How do you make space opera soar?
It’s a good question. How do you make your novels, words on a page, soar and delight your readers when there is so much competition these days? It’s not just movies like Star Trek Into Darkness, or Guardians of the Galaxy or even (dare I say it) Jupiter Ascending, all big money movies with massive special effects budgets. It’s also competition from the many sci-fi/fantasy video games out there, like World of Warcraft and so many others that have an SF/F bent.
So as a writer, how do you compete with that?
The simple answer is that I don’t. How could I? All I have is my pile of creativity in my brain, my PC, and the outlet of real and virtual bookshelves. I don’t have a team of 600 special effects guys bringing my visions to reality, I don’t have the massive marketing machines that the major studios and gaming companies have. So what chance do I have, a wee little novelist, competing in this landscape?
It’s pretty simple, really. Tell a good story.
What all of these things; books, online games, and big-budget Hollywood films have in common is that ultimately they are telling a story. If the gamer/viewer/reader is satisfied with how that story unfolds, how they got a chance to participate in the unveiling, on screen or the written word or via a game console, how they ultimately felt when the experience was over will tell the tale of success or not.
The only means I have available to me as a writer is my storytelling. If it interests the reader, evokes an emotional reaction, leaves them feeling satisfied but wanting just a bit more at the end, then I’ve won. Words on a page can never bring the excitement of a climactic space battle on a Hollywood movie screen, or the adrenaline rush of finishing off the latest gaming level, but that’s okay. Words may limit me in my storytelling, but they are also my advantage.
I don’t have to show the audience that massive space battle, as long as I can tell them the details and events and emotions of the characters and of what they are going through in that climactic moment. This frees the reader’s imaginations to visualize the scene as they want to see it.
When you watch a modern film, there is so much spectacle on the screen, so much detail you will never see, that it’s just lost in a sea of brilliance, and most of it is never absorbed. Yet my advantage as a writer is to use my words to fill in detail the visual mediums never give you, to give you the experiences and emotions through the character’s eyes, not the camera’s or the game designers. It’s my unique advantage, and it’s all wrapped up in telling a good story.
And if, in the end, you succeed at that, then you’ll have a successful career as a writer. And you’ll get to keep telling your stories. Hollywood be damned.
Impulse is published by Del Rey on 12th February. Click here to order it from Amazon.co.uk