Sunday, July 8, 2012

More about worldbuilding -- SFR

I happened to be thinking about worldbuilding quite a bit this week, so this fits nicely with Stacey's blog from yesterday. Adding to her great post, I'd like to talk specifically about creating a world for a Science Fiction Romance and underline her theme of making the world believable.

When creating a Science Fiction world for Romance readers, there's a balance that is struck between the two genres. Some authors use more details, paint their worlds with either lush descriptions or with believable tech/bio that is scientifically based. Or perhaps the author uses a mix of the two. It goes without saying that there will be a romance, there will be characters who grow, there will be a plot and there will be tension and conflict. But what varies widely within this subgenre is the amount of reliance on science (or even social discourse--some SF is solely based on social commentary).

Take for instance, a near future SFR. The science involved could be light. The world might be much like what we have today. The worldbuilding could involve slight changes, or an alternate history. Maybe the biggest difference is that the Allies lost WWII and Hitler shaped the world as we know it. Whatever the case may be, some stories are themselves not based on a technology or high tech.

Whichever way it goes, a story of any genre should still paint the story in a complete way. If a technology is used, the reader doesn't need to know how it works. All the reader needs to know is that Doo-hickey-Number-Five does work. If the science of doo-hickey is important to the plot, then by all means, the reader should be introduced to that science. If the plot only needs to use the tool, then all we need to know is that if you put gas in a car, it runs. The mechanic can figure everything else out for us if it goes wrong.

What is a mistake is for us to skip an entire section of a story to gloss over how a doo-hickey might work. This can create an incomplete story, not just flawed worldbuilding. For instance-- Scene One: The colonists must evacuate their planet, or everyone dies. Oh, and in ancient history, someone might have mentioned a way to leave the planet. Cut scene. Scene Two: Five years later, the colonists are on a new planet but we have no idea how they got there.

Now, we don't need to know exactly how the science might work for the colonists to end up on another planet. There are all sorts of interesting things that could happen-- There's this dimensional machine that's been in the basement of the military base. There's this funky experimental spaceship. A special device creates a wormhole. None of these need the science explained, but even if a story avoids going into the details of tech, a plausible explanation still needs to happen in the story itself. Same as it would happen in real life. Say there's a thriller where the hero is in jail for a crime he didn't commit and he needs to get out to save the heroine. The next scene can't jump to his being out of prison and saving her--no mention of how he got out of prison. We need to see how he managed that feat, even if we don't know the details of a legal brief that got him released, etc.

Bottom line, taking shortcuts in worldbuilding can be harmful to the story itself. The details might not be important, but the large barebones need to be there if that science is important to the plot.

So, don't forget to gas up the car!

Ella Drake is a dark paranormal and science fiction romance author. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, & Goodreads.

Her latest releases are Desire the Banshee an erotic paranormal romance from Ellora's Cave & Desert Blade, a near-future post-apocalyptic romance from Carina Press. Coming soon, MetalMark (Lyrical Press). Other work includes The Forbidden ChamberSilver Bound, Jaq’s Harp, Braided Silk & Firestorm on E’Terra.


Hailey Edwards said...

It's difficult finding the balance sometimes between what can be glossed over and what must be included. Like you said--it boils down to what information is critical to the reader in order to understand the plot.

Great post!

Ella Drake said...

Thanks, Hailey. I agree, it boils down to what's critical to the plot!