The Suitably Anti-Social Writer

I used to think it was a huge liability that I don’t get along with a lot of people in casual, everyday conversation.

Turns Out, I Just Like Getting Work Done

It’s not that I can’t so much as I find it kind of sort of a complete waste of time. Unless, of course, I’m practicing my group management skills or researching character types.

I just hate casual chitchat. Such a waste of time. When I was a kid, I saw how people did this weird thing where they “hung out”, or just, you know, sat and talked about nothing at all and seemed happy about it.

Shooting the Breeze

Like a naturalist among an alien species, I hunkered down to figure out what the shit was going on.

Because why didn’t each of those individuals peel off from the nonfunctioning social group and go into a corner to write? It was so strange to me.

That’s What I Liked Doing

I went through a long period as a young person where I decided there was something wrong with me for not taking satisfaction out of wasting time, so I tried really hard to fit in and do like the other people did. I tried to waste time, you know, and talk about popular whatnot.

It was so boring. Also, I got very little work done. Ugh.

Super Non-Productive

Then I got more into directing and found out (hurray!) that it’s a lot more interesting to play God in a group, and that most people are also bored and want to play that sort of conversationally-directed game.

When I say play God, I really just mean that I took control of the conversation whenever appropriate and made it functionally useful. You know, like actually about reality, and/or about actual emotional phenomena inside me or the other people present.

Like Public Improv

That turned out to be great for character research, for making lasting friends, and for being not-bored. Plus, after a long conversation like that, writing is exciting and fun (because you’re all revved up from actually meeting new people and knowing what they’re like on the inside.)

Anyway, the point of today is that if you, like me, find social groupings sort of useless, perhaps you will also find, like me, that going with the general flow of boring, staid behavior leads to an enormous drop in your writing production.

Like, A Big Drop

In short, if I try to be conventionally social, my word count plummets. And I don’t mean, “oh, I got a few less words written today!” I mean, like, “Oh, my usually quota just eked out to a measly ten percent, and I don’t even care because life feels meaningless.”

Which, over the course of several days, adds up and means a lot less completed work. Ugh.

And Less Usable Work

If you’re wondering why I talk about writing so much, and I only have two books out, that’s because I want to make a good impression, and I have twenty-some-odd complete manuscripts that I’m sitting on that are, for various reasons, not yet satisfactory for public consumption, and I’m tinkering on my official publication style. Luckily, I have an excellent editor.

Anyway.

So, In Conclusion

Avoid other people at all costs, unless you’re prepared to take charge of your interactions and use them to further your craft. Investigating human nature, discussing reality, or actually getting any kind of relaxing social good out of interaction is great, but if you’re just hanging around because you’re supposed to, out of some perceived need to fulfill social obligation, run away!

You’re reading Victor Poole, and no, I’m not really a hermit, but maybe I will be when I’m old and rich. Tee hee. In my current book, I think Gilbert’s gang trial is not going to go super well today.

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Universal Theme

I went to a little library over the weekend. I used to sort of live part-time at libraries, but for a variety of not-very-interesting reasons, I hardly spend any time at all in such places anymore.

I Went To The Library

I saw a book about tortillas. It was one of those probably-charming, coming-of-age stories where a minority character (most likely a pre-teen) has a little arc and overcomes some sort of internal tantrum over the harsh realities of life, learning more about his/her cultural heritage along the way.

I’m sure it was an okay book, probably, but it looked really, really boring.

Bland, Inoffensive Hedging Material

Have you ever read that one, the book by what’s his name? Um, Thomas Hardy. That last book he wrote, the really horrible one that everyone pointed out was awful, and Hardy got offended and quit writing?arm

Hardy Enjoyed Exploiting Female Characters To Make A Point

I read his last book a long time ago. (Jude the Obscure, if you’re wondering.) It sucks, and the main female character and her children are used, literally, like sock puppets for Hardy to throw a public tantrum with. The characterizations are so blatantly shallow that the book is genuinely offensive on many levels..

