Breaking Down Sci-Fi

Note: Although we are focusing primarily on the genre of science fiction, most, if not all, points mentioned in this post can be applied to other genres in writing!


  • Star Wars
  • Star Trek
  • Octavia Butler
  • George Orwell

These are only a few names known in the realm of science fiction (sci-fi from here on out.) Our own worlds have broadened because someone took the time to travel to the futuristic unknown rather than entering a fantasy world. But what are some key components to writing sci-fi? Let’s get talking!

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Like any other creative writing project, planning and mapping out your story is crucial and necessarily before you dive into your tale. Not only for plot purposes but you always need to question: “how will this affect that?” You know, the usual. Depending on your sci-fi story, you’ll get the opportunity to create even further. For example, settings are new, language is different than what we know on our planet, races vary even more so than skin color…there are so many details to account for! We always recommend doing research into other novels within your genre range. Take it a step further and watch shows and movies. It’ll help further stimulate your creativity.

Something to help you indulge in your research is looking into scientific journals, new discoveries by labs or space teams, etc. This can influence your story in any way you want it to. Shaping your universe with new discoveries and current-world situations. Not only that but you’re expanding your own knowledge. what a way to kill two birds with one stone!

Our last point we’d like to highlight pertains to another question you can ask yourself. What if…? Utilizing the knowledge in the journals you find and articles you read, you can mix this with the creative details you’ve mapped out thus far. Apply your ‘what if’ question and add more depth to your story, add a new element, or a new plot line. Whatever the case may be, you’re adding something to the story by asking what if.

So what if…you start writing now?

On Location

It’s not in everyone’s best interest to sit in their home office to write. Works for some, not for the rest. A few may take a ride in their car to a local place they find inspirational. Others take a hit to the wallet and hop on a place to their most relaxing destination. The purpose isn’t to escape the process of writing, but lay the seed of inspiration and nourish it with the surrounding scenery.

Is anyone a location-inspired writer? If so, where do you like to write?

Coffee shops?

The beach in a comfy chair with your toes in the sand?

In a hotel with a magical view of snow-capped mountains?

Local park?

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Jumping Through Time

A story can include one of two things: flashbacks or skipping to the future. We don’t think recommending the two is a great idea but if executed cohesively…sure! Why not! Let’s discuss.

Sometimes, writing flashbacks can help a story flesh itself out. Readers understand the plot better, the character better, ANYTHING! But what happens when a flashback becomes more than a flash back? Meaning, what happens when a brief moment takes up a whole chapter? Is that acceptable? There isn’t any reason why it shouldn’t be acceptable – other than not being written properly. Make sure flashbacks are quick and easy. They’re meant to be memories triggered by people or items or occurrences surrounding the character or plot. Here’s an idea: it doesn’t necessarily have to be written in the perspective where the character is brought back to a moment in time…but rather, induces a feeling, an image flashed in the character’s thoughts. Something like that.

Skipping ahead in time is also a way to get the story moving along. Readers don’t need all filler details and a story doesn’t deserve that either! A few months can pass in the story in a matter of words, as long as the reader is caught up with the characters and ongoings in their world, what else is needed? Questions should never be left unanswered, too. If they are, there better be good reason for it. Did something happen prior to the time hop that wasn’t resolved during the time not mentioned? Well, it better come full circle because then the reader will not be happy (they’ll scream, “PLOT HOLE, PLOT HOLE!” and write a whole review about how the plot hole ruined the story for them.)

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So, now that we’ve lectured about time and the relationship it has with your story – let’s build a time machine and have some fun!

Simplicity & Books

Keeping up with book trends and sales? Don’t worry. We are too. There will always be highs and lows, one extreme to another. This isn’t really a trend but just a little something we noticed in the office. Everything is so simple.

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Sure, writing the book isn’t simple…getting the book to be noticed by an editor/publisher isn’t simple…the process of production isn’t simple…but when the final product of the book is in the author’s hands or a trusty reader’s yearning finger tips…do they just look at the cover and think, it’s so simple? We’re referring to the cover art itself. And because we came across a list of books in which the title said, “Most Beautiful…”, we thought it was about time we sit down and chat about cover art. Again.

Calling something beautiful is subjective to the writer of the article. Some of the titles on this list have been hyped up and plastered all over the internet, they were bound to become bestsellers. But there was one common thing among the covers we needed to stress. They’re so simple. There’s nothing wrong with simplicity but the simplicity of these books has helped bump up sales revenue. Many fiction titles are beginning to look…uniform. Once again…there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s getting money in someone’s pocket, regardless.

We’re not here to dictate what you should do with your book. But if you find yourself in need of change and you could envision a bit of abstract art or an object as the cover of your book, then maybe it’s time you send out a few emails to the cover designers out in the world. You may appeal to a new crowd looking for the simple covers that get them wondering what the heck the cover is trying to tell them.

Thank goodness we live in a digital age where all we have to do is delete and upload a new image.

Head Count

We’ve talked about killing off characters more than once on this blog…but today we’re discussing how many characters you should keep ALIVE to complete your tale.

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First of all, you need your protagonist. Usually there is only one of these but sometimes there are more. It takes a certain type of writer to have more than one protagonist.

Character count: 1

Next up, we have the deuterangonist. Or more commonly known as the sidekick. Let the confusion start here. Limit your sidekick to a single being, or two. To this we say: have fun. They’re very important characters who need to be just as well-crafted as the protagonist. If you’re still getting the hang of writing, stick to one.

