My last blog post about “Science Versus Science Fiction” generated an interesting and unexpected response that made me rethink the conclusion I’d reached. Author Eleanor Konik, whose website can be found at http://eleanorkonik.com, sent me the following feedback (from which I’ve excerpted the most important bit):
“I really liked your most recent [blog post] and have a bunch to say about it, because I think you’re beating yourself up a bit too much — some of my favorite science fiction (and fantasy) deals lovingly with the worldbuilding. While I myself write pretty minimalist stories that try to focus on just the things you need on the page, classic-style books like Robin Hobb and LE Modesitt and Heinlein and Weber that dwell on the science and the political reality and the infrastructure and history and military tactics are absolutely among my favorites, and as much because it’s interesting as because as a child it’s how I learned so much foundational knowledge.
“Please don’t let the critiques that you do worldbuilding better than characters and plot make them do your worldbuilding MORE POORLY — please just put that same loving care into making your characterization and plot measure up.”
I have to admit, Eleanor has a very valid point. In fact, her response reminds me of a term I thought I’d only have to learn for a spelling bee or a business presentation.
In this case, that term is synergy.
Dictionary.com defines synergy as “the interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements, contributions, etc.” In the case of my science fiction novel, that is exactly what I should be shooting for. I should be trying to raise the level of my story and characters to match the reviews I’ve been getting on my worldbuilding. Only then—if I do it properly—will I have a novel whose total effect exceeds the sum of the individual parts.
My last blog post suggested that my next draft would be approaching things the wrong way, as Eleanor mentions above. Instead of bumping down my worldbuilding, she suggests that I raise the level of the story and characters to match. She’s right.
Synergy. Very good advice.
So, how the hell do I do it? Well, I believe this is the point where I go back through the critiques I received for drafts one through eight and concentrate on the portions that address the story and the characters. I already know my worldbuilding is out of balance, so I can acknowledge those critique sections without necessarily making changes—yet. I need to make changes to the story and characters first. It’s not going to be an easy job, coming up with draft number nine. However, if I can follow Eleanor’s suggestion and create a synergy between my worldbuilding, my story, and my characters, I might wind up with a draft that tops the previous eight.
Let me know what you think! Thank you for reading.