say about my books, as it affirms my work and motivates me to keep writing. I can’t tell you how many times I have been discouraged, only to be uplifted by a great review or friendly email. As a rule, I usually only leave reviews if I can give the author four or five stars. If you feel the need to give a book three or less, consider contacting the author directly to share your concerns, instead of leaving a scathing review. Words have great power so be careful!
  • Bumper stickers are rare these days, but everybody seems to have a T-shirt with something on it. Check these out:

“In my defense, I was left unsupervised.”

“Patience is a virtue, It’s just not one of MY virtues.”

“I turn beer into pee. What’s your superpower?”

“No need to repeat yourself, I ignored you just fine the first time.”

“Some days the supply of curse words is insufficient to meet the demand.”

“I thought growing old would take longer.”

“If I was a bird, I know who I’d shit on.”

“Being cremated is my last hope for a smoking hot body.”

Where it All Started

My desire to write dates back to a 7th grade challenge given by my English teacher. A speech contest was coming up and we were all encouraged to enter. I cannot remember my personal motivation at the time, but it was probably a desire to boost my fragile self-esteem by finding something I was good at. It would never be sports or academics, and I had a terrible time making friends. I was a lonely, rudderless kid searching for a place in the world.

There were various themes from which the contestants could choose, and I selected to speak on Big Brothers/Big Sisters. I did my research, interviewed someone at the organization, and set about to write and memorize my speech. I recall how nervous I was that night, standing on the stage in front of a hundred strangers. The speech went off without a hitch, and I was flabbergasted to be awarded first prize! I don’t have that trophy any longer, but I kept it for years as validation.

From there I was emboldened to continue writing other things – mostly short stories, songs and poems. (I still have some of these, and might be persuaded to share them with you sometime if you ask nicely!) My new-found confidence spilled over into drama and music, as I finally found something  I could DO, something which reflected the real me. I never got over the nerves of performing in public, but I didn’t let it hold me back. Public speaking became a regular part of my life for many years, though my writing took a back seat until very recently.

In some ways, publishing my books is just as nerve-wracking as public speaking. It is difficult to leave my creations out there for all to see (and criticize). Reviews are both a blessing and a curse, since most authors tend to take negative criticism very personally – even though we are warned not to. I am learning to appreciate the feedback from my readers; even the ones who are unnecessarily vicious in their comments. I have learned much already, and my readers are helping me to be a better writer, editor, and businessman.

The learning curve has been steep, but I hope that a year from now, or ten, my books will be better in every way. Who knows? Perhaps I still have a chance to win a trophy or two.

 

When Readers Get it Right

I’m sure you have heard the tired old proverb “The customer is always right.” Having worked in a retail environment for many years, I can unequivocally say – THAT IS NOT TRUE! Everyone has an opinion, but many opinions are lacking a factual basis, common sense, or even common decency. It’s not wise to argue with a customer, of course, as the employee usually ends up in trouble no matter how the encounter ends.

Book reviews are similar in many ways. Writers often find themselves on the receiving end of mean-spirited, unjustified, or ignorant opinions – left out in the public eye for all to see. Authors have to develop thick skins to protect their fragile ego’s and stave off discouragement.

Fortunately, there is some good along with the bad. Many readers share their heartfelt admiration, with encouraging words which affirm and delight. Even better, there are a select few who understand your story so well, you can honestly say “They get it!” Finally, there are those rare gems who go beyond “getting it” to seeing things the author may have never even considered.

It will continue to amaze and humble me when my readers teach me things about my own books! Would it shock my readers if I should admit they found something in my work I hadn’t even noticed before? No, no, that would never do. One has to maintain a certain all-knowing mystique after all…