I’m sort of glad Hardy stopped writing, because at the time I was chewing through the acceptable classics (the not-damaging ones), and his work was really boring. Mayor of Casterbridge is good, and Tess of the D’urbervilles is insightful, but God, Hardy refuses to let anything really nice happen to any of his characters, and it gets old really fast.

Because In Excellent Fiction, Some Characters Actually Think Forward And Avoid Disaster!

Anyway, back to my trip to the library. I often, in my later forays through the library shelves of various institutions, started to skim through shelves and look for anything, literally from any section, that made any active commentary on society or used universal themes.

I was constantly disappointed.

Safe, Boring, And Without Theme

Let’s talk for a minute about books that are worth writing.

(Yes, that’s right, Victor Poole is mounting ye olde soap box once again. My actors had this adorable “Oh, no. Here it comes!” face that they all wore when I climbed onto my soap box.)

I had a director a long time ago who understood universal theme. He was one of only two I’ve ever worked with who grasped the pertinence of using theme in his work.

Everyone Else Hedged, Lied, and Used Abstract Fluff To Hide Their Lack Of Significant Theme

Dear reader, I’m pretty sure, statistically, that you are not consistently using universal theme. This tortilla book I was speaking of did not touch on universal theme, though it chickened out and defrauded the innocence of childhood to scrape by on universal sentimentalism and that peculiar space adults go through mentally in their forties, when they start to regret not choosing anything significant to adhere to in their hearts.

Universal Theme:

Making a value comment on human social interaction and supporting your position with specific emotional examples.

Here, let’s cut straight to the chase. I’ll show you a typical sample of cowardly, non-theme-containing work, and then I’ll show you the same story with an internal framework of theme.

Examples

Terrible Writing (No Theme)

Diedre crossed the street and waited with impatience for the municipal bus to arrive. There was not a lot to do at the bus stop. Diedre was pregnant and didn’t want to be. Diedre stared at noisy birds on the telephone line.

She waited and waited, and then finally the red vehicle approached. The bus lumbered down the road towards her stop, looking like a lumbering crimson whale and emitting persistent bursts of smoke from the back exhaust. Diedre waited for the doors to open.

Diedre paid her fare and climbed to the second floor of the bus. She perched at the back left corner and stared at the shops as the bus pulled away. When she reached her destination at the abortion clinic, she disembarked, went straight past the doors of the clinic, and began the laborious process of walking home.

Good Writing (Theme)

Diedre’s heart made a thump-thump that seemed to echo through her abdomen. Not today, maybe, she thought, her throat full of the coming moment when she would have to go, have to speak to the doctor, have to face the inevitable, disturbing procedure. Diedre was with child, and hadn’t meant to be. She had to do something about the future, and didn’t want to make any decision at all.

The birds chirruped a pleasant rhythm on the telephone lines, and the bus, when it rumbled down to Diedre and heaved to a noisy stop, reminded her of a big red whale. Diedre imagined the crimson beast roaring and swallowing her up as she mounted the dirty metal steps and slid into the farthest seat in the back.

Maybe I’ll go in tomorrow to make the appointment, though, Diedre thought, and the idea brought her so much immediate relief that she slid to the front of the bus aisle and disembarked at the next stop.

Her hands in her pockets and her heart pounding a relentless, dizzying rhythm under her breastbone, she pictured the big red whale spitting her out, along with the bud of new life in her depths. I could escape like Jonah, Diedre told herself with a smile, and she began to think of running away instead of doing the other thing.

In Conclusion

I have a number of completed books I’m sitting on, because I had a sequence of interesting fights with my editor, and the manuscripts have some issues I can correct easily enough. Just takes time, and my life is (mundane, mundane, etc.) right now, so catching up on basic work is #complicated.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and I’m currently inserting chapter breaks and pondering on the ethical conundrum of positioning commercially-viable razor hooks in the mental landscape of my fiction.

Abuse Handled Incorrectly In Fiction

Abuse works when it’s explained.

