2016-05-15

Writer - Jack of All Trades

Update
My wife is now about 1/3 of the way through proofing Dragonverse Origins. I am up to almost 5,500 words on PeaceKeeper 3. I'm debating if I should name it PK3 or Peacekeeper - Pathogen. Picking a title is not as easy as one would think!

Congratulations to all the recent Nebula winners from last night. I admit, I have no clue who won and it wouldn't matter much anyway because I simply can't remember names very well. Based on what I read on Twitter this morning, I think at least one of them will be coming to Launch Pad this year.

Writer -- Jack of All Trades
Being a writer, whether it be romance, non-fiction, horror, or science fiction, means you are equipped with a number of talents. All writers share the basics: The ability to tell a story in a way that others find compelling; A decent grasp of the English language; The perseverance to finish writing a novel once you start; The desire to put the story that's in your head into a form that others can enjoy. These are pretty basic traits. But being a writer is far more than just putting words down on paper!

I write science fiction and so I will focus my discussion about that particular field. Science fiction readers are a very educated bunch and if you write science fiction you had better get your facts straight. It takes more than watching Star Trek or a wild imagination to write good science fiction. You have to become a veritable jack of all trades if you want to do it right.

I am 5,000 words into PK3 and I'm spending half my writing time doing research. Research - you ask? It's all made up! It's in your head! Why do you need to do any research? I'm glad you asked.

The book begins with an Omel (an alien race) deep inside a cavern doing research. I've been inside a cavern but that was many years ago. This particular one is located in Indiana and I've never been there. I found a map of the cavern system online and used that as a start. I've also sent an email to the address I found online asking them for some details. I've not yet received a response but if and when I do I will need to go back and alter my educated guesses.

That was the easy part. I mentioned an Omel. One of the main thrusts of this particular book is to delve into more detail about what it might be like to live in an alien society. For this, I need to create the Omel -- I need to play God. I start with building their homeworld. For this, I need to know a little bit about cosmology. The internet helps, but I've also reached out to an astronomer friend of mine to make sure I have it right.

Now that the planet has been built and I know as much about it as possible, I can begin to create the Omel. Instead of just describing how they look, I need to delve deeper into their culture. What is their history? What sort of religious beliefs do they have? What do they like to eat? Do they have any strange cultural beliefs? Taboos? The list goes on.

So how do you create an entire alien culture when the only culture you know about is the one you grew up in? Earth is a very diverse planet and it is filled with hundreds of diverse cultures. Finding out about them takes a huge amount of research. People often forget that what we believe in and what is common in our culture can be viewed as very strange by someone else on this planet. The purpose of the research is not to turn an odd Earth custom into an alien one, but to expand your mind so you can think of how another people living on another planet might behave.

Another thing that must be kept in mind when writing science fiction is the habit we humans have of lumping things together. Just as all humans are not alike, aliens should be portrayed as having different cultures of their own. That can quickly complicate your writing, but it makes it richer and more realistic.

I've also had to learn a little about medical procedures and how our bodies function. Remember, one of the possible titles for this new book is Peacekeeper - Pathogen. I have consulted with a microbiologist as well as a friend in the medical profession to clear up a few questions I've had. The internet is a big help but there are times when speaking directly to a person gives better results.

Finally, there's the science. I've devoted a few past posts on keeping the science real. This is science fiction but I can't violate the laws of nature without good reason. I have a smattering of knowledge in electonics, computer science, astronomy, physics (both nuclear and classical), cosmology, and a few others. I'm familiar with Einstien's equations concerning relativity. All of this knowledge is used to keep the science in my books as real as possible.

To be a good writer, you must be a jack of all trades. This requires dedication and a huge amount of research as well as an active imagination combined with the ability to put it all together into a story that others can enjoy. It's a lot of work at times and the rewards might not always show up in the form of a paycheck, but it's a wonderful profession to be in.