Writing Technobabble: K is for Killing Machines and Weapons

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! 

K is for Killing Machines and Weapons 

Fantastical, and often violent, weapons are frequent staples of the sci-fi genres. Even stories that are not specifically about war (like Star Trek: The Next Generation, for example, which focused primarily on discovery and exploration) feature weapons both large and small. Not every story has to have weapons, of course—for example, the science-heavy story The Martian doesn’t feature weapons at all, since the antagonist is not something that can be thwarted with a gun or a bomb (it’s more of a man-versus-nature story, or perhaps man-versus-bureaucratic red tape).

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Writing Technobabble: E is for Explanation (or Not)

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! 

E is for Explanation

One of the fun things about designing futuristic tech or cool otherworldly gadgets is explaining how they work. To the super-nerds among us, explaining in a realistic and believable manner how every single piece of tech works is the best part of writing. And there are plenty of readers who love all those nerdy explanations.

It’s easy to explain too much, though. I’ll cover “infodumps” in a later post, and too much detailed explanation of how tech works would fall into the infodump category. Some stories, though, lend themselves to more or less explanation of the tech. 

For example, let’s compare the stories in the Star Trek universe versus the stories of the Star Wars universe. Both feature space ships, alien technology, and assorted cool gadgets that don’t exist in real life. But there’s a big difference in how the information about the tech is delivered.

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Magic versus Technology: Setting the Rules for Your Fictional World

Today the terms “fantasy” and “science fiction” are becoming broad, catch-all terms that encompass a wide range of sub-genres. Most people don’t just write fantasy, they write urban paranormal romance or YA epic fantasy. The same with science fiction: there’s everything from space fantasy to steampunk to retro-futurism. This is a good thing, because the person who likes fairytale retellings with a dark urban flair may not be a fan of epic high fantasy. There’s room for all of the sci-fi, fantasy, and speculative sub-genres, and all their mash-ups and cross-overs, too.

But even with all of the genre-crossing, I believe it’s still important to define whether your world is magic-based or technology-based.

This does not mean that anything with magic is automatically fantasy, nor does it mean that anything with technology more advanced than the steam engine is science-fiction. I believe the distinction lies is how the world of the story is governed. More to the point, it’s how you as the writer establish the rules of your world. A magic-based versus technology-based world has more to do with the culture of the characters and how they interact with world around them, and less to do with whether the characters wave magic wands or fly around in space ships. Continue reading

Love Tropes in Stories

Even though Valentine’s Day was yesterday, I feel obligated to write a Valentines-ish post, just because. Even those of us who don’t call ourselves readers of the romance genre usually enjoy a good love story. So here are a few of my favorite couples from books/movies/shows, and the different types of loves stories they represent:

The Against-All-Odds Love – Sheridan and Delenn

This couple is from the sci-fi show Babylon 5, which I’ve blogged about many times, and which I hold up as one of the best examples of storytelling in any media. The main plot of the show is war, good versus evil, and the shades of gray in between. But there’s a little romance, too. Sheridan and Delenn have everything going against them: they’re busy leading an army, trying to save their respective governments, and dealing with cultural difficulties between the two of them because they are two different species. But they fall in love anyway, determine to make it work no matter what, and their unity makes them and those who follow them stronger for it.

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How to Invent Fantasy Words

This post is similar to one that I wrote a while back for Mythic Scribes. But I wanted to write another post with some tips for inventing words and names for fantasy, and next week I’m planning to do a similar post about how to write technobabble for sci-fi.

So here are some of my tips for creating convincing words for your fantasy stories:

Use a real language as your base.

J.K. Rowling is famous for using Latin and Latin-esque-sounding words. How about the spells of “lumos” and “nox” to create light or make it dark? “Lumi” is Latin for “light,” so “lumos” isn’t much of a stretch; and “nox” means “night.”

Especially if your fantasy world is inspired by or reflective of a real culture, then go ahead and use the language for inspiration. In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien based the people of Rohan on ancient Viking culture. Many of the words used were either Old Norse words, or based on that language. Continue reading