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  1. MrIntensity

    MrIntensity Member

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    Help for plot development for science fiction?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by MrIntensity, Nov 27, 2016.

    Currently writing science fiction piece.

    My questions are:
    -What is the best approach to science fiction?
    -Best way to make a science fiction world/universe plausible?
    -Best way of getting the readers interest with my science fiction universe?
    -How do I make sure that the reader doesn't become confused or lost with exposition or with the depth of the universe?

    I don't mind which questions are answered, any would suffice.
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2016
  2. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    1st, what you are trying to do is not breaking the usual plot structure, what you are trying to do is use an ending type not often used anymore. There are four types of endings.
    1. A straight up victory. (which sounds like you are trying to avoid).
    2. A tragedy. Where not only do the heroes not accomplish their goal, but they all die in the end. (Not really sounding like what you are after either.)
    3. A hollow victory: The heroes accomplish their story goal, but it doesn't create the effect they thought it would. (This would be like a revenge story, where the hero kills the bad guy, but he becomes a lesser person because of it.)
    4. A Tragic-comedy. Where the Heroes do not accomplish their goal, but they are made someone better because of it.

    3 or 4 sounds like what you are aiming for, but it is hard to tell without details.
     
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  3. MrIntensity

    MrIntensity Member

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    Sorry I realised that posting about the story isn't appropriate, however that is a good point. I'll have to think of another way of structuring the plot.
     
  4. hawls

    hawls Active Member

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    First of all the best approach to science fiction is with a willingness to accept that sometimes things just work because you say it does. Your readers aren't going to fling your book across the room shouting "Preposterous!!" If the idea is cool enough, we're happy to believe anything.

    You make your world plausible by establishing the rules of your world and how your madey-uppy science works and sticking to it. It can be as crazy and nonsensical as you like so long as you're consistent. Your readers will accept anything so long as your don't break your own rules.

    As for how to make readers interested in your world...compelling plot and characters.

    The last part? I don't know. You have to find a balance between exposition and having faith in your readers that they can make sense of it themselves.
     
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  5. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I like to plan out a fairly deep backstory. It's not relevant to the plot itself, but it allows me a clearer understanding of the characters and settings and helps me write them consistently.

    For example, when I have an alien creature, I like to create both a backstory for the individual as well as one for the species. Let's say that I have a species that speaks, acts, and thinks very fast compared to humans. That's fine, I can write that, but how does that affect his psychology? For that, I have to have some insight into the evolution of the species. Fast thinking, well I know dragonflies think very quickly, why? Flying and hunting in 3D space. So I made his species have evolved long ago from a bird-like creature, where ours evolved from terrestrial creatures. Now I have a much better idea of what's going on inside the head of the alien, it'll think like an advanced bird of prey.

    Same thing with planets, got a desolate planet with a shady population on it? Why? Did they evolve there and their planet died beneath them, or did they colonize it? It would affect the culture of the creatures. Do they worship the sun, how would that change their personalities and make the characters more 3D and not sound like human minds in an alien skin.
     
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  6. antlad

    antlad Banned

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    For 2-4.
    Know your world. Make a map if there will be travel, that way you can refer to it to keep tings straight.

    I live in Cali. If I were to write a book that took place in Nebraska, I would get some maps. Then I know the lay of the land, the lay of the roads, average distances between town, average size of towns, etc.
    Also when describing, use some common points of reference. That way the reader knows instantly where you are talking about. Most of us construct a map of sorts in our heads as we read and if things don't follow, we tend not to either.

    If I were to create a world/partial world for another planet, I would probably start basing it on sparsely populated areas here on Earth.
     
  7. MrIntensity

    MrIntensity Member

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    Fair enough, its just I do not want to involve space magic to explain things that are too far away from my expertise. Additionally there are some things that need solving for great scale science fiction universes, such as breaking relativity and trying to come up with faster than light travel without using anything that's already been made. But Your comment at least gives me some confidence that I can cut some corners.
     
  8. MrIntensity

    MrIntensity Member

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    That is actually quite helpful, It's best to have a definitive structure to go to if I start referencing things within a story.
     
  9. antlad

    antlad Banned

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    Remember is science fiction you can make up some of the tech, or some of how the tech works. Almost all we deal with is theory, and theories are built upon, changed, chopped up and put back together differently.
    Faster than light travel can be as simple as a rail gun accident showed that space can carry electricity in certain ways. S that was figured out and now ships are launched using gigantic rail guns that spew power into space creating a 'pond' of sorts to slip through and be carried by particles.
    Or maybe materials are synced with people and space travel will work like a transporter in Star Trek, but with ships. Everything broken down to particles and zipped somewhere else and reassembled.
     