I was reading someone’s story today, and I put it down after the first chapter because the key moment, the whole pivot of the character development, fixed around some badly framed child abuse, and I didn’t want to read a story that had such a clumsy approach to abuse.

So As A Reader, I Jumped Ship

My current series has a lot of abused characters. I’ve got a man who was neglected and beaten as a child, and several old men who were used as sex slaves when they were teenagers. Their backstory shapes a lot of the action in the book, and has everything to do with the choices they make and the way they turn out in the end.

Plus, They’re Gangsters

I have no problem with reality; I have a big huge problem with stories where abuse is handled with implicit approval, or is handed on towards the reader without any groundwork or framing at all. For example, in the story I was reading today, a mother slaps her child, and it forms an awful root of shame in the kid. The slap itself should have been fine, but the mother had been framed previously as a good character (a protective, helpful person to the child).

That’s Terrible Writing, And Poor Storytelling

Changing lanes in the middle of a scene, and giving previously protective characters actions that are outright damaging and abusive, without any framing or contextual buildup to the harsh action, is disruptive and bad storytelling.

Example

Terrible Writing:

Lena made the soup and laid out four little bowls. The children came in from playing, and she helped each of them wash their hands at the kitchen sink before ladling out the stew and giving each tyke a lump of bread to dip in their soup.

“Martha stole all the pebbles,”  the oldest child explained.

“I didn’t!” the littlest one snapped.

“She did, and she ate one of them,” a middle kid proclaimed.

“Martha, give me those rocks,” Lena said, her voice stern and kindly.

Martha delivered up colored glass pebbles with an impatient sigh, and Lena … (add in violent action that I am unwilling to write because it damages the reader to drop unframed abuse into a scene).

Good Writing:

Lena stirred the soup and leaned out the kitchen window.

“Martha!” Lena called sharply.

“He made me!” a childish voice screeched back.

“Put the rocks down, Martha. Don’t! No!” Lena said. The sound of high-pitched squeals, and a long, drawn out shriek of indignant agony flooded through the air. Lena sighed and put down her spoon. She went out of the kitchen and returned in a moment, holding a struggling girl of three.

“Jill said all the blue ones are mine! She traded me!” the little girl shrieked.

“You cannot throw rocks at people, sweetie,” Lena said.

“I will kick you in the face, Nana!” the girl cried. Lena sighed and carted the child away to a farther room.

When the kitchen was empty, a boy of nine poked in his face and looked around.

“She’s gone,” he hissed. He and another little boy with very dirty hands crept into the kitchen, laid hold of a basket of rolls, and departed with stifled giggles.

Lena came back into the kitchen, glanced at where the rolls had been, and went outside.

In Conclusion

Reality is better than artificially contrived abuse, and violence is always acceptable when framed appropriately, and when it is either coming from an immature person or an evil, depraved entity. Unframed, floating abuse does not make for compelling backstory, and characters really perform poorly when made to do violent acts purely for drama in the plot.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current project, Crikey’s uncle Pops is coming to visit today. Pops is in the bad practice of mixing barbiturates with alcohol, and Crikey doesn’t know Pops is a booze hound. I think Crikey is going to find out today, and Crikey and Pops are going to have a falling out. I’m excited about that.

Simple Plot Development That Doesn’t Plod

If you ever struggle with plotting, or feel as though your planning process is going kind of slow, here is a method to help you ease with swift, speedy awesomeness through the process.

Plotting That Plods

When you sit down and tell yourself to come up with an interesting plot, you may find yourself running dry of fascinating devices.

It’s hard to be clever on the spot, or to draw up complex, intriguing plot sequences on command. The end result, sometimes, is plotting that plods along and is boring to plan and boring to read.

Snappy Plotting

The opposite of boring, staid plotting is snappy, intriguing plotting. How, though, to come up with a snappy plot?

The key here is use where you are and what you are to serve your creative purposes. Have you ever heard that old adage, “Write what you know”?

