Confessions of a Science Geek

Did you know I’m a self-confessed science geek? If you’ve met me, I’m pretty sure you do. In fact, it becomes a little obvious when you read my near-science fiction trilogy (science-based speculative fiction that feels like it could happen now in our modern world) and my current WIP, which is a science fantasy time-slip parallel narrative. What may surprise you is that there have been times I’ve been at reader-writer events and felt like a fish out of water.

What may also surprise you is that science fiction isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. (I know, right?) At some events I not only have to explain what my techno-thriller novels are about, I find myself talking a lot about the genre and where my novels fit. But not this weekend just gone!

Have you heard of Oz Comic-Con? I had, but until science-fiction author friend, Lynne Stringer, and fantasy/science fiction author friend, Jeanette O’Hagan, contacted me, I didn’t realise the event had anything to do with books. How wrong I was—and it’s been a blast.

My enjoyment of this event was for multiple reasons. It was my first Oz Comic-Con and I was there with friends. Writers, if you’re ever going to a new event as an exhibitor, consider sharing your stall (if possible) with an author friend or two in a suitable genre. Not only could we take breaks and cover for each other (we even got to meet & greet with other stall exhibitors), we found if one of us didn’t have the type of story a reader was interested in, the other might, and usually did. The other fantastic factor was the attendees spoke our language!

Now, I’ve been to signings or events where there are heaps of booklovers in attendance, but rarely have I spoken to so many people with an interest in science at a single event, let alone science fiction. In fact, if the attendees who visited our stall weren’t into science fiction, they were into fantasy—or both! Sure, I still had to tell people about my stories, but it was amazing having them so familiar with a genre they’d break in partway to clarify exactly where the novels fit. Some knew just the sort of books they liked and were happy to try a new author like me (or Jeanette or Lynne). (Happy author heart … Love sharing stories with people who are excited about reading them. <3 <3)

The other fantastic factor, and the one that remains the highlight whatever event I’m attending, were the people. SO many new faces and stories (life-stories, that is) and some seriously cool names. And then there were the amazing costumes. Like, wow!

Folks, I think I’ve found my literary tribe. Don’t worry readers, I won’t neglect my other author connections, but honestly, this was serious fun. Next time you’ll have to come along for the ride!

Core Strength

Redwood2_AdjA character’s quest lies at the heart of any story, with their journey of change driving the plot as they face obstacles to achieving their ultimate desire. One thing that will undermine any character we write is a lack of consistency and a lack of believability. But ever since a recent family holiday in the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’, there’s something else I’ve been considering relating to character development.

I think most of us are aware that people don’t behave in the way they do for no reason. We all have a history that predisposes us to certain behavioural patterns, deeply embedded in our thought processes and emotions. For example, children who’ve experienced trauma often, in turn, behave in ways that are unhealthy. Trauma makes as much of a wound on the brain as a physical injury. Even experiences that, to an adult, might seem inconsequential, can profoundly affected a child’s (and ultimately adult’s) behaviour and way of perceiving life. It stands to reason that these types of pain-based behaviours can be difficult to manage, but once identified, the brain can be ‘rewired’ over time by making different choices. Each positive choice makes a small change in the brain. And small changes, over time, make big ones.

Something I find frustrating as a reader is when a character whose entire life has been dictated by negative behaviours, suddenly changes, and then the story is resolved. Now, I’m not denying people can experience profound shifts in thinking over short periods of time, or even significant emotional healing, but more often than not, there’s a dogged grappling with pain-based patterns over time, before the positive choices outweigh the negative wiring of the past.

Just as a child can be damaged emotionally or mentally by being forced to grow up too fast, whether that be through exposure to adult concepts too early or, as mentioned above, through trauma, so our characters can come across as weak and untrustworthy if they change too fast, or without appropriate context and conditions justifying that change.Redwood

But how does this relate to our holiday in NZ? While touring, we visited a Redwood forest. The redwood seed had been brought over from America to grow trees to produce wood for use in construction and other such applications. Unfortunately, the NZ climate wasn’t the same as that from which the trees were brought. The trees grew too fast, leaving the inner core soft and unusable for the purpose it was intended.

Like those magnificent redwood trees, a character can be fleshed out to look every bit the part they’ve been developed to play in a story, but if they don’t go through challenge- or condition-appropriate growth, a reader won’t buy it. I think you’ll agree, there’s something about a character’s inner struggle that builds convincing inner strength, developing rapport with a reader. I do love stories where characters rise above overwhelming odds, but let’s ensure we give our literary heroes opportunity to develop sufficient core strength to make the distance.