6 Tips on How to Write Science Fiction For Beginners

Introduction

Did you know the first time someone used “science fiction” as a term goes back to 1851? 

Even so, science fiction stories date back at least 200 years before, when early tales described civilizations on the moon and space travel.

I grew up reading science fiction. It’s one of my favorite genres, and most of my favorite books are science fiction. (If you ask me, dystopian science fiction and cyberpunk are some of the best subgenres).

Still, it’s a genre I prefer to read rather than write, and the reason is simple: it’s a challenging job to have the responsibility to build a whole universe and make the reader feel it’s real.

However, if you feel like this may be your path and you’re ready to embark on the science fiction journey, this article is for you.

What is Science Fiction?

Also called sci-fi, science fiction is a genre often grouped into speculative fiction. It departs from realism and puts imaginative elements related to technology and its drawbacks into a story.

Science fiction is one of the most creative literature genres, where almost anything is possible. Famous examples include Neuromancer, by William Gibson and Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley.

Over time, some works of science fiction from years ago have accurately described different tools today we consider normal, like cars and the internet, and some others that are already outdated, like the fax.

Some other elements you may recognize in science fiction stories include time travel, aliens, and parallel universes.

Tips to Write Science Fiction

Congratulations! By now you must know something important: writing science fiction is not for everyone.

Still, if you consider yourself brave enough to do it, then let’s dive into it!

If you want to achieve your maximum potential regarding your science fiction ideas, keep reading.

1. Choose a Subgenre

The science fiction genre is extensive. For that reason, when crafting a science fiction story, it’s best to focus on one or two subgenres.

Some of the most common classifications divide the science fiction genres into hard science fiction, soft science fiction, and dystopian science fiction.

What Are the Science Fiction Subgenres?

  • Hard science fiction: It’s about explaining your universe’s laws with existing ones. These stories take inspiration from sciences like astrology, physics, and chemistry. Thus, these stories contain scientific facts presented in great detail, like Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir.
  • Soft science fiction: On the other hand, soft science fiction doesn’t expand on specific details. Instead, it prefers to focus on how society reacts to the futuristic part of the story. It touches on themes like politics, psychology, and culture. An example of soft science fiction is Skyward by Brandon Anderson. It’s common to see YA science fiction books in this category.
  • Dystopian science fiction: One of my favorite ones by far, dystopian science fiction stories will show us a hypothetical scenario where technology has changed society for the worse, causing wars, poor quality of life, or totalitarianism as a form of government. Some excellent examples include Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell.

2. Accept Basic Scientific Laws

Even if you’re the writer and you get certain freedom to bend the rules of your universe however you like, there are some limits.

Whether you write soft or hard fiction, breaking what we know as proven scientific laws might be challenging.

However, you can incorporate new science facts into your story. Instead of breaking basic science laws, make new ones and make your characters accommodate their views.

For example, in the science fiction movie Inception by Christopher Nolan, we learn about a technology that allows qualified individuals to share dreams with other people. The movie doesn’t create new laws. Instead, it works with the ones we already know. Besides, the plot develops based on what happens when people use those tools for other activities, like idea theft and espionage.

Working with already existing scientific laws also helps to make your story realistic. Besides, accepting scientific laws helps you have consistency within your story universe.

3. Keep It Realistic

When I was a teenager, I wrote a science fiction short story.

I remember talking to a friend about it because I was worried about its realism, and it felt like my technology was too complicated and that there was no reason for humans in my universe to use it.

To my surprise, I vividly recall her telling me that science fiction didn’t have to be realistic because it was fiction. That’s not necessarily true. Every story has to be believable within its laws.

When crafting a story, establish how politics, culture, education, health services, and religion will work in your universe.

There’s no need to explain everything to the reader all at once, but you are the author of your universe. You need to understand it better than anyone else.

An example of a realistic science fiction story is Dune by Frank Herbert. Scientists have even simulated planet Arrakis in climate models to see how realistic it would be. The verdict: Frank Herbert did a great job.

4. Don’t Infodump

Science fiction stories can be tricky. You have to explain to your reader all the imaginative elements you created, but, at the same time, you have to do it gradually.

Remember, you may understand your world, but it doesn’t stop there. Your readers need to understand it too, and explaining something that doesn’t exist without using whole paragraphs at once can seem like a difficult task. However, there are solutions to this.

One of my favorite things to put in my stories to help the reader understand something is to have a character who doesn’t know anything about this new world, with a mentor who will teach them. A good example is Hagrid from The Harry Potter Saga.

A tool used in fantasy and science fiction, it’s a way to explain to the reader step by step what’s happening without info dumping.

5. Keep Up With Science News

Every day there are more news stories about advances in science and technology.

Keeping up with what is happening in the real world is a great way to get inspired. 

You can subscribe to a newsletter or look it up yourself. Some simple questions you can ask yourself to start a prompt include: how might this technology affect us in the long run? Could this technology create more jobs or the opposite? What could happen if this technology fell into the wrong hands?

In addition, to remember the news you liked the best, you can save the links or write your ideas on paper or on your phone.

One of my friends who writes science fiction has his notes app full of prompts for new stories. It helps him remember which ones he could use in the future, or if he wants to, to incorporate them into an already written one.

You can always consider using scientific advances as a springboard for speculative ideas and expanding your story universe.

6. Be Aware of Contradictions

It doesn’t matter what technology you want to use in your story. Whatever you want to do, it needs to make sense.

If you’re writing soft fiction, it’s not necessary that your story is scientifically accurate, and you don’t have to worry about the specific details of how your technology works. 

However, as the author, you have to understand it. It will help you avoid contradictions.

Having contradictions in your book can lead to plot holes and confusion on the reader’s part.

One way to avoid contradictions is to establish early on how the technology in your story will work. What rules, limits, and uses does it have? From there, following those guidelines makes it more manageable.

Conclusion

Most of the time, people think writing science fiction is about having the most original ideas, and that’s far from the truth. 

While creativity is essential, when writing science fiction, research plays a more important part.

Remember the tips in this article the next time you plan on writing a science fiction story: choose a subgenre, keep it realistic, and be aware of contradictions. I invite you to try those tips! You never know when you could be writing the next science fiction bestseller.

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