For the purposes of plotting, this doesn’t mean so much that you need to write whatever you actually live, but that you follow the surge in natural impulses and curiosity in your spirit and mind.

Ask the Questions

You can always come up with a great plot if you start out with a good question. A ‘what if’, if you will. I like to begin with a short character sketch and then stretch the parameters of the implied scenario into a plot.

Once I have one scene (which gives me a character, some supporting people or locations, and a base premise of what the character is doing and why they are where they are), the rest of the plot can be formed around that initial starting point.

I do this, and it can easily be done, by asking pertinent questions about the information you’ve already established.

Urgent Topics

If we start with a base character and a scenario (for example, Dina has three days to procure the miracle drug Finfanfu and save her own life), then we turn our minds to the first, most interesting question that presents itself, which forms the most urgent topic at hand.

The first question is: what’s wrong with her, and what will the miracle drug Finfanfu do for her?

Once we answer that first question, we’ll have uncovered mounds of new topics, contextually connected scenarios, and related characters, which will lead to many more useful and urgent questions.

Once we have a strong question leading to a satisfying finishing answer, we can form a plot.

Examples

Really Bad Writing

Dina’s face was not doing well. Her arms, also, were doing unwell. Dina figured that she would be able to hang onto some of her skin for another two years, as long as she held to the best-recommended practices and wore her protective coverings all the time.

She wore them at work. She wore them at her few free moments of play. She even wore them when she slept at night, and the scrubbing, dull feel of the scarvel cloth made her insides squirm with discomfort.

She had never been happy at home, and she was least happy now than she’d been before because exciting things were starting to happen in the city.

Dina was sick, but her doctor was pretty sure they could keep up the treatments and make her live longer. He thought there would be a breakthrough, and she would not die at all, because the social-sharing method of medical advances, when they came, was so fair and sound that Dina was sure everyone would help take care of her.

She was pretty sure she wouldn’t die at all, even though she was in the process of dying now.

Good Writing

Dina’s face and arms were literally falling apart. She kept herself wrapped in silky gauze, and moved as little as she could when she went home at night. She had to move during the day, but she kept her artificial skin coverings on religiously, and only used her gun when it was really necessary.

As an enforcement officer on the western Strand, Dina could not afford the replacement skin treatments that could have preserved her flesh for a few more years. There was no real hope for her; she was rotting away, losing flakes of her skin every night and getting gradually more pink and raw.

On Tuesday, the night after Dina had gotten drunk and thought about living more dangerously in order to eke some enjoyment out of her shortening future, an announcement came over the subway intercom that she hardly listened to at first.

“That would be good for you. Will you go in for the trials?” the women next to Dina asked.

“What?” Dina asked. Her voice came out muffled through the heavy artificial skin.

“That new drug. Weren’t you listening?” the woman asked.

In Conclusion

Start with where you and use what you are to ask basic, driving questions about your character and the scenario they’re in. These pertinent questions reveal theme, create obvious plot points, and eventually form all the plot you’ll need for your snappy, awesome novel.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and I’m starting work on a science fiction blurb.

The Fool As A Touchstone In Plot

A nonsensical, foolish character is a valuable tool to illuminate and frame morality and provide context and perspective to a novel’s plot.

What is a Fool?

Stupid characters are delightful, even more so when they are able to be laughed at without emotional pain.

I knew a kid a long time ago. He was blind, because of an accident with a gun. He was a very nice kid, but very stupid. I never made fun of him, and I never saw anyone else make fun of him, either.

On the other hand, I knew another boy who was not blind and who made a game of trying to give himself homemade piercings with safety pins.

Lots of people made fun of that kid (I don’t generally make fun of people, so I didn’t, but other people did). No one, including the piercings kid, got particularly ruffled over the process, because he knew he was being stupid and didn’t care.

