Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Request for comments about over-complication when writing sci-fi

  1. Jul 28, 2013 #1
    Having taken many years to write a huge tome, I'm surprised and very pleased to find this section of the forum. I have already asked about the math involved in accelerating a huge vessel in space, but was acutely aware of typical forum rules about self-promotion.

    I really would like some feedback on the story from folk with a natural interest in physics. In my Notes from the Author, I try to impress upon the reader that there's no need to understand the technicalities to enjoy the story, but I'm not sure that will wash in a book with more than a little flying - terrestrial and extra-terrestrial, telepathy, psychokinesis, oh, and the reason the Universe was designed and unpacked when it did.

    I'm not quite tongue-in-cheek when suggesting a new theological hypothesis, and ask the devout reader to not forget they are reading science fiction, while hinting they may eventually see that things might not be so far from conventional teaching as at first it seems. Difficult call that. I agonized over some of the concepts for several years.

    Pumping my name into that big river site will find it instantly, and there are enough free chapters to get the gist.

    The protagonist is quintessentially English, and the spelling is English UK. Sorry about that. ;-)
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 28, 2013 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    It would be a good idea to link or post what you'd like us to read.
    That way you'll be sure to get more readers.
  4. Jul 29, 2013 #3
    I'd be delighted to do that, but having enjoyed just a short period of reading in on this forum, I was hesitant to do any self promotion and get myself . . . erm, disbarred.

    I'm living a life between Texas and Essex UK, which makes an awful splits of one's life, to almost quote Ian Fleming. I'll try to keep in the loop as I travel.

    In the book I suggest a reason for creation, and try to build a just about feasible hypothesis to explain why we find ourselves here. I also suggest it's not only mortal beings that suffer heartache - while making the first book's central theme the protagonist's love for his widow.

    For what it's worth, this is it. Same code for the .co.uk

    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  5. Jul 29, 2013 #4


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Well, I read most of the first chapter.
    I'm way too tired and don't have time to give you any good feedback at the moment. I'll try to remember to do it tomorrow. Just reply to the thread and I'll see it, that should be enough to remind me.
  6. Jul 29, 2013 #5
    Yeh, my writing has that affect on people ;-) Just out the door for a loooooong flight. Get back on soonest.
  7. Jul 29, 2013 #6


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    By the way, what kind of feedback were you looking to get? Just about over-complicating things, or did you want something more?
  8. Jul 30, 2013 #7
    General feedback would be welcomed. If I critiqued it myself, I'd say it took too long to get into the more intriguing concepts. Also, when I wrote the bulk of it, tablets were a long way from being invented, and being able to 'see' through the hull of one's aircraft would have been an impossible dream. (The US version of our Harrier has such a display in the pilot's visor.) It's hard to invent fiction that's reality-proof these days.

    Some free pages extend past the end of 'The Iris' and that gives a better indication the story is going. For some reason, some are limited to the first paragraphs of that chapter - which doesn't leave much of a hook for the reader.

    I'd love to emulate Ken Follett in the depth of scene-setting and atmosphere, but I realize how quickly he set the atmosphere in for example, Fall of Giants. I felt I was down that coal mine with the 14 year-old on his first day of work, and with his sister in his Lordship's fine home, and Follett achieved this in about the page-count of my first chapter. Very impressive.

    In haste from hotel room.
  9. Jul 30, 2013 #8


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Warning: The following is my personal opinion. I may have no idea what I'm talking about and my opinions may not hold up to reality. You have been warned.

    I tried very hard to try to pinpoint the things I didn't particularly like, but it was very difficult. I think it was well written from a technical standpoint if that makes any sense, but it just wasn't drawing me in at all. ESPECIALLY chapter two. I sat here for at least an hour typing, erasing, and re-typing, trying to explain what I didn't like and give you specific examples. I managed to get a few down, but in the end I think I can put it best by quoting something from one of my books on how to write.

    "Fiction is not reality, but the stylized rendition of reality for an emotional effect."