Character count: 2

The antagonist becomes our next character to focus on. Don’t be fooled though; the antagonist doesn’t always have to be another person. Your protagonist could have very real inner demons they can’t shake like struggling with mental health, addiction…and so on. This should almost always be a single thing. Think of it as your target that you’ve zeroed in on and need to destroy. Your protagonist would think the same thing.

Character count: 3

Love. If your character finds their love along the way, there’s another character to include on your list. The love interest character could cross over in being a deuterangonist. There’s one less character you have to flesh out!

Character count: 3-4

If your main character is on an epic journey for the books, a mentor is always a plus. Most characters aren’t all-knowing and if they are in your book…well, this is about to get awkward. Keep a mentor down to one…they usually get killed off at some point.

Character count: 4-5

Secondary characters matter, as well. Two of these slightly developed beings in your story would be enough. Your subplots usually revolve around these characters and they contribute to the main plot line with the protagonist.

Character count: 6-7

Last but not least, we have the tertiary characters. These are the characters that aren’t really talked about in great detail but they’re still contributing to the protagonist’s journey the number to this is subject to the kind of story you’re writing.

Then you’ll have flat characters that aren’t too important at all. These are the characters your protagonist comes across in passing.

How many characters do you limit yourself to in your writing? How many do you think is appropriate?

Will It Do Any Good?

Have you ever come across bookmarks, notebooks, or any other forms of physical memorabilia for a book? Have you ever wanted your own books to have this form of promotional material?

We usually like to encourage anyone to follow what they think is best for their books to gain exposure, but here we suggest you consider this option.

Handing our bookmarks at readings or signings will always get your fans excited for free merchandise. But if you’re an indie author with a large online audience and market for yourself (meaning you’re more an eBook-established author)…you have to consider what your audience would utilize.

For example, people love key chains. Especially decorative ones…or is that just me? Maybe getting a load of key chains printed with your book cover or favorite creatures from your book on the face…that’ll get people talking.

Unfortunately, not a lot of genres can venture down the road of promotional material because it just doesn’t fit. So, we’ll keep brainstorming how other genres can be promoted with physical gifts!thinking.gif

At It Again!

About a year ago, we talked about how the online writing community we all know as Wattpad has its pros and cons for the published community. Maybe you want to dive in and work on some short prequels. Or possibly write a quick spin-off for your begging readers. The site has wonderful resources to both expand on your writing abilities and become a platform for you to share the little details about your world to a new generation.

But it doesn’t stop there. Wattpad has had more than one success story.

There are authors who have signed traditional book deals for their works on Wattpad’s shelves. But just this past weekend, Publisher’s Weekly wrote up a great article discussing the most recent optioned pieces. You read that correctly: OPTIONED.

hollywood.gifHollywood has decided that maybe the comic book movies and remakes are not cutting it for the box office. It’s now very possible to be recognized by studios and producers who are trying to find the next big thing! All they have to do is refresh their page and see what everyone is reading!

So upload everything you can onto Wattpad. You’re (hopefully) going to Hollywood, baby!

The Warrior of My Dreams

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I’m going to be honest, I haven’t touched Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series but from the looks of it…I’m going to have to start, haha.

Jamie Fraser just sounds like my type of guy: intelligent, dreamy, a natural leader. And all I’ve seen are the gifs of Sam Heughan portraying this hunk of burning love but I have not had a single complaint since I came across him.

Looks like I’ll be updating my Goodreads books tonight…

Pirate’s Life For Me…?

Ahoy mateys! It is I, Captain of the HRM ship, here to tell you: PIRACY. IS. NOT. OKAY.

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I love a good Captain Jack Sparrow gif…but hey, he’s a pirate too.

We’ve been seeing complaints online and receiving alerts from our own authors about “piraters” uploading whole e-books and audiobooks onto various platforms across the web, which is both frustrating and saddening. No one wants to see their work uploaded onto book platforms like iBooks or Google Play Books without their approval, especially if it is being sold for even the smallest amount of money. But most pirated material is put out for consumption for free,  that’s even more of a reason to freak out as an author. People downloading their books for free when they depend on this money to support themselves and their families (not to mention all the hard work and long hours they put into it)?! This is blasphemy!

Yeah, okay, a lot of people try to reason out the pros and cons of   piracy across all platforms…but at the end of the day…someone is making dirty money. Take a bath, why don’t you?

The theory goes that if it is free, shouldn’t you be happy that the book is at least getting some exposure? And if someone reads your book, becomes a fan, and wants to support your writing career, they’ll start to contribute to your newer titles…I suppose that is a good thing? At the end of the day though, it’s just not the life for me.

Is it worth putting up a fight to save your titles? In my opinion: Yes. It. Is. There is this incredibly detailed article talking about the steps to taking down a pirated book. Read it if the pirate market is bothering you to the Nth degree, it certainly has been here at HRM recently.

Since most of our agency’s authors have audiobooks through a publisher, it’s important to know that audiobook piracy happens as well. We have been finding full books up on YouTube and iBooks (make sure to check the podcast section as well, many free audiobooks end up there). Each publisher has their own process for getting these audiobooks taken down. They use sites such as DMCA, Digimarc, and MarkMonitor.  It also doesn’t hurt for you to send a Takedown Notice to the website you found your pirated audiobooks on either. We could use all the resistance we can get.

Protect the booty!