Shakespeare’s Fools

Bill of the pirate-style earring had a knack for using smart, morally sound people as fools, which does a couple of things to his plots:

  1. Using a morally clear character allows the fool to act as a frame of reference for the plot as a whole
  2. Everyone in the whole story says whatever they are really thinking to the intelligent fool, because there’s no social pressure when you’re talking to a walking dumpster fire

Fools in Contemporary Fiction

How can you make your very own walking dumpster fire? There are a few key elements here.

  • Your fool should be more damaged, in terms of past abuse, than any other character
  • Drinking helps
  • The fool must have processed, in a healthy manner, nearly all of his own emotional pain
  • Some reference to sexuality is usually wise

Examples

Terrible Fool

Rodgen drew the covers of his bed over his face most comfortably and sighed as he slept heavily through the alien alarm.

His roommate, Baris, had already gotten up and was almost ready to put on his shoes. Baris had no idea how Rodgen could sleep through noise like this. I wish I could, Baris though, and he pulled on his sock. The alien slave ship made an uncomfortable rock to the side, and a wave of alien water leaked through the door and crashed over the whole room, spilling into Baris’s open shoes.

Rodgen, not waking up much, spat some drips of slippery alien water out of his mouth and turned over to go back to sleep.

“Rodgen, my shoes got wet!” Boris said irritably, looking down at his soaking shoes.

Rodgen, being asleep and very wet, did not reply.

Baris was tempted to throw a soaking shoe at Rodgen’s head, but he put the wet shoe on instead, and felt angry at himself for not leaving his shoes in the cubby where they would have been dry.

Excellent Fool

Rodgen pulled the covers of his bed over his face and pretended not to be hearing the blasting alarm. He knew the aliens would dump something wet on him if he didn’t get up this time. They’d warned him, and he didn’t care.

Damn, how I hate Monday mornings on the alien slave ship, Rodgen thought, as he braced himself against the inevitable bucket of amniotic fluid that crashed over his head when he didn’t get up in the first minute.

Rodgen spat some drips of burning alien fluid out of his mouth and tried to go back to sleep.

“Rodgen!” his cell-mate roared.

“I’m tired,” Rodgen said from under his blanket.

“You got my fucking shoes wet, Rodgen! Seriously, get out of bed and take a nap on the floor next time! Shit!” Baris threw a soaking shoe at Rodgen’s head, and the impact was, at last, enough to motivate Rodgen to remove himself from his soaking bed.

“I don’t like living here,” Rodgen said with dignity.

“Gosh, and here I thought you were on vacation in the fucking Ritz. Jesus, Rodge. Give me your shoes. Are they dry at all? I’m taking yours.”

General Qualities of a Fool

  • A quality fool has foundational morals and an unerring grasp of sexuality and interpersonal ethics
  • The fool has extensive personal history of abandonment, addiction, or abuse
  • The fool is absurd and/or funny
  • The fool is emotionally detached enough to make commentary on other characters
  • The fool becomes the touchstone of the plot when they encapsulate the essence of the theme in a living body and become, for all intents and purposes, a mouthpiece for the novel’s intent

In Conclusion

If you haven’t got a fool in your current work, think about utilizing one in your next piece. Fools are charming, pleasant things, and if you make your fool the central character, you might accidentally end up writing Hamlet.

You’re reading Victor Poole. Your pediatrician probably hasn’t read this book, but you could read it this weekend.

The Tiny Guide To Integrating Your Creative Soul

Is your energy scattered and frenetic? Here’s how to get a surge of creative potential throbbing through your body.

Your Natural Energy

I invented an energy form because all my actors were broken. Incidentally, this form works well for writing good fiction. I will now share the method with you.

Using your natural energy means hooking up the disparate parts of your energy mechanism, the parts of you that are set up to work as a natural, living animal, and channeling them into service of creating a fictional world.

Think of this as exercise for your soul, to make you bright, shining, and sexually attractive. My main shtick, as a theatre specialist, is making actors unbearably hot, as in, attractive and “zing”-y. I’m very good at that.

