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21

Seems to me that consistency is a big thing. Internal consistency and external consistency. External consistency: on Numb3rs, they use real mathematical jargon assuming people will not understand it and will accept it at the Wikipedia level of understanding. But I actually do understand many of the techniques they talk about and they simply cannot be used ...


17

First off, "grok" is not copyrighted; you can't copyright individual words, even made-up ones. Therefore fair use (a defense against an infringement claim) does not apply. That doesn't mean it's impermissible, in fact it almost certainly is fine. It's also not trademarked, as it is not being used by the Heinlein estate to identify a product or service. And ...


15

Basically, anything that the reader considers implausible when he's already suspending disbelief, can spoil the illusion and break that suspension. The key issue to understand is that up to a certain point, your story is exposing the world of the story, and explaining what's allowed and what isn't. Anything you establish clearly, the reader will be willing ...


14

My preference would lean toward no capitalization at all. Definitely not differing caps throughout the book. In fact, I wouldn't hyphenate it. To treat a new word as a normally used word gives a valuable feel of reality to the object. Isaac Asimov used this technique in his sci-fi Foundation series, and it lent credibility to the world he created. Of ...


14

I think you are giving into the temptation of explaining. Sometimes you don't need to know how - or at least not for sure how - just to make it believable in your world. Take your real life laptop as an example. It has thousands of microchips compacted into a single CPU but, what is a microchip? What is a diode? What is an integrated circuit? People ...


12

The way a character thinks of a ship tells a lot about the relationship between the character and the ship. For example: Someone who thinks of the ship as an inanimate tool will naturally tend to refer to it as an "it" Thinking of a ship as a "she" implies a more sentimental approach, pretending that the ship is an individual, maybe even actually ...


12

Westerns are essentially historical fiction, set in a very specific time and place. And there's a mythos associated with that time and place that may be out of step with modern life. Most successful modern westerns of which I'm aware have subverted the western tradition, making it grittier and more realistic. I'm thinking of movies, but also Cormac ...


11

If you're writing for an English audience, your readers are expecting an English novel. From a reader perspective, it is utterly tedious to read a lot of dialogue you cannot understand. Providing translations can help, but that's equally tedious, since the POV character won't have those translations. I would recommend keeping use of foreign language to a ...


11

Lauren gave the single most universal method - let me expand on that. Note there doesn't have to be a literal character for the cabbagehead - a virtual one will do. Get some quotes from 'MYTO for dummies'. Get a cautionary work safety series series "Accidents resulting from and involving mishandling MYTO". Outright break the fourth wall having the omniscent ...


11

Blending sci-fi and fantasy is actually quite easy, and can produce some excellent results; consider Steampunk for instance. There are definitely plenty of great examples out there of sci-fi/fantasy blending (across many media): Final Fantasy (particularity FF XII), Dishonoured, China Mieville's Perdido Street Station, The Scar and The Iron Council, Neil ...


11

Sometimes for me, when growing the setting first, I find it generates new characters, details and interactions that lead to a story organically growing out of the exercise. There are many ways to start putting a story together and very few are right or wrong. Still… Pros A cure for writer’s block; if you want to write but don’t know where to begin, ...


9

Just from the information you've provided, it seems you're creating a convoluted and potentially confusing situation for no good reason. If, however, this is important to the story, you can always refer to "Earth" (formerly "New Earth") and to "Old Earth". Using a slightly different version of the word would work, but I believe that's already been done: ...


9

Don't worry about "it's been done before." Your goal is to do it your way, and never mind what anyone else has done. Your theme (Lack of purpose => Apathy => Failure to adapt => Vicious cycle) is interesting, but I'm having some trouble connecting it to your précis. How does "too much freedom" equate to "lack of purpose"? I think linking it to ...


9

I can think of a few ways: 1) Cheat. This was how Tolkien did it, so you'd be in good company. He just listed somewhere in the appendices that "Year 5798 by Gondor's calendar = 144 Shire Reckoning" and let the readers do the math. 2) Make the characters work out a solution. If you have characters on Terra and characters on Pluto who meet, they're going to ...


9

Introduce a cabbagehead character. "Cabbagehead" is a term from Phil Farrand, who wrote the Nitpicker's Guides to various Star Trek series. He points out that particularly in NextGen, it became necessary for one person to abruptly (and temporarily) develop the IQ of a head of cabbage, so that the other characters could explain the situation and the audience ...


