Welcome to my guide on how to write technobabble! Every post will start with one letter of the alphabet, from A to Z, and cover tips and ideas for all you writers of sci-fi. Whether you’re writing about near-future science fiction, far-flung alien worlds, or historical steampunk adventures filled with advanced technology that never was – these posts are designed to help you write convincing and unique tech for your story!
B is for Believable
“Believable” might seem like an oxymoron when it comes to something like science fiction. After all, the point is for it to be fiction, right? Yes, but even in the world of fiction, it has to be believable for the reader. It has to make sense within the rules and boundaries of the story.
In a story, characters need to have reasons for their behaviors and choices, and incidents (i.e. the plot) needs to have a logical progression and reasons for happening. (In real life, people do things and incidents occur all the time without reason, but unlike real life, fiction needs to have all these logical threads tying everything together). In fiction, regardless of the genre, things have to make sense.
That is, things have to make sense within the world of the story. As a writer, you might decide to write out some of your science and/or tech rules while you’re outlining, or you might make them up as you go along—but either way, your story world will wind up having its own boundaries that make things believable or unbelievable within that story. Readers can usually pick up on the written and unwritten rules of a story world fairly quickly, so if something happens that isn’t believable within that context, they will know—and not be happy about it.
For example, in the Star Trek universe, there’s no such thing as a Jedi Knight. Star Trek has all kinds of cool aliens with inhuman abilities, but a cape-wearing, energy-manipulating, light-sword wearing person who is the police force of the galaxy would be a bit out of place if they showed up on the bridge of the Enterprise. Even though the level of technology in the Star Trek universe could probably create a lightsaber, that particular piece of gadgetry doesn’t exist—and certainly not as an elegant weapon of an ancient order of knights.
While a Star Wars/Strek Trek might be a fun fan fiction story, if you want to write believable science fiction, stick to the rules of your own world.