How to write fantasy, science-fiction, steampunk, comic book heroes, paranormal, and horror in such a way that even “muggles” will want to read it.
I’m going to begin an extensive writing series called Making Make-Believe Believable. My goal is to help writers of speculative fiction, but most of the techniques apply to any story.
We’ll start by discussion fiction, which I will define as stories that aren’t true. I often speak to schools about writing and what it takes to be an author. During my discussion, I usually tell the students, “I’m an author, and that makes me a liar and a thief.” Then I explain that most of the creatures I use in my novels—such as angels, dragons, and unicorns—are creatures I didn’t create myself. I stole the ideas from other people, which makes me a thief. I also explain that none of the things that happen in my stories really happened, which makes me a liar. I often hold up one of my books and proclaim, “This is one big lie.”
We fiction writers are liars. We just happen to tell really outrageous lies in such a way that people want to hear them again and again. (At least, that is—or should be—our goal.) For the purposes of this Making Make-Believe Believable series, I want to divide fiction into two main categories.
- Main Stream Fiction
- Speculative Fiction
Mainstream Fiction: fiction that operates within the confines of the believable. The majority of fiction stories are called mainstream fiction. They may not be true, but their characters:
- Are governed by the same physical laws (gravity, physics, biological) that govern us.
- Have access to the same technology that is available at the time of writing.
Take the James Bond stories and movies for example. The same physical laws that govern you and me also govern Mr. Bond. James is subject to the laws of gravity. He cannot create magic. If he gets poisoned, he must find an antidote. Bond also only has access to our available technology. He must use whatever Q. creates for him. Granted, some Q’s toys may seem a bit fantastic, but they feel possible. James Bond may get a tripped-out car, but he never gets a hover craft.
Speculative Fiction: fiction that contains elements of the unbelievable. In speculative fiction, the characters are either 1) not bound by natural law, 2) have access to technology that doesn’t exist or 3) both. The genres are ever changing, but here a few of the most common speculative fiction genres:
- Science Fiction
- Comic Books/Graphic Novels
- Horror (depending on if it has paranormal or fantasy elements)
Speculative fiction writers encounter problems with storytelling that mainstream authors don’t have to deal with. First, using different physical laws and technology than those that govern humanity makes it difficult to get readers to buy into our ideas. The reader will find it easier to believe that James Bond really can jump out of an airplane, fall through the air several hundred feet, land on another airplane, and save the day—alive—than to believe that fairies exist and therefore erupt into spontaneous clapping to save Tinkerbell’s life. Second, writers can easily destroy their stories by mishandling the unbelievable elements. We tread quite unstable ground when working with the unbelievable.
This series will concentrate on melding the believable with the unbelievable while still maintaining the story’s overall structure and content. I hope you all enjoy it!
Fantasy novelist M. B. Weston is the author of The Elysian Chronicles, a fantasy series about guardian angel warfare and treason. Weston speaks to children, teens, and adults about writing and the process of getting published. For more information on M. B. Weston, visit www.mbweston.com. Find out more about The Elysian Chronicles at www.elysianchronicles.com.