Orson Scott Card is a renowned science fiction writer, perhaps best known for such stories as Ender‘s Game and Speaker for the Dead. In 1990, he came out with a guidebook for aspiring writers on how to write to good science fiction and fantasy stories, with the straightforward title of How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy.
The best thing about this book is that it doesn’t just apply to the genres of sci-fi and fantasy, but to good writing in general. Card goes through his experiences of fashioning ideas into solid stories, along with how to set up the environment and obstacles for a captivating tale.
It isn’t enough, he says, to just describe an alien culture or a fantasy-based city. Every writer must figure out the past behind every established element in their story, instead of just letting them be convenient for the plot’s sake. A balance has to be set up between the milieu, ideas, character, and events of a story–what he calls “the MICE quotient.” With all these elements considered and fleshed-out, a writer can create a story that respects the reader’s intelligence by being just as thoughtful in its construction.
Some of the ideas that Mr. Card presents as examples are interesting. Admittedly, he does spend a lot of time discussing in Chapter Three a story by Octavia Butler called Wild Seed, but his analysis is worth the read, as the tale highlights all his points about solid characterization, where to begin and end the plot for good effect. I’m half-tempted to go and read this story for myself based on his recommendation alone.
This is an invaluable resource for any aspiring sci-fi and fantasy writers out there. And if you’re not a writer, it’s still a good read for what makes such stories worthwhile.
Bibliography: Card, Orson Scott. How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 1990.