Musings on the Art of Writing

As a child, I discovered fantastic worlds created in books. When I began writing about the worlds of my own imagination, I realized how hard authors work to set their characters free to live for our enjoyment. This blog will explore that weird and wonderful process.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Too Much Science

Due to my illness, I've not done much writing over the past few weeks except perhaps this blog.  I've done a lot of reading, though.  Writers read--it is a well-known fact.  The problem most of us have is we can't read all the time or we'd never write.  Ironic, eh?

I've discussed some of the books I've read but yesterday I had a bizarre experience.  I was reading Dragongirl by Todd McCaffrey.  It's not his first solo Dragonriders of Pern book as he explores some of his own ideas on the planet Pern his mother created.  However, it seems to have been written in a rush and some passages are very confusing.  In fact, I found myself mentally editing one scene last night.

Normally, I am so lost in the story the writing becomes just a conduit for the lives I'm reading about.  I expect to tumble over passages in my own writing as I try and perfect my storytelling but to do so in a published work is rather unnerving.

I realized when I finished reading the scene that it told us nothing more about the characters, it gave no direction to the narrative, and it seemed to be a scene lost in numbers.  Nothing more was learned after having read the scene and honestly, it could have been cut without any lost to the plot or character development.

It was as if the author, who trained in engineering and writes military science fiction under the name Todd Johnson, decided this book needed more science.  Anne McCaffrey always infused her science fiction with people to whom you could relate.  The science was secondary, often many threads in the fabric of the story but certainly not the most important.  Todd seems to have stepped away (for that brief moment) from his mother's view of Pern and tried to insert more science/engineering into her world.  I'm not averse to this but I do not expect it to be the essence of one scene to the detriment of the rest of the book.

It reminded me of the time I met another engineer who felt he could write science fiction.  The first paragraph of his book was essentially a thesis on the science in the world he had created.  Great if you wish to read science, not so much if you want to read fiction.  Fiction is about folks (to paraphrase Robert Newton Peck's book Fiction is Folks).  Where you put them, whether it's in Calgary, Alberta or Telgar Weyr, Pern, you must make your reader care about them.  They won't if science or magic clouds your writing.

It was a good lesson for me to learn and one I hope others will consider when they embark on writing genre fiction.

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