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KristenS
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Registered: ‎02-09-2007
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KristenS: What is Science Fiction -- writing exercise

Wow, I didn't really mean to participate, only to browse, but I find myself challenged to jump in. Now I just have to hope the books ship quickly. :-)

Looking over the "What is Science Fiction?" post, I realize my stories may have SF icons and a sense of wonder (or so I like to think), but I'm not at all sure they have any real science content.

I'm working on a series of stories that take place in our future, some time after we've got really good space flight (I use hyperspace) and colony worlds. The premise of a few of them is the whole lost-world-rediscovered idea. Not particularly original, but the idea has always fascinated me. (H.M. Hoover has some great juvenile SF with that theme, and I love her(his?) writing.)

As far as icons go, I've got space travel, and colonies, and I've even thrown in telepathy. No aliens.

I'm trying to find the science content, though. Does space travel count, since they can't be rediscovered if they weren't lost in the first place? And each world reacts differently ... some didn't know they were lost, some did. Some have valuable resources that others want, some don't.

I guess I'm more musing than posting a solid idea here, but reading over this forum has given me a lot to think about. Which is good -- that's the only way I'll ever get better!

For the purpose of these exercises, I'll focus on one of the stories ... the rediscovery of a world that sort of remembered its roots, and has valuable mineral resources that Earth really needs, as seen through the eyes of one young boy. Actually he grows up during the story (it's meant to be a book-length work rather than a short ... I am lousy at shorts) and eventually becomes a representative to the government formed to oversee all the worlds. He's curious to see the universe and concerned for the changes his world undergoes.

That's kind of vague. I'll keep working. :-)
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book_worm
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Re: KristenS: What is Science Fiction -- writing exercise

Lost-worlds-rediscovered idea always interested me too. As for you not thinking it's not science fiction enough, there are many different sub-genres for science fiction, you don't have to have a hard science fiction book. Unless you want to write one :smileyhappy:

Maybe I missed it, but what is the conflict going to be in your story?
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anne2
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Re: KristenS: What is Science Fiction -- writing exercise

Hi KristenS,

I'm glad you decided to participate. It's way more fun that just reading.

Your idea does have a lot of possibilites. For some reason I can't explain, I thought of those books that were popular years ago that showed relationships in different cultures that were interpreted as that they all had visitors from outer space with the signs found in the artifacts of long gone societies. I can't remember the names of the books, but I do remember that feeling of people being united by common experiences in different parts of the world and at different times.

I don't see why that can't be done on a galactic or even intergalactic scale. If you focus on a person, it will have to be someone in on the discovery so we can see first hand what the clues are. That is just my limited view of how this could be written. I'm sure you can come up with your own direction.

Good luck.
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Josh_Crowe
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Re: KristenS: What is Science Fiction -- writing exercise

Have you thought of making this a young adult book, a coming of age story?
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Bonnie824
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Re: KristenS: What is Science Fiction -- writing exercise

It sounds like a great idea- for a young adult book maybe? Did you consider having it be a "young girl" rather than a "young boy" though?
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book_worm
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Re: KristenS: What is Science Fiction -- writing exercise


Bonnie824 wrote:
It sounds like a great idea- for a young adult book maybe? Did you consider having it be a "young girl" rather than a "young boy" though?


Oh, I like the idea of it being a "young girl" instead of a "young boy", but I've always liked reading books where the main character is a woman so that could just be me. :smileyhappy:
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KristenS
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Re: KristenS: What is Science Fiction -- writing exercise

bookworm, I'm not sure what the conflict is. Therein lies my difficulty. :-) Still trying to nail that down. I want there to be some internal conflict ... him struggling against himself, I think that'll be between the need to stay home and the desire to see other worlds. And I want there to be an external conflict, something where he'll have to take a stand on behalf of his world.

I like the idea of its being a young girl ... but I already wrote that one. It was something I tinkered with for years and finally wrapped up last year. (And boy, does it still need work!) The main character in this attempt, the boy, was a secondary character in my original work. They're from different worlds. And no, they don't end up together. :-) Although something like that would sure produce conflict!

The problem is, I've already written this. And going back through it,there's no real plot. Lots of interesting places and people, some day-in-the-life snippets that aren't too bad, but no overarching story. So this writing forum is giving me a good chance to think about what it is that I'm lacking.

