Five More Rules You Should Break
Welcome back to Firsts in Fiction, loyal listeners! Sadly, Heather couldn’t join us this week because of a scheduling conflict, but she should be back with us next week. For now, Aaron and Steve finish up the conversation they began earlier about i09’s list of ten rules they wish more sci-fi and fantasy writers should break. Again, if you’d like to read what they had to say, you can find their article here. As always, you can listen above or download the episode here. Find Steve and Heather and Aaron on Facebook, Twitter, iTunes, and Stitcher.
6) No Faster Than Light Travel: The real idea here is this–when writing science-fiction, please honor the rules of science. If you want to have FTL, you must explain it in such a way that makes sense, otherwise, you run the risk of alienating your readers and breaking the “fictive dream.” However, when you think of Space Opera and shows like Star Trek or movies like Star Wars, they contain FTL (and several other things that defy the laws of physics as we know them). And yet they’re wildly successful. In a way, it’s like a world with magic. You don’t always have to explain the origins of the magic, only that it exists, and the people within the world can use it. However, if you do explain it, make sure the explanation has some kernel of truth in it.
7) Women Can’t Write “Hard” Science-Fiction: The idea behind this rule is that the vast readership of hard science-fiction is male, and men are much more likely to pick up a book by a man than they are a woman (when they pick up a book at all). However, the rule is a little antiquated. Men are willing to read well-written books regardless of who writes them. Additionally, females are reading more hard science-fiction as well. Don’t believe me? Check out this impressive list.
8) Magic has to be just a minor part of a fantasy world: i09 suggests this “rule” (or, better, “trend”) developed after the massive popularity of George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series. And while his work is fantastic, it doesn’t mean that all books need to follow what he’s done. I’m terrified of an industry that encourages copy-catism to the detriment of originality. A better rule would be this: “Don’t be afraid to explore worlds without magic.” That said, you should be equally unafraid to explore worlds with magic. Or, if there’s a world with magic, it doesn’t have to be the focus.
9) No Present Tense: Present tense has a lot to offer a reader (the sense of immediacy, the fear of the unknown future, etc.), but it can be tricky to execute well. I think the “rule” exists because so few people do “present tense” well. I also think that readers are more comfortable with the tried-and-true past tense. However, that doesn’t mean you can never write in present tense, only that you must do it well. And, like every other decision you make regarding how you write or structure your novel, you need to have a compelling reason for making it present tense (or past tense, for that matter).
10) No Unsympathetic Characters: This rule exists because, for the most part, when characters are “unsympathetic,” they’re under-drawn and one-dimensional. They’re stereotypes. I think of the evil villain bent on world domination because they’re hungry for power. Sure, but why? What has fostered that lust for power within them? What does their history looked like? Steve has often cautioned me against having villains that are “evil for evil’s sake.” Unsympathetic characters usually fall into this category. However, it is possible to have a very well-drawn evil character whose actions make him or her unsympathetic. Fine. But I’d argue that they’d be more interesting if they were sympathetic in some way. Finding a way to tap into that sympathy will make your character far more interesting and deep.
As always, let us know if we’ve missed something. We love hearing from you guys!