As writers we tend to live in our imagination. There it is simple, the world and our characters as plain as day; we can see it as if we were watching a movie. Then, excitedly we sit down in front of our computer to write it all down for everyone else to get to experience with us. A novel is born.
Wait, though. How do we as writers make that story leave our imagination and transfer it to words that then can leave that paper and come back to life entangled in our reader’s imagination?
I assure you, it’s much, much easier than it sounds.
Science fiction first requires you decided on your science. What you can envision and how far out you intend for the vision to go. Then you have to build a world which feels real to your characters and later to your readers.
After all that you have to keep track of everything or in later books you may include something, forget something or refer to something differently than in your original book. I wrote, then forgot things, then learned; now I file. Keeping a file folder or even a digital folder of these things is the way I stay organized.
Think about it this way, if wrote about a coffee pot on the counter you can easily picture what I am talking about. However, lets say I want to use a replicator for storage. Now you I to somewhere in the book explain how it works while keeping the flow of the story going. That comes back to deciding how I am going to present my science. I can use tried and true references from other science fiction or I can use the idea partially and alter it to fit more along the lines of science I have put forth in the book itself.
All this said I still have to convince you the reader that what I put on the pages is a real possibility. Not by actually sticking to hard science but by making it believable.
It is the same for places. They are all made up. At least in my book. They all exist in space somewhere we have never been and once more I am forced to figure out a way to explain something about this place while not interrupting the flow of the story. Think of it like this, if I am writing a love story and I say it is a beautiful spring day in Paris, I don’t have to say anything else. You, the reader, gets the picture. Short and sweet. Therefore, I can move right on to the gist of the scene without much enhancement. But, I am not able to do that with a place no one has seen or heard of, because it does not exist. Nor am I able to make a comparison to Paris or anywhere else you the reader can relate to because Paris in my book does not exist at this time.
As you can see what is rather simple and straight forward in a story in our time, whether a love story, crime, thriller, political or otherwise referencing to what a reader is familiar with works, whereas in science fiction it is not so viable. Worse yet, as the builder of my world, sometimes I am so familiar with it I forget the reader is not and I have to check for when I reference things the reader might not have an idea about.
Yet, I believe my readers to be smart enough to figure out things referenced over and over so I spend little time explaining them. Like the word “turn” in my book. The use of it depicting the word “day” is easy enough once you get in a chapter or two and understand its exact meaning and reference. In those cases I do not elaborate the meaning, you the readers will get it. Leaving me able to move on. Some parts of creating the world and people are easier, others are more difficult and need more explanation.
You never realize these things when you start out with just an awesome idea that you want to share. It’s about the learning to share it so it can be experienced in the way you envisioned it. Or else how would anyone ever see how powerful and beautiful the story is?