In 2017, while at the National Youth Service Corps orientation camp somewhere in the North, I conceived this idea to write about a very graphic novel about a teenager who got possessed by an alien being that turned him into a psychopath and bloody mayhem…but, the way i imagined the story, i assumed people will not have the courage to finish reading the horror from the graphic imagery i had in mind…it was brutal.
So, I decided to write a sci-fi instead with the same format but different settings, different circumstances and different persons. That’s how i ended up writing an epic sci-fi novel.
Before i started writing the story, i can actually say that i have read a lot of books and watched a lot of movies, mostly Hollywood movies. I always loved their storytelling, especially HBO, NETFLIX and most of the Box Office big budget movies.
I see things in movies most people didnt even know were in the movies. I could retell a movie almost exactly as i watched it. I also try my best to read more about the movies that interested me a lot, the plotlines, endings and a whole lot of technical ish which the normal movie person wouldn’t really care about. I read stuffs about movies and productions, and if it’s a genre defining entry. You can imagine the joy of reading Harry Potter novels and then watch it come into motion picture. You try your best to synchronise your visualisation while reading it and the pictures in front of you, you marvel. As someone who has read the book, you even note where the directors didn’t do as it was in the book and all that…but in the end, you marvel.
When you watch series like Game of Thrones, Westworld, Altered Carbons, and movies like Lord of the Rings trilogy, Star Wars, DC and Marvel Universe movies, Star Trek; you begin to just marvel.
Each of the above were mostly written by single persons as novel, and then they were adapted into movies. Today, they’re all household names.
So, I was like why can’t i write Sci-Fi novels too that can compete with those. Who says your book cannot be adapted into a movie?
Mrs Amanda’s book has been adapted, her “Americana” book is also billed to be adapted. Lol.
Before writing the story, i promised to use everything I knew to write one of the best sci-fi novels from Africa. After writing the first volume of the novel, i realised that i have a trilogy in my hands. So, one down, two to go.
However, I decided to search for the key things that make for best seller in sci-fi novels, it happened that the things i actually learnt by myself while writing the novel was exactly what i needed to do. When i read through it all, i just kept smiling to myself and decided I’m going to share it here.
I believe it’s the kind of knowledge our creative writers need to gain. Apart from that, do well to read a lot about character development, and how to generate plot links (and plausible plot armours in the best creative way possible).
“The best science fiction stories are simply great stories about people who happen to be in a plausible ‘what if’ setting.”
That’s often settings like a future, in space, an alternate history, on a different planet, or from a different planet. Even the characters who are from a different planet have to follow the same guidelines as any other character in any good fiction. They have to be well-rounded, well-defined individuals who are neither one-dimensionally evil, nor perfectly virtuous, but conflicted and complex, like all of us are.
All speculative fiction needs to follow the same guidelines for what makes a good story as any good fiction, but science fiction has the added requirement of being plausible. If the science fiction “what if” is not plausible in the least, then the story is not science fiction, but fantasy.
There are some caveats to that requirement. For example, it’s difficult to write any story about interstellar travel without stretching that plausibility to, or beyond, its limit. So faster than light travel, folding space, wormholes, warp, are among the unlikely or impossible technologies that are often “allowed” to pass. But for the most part, the science has to be sound for it to be called science fiction vs some other sub-genre of speculative fiction.
And what are these guidelines for what makes a good story?
Good stories are about something readers consider interesting and will want to read. It should be weighty, unusual, or important. Great stories often include all of the above and make an uninteresting, weighty, and unusual subject interesting. Other elements necessary:
Something has to happen to make the reader want to read on, not always an easy task. The event that needs to happen should drive the story, not the opinion you want to express. This is not to say that your story cannot contain a message. However, the message should not be a primary reason for telling the story.
Always note that as you proceed with your story, something needs to change; the story must go somewhere. Events must affect the characters, situations cannot be the same at the end as they are in the beginning.
Something important must hang in the balance. If nothing is at stake, then why should anyone read? It need not be the fate of the world. But, so what if it’s the fate of the world that is hanging in the balance? That’s hefty.
You have to care about the people in the story. This doesn’t mean they must be perfect and likable, but they do have to be real enough to being out an emotional reaction from your audience, positive or negative.
The characters should be changed by their experiences. If your characters don’t learn anything, they won’t be very interesting. This doesn’t mean your villain or main antagonist becomes a good guy and vice versa, but both should learn something.
This is not just an outer struggle, like a full on battle, but must include inner struggles of your characters too. A prejudiced character is challenged by being befriended by someone from the race they despise. The story should show them struggling with the attitudes they hold at the beginning of the story, even if, in the end, they lose that struggle and still end up a bigot.
Make it a goal to put your readers in the place of your characters. Part of a writers job is to make things real. It’s not just describing the scene, you have to also show it through your characters.
Settings should be treated like another character. It should not be over-described, but contain vital information enough to buttress the plot so that your story could not just happen anywhere. Your setting should have a flavor, be specific and an atmosphere.
Your setting and the circumstances of the plotline of the story should influence the characters’ decisions and actions.
You should know enough about what is important to your story and characters to make it plausible. If you don’t, do not fake it but find out about it. Research it. Also, don’t be tempted to show how much research you did for your story. Know more than enough about the space vehicle your characters use than you need to. It gives you a better understanding when writing about the space shuttle as well as placement of characters, including in case of an attack on the vehicle. Even if most of that knowledge is not used in the story, it’s good to have it handy.
There are also many other tips to help you write a good science fiction novel. You can also watch science fiction movies and series to understand more about world building.
I hope this helps a bit!