1. Simmy1993
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    Simmy1993 Member

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    Advice needed for Sci-Fi's Do's, don'ts and clichés to avoid

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Simmy1993, Apr 2, 2013.

    Bon soir!

    I am finally starting my first novel, well more like novella, maybe even a novelette! I am determined to write my first sci-fi story too, while this is a very open ended question, I was just curious to what some of you sci-fi fans really love seeing in such stories and more importantly what you hate seeing. Does anything make you stop mid sentence just to roll your eyes? And are there any clichés you absolutely detest? Any and all help would be greatly appreciated!
     
  2. GreasyLocks
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    GreasyLocks Member

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    Salut!

    I'm personally much more interested in reading someone's vision of the future of our own planet, introducing new scientific progress, even things we've already had the ideas for and started developing - thinking about consequences, like Godzilla or the way society evolves in the Time Machine, rather than a fantasy solar system which defies all science known to us by having two suns and one climate but is still capable of maintaining life. I guess I'm more into 'Neo-Earth' than sci-fi though. A present day that never happened is also more interesting to me than any space war/adventure nowadays.

    but I don't know what planet you're from anyway x
     
  3. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    This is a comprehensive list you should check out: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheGrandListOfOverusedScienceFictionCliches

    Some examples include:
    All-one-terrain planets (Seen in Star Wars and Star Trek)
    Beating super advanced aliens in an invasion by exploiting an achilles heal (Signs)
    Cryogenically frozen people never thaw out at the right time, either way too soon or too late. (Futurama, Sleeper)
    Rebel Army struggles to overcome an evil empire (Star Wars)
    Time travelers meeting Jesus, King Arthur, Shakespeare, Napoleon, (Dr. Who, Bill & Ted)
    Computers get reprogrammed by someone with no prior knowledge to its programing system (Animorphs)
    Reversing polarity is the answer to anything sciencey

    Of course, you don't need to avoid clichés all the time. You can always play with them.
     
  4. Kaidonni
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    Kaidonni Member

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    Technically, science fiction writers can use this for stories not so far away and a long time into the future (or a long time ago), especially where the Earth is concerned. The Earth was rather barren for a few billion years, and life didn't start claiming land until about 400-300 million years ago. In the next billion years, our world is doomed unless Humanity can figure out some amazing technologies and employ them effectively - as helium gathers at the core of the sun, it grows more luminous, and over the course of the next billion years this will have a profound impact on the different gases in the atmosphere, leading to the extinction of trees and forests, then plants, then down to far simpler fungi, mosses, etc. Animal life will perish as time goes on, getting more and more simpler (no giants in our far future!). The Earth will become a giant desert long before the sun grows to a red giant.

    Of course, most science fiction has habitable planets in the prime of their life as single terrain/climate (this can only be accurate in a few extreme cases, such as a desert planet or snow ball).

    Also the original Day of the Trifids...

    Sea water? Really?! One was attacking a guy in a lighthouse, there cannot be a worse place to pick to invade!
     
  5. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Just, if you are going to write Science Fiction, then actually write science fiction...don't slip into fantasy. I hate reading half the way through a SF story where the spaceship finally arrives only to be piloted by a bunch of French speaking centaurs.
     
  6. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    Then it's more like Science Fantasy, which is just a different genre. And maybe not one you're particularly interested in.
     
  7. lettuce head
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    lettuce head Active Member

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    What would you guys think about political scifi where two planets were colonized, one with a more socialist government and the other free market?
     
  8. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    I think sci-fi is a great medium to explore political and social themes.
     
  9. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    I found the list of cliches to be silly to be honest. Just write the best science fiction story you can. There's several different flavors of it, such a Crichton's near future stories, or McDermit's hard science fiction. So, you have plenty of room to write.

    Just concentrate on your characters and your story and things will be ok.
     
  10. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Well said. It can get a bit daunting when the writer is peppered with do's and don'ts (even when they asked for it). Might even quench your flow of creativity!