    In general terms, I'd say you aren't using any techniques to make me feel anything. Things are happening but I really don't care about the characters. Or, in better words, things are happening to characters that I don't care about. And by techniques I mean literary techniques. You told me a lot, but I didn't really FEEL anything. I didn't feel like I was there. I couldn't feel what any of the characters were feeling. (Which is why I think chapter two should be either erased or moved somewhere later in the book so I can get to know Will better and actually care about him and care that people are grieving over him.)

    One of the few specific things I can think to say is I really didn't like your choice of POV. I think if you'd have really gotten into the main characters head and make me feel what he felt, see what he saw, and ONLY what he felt and saw, then that would have made things easier to get into. At least for me. Same thing applies when you jump to another scene. Chapter two just floats around out in la-la land because I wasn't grounded in the scene.

    Also, I read a little of chapter two and I REALLY hate the dialogue there. I think most of it is absolutely unnecessary.

    Ohh, I think I just realized one way to explain myself: I don't think you're focused on the story. Take chapter 2 for example. I don't give a crap about seeing some folks say all this good stuff about their friend. Why? Some of it's because of what I said above about liking the character. But most of it is just because I don't care about seeing people say all this good stuff about their friend. It's boring. It's not moving the STORY forward and it's doing practically nothing to show any character development.

    Think of any movie you've seen that had a funeral near the beginning. Do they ever spend minutes going over how good of a guy the deceased was, or show their relatives talking about him for more than a few seconds? Not that I can remember. They show it, and unless it has something happen during the scene that has a drastic impact on the story, they move on. Quickly. Don't spend time on the grieving or how swell of a guy Will was. Show me how his widow is admirably fighting the soul-ache in her day to day life! Make me care about her! Please! I want to care about her, but simply showing me the lovey-dovey moments in her past while she's grieving isn't doing it.

    Okay, I've literally spent at least an hour trying to go through and explain it all, so I think I'm going to stop now.
  10. Jul 31, 2013 #9


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I will take the opposite view on character development from Drakkith. I think you know your story only too well, and erroniously assume that your audience will feel exactly the same about them as you do, and thus the character development is minimized for that reason. A simple tool such as description of the physical appearance of a character such as Will does gives a reader a basic starting point for their own imagination to flourish. And that is what reading is all about - giving hints to the reader about a character, a place, a scene and letting the imagination take over.

    Your book could be one that has an appeal to a niche market for those readers who find it fascinating to be engufed into a story about the mind and what could be or would be and what if it really is.

    The best line I read was "He found his peripheral vison was just a little too efficient for true propriety, but Tina knew too well the physiology of Observer eyes and teased Will for his peaking with a provocative wiggle." That was brilliant.
  11. Aug 1, 2013 #10
    Thanks Drak and 256

    I wrote an initial reply last night, but was in a cheapskate UK hotel. 30 free internet minutes and then we own your bank. At 29.999999 mins I reached for the enter button, but it beat me and I lost the lot.

    I mentioned my very Texan daughter-in-law also hated the funeral. She waxed lyrical about the death, and wanted that to carry on. I wanted her, and everyone else, to wait. The ten year old John is so typical of kids yearning to fly. Trust me on that one. He sees Will and Jane's first kiss, making just one more point in their bonding. It's true to this point, flying types are responding favorably, whereas others are not near so keen. With one exception: A Texas writing class had c six charming middle-aged ladies included in the group . . . ones I had to ask before releasing the cussing to them. They All loved the first chapter. I have no idea why - it came as a total surprise.

    Dialog. Somerset Maughm's, Of Human Bondage was supposed to be a masterpiece. Sheeeesh! to me, it was a series of cliches. "Ooo you are a caution!" Yes, he really did write that. He must've dug it up from a backstreet cafe somewhere.
    My Katherine's "Oh, there you are. I was about to send out a search party." It is so typical, and oft used in British writing and films.. I might well criticize myself for the same crime. And, 'What shall you do now, dear?" You may think that's a mistake. But it isn't.