I would be fine if this turned out to be YA, and coming-of-age is sure a good theme. I want to take the story all the way through adulthood though, so I don't know if it works. Or maybe that's my problem ... maybe I wrote too much, and I should've stopped sooner. Hmm, that might work. Split it up and just focus on the first parts.

Thanks for the ideas!
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WriterJim
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Re: KristenS: What is Science Fiction -- writing exercise

Kristen S.:

That's a nice idea--rediscovery is a theme long explored in early and modern SF and I don't think it's a vein that's been completely mined out. It does sound like an idea that's book-size or series-size in scope.

I agree with comments that it could be either a teen or adult book. I teach both and it has possiblities in both markets. What's required, though, is an especially interesting setting, I think: a world that's gone on a different tangent from typical earth cultures would be quite interesting.

I also think that you must focus on your protagonist and his reaction to the discovery of a wider universe than the one he's used to. Maybe he can make that leap, while others of his culture shrink from it. The conflicts thus engendered might be great obstacles for him to overcome.

Good luck with it.
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book_worm
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Re: KristenS: What is Science Fiction -- writing exercise

Kristen, I can't wait to see what kind of new world you are going to make in this story that you are doing. :smileytongue: Thats so cool that you've finished a book, if you need someone to read it/review it I'd be happy to. :smileyhappy:
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KristenS
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Re: KristenS: What is Science Fiction -- writing exercise

WriterJim, I am definitely going to have to work on the details of setting, and yes I need to make sure to really get in his head in the story. Perhaps this is more of a character-driven story?

bookworm, I wouldn't mind sharing, except that I'm not quite ready to pull that finished one out again and let it be criticized. (When I get critiques, I want to be able to give them the attention they deserve.) Maybe after this course is over? My brain will be tied up with this current work at least till the end of March (via www.nanoedmo.net).
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book_worm
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Re: KristenS: What is Science Fiction -- writing exercise


KristenS wrote:
bookworm, I wouldn't mind sharing, except that I'm not quite ready to pull that finished one out again and let it be criticized. (When I get critiques, I want to be able to give them the attention they deserve.) Maybe after this course is over? My brain will be tied up with this current work at least till the end of March (via www.nanoedmo.net).

Whenever is good for you Kristen. :smileyhappy:

I'm currently taking some college courses but I always have time to read and give you my review.
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Cluecorner
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Re: KristenS: What is Science Fiction -- writing exercise

KristenS - I like the premise of your story. I had a hard time coming up with the plot for the one I'm working on as well, so I can sympathize. Have you thought about juxtaposing the "coming of age" of the boy, with a similar journey for one of the civilizations? If the boy is learning the tough lessons of life at the same time that his city is undergoing some sort of crisis or change, that might provide a story for you. I think a civilization could have the same sort of growth crisis as a young boy. Maybe the boy could play a role in resolving the larger one.
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LindaE
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Re: KristenS: What is Science Fiction -- writing exercise

The lost-world-rediscovered idea has been around for a long time precisely because it is a good idea - and has many, many ways to be written! Writing from a childs viewpoint gives it an interesting twist.
Perhaps for this exercise you could write the first chapter or a couple of scenes instead of a short story. That way you'd get the exercise and get a jumpstart on your novel!
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marta_randall
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Finding conflict

bookworm, I'm not sure what the conflict is. Therein lies my difficulty. :-)

Good that you can recognize where the difficulty lies! One very useful tool for discovering conflict, is to discover what it is that your protagonist wants. This question can be much bigger than it looks: for example, a teen might want to be old enough to leave home, but the real issue is the desire to reach maturity. What your protagonist wants becomes the motive that drives the story. (Don't forget that negative motivations count too: some characters just want to be left alone, and have to struggle to find a situation where that can happen -- or they change and become less desirous of solitude.)

Next, find out what prevents your protagonist from getting what he wants. This can be anything from physical barriers to psychological ones, but something has to prevent the desire from being realized. That's the heart of your conflict. Your plot line then centers around the protagonist's efforts to get what he wants. The standard conclusion either has the protagonist overcoming the problems, or learning something important about himself and his world.

In s.f.'s purest form, the conflict centers around the science fictional idea. So ask yourself what, in the background you have developed, would motivate your character and what, in the same background, would prevent him from getting what he wants.
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KristenS
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Re: Finding conflict

That's a really great way to define conflict. Thanks!

