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Chris Graham Q&A: How to Write a Science Fiction Story

In this guest post, Chris Graham, the author of Death & Taxxis, will be sharing his secrets on writing a science fiction novel, and answering questions such as makes a good sci-fi story, what writers should avoid, how do you spice things up and keep the plot pacey, and more!

To read our full interview with Chris, click here!

What makes for a good science fiction story?

For me, it’s all about the big secret. The thing looming over the entire story, like when you didn’t know harry was a wizard or Luke was a Jedi. That’s my favorite bit when the innocence is shattered and a new world is revealed. Gets me every time.

How do you get started as a science fiction author, where do you begin? 

When I was a kid, maybe 11 or 12 years old, I got my hands on my first comic book, and it blew my mind. I grew up a bit religious and conservative, so I had never seen anything like that up to that point. I probably started making up stories within hours. I got into tabletop roleplaying and creating my own games, leading to writing short stories and books. I have always wanted to be a fantasy science fiction author.

What should a writer avoid when writing science fiction?

Avoid the dangerous pitfall of procrastination. Plans are necessary but not as important as doing the work. Science fiction can only be born when the words are on the page.

How do you build characters in a science fiction story?

Many of my characters are based on people I know in real life. Not that they are carbon copies, but I use some of the traits I love about them projected into a fictional character. Then I add a story or environmentally required traits and quirks to flesh out a character. I enjoy people with bold personalities, and I hope that comes across in my characters. The little pieces of the people I love. Especially in the villains.

How do you incorporate the “science” in the book?

Even when writing something that uses magic, I base it on known physics. Understanding the system you are trying to enhance or defy with your writing is essential. It can act as a rope in a world where you can do and create whatever you like. Having that grounding set of rules is vital even when you are smashing them.

How do you “worldbuild”?

I am what the writing world calls a Pantser, which means I do things by the seat of my pants. I only know what will happen once I stand in the scene and build it up from there. Sometimes it takes version after version until I create something with the detail I’m looking for. Once I have that first piece, where I can see something there. Something that could be an exciting world. Then I grow it from there, using that piece as a heart.

How do you keep the plot pacey?

It’s important to remember that you are writing something to share. I like to read my work repeatedly when I’m writing and editing. Sometimes I take time away to get fresh eyes and see it from someone else’s perspective. So I can write the things I enjoy reading as often as possible.

What do readers look for in science fiction books?

It all comes down to a good story. A good story makes people think or feel something deeper than the pages they are reading. Readers are looking to be entertained and inspired. That’s how authors make authors, passing the fire.

Your final advice.

It’s important to tell the stories that you want to tell. No matter what the market says or an agent says. The first person you write your story for is you; that fan is just as important as any other. The stories you want to read might only exist once you write them. Thanks for having me.