Science Fiction Writing Styleguide
Good writing is worth celebrating. This page organizes a collection of writing lessons gleaned from speculative fiction stories. From metaphors to character arc, no subject is too large or small.
- micro paragraph and sentence level craft.
- meso techniques for linking discrete sections of a story.
- macro approaches to build a cohesive story.
Notes on sentence and inter-sentence style. Finishing touches, like similes and word choice, happen at the micro level.
- If you would like to add pizzazz to a dialogue tag, don’t change those speech act verbs. Instead, consider changing the noun/pronoun. >>>
- Be creative and concise. >>>
Similes & Metaphors
A metaphor is an opportunity to draw the reader’s attention to something. Use them to pick out a detail that may be useful later.
- Extended the metaphor to hammer home a point. >>>
- Keep your similes consistent with the story’s point of view. >>>
- Use the passive voice when a character lacks agency in a scene. >>>
Notes on how different sections of the story support each other. This section also examines the transitions between sections (analepses, prolepses, scene breaks, et al).
- Take your opening paragraphs seriously—do more than just set the scene. >>>
- Use character differences to build tension quickly. >>>
No story can survive on dialogue and action alone. The reader needs to have a world in their mind’s eye before the writer can start to fill that world with witty starship captains and enigmatic aliens.
- Break up long descriptions of setting by interweaving it with action. >>>
A speculative story’s plot often springs from a novel idea: future technologies, strange natural events, etc. The writer must make extra efforts to describe these ideas clearly without boring the reader.
Sometimes, the best way to add a block of description to a scene is to interrupt the main narrative with a flashback (or flashforward). Flashbacks are a familiar device, and hiding the exposition within one is often more palatable to readers than an unclear interruption of indeterminable length.
- Use external analepses to build context around the main narrative. >>>
- Be inventive with the structure of flashbacks. >>>
- Flash forwards must have clear beginnings and ends. A smooth transition may take several sentences. >>>
These are patterns that apply to each part of a story or to the story itself as a unit.
- Deepen the tragedy or satisfaction of a reversal by hinting at a bright future ahead of the protagonist that she will never reach. >>>