Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rules for Writing SFR

Good morning, Brigaders! I'm going to make this quick because I've only had one cup of coffee so far and I don't want to sound incoherent. Since my next book, Close Contact is scheduled for release on June eight, I've been asked to do a craft or industry blog for FF&P chapter of RWA on June tenth. My topic will be Rules for Writing SFR. I have a few rules of my own, but I'm wondering what rules you, personally follow in your stories. If I use them in the blog, you'll be given credit and your book mentioned.


  1. Hi!

    My rules are short:


    SF that is complete (no "oops we forgot to save the world" once the sex starts)

    No "dumbing down" of the science or worldbuilding.

  2. Hi Anna,

    Thanks for the comment. Funny, because my #1 rule is that you don't have to be a rocket science to write SFR. There are plenty of SF books that have no advanced technology in them at all. Lois McMasters Bujold's Sharing Knife series comes to mind. I think the main thing you need to do is know your world and be consistent.

  3. I hates rules! I hates them, my precioussss. Okay, one I like-

    Follow no rule off a cliff.

  4. Kimber An,

    I have to agree with you. I've been known to break rules just because someone told me I couldn't. So I did, then went "neener neener." But...and there's always a but, isn't there?...some rules *can't* be broken if you want a decent story, and they cross all genres. Things like character arcs and motivation and conflict. And then there's the one that's specific to SFR: questioning authority. Whether the story is high tech or no tech, this questioning has become the hallmark of SF in one way or another.

    That's my take it, anyway. I'd love to hear others opinions.

  5. If I had to pick a rule, I'd say characters first--because it's romance, after all. Some science fiction can get away with world first, or tech first, (in emphasis, not chronology) but SFR is romance. The characters have to be of primary importance.

    After them, just go wild. :-)


  6. I certainly agree about the characters, Frances. If the reader can't relate to the characters in a romance, they're just going to close the book.

    As for SF technology I always remember a quote by Isaac Asimov when dealing with such items "say what it does, but don't try to describe how it does it." (I may have slightly misquoted him but that's the gist of it.) Very sound advice I think.

  7. Rules? We don't need no stinkin' rules! I'm not fond of rules, I like to experiment, but, yes, there are certain things that the reader expects. I suppose as a reader and a writer I want:
    ~ well-developed characters and believable conflict between them
    ~ consistent rules for whatever world you've built (don't world build and then make exceptions for plot convenience!)
    ~ science that means something - I don't need high brow physics or complex astro-navigation ins all my SF. I adore anthropology/sociology based SF as well. But it needs to be thoughtful - it needs to have a point of some sort.
    ~ happy, at least for now, for the principles

  8. My one rule other than those mentioned above is that the technology needs to advance the story/heighten the conflict not just glommed on to make it a SciFi novel.

  9. My one rule that I try to write by is, I have to believe it is possible. I'm not going to convince anyone it is possible if I can't believe it is possible. That goes for both the science and the romance.

  10. Thanks for the great responses, everyone! I appreciate the thoughts and ideas.

  11. Great discussion. :) I tend to break rules if it works for the story and if, like Jess said, the story dynamics work for me.

    I tend to disregard "don't" rules. Don't start the story with the MC waking up. Don't use a prologue. If it suits the story, I'm going to do it. (I ain't skeert of no rules.)

    As for technology, my characters usually take it for granted, like we'd take an iPod or TomTom for granted, so I'm in the "just show me what it does, don't tell me how it does it" camp there.

  12. I'm not a rule follower BUT making up names that are impossible to pronounce let alone keep in your head has to be up there. It's a real issue for me reading so I make sure I make up names that are simple. Errr - could that be why I named my 'alien' Three?

  13. Hi! I agree you don't need to be a rocket scientist to write SFR. Goodness knows I'm not one! LOL. I just want what tech there is to read like it was researched or at least have that part of the plot finished.

  14. Hi Katherine!

    I say Research your background and then do a lot of great world building to fit your story's plot is my suggestion.

    Agreed, you don't have to explain every techy thing in detail, but it sure helps if you know what it your characters are doing with those tech things!

    I'm not real big on rules either. We here at SFRB and many SFR authors are the experimenters, trendsetters and probably the biggest rule breakers when it comes to penning science fiction romance!

    I have a blog tour coming up soon too, and I'm working on an article about my own personal experience as a SFR author and how I go about doing it, but for me it isn't really rules, just my take.

    Good luck! I hope you get some good info for you own article!

  15. So we're clear, most of the rules I write by are *my* rules and therefore apply only to me. The big one I WISH applied to everyone (George Lucas, I'm looking at YOU) is: Once you've established your rules, don't pretend you get to go backward in the timeline and explain to me why you're @&%(ing those rules up. Eh-hem. Sorry. My rules for me: Hero and heroine are equals - maybe not in rank, maybe not in physical ability, but what one lacks in one area, he or she must make up for elsewhere. I can't care about them otherwise. Other than that, if *I* don't think it's fun, no one else will either. Maybe that's the best rule.

  16. I believe rules are changed for each book. But I follow a rule of using no unknown natural phenomena, with the exception of (fasten light travel). My stories use mundane technology, no magic, no claims that my technology will work with something not yet discovers.
    I see SFR as a manage a trois between hero, heroine, and technology. To make the story work as both science fiction and romance all three must be developed plausibly and with depth.
    Anyway sticking to my rules about using the mundane rules of science leads me in interesting directions. Solving a technical problem often has led to writing some of my best love scenes.

    Bujold's Sharing Knife very definitely uses technology in a way I wish to emulate. The technology is well developed and causes the relationship. In the Sharing Knife, the central piece of technology is the sharing knife. Because the world is rural we think of this technology as magic but the people who use it consider it to be technology. Calling a technology advanced or primative is subjective, depending on the point of view of the person making the judgement.


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