Not every novel is a crazy science fiction adventure.
Technology really sets the stage for the world that the reader is experiencing.
If it’s in the past, the technologies will be more primitive than what we have going on today. And, of course, if it’s in the future or an alternate world the technologies are going to be a bit more imaginative. Either way, every book has technology and portraying those things seems to be difficult for a lot of writers.
Things I’ve Noticed
- Over description and explaining
- Comparing the technology to today even though none of the characters would have that as a frame of reference
- Introducing technology that’s unfamiliar without explaining it
- Assuming that the reader knows a technology from historical times
- Technology changing features in the middle of the book or having a completely different use later on
So, how do you stop yourself from the too little or too much conundrum?
I’m writing a science fiction novel myself. I’ve done this a couple of times now and here are some of the things that I have learned:
Make sure that you research an existing or historical technology. The better that you understand how a comparable technology works the easier it will be to expand on and make believable to your reader. Research takes awhile and it may even inspire your technologies to go in new directions. It’s worth the work.
I’m not saying that you need to make a 3D model to get your point across but it definitely helps to have a detailed idea of what you’re talking about.Treat it like character development. What does it look like? Where did it come from? How did it impact the world? How often do people use it? What has it been used for?
Even if it doesn’t make it into the initial description it will give you new and dynamic ways to describe it throughout the book because it’s more real to you.
When you’re writing the descriptions in your novel
- It’s purpose
- The basics of how it looks. I recommend practicing writing descriptions about the technologies in your life and striking what isn’t necessary for the description for practice.
- And how it works, I like to use a character or situation (like some kind of weapons deal or tech unveiling)
Over describing your technology is an easy pitfall. If you have a few paragraphs of information on it, that’s too much. In order to break it up add in some action or character interaction. Have one tech savvy character explain it to someone that hasn’t used it. Or maybe the different modes of that fancy gun in a battle where you explain the settings while stuff is blowing up all over the place!
The same goes for not describing the technology enough or comparing to today.
Unless the future isn’t that far away or it’s set in modern time… it should not be compared to now.
And if it’s historical, well there are plenty of things that I don’t know about covered wagons… for example.
If technology in your book changes in the middle of the book or has a completely different use without explanation, you will shatter the reader’s trance. Just like character development your technology needs to be as real to you as possible to avoid all of this. If you need that piece of technology to do something new, upgrade models work… depending on how dramatic this new feature is. If it’s too dramatic, I recommend just creating a second piece of technology.
In conclusion, initially technology doesn’t seem that hard to write. Especially if you make it up, but it still takes a bit of time to develop even if it doesn’t exist yet.
Mad scientists of the creative writing world, we must embark on blowing the minds of our readers and inspiring the real world to catch up with us!