9

I think you're confusing motives and details. You mentioned people from 500 years ago being very different from us. What concerns do we share over the centuries? Survival basics: food, shelter, clothing. There really wasn't a "middle class" in 1513, but you could argue there was a merchant class, so a Genovese trader could be worried whether his next ...


8

On the general topic of opening with a dream, I'm going to second Kate's excellent comments: it's a technique that's heavily predisposed to backfire, because you're explicitly kicking off with something that is not part of the actual story, of what's actually going on. Even if there is a clear connection to the actual story (e.g.: the dream becomes a plot ...


8

Opening with a dream is a technique that I've seen get a lot of criticism. I think there's a few reasons for it. One, if you're using the dream/vision to immerse your readers in a world, it's asking a lot of them to get immersed in that world, and then a few paragraphs later have to jump into a whole NEW world when the dreamer returns to reality. Two, it ...


8

From a fellow engineer/programmer who's launched herself headfirst into a novel-length project, there's a few tips I've been picking up through trial and error. I agree with Kate - write lots. Doesn't matter what. Could be an online RP, or speeches, or a journal. But keep writing, since that's how you improve and the process gets more natural. Especially ...


8

Ask yourself what the traditions of your space navy are. Does its culture trace roots back to a wet navy? What was the pronoun tradition of that navy (the Russian navy uses "he", for instance)? Were there sociopolitical reasons that the tradition would be challenged or altered along the way? Does the captain get to choose the ship's gender? Do the crew argue ...


8

Science fiction has the advantage of being more loosely and broadly defined than the Western. Westerns are limited by definition to a narrow group of settings. But SF? As Nabokov said, "If we start sticking group labels, we'll have to put The Tempest in the SF category". Now, maybe "space opera" will go away after we've been in space for a while, sure, or ...


8

To me, the difference is not whether the story has a logical explanation, but whether it could have an explanation in this universe. Another way to say it: Fantasy may violate what we know to be true of the universe. Science fiction may not. A monster, an alien planet, or "magic" could be either fantastical or science fictional, depending on whether it ...


8

Paragraph length isn't the problem here, although the paragraphs could stand to be broken up a bit. The biggest problem here is a problem of focus and organization. A paragraph should have a fairly concise point; it's not simply a container for sentences. The main problems here are those of organization (on the large and small levels) and editing. Focus ...


8

Is Star Wars fantasy or science fiction? I say fantasy, but they sell it as SF. So there are stories which meander along the borders. But to categorize your story you should not only ask what it is about. For example it's also important how the story ends. We are tagging genres to make it easier for the readers to pick what they want. If you sell a romance ...


8

Why does apparent technology have to actually be technology? Can't it be either mundane or magical instead, even if in our world we would call it science or tech? Strength and speed can be enhanced through medicine (and its cousin, magical potions). Hoverboards with mechanical motors/propellors/jet-packs/whatever aren't the only way to fly on a device; ...


8

If your change solves a problem that previously had no solution, there are likely people who have a stake in preserving the problem. If your change solves a problem better than some previous solution, there are people who have a stake in the old solution. If your change opens up new possibilities for people, then people don't yet know how to make the most ...


8

Why do we really connect with a character anyway? It's not because they're human - not neccessarily, although it helps. But why do animated films work? Why does an audience care if Nemo finds his Dad, or if Ratatouille becomes a chef? They're animated animals, right? A reader or viewer will always emphasize and sympathize with any human or ...


8

When I look at historic and literary sources from the past 3000 years, from the epics of Homer to the present day, I cannot find any fundamental differences between the people that have lived then and those that live today, at least none that are greater than intercultural, class or gender differences among the present populace. We are all driven by the same ...


7

Your premise may be central to your story. But that doesn't mean that it requires paragraphs of explanation, or that you should sideline the characters and just talk about your awesome idea. Rather, if you find that the explication of your idea is taking too much time, you probably just aren't cutting it hard enough. To illustrate, let me post the first ...


7

Kindall tackled the legal aspect. As for reception/perception considerations, here's the rule of thumb I'd use: If you're using the same word in the same way for the same thing, and your story is about that thing (or concept, or whatever) - you're crossing the line. That's like saying "I'm writing a story about the same Smeerps Albert J. Jones wrote about," ...



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