    That being said, if you write hard sf, try to get the facts right. I'm not terribly happy with books that try to appear scientific and logical and make-sens-y, but then something silly as mentioned in the second post happens. Bribe or blackmail some physicist or astronomer or some such to read the crucial parts. They'll be glad to point out the funny bits ("yes, T & K, now tell me exactly how does radiation leak in from space?")

    Let your imagination fly and have fun!
     
  11. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    The setting and technology shouldn't matter as long as the characters and the conflict are interesting. We don't need to learn what is already similar from other books, unless it is a new technology that centers around the plot. Characters should be more focused because they are the ones driving the plot. A book with too much background information can slow down a good story pace and bore the reader.
     
  12. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I've noticed quite a few people in addition to myself and KaTrian have gotten utterly bored with alien races. That's why Battle Star Galactica and Firefly were so refreshing: no aliens! Or if you do choose to write aliens into your story, at least try to do them originally. To me it's just plain annoying to read a promising sci-fi story only to have the author throw in some exceedingly Earthy aliens just when things were getting interestin: ever since I was a kid, I've always wondered why would aliens look like humans/Earth animals/a mix of both? Can't authors come up with anything more original than a bipedal, human-like body with some animal-like features (cat ears, frog fingers, blue skin, what-have-you)? That's why in 99,9% of the aliens I've encountered in fiction have been disappointing: they're just a mix of something I already know and hence provide nothing new. Heck, they already did the human/animal-mixes in Ancient Greece!
     
  13. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't like things that pinch-hit for a Babel fish. I mean, if you do have aliens, don't make it too easy to communicate with them. There shouldn't be a kind of "universal translator" that makes them understand English and us understand their language. Make the characters have to work hard to communicate.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Don't worry about cliches or overused concepts, that's a specter of smoke and holograms. Concentrate on basics of character and solid writing, and you'll do fine. However, for science fiction, you do really need to have a solid grasp of science, in multiple disciplines. Even for science fantasy, like Star Wars, you can't ignore science completely.
     
  15. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Mass Effect had some of the same clichés you mentioned, OP, and much more. Planets with only one terrain, having to fight back against an armada of super-powerful, intelligent aliens (the Reapers), invasion of the Earth (Reapers invade Earth in Mass Effect 3), bi-pedaled human aliens with a few alien features and blue/green skin, a council that outright denies any threat and calls the main character a paranoid freak, an evil corporation that conducts experiments on live subjects against their will, etc.

    Yet Mass Effect is considered one of the greatest sci-fi videogame series ever.

    What's important is how you play around with them so they seem original and unique to you.
     
  16. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Since this is kinda similar to something I may have issues with in my writing, I thought I'd post here rather than making a completely new thread.

    What would be the best way for one character to reveal that he is another character's father, without using the too-well-known Star Wars line?
     
  17. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Instead of saying "I am your father!" he could say "You are my son!" See? It's completely different!

    More seriously, are these two characters face-to-face? Are they far apart? Are they friends or foes? What is the situation? What the father does will depend on all of this.
     
  18. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    Link is right on this. This is coming from someone that has played all of the ME games. Part of the reason why it is considered a good game, is because of how well the characters are developed.

    When it comes to Sci-Fi though, I think it's best if you read short stories from many Sc-Fi authors such as Arthur Clarke.
     
  19. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    Maybe you can have the father show the son an old family picture?
     
  20. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, that's funny. And it's first cousin - a planet with only one 'race' or culture. Mind you, maybe they've had an internet for a LONG time...
     
  21. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    And I forgot to mention do not assume your readers are dumb. If you saying an EMP pulse destroyed a computer, you don't need to break EMP down to 'electromagnetic pulse' because science fiction readers are savvy. A lot of them know what a good chunk of your abbreviations are. If your readership is similar to the people who follow the 'Honor Harrington' series of something in the military fiction vein, then you don't need to spell out CIC (combat information center) and so forth and so on.

    As I said earlier, just concentrate on the best story you can write and let the chips fall where they may.
     
  22. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Absolutely true! Respect your readers' intelligence, especially in science fiction.
     

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