Book Review: How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy

How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card, 1990
is a writing guide that focuses on the unique requirements of writers of speculative fiction.

The 135 page book was a fast read for me. Card shares his process for creating speculative fiction. He doesn’t claim that his process is the only, or best way. It was interesting to read how he starts with an idea and then let’s it germinate, sometimes for years. He likes to create maps of the worlds in his stories. He explained how creating detailed maps of a city with different sections for the various classes of people that might inhabit his imaginary town helped him to generate plot ideas.

It motivated me to start mining for ideas in my fictional worlds by doodling and mind-mapping.

The book has five chapters:
1. The Infinite Boundary
2. World Creation
3. Story Construction
4. Writing Well
5. The Life and Business of Writing

Since the book was published in 1990, the last chapter was the least helpful, having been written before the indie-publising tsunami of the last few years.

Story Construction and World Creation were the most interesting. A very interesting section in World Creation discussed creating the rules for the world. Whether the rules are for magic or for science, the writer needs to clearly understand what can and can’t happen in his fictional world. To demonstrate the process, Card went into detail discussing the implications of setting a story on another planet. This demands that the rules of space travel be understood even if no space travel occurs during the story. He also did the same thing with time travel, discussing a variety of choices that the writer must make.
It was very enlightening for me.

In Story Construction Card described the MICE quotient: Milieu, Idea, Character, Event. It’s a great tool choosing story structure.

I recommend this book. It’s one that I’ll save and read again, no doubt.

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