Tips on writing a good science fiction essay

by on Mar 22, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Tips on writing a good science fiction essay

On a good day writing an essay, a good essay at that, can be a tall order. Undoubtedly, the instructor and marker has read hundreds, maybe even thousands of essays just like yours. They have pretty much seen it all and now you are not only faced with writing a good essay, but a unique one as well. Now add to this request to write a science fiction essay and, needless to say, the stress factor is increased by a minimum of tenfold. There are challenges with writing a good essay and there are challenges with writing science fiction, so there will certainly be challenges when you need to do both simultaneously.

Fortunately, like nearly every other writing assignment, strategies and tactics can be employed to increase the likelihood of success. These tactics will mostly revolve around breaking down the essay into smaller, bite-sized, executable chunks, and putting forth a highly refined piece of writing. Novices will usually focus on quantity when it is really quality that they should be worried about, because make no mistake it is the only thing that the instructor is worried about.

With this in mind, the writer should look at their essay as a short story and not the beginnings of a multi-novel series. Doing so puts gives the writer a couple of advantages. On one hand, they don’t need as much time or space to develop their characters or focus on background. This leaves little chance for the reader’s (the markers) attention to veer off course. Moreover, it signals to the reader that there is a beginning, a middle and a definite end to the story, and that they are not about to enter a rabbit hole that will consume days of their precious time.

Before jotting down a single letter, the writer should hammer out the parameters of their story. What tense will it be told in? Will it be told in the present or will it be like a memoir that is being told in the past tense? The second parameter that should be defined would be from whose viewpoint is the story being told through. Is it being told through the eyes and mouth of the author like a narration or is it being told through a character in the story? Identifying these points right from the get go will greatly increase the speed and efficiency to which the story will be written, but more importantly it will help maintain consistency and cohesion throughout the entire paper.

Next, map the story or essay from character introductions to story development to climax and the conclusion. Outlining the narrative allows the writer to create a framework structure in which they can fill in afterwards. Speaking of the plot, conflicts always make for a good point of interest, discussion and introspection. Very few stories out there are without conflict, however what surprises most writers is that there need not only be a single point of conflict in a story. Often times there are two or more points of conflict (for example one conflict can be external – character vs character, while the other is internal – a character battling their inner demons). While this may seem like a lot of work, it actually opens up the story and increases the number of avenues that the writer can steer the plot towards.

Since this is a science fiction essay it will contain elements that are out of the ordinary (e. g.  robots – a popular figure in this genre). Be sure that the element(s) can be explained or defined by science (e. g.  the mechanical robot is made of gears, pulleys and levers, or if it is made of energy then the atomic bonds allow it to maintain some sort of cohesive structure). Also be sure that the element is within the realm of science, so keep dragons, elves, dwarves and magic out, there are exceptions to this but in general they are placed in the fantasy genre. Keep in mind that while these sci-fi elements may be key to driving plot, they are meant to be tools to immerse the reader into your science fiction world. Focus on using them to make the experience richer, and avoid going into so much detail as to alienate the reader because it is too technical to understand.

Less is more with these elements. Make them the cherry on top of your sci-fi cake and not the cake themselves. Saturating the story with too many strange and foreign elements makes it too easy for the reader to detach and lose context. The same can be said of the characters in the story. It doesn’t matter if they are heroes, aliens, robots or cyborgs, your characters should be relatable. A good idea to keep in mind would be that the reader should see themselves in a character in some way, no matter how big or small. This helps form bonds between the reader and the story and deepens their experience.

Finally, like with all pieces of good writing, this science fiction essay should be treated to several layers of editing, spell-checking, grammar checking and proofreading. Due to the highly subjective nature of the genre, an essay writer can also open their writing up to critiquing by their peers, mentors and advisors. The advantage of this would be to let people who are familiar with the genre to give their opinion about the quality of the story.

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