One of my all time favorite authors is Lois McMaster Bujold. She has books in both the sci-fi realm and fantasy. Her sci-fi series, called the Vorkosigan Saga, is an amazing world which combines medieval lords with a futuristic setting. The main reason I love her stories is the characters. The setting is all background and the science never takes a starring role. If I had to assign main themes to the storyline, I’d include items such as loyalty, honor, overcoming adversity, and family.
So why do I bring this up on a blog which focuses on critique groups? I mention it because I guarantee there are “hard” sci-fi readers out there who would dislike her books. Maybe even hate them, although, I find that tough to believe. I have two main groups that I work with plus a few individuals I trade chapters with to toss around opinions. The sci-fi group almost always focuses in on the technological or other scientific issues of the story. While my other group always talks about the characters. What personality traits are showing up? Does character actions match the personalities I want to portray? The way characters interact with each other.
If I had to guess, the members of the sci-fi group don’t like my story. You know what? I couldn’t care less. I’ve found that by using two groups, I can get valid advice from both. The advice doesn’t always come from where I expect. One of my chapters casually mentions a reference to a Dyson Sphere. The sci-fi group took it in stride while the other group didn’t. They weren’t sure what a Dyson Sphere was. They objected to the way I phrased the sentence and thought it needed more explanation.
Since I’ve read tons of different sci-fi books, I never thought about getting into a detailed explanation. To me, it’s almost like having an author stop to explain what a computer is. Maybe not quite that simple. But it’s a subject I’ve heard an explanation for over and over again in science fiction, so I wasn’t planning on including one in my story. Now I need to rethink that position, and I’ll probably add one.
The members of the sci-fi group are authors who enjoy reading hard sci-fi stories. They enjoy writing hard sci-fi stories. But they aren’t my audience. My audience (hopefully) are the readers who like character-focused stories.
I don’t go through all these constant critiques to make my story more likable for the three or four people who show up to a sci-fi writers group. I go for objective points of view. I need both groups for that. Perhaps I’ll add a third group if I can find another one I like. Or maybe even start one. If anyone out there has an online group that needs people or individuals interested in forming another group, drop me a message.
On to other high notes for the week.
One author took one of my suggestions about how to do something in their story. It involved a medical situation, and the original description wasn’t accurate for a modern world. A writer in my other group offhandedly complained to me, because of my comments, he needed to rewrite a section of his story to increase the reader’s understanding of the character. So between the two people, I guess I’ve been helpful for their writing, making me feel somewhat useful. At times, I’m not sure how much my comments are worth, and it’s nice to know I’m making a contribution to the group.
As for my WIP:
- I discovered a way to change something to make a more interesting story. I was getting worried that there wasn’t enough antagonism going on and I think this will solve the problem. Unfortunately, it means several chapters will need to be trashed or extensively rewritten.
- Most people seem to be enjoying the characters. The biggest issue I’ve heard so far is that my main character has a bit of a dual personality. This was intentional because I wanted to show him overly stern in public with a much more insecure personal life. I think his public personality is coming off too callous at the moment so I’ll look into making adjustments.
A few weeks ago, I told you I emailed several scientists for information. I never heard back from any of them. That was a little disappointing. I’ve asked similar research questions to various people by tracking them down on the internet and emailing them. This was the first time I received no response to my inquiries. But, in the meantime, I’ve made changes to the story to indicate a major disaster in the past causing the problems in my universe. It will have to do.
Happy writing everyone.