It’s become a bad habit now. I’ve marked up the first 1/4th of the novel but there is SO much left to do. However, I don’t want to make a big to-do out of it. Yes, I meant to do that.
Writer’s Advice: Details! Details! Details!
A few beginner sci-fi writers I’ve met are all about the “world building.”
Before they put a single word of a story on the page, they want to create the history of an entire universe, dating back ten-thousand years ago. Then, they want to fill in details of exactly how EVERY gadget in the universe works, how the political system evolved over time, and how technology changed over the millennia. Then they can’t wait to share those details in their story.
There’s nothing I love more than a massive break in the narrative for a technical paper on how something works. Which is why I have been toying with the idea in my new noir novel “Shady Is The Heat.” Here’s an excerpt:
Darryl Fistikov threw his fedora into the passenger side of the car and climbed into the driver’s seat of his deep green Lincoln Continental. Looking determinedly down the fog shadowed road, he drove into the damp, shimmering night.
The car moved thanks to its internal combustion engine. An internal combustion engine was a heat engine where the combustion of fuel occurred with an oxidizer (usually air) in a combustion chamber that was an integral part of the working fluid flow circuit.
In an internal combustion engine, the expansion of the high-temperature and high-pressure gases produced by combustion applied direct force to a special component of the engine. Thanks to the pressure and heat, the internal combustion engine (or ICE) was able to transform chemical energy into mechanical energy, enabling Fistikov’s Lincoln to speed recklessly past Mulberry Avenue towards Canal Street.
The first commercially successful internal combustion engine was created by Étienne Lenoir in 1859, and the first modern internal combustion engine was created in 1864 by Siegfried Marcus. It was thanks to Herr Marcus that Darryl Fistikov, private eye, was able to chase down Billy the Emu!
Publisher-ready, I know. But I think the above example needs to sharpen the details on the important things, like what are the properties of the ideal chemicals used for these reactions, and what are the physics equations that show how the heat/pressure system turns into velocity. The reader MUST KNOW!
I also have an appendix planned describing in excruciating detail how moonshine bootlegging eventually turned into NASCAR. Every book will also come with a full-sized, foldout historical road map of Boston in 1947.
If you think that is a terrible idea, you might be right. I mean, world-building is great, but the story and the characters should be the focus, right? No one wants to read a book with massive discursions, a bloated appendix, technical details that lead to nothing, and a useless map, right?
I suppose I could cut all that crap out and only reveal whatever details are necessary to propel the story. I could use economy in the story and make it about the plot and the characters rather than showing off how clever I am by adding unimportant technical details.
Nah! I have an entire sections in the book on how gasses propel bullets, how the limbic system works, and how the birth of the skyscraper in Chicago influenced the migration of the population from rural to urban settings from 1884 to 1905.