Good writing has a zing, and a body and soul that is aligned effectively creates more adaptive, fertile fiction, which opens the reader’s soul. That kind of shared openness leads, if the conditions are correct, to mental sex, which is where commercialism and profit come into play.

How To Do It

Your body, naturally, is an animal, and has chains of impulses that, if they’re connected, fill you with energy, bursting life, and vitality. If you’ve ever watched a cat walk around, or a really healthy animal of any kind, you’ve seen the power and flexibility in their shoulders and hips, the kind of easy, confident fluidity that runs in their muscles and shoots out through their eyes.

This is why show biz people say, “Don’t work with children or animals,” because little kids haven’t gotten deeply screwed over yet, physically, and so their eyes and muscles shine with power, just like animals’ do.

The good news is that your body already knows how to do this instinctively. You just have to plug in the main breakers for your impulse chains, and your body, as it releases civilized crap and old emotions, will embrace the method automatically.

Pelvis

The root of motion starts down in the pelvic cradle. Imagine, if you will, a champion jumping horse, like one of those slick creatures at the Equestrian Olympics, or a hunter type of horse. When the horse gathers itself at a fence to jump over, the body coils in and the wide, enormous pelvic cradle of the animal acts as a kind of powerful spring that launches the body up into the air.

Your pelvic cradle is the root of your motion. It’s probably closed up and tangled together right now, like a slinky, a toy metal slinky that got twisted up and caught against itself.

Imagine your pelvis is a box that is a little squished and crushed in. Open the sides to straighten and make the box a proper cube shape, and make the top and bottom level and parallel to the floor. The key is to be at square angles to the floor, and to avoid any tilt or internal collapse in the sides and floor of the pelvis. If you go and look at a well-muscled ballet dancer, you will see a very open, stable pair of hips and a strong, balanced pelvic floor.

Ribs

We want to have a stable, open pelvic cradle, and to let the surge of energy, the spring that naturally rests in your body to bounce up into your ribs and freely up through the rest of you.

Now we move on to your ribs. If your ribs are stiff and holding tension, you probably aren’t breathing very much, and if the muscles between your rib bones, your interstitial muscles, are hardened, which they probably are, your impulses are getting caught into a traffic jam at your floating ribs and not making it up through your body.

What we want is to soften and open the rib cage, from the very bottom of your floating ribs all the way up to your clavicle. We’ll do this the same way we worked on your pelvis, by imagining the rib cage as a box. This time the box is rectangular.

Again, we want to have stable, perpendicular sides and a level top and bottom that are parallel to the floor and matching up exactly to the box of our pelvic cradle.

Now that we’ve softened and aligned our ribs, our impulses are flooding straight from our pelvic cradle up to our ribs; now it’s time to open the channel into our face, to get that intriguing light and power pouring into our eyes.

Face

The face is the part of the impulse chain that makes you distinctive, and that adds a personal flair to your work. Actors learn to focus the majority of their energy into their facial muscles and their eyes, which is why movie stars look so incredibly distinct and individual. They carry a stamp, a proprietary branding of energy shaping and impulse style.

Your writing spark, your stamp of self in your personality and your eyes, is what will eventually make you unforgettable, but you have to free and loosen the impulse chain to trammel in an open river from your newly-stable pelvis, through your emotionally-softened ribs, and into your distinctive, one-of-a-kind face.

We’ll do this by opening the tunnel of our necks and imagining hot, molten power pouring up from the pelvis straight up through the actual bones and muscles of the ribs, and into the bone and muscle of your face.

And Getting To Work

Now that your body is full of energy and light, get to work as a writer, and your words will start to jump and spring a little, just like our champion jumping horse leaps over barriers. You’ll have hiccups, and your body will jolt and adjust over time, but if you embrace your natural impulse chain and let yourself settle into the form your body wants to take, your writing will get stronger, better, more distinctive, and much more flavorful to the reader.

In Conclusion

Utilizing the natural energy in your physical body will strengthen your writing and empower your style.