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  10. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I tend to avoid concepts that are so well understood and focus on those that aren't. We know how electromagnetism works, we have a formula that describes it to a higher precision than any other theory. Electromagnetism also has no effect on the shape of spacetime, but there are plenty of things that do: gravity, dark energy, and inflation. The last two are still very mysterious and do not fit into the standard model.
     
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  11. antlad

    antlad Banned

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    My argument is that it is all theory. We don't actually know, we come up with theory to explain and build upon.
    First, nobody has ever seen an electron. Every time someone declares that they have, people say 'no, it's too big' or 'no, it doesn't move right', or something similar. If we cannot prove exactly how electricity works, we can play with it. Magnetism is still a mystery to science as well. A lot has been documented and done, but it is still a mystery. The discoveries in magnetism over the past 25 or so years flipped it on it's head. We now have programmable magnets, reprogrammable magnets, liquid magnets, things that were a dream a short time ago. Spintronics threw a monkey wrench into magnetism that still resonates today.
    Gravity is a theory. We don't know how it works, different models work. Maybe several are correct in conjunction, or maybe several work in different instances. We have no idea.
    Just as mathematics is a theory. You can create your own math and then convince others it is correct.
    My ultimate thing is we can use and change any theory as long as it makes sense to those not a slave to science. Similar to if I wrote a story about Jesus going to India when he was 24, and heard from a Christian that Jesus went to India when he was 27; my reply would be: 'There has not been one record of Jesus found anywhere. Therefore Jesus is a theory and I can do with that theory what I want as long as it makes sense.'
     
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  12. Commandante Lemming

    Commandante Lemming Contributor Contributor

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    These questions are really broad - and a lot of them have multiple answers - but some thoughts...

    "-What is the best approach to science fiction?"
    There are lots of different approaches that work - ranging from hard-core "Hard SF" with long scientific passages and minimal use of implausible science, to high-flying space opera adventures with spaceships and aliens and "science" that totally doesn't exist in real life. You can do either of those things well - or a number of others - but the important thing is to know what kind of sci-fi you're writing and how to use it.

    "-Best way to make a science fiction world/universe plausible?"
    Details, details, details. The entire genre of SF rests on the principle of "little truth, big lie." That is to say, in order to write science FICTION, you usually have to break at least one concept of modern science - usually by inventing "discoveries" of new science that doesn't really exist. Even the hardest of Hard SF does this - actually Hard SF does more of this than other genres, because readers in who want "realistic" science generally need a lot of detail to suspend disbelief on whatever big element is ticking at the core of the book. A god example of that would be things like "The Martian" - which uses an avalanche of real scientific detail to cover up the fact that they got him to Mars in the first place - or "The Three Body Problem" which drops a ton of orbital physics science to distract you from the fact that it's a story about a FREAKING ALIEN INVASION. You see this done a lot in Space Opera and Non-Hard SF too - for instance I read one recently which was premised on the idea that in the future people discover physical particles of consciousness that linger after people die. That's total and utter garbage, but the pseudoscience was very copiously explained, and the details of how it works are rendered very carefully as if they're real science. I'm doing this now with my NanoWriMo project - in my case postulating a discovery in quantum physics that defines the barrier between multiple universes such that a "reality" is defined as the pattern an electron travels around the nucleus of hydrogen atom. This is highly unlikely - but at least I know how it works and I can render a false reality where thats how things work. Not everything has to BE plausible, it has to LOOK plausible - and generally that comes down to explaining your lies in such detail that they seem true.

    "-How do I make sure that the reader doesn't become confused or lost with exposition or with the depth of the universe?"
    Practice, practice, practice - unfortunately. This is the great conundrum of all Sci-Fi and Fantasy writers - explaining the world without info-dumping. Generally, a good place to start is revealing info gradually in short spurts rather than all at once. Also try to work in the explanations into what the characters are doing and avoiding long speeches (Note: if you have crazy tech, one cheat is to break it and then force the characters to take it apart and fix it).
    MOST IMPORTANTLY, KEEP YOUR FOCUS ON YOUR VIEWPOINT CHARACTER. Use them as the lens through which the world is viewed, and see the world through their eyes, not yours. That forces you to exclude information that isn't important to them - and information that's important to the character is also the most important info for the READER.
     
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  13. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    But wait, all of those things fit perfectly in quantum electrodynamics. There is no physical mechanism to describe the fields, but their exact behavior is calculable and experimentally verified. You're completely mistaken on magnetism, not only does magnetism easily fit into the standard model, it actually made some very specific predictions that all came out to be true (like the magnetic moment of an electron.)

    Oh, and actually, you can see electrons. It's actually very easy, the standard model describes interactions between electrons and photons and it's very high probability. Electrons actually really like to interact with photons. Find a youtube video describing the famous double slit experiment. It's very possible to watch the electron do through one slit or the other, it just that the act of observing it changes the behavior.

