I just finished reading Jennifer L. Holm’s middle grade novel The Lion of Mars. If you haven’t read this yet, request if from your library or order it from your local book seller. It is fast paced and definitely a book I will want to read again. In part, this is because I am currently writing science fiction. But it is also because this is just such a good book.
If you are considering writing in this genre, I would definitely encourage you to start laying words down on the page. In perusing the publisher’s list, I see more fantasy than science fiction but I’ve seen several agents and editors showing interest in science fiction. Just remember to include 3 things in your book.
Science fiction has to have science. There is no way around it. And that means getting busy and reading the lastest and greatest research on your topic. It is clear that Holms read up on Mars and the possibilities of establishing a colony there. She also knows her stuff when it comes to what people will eat because they will have to produce at least some of their own food.
Three Dimensional Characters
Whether you are writing adult science fiction or middle grade, your book is going to need strong characters. It seems like a lot of new writers to a particular genre get caught up in genre specifics (space travel, gadgets and aliens for science fiction). As a result of this focus, they forget about their characters. Holm’s brings us a full cast of characters, all multidimensional and believable.
A big part of what makes the characters believable is that they are dealing with realistic issues. Octavia Butler advised writers to look at the world they live in and the past for issues that occur again and again. These are issues that will likely still be problematic in the future.
NOTE: Possible plot spoilers ahead. For Holm’s book, this means conflict between the generations when the adults hide information because they don’t want to talk about horrible events in the not-too-distant past. There is also international conflict but there is just as much international cooperation because, again as Butler pointed out, you need to end on a note of …
The best way to bring readers back is to give them hope. Even dystopian novels tend to be hopeful that the character will triumph vs an authoritarian state or what have you.
For my own book, I know what contemporary issues my characters will be dealing with. I’m currently working on creating three-dimensional characters and I’m going to have to do more research on the science but hope? I’ve definitely got a plan for that.