  • The pelvic cradle is a box of steel or hardwood: make it level, open, and square
  • The ribs are a rectangular box, more like strong cardboard that can give and bend: open the ribs, level and straighten your parallel lines at every side
  • Your face is the key to your zing, your personality and intriguing star power: open the channel of your energy and flood your facial muscles and bones with hot light from the root of energy down in your pelvic cradle

You’re reading Victor Poole, and one of my favorite villains is struggling with the temptation to pound people today, and is resisting the urge.

The Inside Essence of Science Fiction

What is science fiction, at its core? And are you writing it, really?

Science fiction is an intellectual exercise. You put up a perimeter and a complex, insoluble moral dilemma, and then see what you can do about rationalizing and justifying inhuman behavior.

Fantasy, by contrast, presumes the base, inevitable existence of inhuman behavior and negotiates the emotional fallout of such.

Science fiction starts out with a presumed blank slate of “people are decent” and then plays at corrupting them, usually because of Technology or Exposure to Aliens, and fantasy starts with “people are monstrous in their hearts” and then uses magic or character-driven heroism to ameliorate the overall social damage.

Science fiction is an individual journey, going into the character over time, and getting a tighter and more emotional focus on the dynamic character throughout the story.

Fantasy, by contrast, grows wider and more broad as the story goes on. Fantasy concerns itself with the impact of the individual on society as a whole, while science fiction concerns itself with the moral and intellectual maturation of the individual.

Are You Writing Science Fiction?

Just for fun, let’s see what happens if we take a scenario for a story and tweak it to become distinctly science fiction-esque.

The young man, desirous of adventure, leaves home and meets a dangerous, powerful new friend.

We take the dynamic of leaving home, which implies the abandonment of family, much farther, and turn the powerful friend into a more intellectually compelling transformation of the inner self of the young man. Ergo:

Science fiction:

The young man, desiring to leave his home, secretly sells his family to an alien race in exchange for a serum that transforms him into a powerful and dangerous fighter. The young man takes up his lifelong dream of becoming a bodyguard to celebrities. He discovers over time that the serum he bought from the aliens is transforming him into a kind of alien creature, and that if he can’t obtain another chemical to reverse the process in time he’ll be enslaved by the aliens, used as a household pet, and someday eaten.

Now, just for the sake of contrast, let’s see what happens if we take the same original scenario and apply a fantasy bent.

The young man, desirous of adventure, leaves home and meets a dangerous, powerful new friend.

Again, we take the leaving of home a bit farther, but this time we add in a pre-existing flavor of disaster and looming evil.

Fantasy:

The young man, outraged by the destruction of his family and homeland, dodges the universal draft for the evil army and seeks out a famous magician, who purchases the young man’s and gives him help and training. The young man spends years becoming a potent magic-wielder and sets out with a band of similarly-brooding companions to avenge his family and help his magical master wrest control of the continent from the ruling overlord.

Fantasy Grows Out, Science Fiction Tightens In

Over the course of a story, science fiction comes closer and deeper into the psyche and emotional development of the main character, while in fantasy, the main character integrates over time into a wider social circle, and often becomes a focal point to the world at large, or to a vast segment of the local population.

Science fiction is usually about internal, emotional development and psychological maturation of the self, while fantasy, by contrast, is generally about the healing, through the initial efforts of one individual and eventually through a much larger band of companions and then a wider group of cooperative beings, of society as a whole. Fantasy gets a wide, broad focus by the end of the story, and science fiction gets a tight, very personal focus by the end of the story.

Now, To the Point

 

Humans are emotional creatures, in their hearts, and so the exercise of writing science fiction is one of outside-in manipulation. Can you create an intellectually invigorating “wrong” scenario feel eventually “correct” to the reader, by dint of context and the continual internal development of the main character?

And does your focus grow gradually tighter and more introspective, in your main character’s development?

You’re reading Victor Poole. I got stuck behind a train for a few minutes last night on the road, and had a nice time watching the graffiti flash by. I’ve been forgetting to write 2018 all morning, but that sort of thing happens to me every January.