One of my most popular posts on this blog lately has been this post about how to write technobabble. Apparently there are a lot of writers and creators out there who need tips and ideas on how to come up with convincing scientific or technological jargon that sounds real but isn’t.
So here are five tips to help you invent convincing technobabble words and concepts:
Do Some Scientific Research
The best technobabble has an element of truth or at least believability to it. If you’re writing an outer space adventure, then you should probably familiarize yourself with real astronomical terms and have a passing understanding of basic physics. If your spaceships are powered by cosmic strings, a lot of sci-fi readers will have a hard time buying the plausibility of that, despite your glowing technobabble terms.
Use Genre-Appropriate Terms
This relates to the first point. If you’re writing futuristic sci-fi set in outer space, your technobabble should reflect words associated with astronomy and astrophysics. If you’re writing a near-future dystopian world suffering from a man-made disaster, then your made-up tech words should reflect more present-day words, or perhaps terms related to weaponry and high-tech warfare. This post gives some insight into how to write retro-futuristic technobabble for those of you writing steampunk, dieselpunk, or other historical sci-fi.
Don’t over-explain how every gizmo works. Yes, there are the geeks and gearheads who read things like the Star Trek Technical Manuals for fun. But not all of that info needs to make it into the actual story. Pages, or even paragraphs, devoted solely to explaining how and why something works will slow down the story.
Use Proper Names
A lot of real scientific discoveries and inventions bear the name of their creator/discoverer. Using a proper name can be a great way to create convincing-sounding tech or science. Try having a Meyer Detector or a Ramirez Particle.
A great example of this comes from Star Trek, in their invented technology of the Heisenberg Compensators. Heisenberg Compensators are vital to the working of the transporter, because it is a piece of technology that compensates for the (very real) Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Using current science and tech as your jumping-off point for the invented stuff is always a great place to start.
Consistency is important with anything you write, really. Once you’ve determined the type of words you’ll be using or the kind of technology you’re writing about, stick with it. If you need to make a list of all the terms you’re using so that you can get them right each time, do so. If you have a “laser ion interface” in one scene, and it’s an “ion laser interface” in the next scene, your readers will notice. And even if you never explain what a laser ion interface does, make sure that you know. If you get confused during your writing and that confusion lasts all the way to your published draft, your readers will be able to tell. Be consistent.
Now go forth and write your technobabble!