    Yes, it's true I'm too deeply involved in the story. I took too long before I really started to work at it, and now, if I'm to get the sequel finished, I don't have time for any significant re-writing. Mind you, if were to go to print, the editors would have a lot to say, but would also give the necessary steers in the right direction.

    In terms the writing in general. One book hollers out the rules of not using big words, and not changing writing styles mid book. I'm guilty of both sometimes, but in particular, at the beginning of "Finding Jane." I think that chapter opens well, but someone looking for a strong sci-fi theme is going to be disappointed. It is nearly all devoted to the widow allowing herself to look at another man, and the conflicts she's feeling. There is a quick bust of sci-fi in there, but the love angle is the main theme.

    To really be taken into the book, Maria Celeste and Jet Upset take you to a very different facets of the story. And indeed, to a third love-interest.

    When I mention in the Notes from the Author about Undiluted Evil, or words to that effect, it might be said this is what the book is about. But I can't risk releasing much about that aspect.

    I'd love for you to plod on with the first bit and enter the 'story-propper'. Some that have, have ended up whith their laptops on their knees for half the night. But I don't know, Drak. I think the concept of a super-being having a fit of the giggles might leave you cold, and the lap-top lying on the lawn outside. It would be interesting to find out.
  12. Aug 1, 2013 #11


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    The first chapter was interesting! It had risk! People nearly dying! Strange occurances! Then the second chapter started and... bleh... the conflict dies, nothing's interesting, at least as far as I got. Showing people being all nice and helping the widow grieve just isn't interesting. I'm not saying they have to be mean to her, but I think focusing on her on internal emotions and cutting back the supporting dialogue would be much more interesting.

    Just look at the start of the 2nd chapter. Jane's talking to her dad. They don't argue, theirs no internal conflict within Jane that we can see, she just immediately agrees not to go back to the cottage, then she and her friends talk a little about will.

    There is absolutely zero conflict in there. Nothing interesting. Remember, conflict is what makes any story interesting. Show how agonizing it is for her! Get into her emotions, make her feel one thing and say something else! Lash out! Anything really!

    Oh, and PLEASE for the love of god change up the names a bit. Will, Jane, John, are all monosyllable names that are boring and very very easy to mix up and forget. I still barely know who was who in chapter one.

    There are no specific lines that I would take out or keep. I just don't feel like you're using any techniques to make the dialogue elicit any emotion out of me. I think you did a great job making a lot of the story happen through the dialogue, like in the first chapter how a lot of what happens is given through the pilots talking, but I just wasn't invested in it. Like when one of the pilots is saying "Jeeeezzzuuuuus!!" you could 'zoom in' for a moment on that by having the main character describe the specific way it was said and how it made him feel/react. Use some prose to really tie it in to the atmosphere of the scene.

    If you know it needs to be changed, but you're unwilling to change it significantly, then what's the point?

    I'm not against it. But the story propper doesn't matter a lick if the reader can't get to it because they don't enjoy the beginning and quit reading. Remember, the easiest thing a reader can do is to stop reading. It's your job to make them not want to stop.
  13. Aug 1, 2013 #12
    Trying to manage with my laptop balanced on the corner of someone's cluttered desk is driving me crazy. As does not having my keyboard unpacked yet. Darn thing has the letters worn off it, but at least a touch on a darn touchpad doesn't kiss everything goodby. Just lost a longish reply. (Upgraded my Sony to Win 8 and just can not get the drivers installed.)

    In haste, your last paragraph is the one that sends shudders down my spine. I know that it's right, but just touching a chapter leaves it needing full proof reading. Out of the quarter-million words, another 21 errors were found after a few edits. Writers on another forum say it happens to them, so I don't feel too bad.

    I now have to drive to the coast, and an unknown house, but what I'd love you to do in the meantime is race ahead with the full story. It might be you find it so far-fetched the current 'arguments' become pointless. On the other hand, you might become intrigued.
  14. Aug 1, 2013 #13


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Don't even worry about the proofreading. Give it only a cursory proofreading until you've really gotten the novel down.

    I'll... try. No promises.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook