Sci-fi novella: How to write?
May 19, 2020 at 1:30 pm #112801
K, so I have this idea for a sci-fi piece that I’m thinking is gonna be a novella. Thing is, there’s quite a lot of stuff that the readers need to understand before the story makes sense. Before the story really even “starts”. Cause it’s sci-fi. And I’m a little unsure how to go about giving the readers the info they need without info-dumping, ya know? I could go along and slowly feed them bits and pieces here and there, but like I said, they kinda need to know things before I even introduce my MC.
Thoughts…? Ideas? Suggestions? Anything?
(I can give a summary of the plot if that would be useful but it’ll take me a little bit to write it up.)
“Enough! Be quiet! I can’t hear myself think! I can’t hear my teeth chatter!"May 26, 2020 at 5:26 pm #113797Jenna Terese@jenwriter17
@anne_the_noob14 Well, somebody else correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to have the reader know absolutely everything before the story actually starts. I would suggest just trying to weave it into the story, describing different things of the world as the characters interact with them.
"If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write." -Martin Luther
www.jennaterese.comMay 27, 2020 at 12:49 pm #113876
@jenwriter17 *nods* Let me give you a summary of the plot real quick…
MC lives in a country where every child, at birth, has some sensors and a receptor surgically implanted in his brain and shoulder, respectively. The point of this is to sense when the person is feeling a heightened level of emotion (very sad, very happy, etc.), and give the person a shock through the receptor. (The sensors are turned on when the child is about 8, or deemed old enough to have reasonable control over his emotions, so it’s not like there are three-month-old babies getting a shock every time they cry.) After a while, the sensors are turned off because the person’s brain has essentially rewired itself to not feel much emotion.
The reasoning behind all this is rather simple; studies done by some scientists have shown that people who are very emotional have a greater chance to die early, so the officials decided that they’ll “Pavlov” the citizens to not be emotional, consequently lengthening their lifespans.
The story starts by introducing MC, who, like everyone else, is essentially just a shell of a person without emotion. He’s had his sensors turned off for about five years. We learn about his job, who he is, etc. We learn that he’s maybe not quite as much of a “shell” as everyone else is, and we start to feel sorry for him because of some things he’s dealing with. At some point, he goes on a business trip overseas and meets this woman at whatever meeting he went to. They become friends, or at least as close to friends as you can be when one person has as much emotion and feelings as a cloudy winter sky.
Then MC starts slowly “thawing”, and falls in love with the woman. But he starts getting sick. And the deeper in love he falls, the sicker he gets. (I don’t have this part completely plotted out yet.) He visits doctor after doctor, and they’re all stumped. One of the doctors tells him that he has something poisoning his blood. Finally, he realizes that it has to do with the sensors and the receptor. Even though the sensors have been off for five years, they still somehow managed to pick up on the steadily growing trickle of emotion, and sent a very weak signal to the receptor, which in turn didn’t have enough signal to give a shock, but stored the signals up. Then when the “memory” was filled up, the receptor started leaking some sort of acid or battery juice or whatever (I need to think about this a bit more, obviously.), slowly poisoning MC.
And that’s where I’ve gotten so far. So my problem (if it is a problem) is, I need the readers to know everything in the first two paragraphs, right? Or are there some things there that they can find out later on?
(That ended up being way longer than I intended lol my bad)
“Enough! Be quiet! I can’t hear myself think! I can’t hear my teeth chatter!"May 27, 2020 at 2:26 pm #113887
@anne_the_noob14 – WOW what a super cool premise! 😀 Seriously, I want to read that story NOW.
*ahem* My first instinct, like what @jenwriter17 said, is that the reader doesn’t need to know all that information up front. In fact I think it’s better that they don’t, a better hook, because it’s mysterious when the MC talks/thinks/references things about his life that the reader doesn’t yet know or completely understand. These are clues to a mystery. And mystery is such a delicious feeling. The reader will want to hungrily read on and on and on until they figure it out, and by then they’re almost guaranteed to finish the whole book, and maybe even read it again.
Of course, you’re not just going to tell them nothing. That’s what summaries are for. In this case, your summary is going to have something about a world where people don’t experience emotion. Instantly the reader is going to wonder why, so beginning the quest to figure it out.
Also, random question. Is this going to be written in 1st person?
Anyways, I hope this was helpful in some way! (and actually made sense, lol.) And if you ever post anything more about this story or need help with anything else, please, please, please tag me. I am super intrigued.
"Moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars." ~ J.R.R. TolkienMay 27, 2020 at 4:10 pm #113893
@elisha-starquill Why thank you!! 😀 I’ll have to tag you when I have it written and I post a snippet or two 😉
*nods* Right. Got it. So this is where that little blurb on the inside of the jacket or on the back of the cover comes in handy 😀
That’s a good question… And I think it’s gonna be in 3rd person, because I don’t know if I can get inside the MCs head well enough to write it in 1st, with all the thoughts and all.
And yes! Very helpful! I’ll be thinking about how I’m gonna go about feeding the reader bits along the way, and what all I can tell them through other ways than info dumps lol. And I’ll be figuring out a good summary. Yes! I shall certainly tag you!!
(Just curious, what were your thoughts on the plot, from a writer standpoint? Did it seem relatively conceivable and something that you could read without going “Psh, yeah like that could happen”? Like I know it’s sci-fi, but the point of sci-fi is to be at least somewhat believable… Were there any places that you’d say need more thought? Cause for real, what I wrote in that plot summary is literally everything I know so far. Or any places you can tell me “make sure you think about such-and-such” or “think about what question/issue this will bring up”?)
“Enough! Be quiet! I can’t hear myself think! I can’t hear my teeth chatter!"May 27, 2020 at 7:16 pm #113903
@anne_the_noob14 – Mm, not that I have anything against 3rd person (and actually I’m extremely biased towards 1st person, so take this statement with a grain of salt xD) but I think this story would be interesting in 1st person. It might be harder to write and get in the zone of, but it’d be super cool to see what the thoughts of a non-emotional person are like. *shrug*
Anyways, a few things that stood out to me, when I re-read the plot-thingy in greater detail:
1. This is extremely nit-picky, but using the words ‘sensor’ and ‘receptor’ was a bit confusing. Definition-wise, a sensor is a device that detects or senses heat, light, sound, motion, etc., and then reacts to it in a particular way. A receptor is usually used in biology, for a nerve ending that senses changes in light, temperature, pressure, etc., and causes the body to react in a particular way. So I can understand that the sensor on the shoulder is like a metal/device thing you can see, but I don’t think receptor is the right term. Another sensor in the brain, maybe, connected to the amygdala (the part of the brain that processes emotion) that detects emotion and sends a signal to the other sensor in the shoulder to shock them (also, does the shoulder-sensor shock them or does the amygdala-sensor somehow send a message to the nervous system to register a shock-like pain?)
2. You said someone only gets shocked for heightened emotion. Does that mean people can still experience ‘lesser’ emotions, or is the shock so painful during extremely happy/sad times that the person is basically afraid to feel, so they eventually just stop having those emotions? Training the brain not to process emotions because of the pain (which will have to be excruciating) that will inevitably come? I think that’s what you meant by rewiring.
3. The scientists figured out that very emotional people died younger. If that’s the case, I think it’s a bit extreme for the government or whatever it is to go all out with the sensor thingies and ‘kill’ everyone’s emotions. But it would be much more plausible if, for some reason, the scientists discovered that even just a normal person’s emotions rapidly shorten their life. Oooh, plot twist (not to write the story for you, I’m just spewing ideas out here, lol) what if the person in charge of this whole thing (who could seem like a bad guy, maybe) had such a traumatizing experience that he or she made that whole discovery thing up as an excuse to stop everyone from experiencing emotions, even happy ones, so they don’t suffer the same way he or she did?
As for the believability, yes, I think it’s in the area of sci-fi reason (not that I’m an expert on sci-fi, or anything really. xD) Of course you’ll have to think about the acid-battery-leak thingy, but I believe you can figure it out. 😉 And as for the man falling in love, that’s certainly possible. It’s not as if his amygdala was ripped out, lol. And he’s the MC. He can be special.
(sorry for the length of that xD – I’m a bit of a brain-nerd and want to study cognitive science one day. Which is why this whole concept is so fascinating to me.)
"Moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars." ~ J.R.R. TolkienMay 28, 2020 at 12:56 am #113926
Ah! Look at the marvelously long comments!! Which I mean in a very non-sarcastic way! I just skimmed over them now, and I’ll have to take time tomorrow to actually read through and think about them fully, but I saw several things that looked very helpful. 😀
“Enough! Be quiet! I can’t hear myself think! I can’t hear my teeth chatter!"May 28, 2020 at 11:17 am #113954
@elisha-starquill M’kay, so I’m reading over your comments now…
I agree that it’d be interesting in 1st person 😀 And I’m still giving serious thought to trying it… So we’ll see XD
Ah yes… I wasn’t sure quite how to refer to them, so I used those terms to make it easier for myself to know what I was talking about lol. So you’re saying have two sensors; one to sense the emotion, and the other to sense the one sensing emotion, if that makes sense? *nods* And that’s a good question. I actually hadn’t thought about it sending a message to the nervous system… I was having the sensor give like an electrical shock of sorts. But that’s something I can be thinking about…
Yes, they can still feel lesser emotions without being shocked; but also yes, they become afraid to feel emotion at all. *nods* Like when I was a kid, I burned my wrist on a cookie sheet, and ever since then, I’ve been incredibly cautious when making cookies that I don’t do it again. (That’s a much milder example, but you get the point lol.)
Ah, good point. *frowns thoughtfully* Ooh, I like that idea! With the person who made up the whole thing… Or maybe mix that in with my first idea. And the scientists maybe brought up the point you did about if only very emotional people have a shorter life it seems extreme to do the sensor things, but then the (let’s call him the emperor just for a minute) emperor makes up this thing about “oh well such-and-such happened”… no wait. Aughhh. That doesn’t work D: Okok but I’ll think about this and see what I can come up with.
This is incredibly helpful lol thank you so much!! 😀
Oh, and good! Yeah, that’s the main part I’m kinda not sure about, but I can make something work 😛
(Oh, don’t apologize! 😀 I like long comments! And ooh, neat!)
“Enough! Be quiet! I can’t hear myself think! I can’t hear my teeth chatter!"May 29, 2020 at 3:25 pm #114064
@anne_the_noob14 – Yay, I’m glad that was helpful! Let me know if you need anything else. 😉
"Moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars." ~ J.R.R. TolkienJune 5, 2020 at 4:15 pm #114395Jenna Terese@jenwriter17
@anne_the_noob14 Yeah, your story does sound really cool! 😀
"If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write." -Martin Luther
www.jennaterese.comJune 5, 2020 at 5:53 pm #114402
@jenwriter17 Thank you! 😀
“Enough! Be quiet! I can’t hear myself think! I can’t hear my teeth chatter!"July 30, 2020 at 9:05 pm #117196JasonKarpf@jasonkarpf
I agree with writing this in first person. As MC pushes through the emotional barriers, he will learn more and so will the reader. The effect of manipulating emotions will be more powerful for the reader. Think about why the society promoted the emotion-dampening technology. There should be a dark reason, or some faction that has been able to hack and exploit it. About backstory…I just signed a book deal for a Christian sci-fi novel, Brimstone 1. I developed it from a short story. When I was expanding it, I first thought a prologue chapter was necessary, so I wrote it. Then I decided I need to unfold the past events more gradually. That said, writing the chapter was very helpful for developing my overall story.August 4, 2020 at 8:24 pm #117516
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