Writing Technobabble: J is for Jargon

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! 

J is for Jargon 

Jargon is a cornerstone of science fiction technobabble. “Jargon” are the vocabulary and phrases particular to a specific industry or group. There’s military jargon, medical jargon, and even for us authors—there’s writerly jargon.

Technobabble jargon can be fun to create, and is a great way to add rich details to flesh out your world. There’s no real right or wrong way to write jargon, especially if you’re inventing names from scratch or creating your own unique slang for your world and its tech. There are a few guidelines, though, that can make your tech jargon easier for your readers.

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Writing Technobabble: D is for Details

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! 

D is for Details

Have you heard the saying “the devil is in the details”? What this means is that the little details matter, and it’s the little things that can trip you up and create big problems. So for us writers, here’s a paraphrase: “the story is in the details.” 

“Story” is a lot of things—it’s characters, it’s plot, it’s theme, it’s voice. But what gives all of those things an extra punch, and can help turn an okay story into a great one is rich details. Details are an important element of world-building, and can add a lot to the believability element. 

In the sci-fi epic TV show Babylon 5, the Earth ships used rotating sections to create gravity, whereas most of the other alien races had more advanced technology to generate artificial gravity. Every time an Earth ship appeared, they were immediately recognizable because of the bulky spinning sections in the center. The explanation of the spinning center of the ship came up briefly only once or twice during the 5-year series, but the important detail of the ship design was consistent throughout, with or without an explanation.

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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

Worldbuilding Tips: Where to Get Ideas

Many people ask me where I get my ideas. That’s always a tough question to answer, but today I’ll share some tips on where I get ideas for worldbuilding. I hope these help you to create alien creatures, futuristic technology, magic spells, new cultures, and all the trappings of building a world.

Build on Common Tropes

I wrote this post a while back about being unoriginal when creating fantasy creatures. There’s a reason that so many fantasy stories feature dragons and dwarves and goblins. And yet, the dragons and dwarves and goblins are different in every story, every world, every sub-genre. There are as many ways to add unique elements to the old standby of “large fire-breathing dragon” as there are people to write the stories. Don’t discount the old traditional classics as a great jumping-off point for original ideas.

Build on Real Things

In this post, I discuss two examples of stories that use real animals as fantasy races. Like the previous point, there’s a lot of value in starting with something familiar and then adding your own creativity to it. Whether you’re creating a race of armor-wearing polar bears, or a dystopian sci-fi world where dolphin and whales have advanced beyond humans, there’s a ton of inspiration in the real world all around. 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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5 Little-Known Facts about Me (That Have Nothing to Do with Books or Writing)

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, then you probably know some of my favorite things: Peter Rabbit and Beatrix Potter, The Wizard of Oz, fairy gardens, Babylon 5, and world folk music, among other things. Well, just for fun, I thought I’d share five little tidbits about me that have nothing to do with writing, fantasy, or geekery in general. So if you want to get to know me better, read on!

I love rabbits

Kal-El, performing the trick known as Dead Bunny Flop. No, he was't dead here - just very relaxed. He was good at being relaxed.

Kal-El, performing the trick known as Dead Bunny Flop. No, he was’t dead here – just very relaxed. He was good at being relaxed.

I have a pet cat at the moment (and I’ve almost always had at least one cat as a personal or family pet for my entire life). But I also love pet rabbits, and I owned rabbits for a good twenty years. I’m taking a break from bunnies for a few years, because they’re really a lot of work (much more work than cats and dogs put together). But rabbits are entertaining and intelligent animals and life is never dull with bunnies in the house. (Remind me to tell you sometime about my bunny who could open doors, or my other bunny who was a climber.)

Even though I’m shy and try to avoid confrontation, I signed up for safety patrol in 5th grade and loved it

To this day, I have no idea why I did this, nor why I was apparently a successful safety patrol officer for the entire school year. Granted, I was assigned a side hallway and all I ever had to do was make sure that no one snuck out the back door to the playground. But still, I cheerfully told people not to run in the hallways, and I was never confronted by the more aggressive students. Maybe it was me acting out my desire to be acknowledged and respected? I was painfully shy, so I guess the badge and belt gave me confidence. Continue reading