I'm still working on figuring out what the poor guy wants, but I am getting ideas. It's not his fault he was a secondary character suitable for background use only. LOL.

One snippet I'd already written was a chess game between protagonist and classmate. As my husband was reading through my bits n pieces, he said that was the best scene, and he really liked it. It wasn't that it was particularly well written, just that there was finally some real action ... real conflict. I can see why, using your definition. It was easy to see what the character wanted (to win), and what stood in his way (his opponent's skill).
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angelfly72
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Re: KristenS: What is Science Fiction -- writing exercise

Kristen,

I like the lost world idea, also. I know this might be throwing a curve ball at you have going on in your creative mind right now, but how about a lost world right here on Earth? We think we know everything there is to know about this planet, but what if there is discovery of an ancient civilization that managed to survive a catastrophic event? What would happen to the rest of the world's perception of history if that civilization was discovered? I'm just tossing that out; feel free to disregard!

Angela
"Think, think, it ain't illegal yet!" George Clinton
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KristenS
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Re: KristenS: What is Science Fiction -- writing exercise

That's certainly an interesting idea. Outside the scope of what I'm working with, but worth considering at another time. It'd have to have a really good reason why we haven't found it yet ... say, Oz being hidden by Glinda's magic or Disney's Atlantis being sunk to the bottom of the ocean (and then raised again). Because in this day and age, man might not have set foot on every inch of the earth, but we're pretty convinced we have it well mapped and satellite-watchable. Even Dinotopia (book version) is hidden by severe storm activity, but that too would be mappable and visible.

Anyone want this spare idea to work with? Please? I don't need the distraction. :-)
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seekingreader
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Re: KristenS: What is Science Fiction -- writing exercise


angelfly72 wrote:
Kristen,

I like the lost world idea, also. I know this might be throwing a curve ball at you have going on in your creative mind right now, but how about a lost world right here on Earth? br>
Angela




Angela,

The "lost civilization" idea is always a fun one, but may belong in that category of old ideas whose time has passed. H. Rider Haggard's "She" defined the sub-genre in the late 19th Century, followed on by Edgar Rice Burroughs, A. Merritt, and others in the early 20th Century. Which pretty well explains why the lost civilization in modern SF is usually set off-planet.

Jim
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angelfly72
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Re: KristenS: What is Science Fiction -- writing exercise



seekingreader wrote:

angelfly72 wrote:
Kristen,

I like the lost world idea, also. I know this might be throwing a curve ball at you have going on in your creative mind right now, but how about a lost world right here on Earth? br>
Angela




Angela,

The "lost civilization" idea is always a fun one, but may belong in that category of old ideas whose time has passed. H. Rider Haggard's "She" defined the sub-genre in the late 19th Century, followed on by Edgar Rice Burroughs, A. Merritt, and others in the early 20th Century. Which pretty well explains why the lost civilization in modern SF is usually set off-planet.

Jim




Well...science has certainly advanced a lot more since the late 19th century and early 20th century. I just did a real superficial google search of the Marianas Trench research, and came up with tons of hits. We've only begun to scratch the surface of deep ocean research. There's an entirely different world down there that we know little to nothing about. I think that presents a great number of story possibilities right there, if someone was willing to take the time to research a lot of the recent findings. Sure, the Atlantis story has been done over and over, but why does the imagination have to be limited to what has been written before? How do we know that there aren't sentient beings living in the undiscovered corners of the Marianas Trench? We base everything we know about Earth on our definition of life, meaning we need oxygen to breath and function. Therefore, sentient life could not exist on the ocean floor because there is no oxygen. Well, there are life forms down there, scientific research has confirmed that. Maybe their respiratory systems aren't based on oxygen. Perhaps sentient life forms have evolved and thrived in places under the ocean that would be unimaginable as life-supporting. Even if science now says that this is impossible, who says a writer can't create a situation where the impossible becomes a definite?
That's what writing science fiction does, right? Create whole new worlds?

Angela
"Think, think, it ain't illegal yet!" George Clinton
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Muse_of_Ire
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Re: KristenS: What is Science Fiction -- writing exercise

I have a sort of lost civilization story about descendants of the Incas, but it's a) a very small society and b) fantasy; the society has been hidden by magic.
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