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What do you expect from a sci fi novel?

  1. Feb 26, 2016 #1
    Hello friends,
    I was about to write a plot for my novel when something struck me.I have seen people who read a sci fi novel for hours together but end up discarding the book halfway between the story as they found it so boring after a particular point.What do you really expect from a sci fi novel that you discard a book if it doesn't satisfy your expections?
    This would help me in writing my novels.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 26, 2016 #2


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    A good story and no more than one thing about which I have to suspend disbelief. It really doesn't matter if a story it SciFic, what matters far more is that it be a good STORY.
  4. Feb 26, 2016 #3
    "Good" is abstract.What makes you say that a story is good?
  5. Feb 26, 2016 #4
    Usually the hardest thing in stories like that is finding a way to connect to the reader. A lot of scifi authors focus too much on what's happening and not enough with the emotions and personalities of the characters. In a far off, futuristic world, things may seem strange to us and that's exciting at first, but without some human connection, it's unfamiliar.
  6. Feb 26, 2016 #5


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    As I've been through with all five parts of Adam's Hitchhiker I've read other stories from him. I found that it wasn't the sci-fi world that fascinated me, it's been the author!
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2016
  7. Feb 26, 2016 #6
    • Excellent plot, with unanticipated twists
    • Believable characters
    • Intriguing sf concepts that are either novel, or presented in a novel way
    • Fluent writing
  8. Feb 26, 2016 #7
    Buy Ben Bova's book The Craft of Writing Science Fiction that Sells. That book will not only answer your question, but help you with your plot and character creation. It is excellent.

    The other book worth buying is Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer.
  9. Feb 26, 2016 #8
    Beautiful! That's the kind of answer I expected !

    Well,Me too.I have read the harry potter series thrice but I finally realised that it was the author who fascinated me to read it and not the story itself.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 27, 2016
  10. Feb 27, 2016 #9


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    Honestly the Sci-Fi genre isn't really any different than other genres when it comes down to what makes a story a good one. Things like "good characters", "good plot with unanticipated twists", and "interesting concepts" are essentially universal. The only real difference is in how you make your story meet those criteria. In addition, the genre is popular enough and broad enough to allow almost any variation in a story's content, pacing, focus, etc. Everything from action-packed thrillers to slow, thoughtful literary stories can be done.

    That's usually because the middle of the story isn't paced correctly or it doesn't connect the beginning and end of the story well. The beginning and the end of a story are generally the easiest to write. It's that big, bulky middle that makes authors pull their hair out in frustration.

    Indeed. Bland characters are like bland soup. They may fill you up, but you'll probably never go back to that restaurant. But be careful. Making readers have a connection to a character doesn't require you to examine their every thought.
  11. Apr 22, 2016 #10
    Any story must have human interest. The writer needs to be able to tell a story. If I do not care about the characters the plot doesn't matter. Personally i like Cinderella stories such as Old Man's War, Harry Potter, or the Matrix.
  12. Apr 23, 2016 #11
    Could we, just once in a while, have aliens that don't think like humans with rubber appliques stuck to their foreheads?
  13. Aug 22, 2016 #12
    I usually expect boredom from sci fi. That's why I never had an interest. Same for any other literary genre revolving around non-literary motifs.
  14. Aug 22, 2016 #13
    You know what bored me? Ivanhoe. No Russians, no gardening.
  15. Aug 22, 2016 #14

    Stephen Tashi

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    But on the other hand, a story about aliens (or people) is more effective if we can recognize something familiar about them that we like or despise.

    For example, the sensation of horror at being infested by parasites is familiar. So a science fiction plot like that of the film Alien revolves around a familiar fear.

    It would be an interesting literary exercise to write a story about situations and beings that would seem completely unfamiliar to people, but how would that "connect" with the reader ? An character (alien or otherwise) that exaggerates some familiar human trait ( aggression, objectivity, humor etc.) is a familiar literary device. It isn't necessarily trite to use it.
  16. Aug 23, 2016 #15
    I can suggest Space Battleship Yamato (the movie) at least it was aware about Newtonian dynamics as well.

    Otherwise instead of human like aliens, i rather want to make human cultures so different (also racism between different factions whose shape altered by different gravity)

    I think all kind of novel needs good characters, a plot without too much holes and boredom, etc, however SF also need good worldbuilding, and give the necessary info to the readers while avoid big infoblocks, conversations that smell they were directed to the reader.
  17. Aug 23, 2016 #16
    Hal Clement's Needle is about a police officer who chases a criminal to Earth. Neither of them are exactly Teddy Ruxpin. They're from a race of intelligent amoebas. One of the more original ideas on aliens, written in 1950. And "the alien Fithp resemble man-sized elephants with multiple prehensile trunks" in Niven and Pournelle's Footfall from 1985.