    You can write your own math, but you can't convince others it works. Einstein didn't convince us that GR worked, it was verified over and over again, GPS satellites simply wouldn't work if we didn't have Einstein's understanding of gravity. Similarly, physicists didn't theorize quantum mechanics and convinced others it worked, it had to predict things. Probably the most famous prediction out of quantum electrodynamics was the existence of antimatter. Scientists are convinced by math that predicts results of experiments, and if you create new math, you have to take into account what's already been observed.

    Science is about convincing each other that theories DON'T work. Lots of people did calculations that questioned Einstein. They were used as arguments against such theories: too much mass can cause a runaway curvature of spacetime in GR, surely such a thing can't be real. Oh wait, then we started being able to observe black holes. Describing two particles via a single wave pattern links the together without them being local, surely such a thing can't be real. Then we did the quantum eraser experiment. There's maybe a dozen things in the whole universe that don't fit perfectly into GR or QM.

    Spintronics didn't violate any known math, it was just a line of calculations that no one had done before. I'm looking at several academic papers right now, I don't see anything that's not standard quantum mechanics. Actually, spintronics uses the magnetic moment, which was predicted by Dirac himself.

    Feel free to ask me questions about QM, QED specifically is my area of expertise.
     
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  14. antlad

    antlad Banned

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    is a theory. My point is that it is all theory. Being that it is all theory, we can build upon it, or tear it apart, as long as it makes logical steps. What you said is correct, but at the base is still theory. That theory may be built upon or thrown away, we don't know yet.
    Unfortunately we are on a forum and not face to face. This may give you a little insight into me:
    I am close to one of the founders of PARC. When we first met he literally thought I was insane. The more we talked the more he started to understand the twists and turns my mind makes and how it ends where it ends. This took several years. Now he brings people over to talk to me about what they are working on, hoping that I can change how they see things. He uses me as a type of barometer to see how others can handle a non-academic approach and see the possibilities.
    I am also a big believer that many things have been discovered and lost, and if/when discovered again, have the potential to turn physics on it's head, and open up a new area that gets us on a different track.
     
  15. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Basically, the characterization of the person revealing the information – and, if it is through dialogue instead of narration and/or internal monologue, the characterization of the person receiving it – is as important as the information itself.

    What is happening that prompted the character to think about the information, how is his/her opinion of the fact different from somebody else's opinion of the same facts, what impact has the information had / will the information have on some character's personal life...

    John Scalzi's Old Man's War is the absolute gold standard that I've found so far:
    • When the narrator is riding the space elevator to the Space Marine recruiting station, one of the other applicants goes off about how unfair it is that India is allowed to send actual settlers to the other planets, whereas Americans can only go as soldiers to die protecting the Indians (especially since his son died fighting against India and he feels India isn't being sufficiently punished for killing Americans). The American narrator points out that most of India's land has been reduced to a radioactive wasteland, and the guy turns that around by saying "Exactly! We won the war, shouldn't that count for something?" The narrator decides he doesn't like this guy (India killed Americans, so America deserves special treatment; America killed Indians, so America deserves special treatment).
    • After the angry guy huffs off, a retired engineer starts chit-chatting with the narrator about all of the reasons why the space elevator shouldn't be functional, but it obviously is. The engineer hypothesizes that the Colonization Union have been studying alien technology without telling anybody, and that grand gestures like the space elevator (which is actually inefficient compared to rockets for going between the Earth's surface and orbit) are supposed to be a way of forcing Earth governments to stay out of their way: "If your scientists can't figure out how we did this, then you shouldn't be picking a fight with us."
    • Half-way through the book, the narrator is being shown a slideshow of assorted species that humanity have found living on other planets. The first is an amphibious crustacean that the narrator is as revolted by as he would be by something out of a horror movie, while the next is an anthropomorphic elk-species that the narrator feels as calmed by as he would be by a wise old nature spirit. The officer giving the slideshow informs the recruits that the crustacean species have included some of the greatest artisans and mathematics that humanity have ever seen, while a raiding party of the elk-species massacred an entire village in the most brutally horrifying ways imaginable. "If you do not get your stupid anthropocentric biases out of your head now, then you are going to get people killed."
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2016
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  16. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    Fair enough, my point was that new theories always encompass approximations of the old ones. Einstein's theory didn't replace Newton's for all practical purposes, they have the exact same result. The weird stuff happened out side of the range of a theory, but the range of a theory can be quite stringently defined. If you do all of the perturbations of QED, you get Maxwell's equations.

    That's why you can't use something like electromagnetism warping space, unless you go far beyond our current experimental limits. We know how much electromagnetism warps spacetime, we have a formula that tells us exactly, and it works for all amounts that we've so far experimented with. (It's not very much, light has no mass, but it has energy and mass and energy are interchangeable in those aspects of general relativity.)

    Electromagnetism was actually figured out before relativity, it was required in order to figure it out. Maxwell accidentally discovered an equation with a constant speed stuck in it, that violated Newton's rules that all motion was relative and refined the bounds where the theory works.

    Sometimes it actually sucks when theories work out really well. We were all excited to see what kind of cool new stuff would fly out of the LHC when it turned on because it was probing higher energies than ever before. Now we're kind of all wondering why we've literally seen nothing new. The Higgs boson was discovered, but it had been predicted 40 years ago and was already a fundamental part of the standard model. We were all hoping for supersymetry or that the Higgs to be either lighter or heavier than it was. This indicates that new physics is likely not to be seen until even greater energies because even f we were close, we should still see those heavy particles in rare instances according to QM.

    PARC as in Xerox? You may have just dated yourself, I assumed you were way younger based on the DOOM avatar.
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2016
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  17. antlad

    antlad Banned

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    The one and only PARC. I will be 50 in a few weeks.
     
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  18. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Potatoes again? Supporter Contributor

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    Interesting take. I'm, well, not a Scalzi fan, but I do have that book, I'll have to take a second look at it from a mechanics point of view.

    There are a couple of authors that I'm fond of who break all the rules of "show, don't tell" with wild abandon, however, and seem to make it work. Kim Stanley Robinson puts straight out infodumps, italicized, between his chapters. Sometimes the voice seems to indicate that the information is from a future history, or a couple of non-characters talking in a bar or something, but basically he's just letting you know what you need to. Since it happens between every chapter, and is relevant to what's about to happen, it doesn't (to me) come across as intrusive.

    Iain M. Banks, on the other hand, throws monster infodumps right into the middle of the story. No source stated or implied, and the only reason that I can see that it works (again, for me) is the fact that they tend to end with a bit of a joke.

    As an example, from The Algebraist:

    I think that the "What the fu-" at the end is what redeems what came before. Of course, the face that it's also a one hundred and sixty eight word sentence (another of his trademarks) may have something to do with it.
     
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  19. Shimario

    Shimario Member

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    I'm actually writing a science fiction/ fantasy novel. What you wanna do is make a "magic system" that's interesting, along with an interesting beginning, like maybe your character is in a fight or something and during the fight you can maybe describe the surroundings? Though with that said, you need to make sure that the readers care about your main character before you throw him into the fight, otherwise it is a waste of words.
     
  20. Shimario

    Shimario Member

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  21. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

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    Some interesting stuff has been happening with NASA and the EM Drive lately and it's looking very much like this will be humankind's FTL of choice for our first forays into long-distance space travel. So...

    Considering that no one reinvents the gun, the car or the cell phone—with an eye toward not copying other authors—couldn't you base your interplanetary travel on the EM Drive? It's looking very much like it will be a reality, so it could be just a matter of:
     
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  22. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    The pop science annoys me, the scientific literature is theorizing about an old but mostly forgotten interpretation of quantum mechanics called pilot wave theory, it has the potentional to explain this experiment.
     
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  23. MrIntensity

    MrIntensity Member

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    @Sack-a-Doo! I shall definitely look into that and do some research. Of course maybe some details need to be changed but this sounds very plausible for an explanation, however the only problem I'd see left is that I need to find a way of communication that won't take years or months across interstellar space, so far I had watched a few documentaries on quantum physics and a theory that past me was how there could be tiny wormholes that allowed quarks to jump into existence and disappear again? I was thinking maybe having something manipulating that but seems ridiculously far fetched even if I use cold nuclear fusion as an explanation of the energy used for it.
     
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  24. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

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    Perhaps a network of satellites scattered around the universe. Each satellite has a number of packet pods and acts as a hub, launching pods to various other satellites with each of those satellites being within real-time-communication-distance of a message's destination. Packet pods have their own EM propulsion systems and therefore could travel from one satellite to another in a matter of moments. Packet pods, once they've delivered their message(s), dock with the destination satellite where they can recharge (or whatever; EM drives use very little energy) and wait for a new assignment. If a single satellite has no room for an arriving packet pod, any idle packet pods already fully charged, could be dispatched (empty) to another satellite with open packet pod docks to make room for the newly-arrived packet pod so it can recharge.

    This idea is based roughly on how the Internet works, so it makes sense that it might come into being at some point.

    Communications wouldn't be instantaneous, but you could get it down to a matter of minutes as opposed to years or centuries.
     
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  25. MrIntensity

    MrIntensity Member

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    @Sack-a-Doo! Well That could work, but problem here is the expense and the vastness, because the scale in my sci fi universe is intentionally big and dense with hundreds of billions in population among thousands of colonies that don't go much further than 500 light-years of distance in circumference territory wise. So I'm just assuming this would allow the expense of such a sattalite system?
     

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