What makes a sci-fi story tick?

If you think having a story idea and knowledge in science are enough to create a truly satisfying sci-fi novel, you are mistaken. It may take more than that as the right combination of scientific knowledge, good plot and narration, and living characters are only some of the basic essential elements to make a novel successful; other factors also come into play.

Basically, it is important to know that science fiction is related to the principles and theories of science. A good sci-fi writer can make use of a scientific theory and fashion a story that may seem incredible but could be possible to produce a good story. However, there is a limit to being unbelievable as it might push itself to the border of the fantasy genre.

However, sci-fi combined with other genre did produced interesting results. Thus we have sci-fi/paranormal novels which deals with science fiction mixed with the unexplained mystery of the supernatural. Other forms of fiction have also emerged in combination with other genres such as fantasy, suspense, and thriller, among others.

Naturally, a good sci-fi novel must be written well and the writing style must reflect the subject matter that is discussed in the novel. A well-written novel helps push the readers’ interest and does not hinder its readability. Characterization, style, plot development, and pacing as well as originality, mood, logic and immersion level of the readers are all qualities of good writing that applies to books and films.

But besides these, other elements may also be considered which include the following:

• It must entertain people – Any work of fiction must aim to entertain and any other influence that it exerts on people only adds more to the enjoyment and value of the novel. Many great science fiction novels such as H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine or Frank Herbert’s Dune are highly entertaining, hard-to-put down books.

• It must evoke a sense of surprise or wonder – A successful sci-fi novel does not only entertain but it must stir the interest of readers and draw them to the book. It must create a sense of amazement and wonder for the readers, long enough to sustain their attention to it. Hence time travel or space travel always amazes people as well as meeting aliens and extra-terrestrial beings in books and in films.

• Tricky but believable plot - Although a sci-fi novel may have incredible and amazing plots or events, they have to be possible or conceivable. This adds more excitement to the novel and gives it credibility. In films, such as Star Trek and Star Wars, special effects help to create the environment of alien planets and space travel through black holes look like real.

• Originality - A good work of fiction - regardless of genre - is always original and genuine in the sense that it has authentic expression, usually created by the writing style of the writer and often based on his personality, experience, and character. This factor always creates an identity for the writer and a personality for the novel which make it distinct from all the other books written in the same genre.