    I like my aliens alien.
  18. Sep 8, 2016 #17
    I can only tell you what I like in a story which may be very different from someone else. Personally, I don't care if the story uses real world physics or "yet to be discovered" physics, or even false physics, just so long as it is consistent about it. An author's world is THEIR world and they are essentially God in that universe. That is the first thing I have to accept in order to enjoy a story. It would for example, be very hard to enjoy a fantasy novel if you can't accept the use of magic within that universe. But for some reason, sci-fi is held to a different standard and some feel that the science used HAS to be real world, when it really doesn't. But I digress, to me a story is engaging for many reasons. An element of mystery of course. A focal point is also important to me, having a few sub-plots is fine, but there has to be a main thread of progression. I get bored with novels that have no definable direction and try to tell too many things with the same importance. I also like to create the world of the story in my head, so I dislike stories that go into too much detail about how things appear, just give me a general idea so I can fill in the rest myself. What really kills it for me however is logic errors, logic is one of those things, like mathematics that is immutable, no author can make 1+1=3 even if they are God of their domain.
  19. Sep 9, 2016 #18
    How do you mean, how things appear? Describe the environment in details is bad?
  20. Sep 9, 2016 #19
    To me personally, yes, too much detail destroys my own interpretation of the scene. But like I said, that's just me.

    Edit: But to be clear, I'm talking about details superfluous to the plot. Essential details of course need to be there. Some authors may for example note the colour of a car or how tall a one-off character is. Unless those details are important to the plot, I feel they are unnecessary. I've read novels where a character who appears briefly just once in the entire novel is described in so much detail it takes up maybe a quarter of a page, to me that tends to get tedious.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2016
  21. Sep 9, 2016 #20

    Stephen Tashi

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    I agree in the sense that I don't like to read long paragraphs that are simply descriptions of the environment -be it the scenery or the culture or the politics. I don't mind details appearing as ingredients of "the action".

    The same applies to non-science fiction novels. If a detective story is set in Minneapolis, I don't want to read long passages that prove to residents of Minneapolis that the author knows Minneapolis. I've never been there and what I'm interested in is the story, not Minneapolis.

    In another thread on the forum, someone suggested that John D. Macdonald was good writer. Picking a title at random, I bought "The Girl In The Plain Brown Wrapper". I read about 10 pages of it. It told a lot about boats. It appears John D. Macdonald knows all about them. I do not. If I did want to know about boats, I'd buy a book about boats. When i read a mystery story, I expect a mystery.

    I can see that a person who knows about boats could read those 10 pages and get the satisfaction of saying to himself "Ah, yes, I know exactly what you're talking about. I had boat like that once." A person who knows all about Minneapolis could read a long description of a street in Minneapolis and say "I remember that. But now they've built that Walmart where the drive-in used to be." There might be some way to appealing to limited audiences in science fiction by giving detailed descriptions if you were describing something the audience already knew about - perhaps the "world" of a computer game or another well know science fiction world like the setting of "Star Trek".
  22. Sep 11, 2016 #21
    When it comes to concepts within a sci-fi story what I look for is a certain elegance. And I freely admit that my notion of elegance is hard to describe. I think of Heinlein's Line Marriages in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, where the Lunies come to (what is to us) an unorthodox solution to a particular problem. Basically I see all the elements of a concept, both the positive and negative arranged in a balance like a ballerina on her toes. I came at this question half-baked, I need to give it some more that and get back to you.
  23. Sep 12, 2016 #22
    I wonder what can be the good solutions for giving information about the world?
    For example i wrote : the pub was filled with unemployed people and nomads.
    I felt that i have to explain, why people are nomadic...
    But i got from multiple readers that i narrate to much, what is this nomad thing, what is centrifugal "gravity", why people wear hats on asteroid colony etc...
    I cant just introduce a newby every times who needs lecture about the world.
    There were cases, where people prepared to another planet, then they could talk about, why people are so shameless there for example, one reader also disliked it, that is unrelated to the plot, why my characters talking so much about the world instead of themselves.
  24. Sep 12, 2016 #23
    You are not going to please all the people all the time. If you ever take a fiction writing class, and have to listen to criticism of your work, it should occur to you that 80-90% of the criticism you receive comes down to: "...This isn't how I would have done it.", a criticism that should have very little effect on what you're doing or how you're doing it.

    The world your characters live in is themselves. If you go down to a coffee shop and listen in on a conversation of the merits of Bernie over The Donald...you don't think those people are not ultimately talking about themselves?

    Finally, it should be pointed out the literary criticism is S & M behavior with some people. The idea is that it is much more satisfying to give it than receive it.
  25. Sep 12, 2016 #24
    I have yet to read a novel where the character buys a soda from a machine and the author gives us complete details as to how the machine was constructed, what technology was needed to allow the purchaser to buy it with plastic and a concise examination of the materials involved including descriptions of the mining (or other means of production) of the materials involved in the making, as well as a discussion of the socio-economic conditions that lead to that machine being in that spot and that person having a need to be there at that point in time as well as the physiological basis for the need for sugary drinks...


    Make it feel like it's a normal part of day-to-day life and keep the flow of the novel going.
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