For the past few blogs I’ve been writing about what we look for when reviewing manuscripts for various genres. This weeks I want to tackle Science Fiction and Fantasy. I’m putting them together in the same blog because, while the genres are very different, often what I look for is not.
- Make your worlds interesting. Often when writing science fiction and fantasy you are creating a new world (the exceptions being urban and paranormal fantasy, which is more about mythical creatures living in our world in the present or past). Does the reader know all the details they need to about the spaceship your characters are traveling in and the planet they are visiting? Can the reader visualize the creatures (mythical or not) in you work? Can the reader get a sense of how scary the “badlands” in your fantasy novels are from the description you’ve given? A world that has not adequately described to your readers will be uninteresting.
- Have fun with characters. What I really mean here is that you can have a lot of fun when developing your characters because they don’t need to be human or possess standard human traits. In The King’s Tournament, a fantasy novel by John Yeo currently under contract with Divertir, “Balor the Barbarian” speaks about himself in the third person, throws a cow through the Duke’s window to pay his taxes, and proves he not a complete ass when he tells one character how to beat another in battle. A Twist of Fate by Mark Johnson relies heavily on the use of magic in a world where several of the characters are demigods. Some authors overlook developing their characters in as much detail as their worlds when writing science fiction and fantasy. This is a mistake, because two-dimensional characters make uninteresting books.
- Have fun with science. What color would the skin of a creature be if it lived in a predominantly methane atmosphere where the respiration of oxygen did not occur? You can have a lot of fun with science, even if your book is a fantasy novel. In Kindar’s Cure, by Michelle Hauck, the main character is afflicted with a rare disease and finding a new source of a metal ore is the secret to saving the kingdom. Michelle’s book also relies heavily on magic, which some would claim is just science we have not discovered yet. In one of our upcoming book, Harold and the Purple Wormhole by Richard Mellinger, the “wizard” is a man from the future who creates items he claims to be magical.
- The basic laws of physics must still apply. An object falling towards a large mass (like a planet) will ultimately crash into it because of gravity unless the object is diverted. An object cannot travel faster than the speed of light without either finding a way to turn it into pure energy and back (which would still only allow travel at the speed of light), finding a way to shield the object so it is not converted into pure energy when it hits the speed of light, or creating a “fold” in the space-time continuum that can be used to “shorten” the distance between two locations. Having things happen in your manuscript that readers know can’t happen (or more precisely that readers can’t believe are possible) is the fastest way to lose a readers in either of these genres.
Whether you are writing science fiction or fantasy, the details you provide readers really are critical and could be the difference between an exciting book and one that never finds a publisher.