Sunday, September 20, 2015

PNWA 2015 Workshop Review #7: Key Elements of Science Fiction and Fantasy

(Image found on Wikipedia)

 Since I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy, I thought attending this panel discussion on the key elements of these genres was in order.

Panel members were:

Nancy Kress

Jennifer Letwack (editor)

Kat Richardson

Terry Persun

Nicole Persun

I often encounter Terry & Nicole at literary events like this, and I enjoy their presentations. 

Here's a list of tidbits I managed to jot down:

While sci-fi and fantasy "...explore strange new worlds..." this doesn't mean anything goes in these realms. 

Strange, or otherwise, these worlds have to make sense to the reader.

So in Worldbuilding you need to understand the economies, money, and political power of the society you're creating (Nancy Kress).

While sci-fi/fantasy are based on "what-if" speculation, the genre has always looked at our society and extrapolated from it.  The genre serves as a reflection of our society.

Readers want to see characters involved with technology/magic.

Worldbuilding is the environment for character development and interaction.  The setting isn't merely a backdrop, but a prop to illustrate how your characters interact.

Sci-fi and fantasy are inheritors of the Victorian Novel, which addressed sweeping questions about society.

Speculative fiction has always set up as a mirror against our society.

As to writing the story--don't info dump.

Create a desire within a reader to explore the world you created.
Scatter the details throughout the book.
Once you know your world, the details will seep in.
Assume your readers know more about your world than you do.
Insert only the details that will move your story forward.
Be sure to add the other senses, not just sight.

Consider sci-fi and fantasy to be resting on top of the three-legged stool, with each stool representing:


If any one leg is weak, then the entire story will fall.

Despite the exotic settings, a sci-fi or fantasy story needs to answer these two key questions any author of fiction should ask himself:

What do my characters want?

What could go wrong?

Failure to answer these satisfactorily and your manuscript will face an editor's wrath...

(Image: Death Dealer by Frank Frazetta)

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