5 Things I want from a Science Fiction Romance
1. Setting. “All the world’s a stage…” according to Shakespeare, and in your story the world is the stage for your characters. Be it Earth, an alien planet, a space station etc. it might seem merely background, but your setting will colour everything in it.
A space station? There’s the problem of generating or maintaining gravity and atmosphere (or sudden loss of) to worry about. Combat will be risky, and you may well have to deal with confined spaces. It’s a very artificial way of life, so technology will play a huge part. How do they get or reprocess air? Food? Transportation. Are they near a planet? An asteroid field? What kind of power source?
For a planet, significant variations in atmosphere, terrain, bio-hazards, flora and fauna can provide much of the conflict, and increase the tension in the romance. If you stick with Earth, you’ll still need to research your setting and how it might affect visiting aliens/time travelers/invaders.
2. Characters. Your players upon the stage. Whether they’re human, alien or robotic, straight, trans, bi, lesbian, gay, religious, atheist, black, white or multi-coloured, they must be real. No one likes flat characters. Make me sympathize with the victim, loathe the villain, and admire the hero/heroine. Make me want the good guys to win but place enough doubt to keep me hooked on the edge of my seat. I should want the villain to lose, but you could either make me feel a shred of sympathy for his/her/their reasons or give them a chance at redemption that they throw away. With romance we have to provide at least a HFN, but have them really work for it.
3. Conflict. Without conflict, there’s no story. Character A wants this. B, C, or D and anything up to and past Z is in their way. It could be small—a childhood disappointment they couldn’t get over—or something huge like the extermination of their race. It could be several things. Whatever, I want to see the characters work through it, or achieve their HFN despite it. The more they suffer and struggle to the end, the better, bwahahaaa!
4. Technology. Not everyone wants to write SF like Arthur C Clarke. Personally I love tech in a SF romance, but I don’t want to feel I’m slogging through a science manual on every page. And this can be the key aspect that turns some romance readers off even trying SFR. My approach is not to let it slow the story to a crawl, but it must be believable, consistent and imaginative. That doesn’t mean it can’t be based on a scientific principle currently considered impossible or improbable providing it’s believable, and I don’t expect every last detail to be explained unless that’s then essential to the conflict. However, breaking the laws of physics for something basic like gravity makes me wince.
5. Last, but no means least – Romance! It isn’t SFR unless there’s a balance between SF and the romance. There must be both. Enemies to lovers, forbidden love, lovers divided, death, destruction: give me any and all of it. However many are in the relationship (and again, the numbers are irrelevant if it works for the characters and for me as a reader), show me and their partners how they feel. Let me share every heartbreak, misunderstanding, every kiss, every action that sparks their romance or threatens to kill it. Sometimes I prefer a single POV in a book, trying to figure out how the other person in the relationship really feels through the eyes of the character whose head I’m in. Does he/she/it really love me? Sometimes it’s interesting to see the relationship from all those involved. Multiple POVs can be fascinating providing the characters are realistic in their responses. Perhaps one of them isn’t as into the relationship as the other(s). Perhaps they want different things but are afraid to admit it, and so they keep circling around the issue. Perhaps they’d both like a third party they want to join, but each is afraid the other will take it as rejection. Multiple pairings can bring in more internal conflict to increase the tension and make that HFN seem even more elusive.
So those are five things I hope for in SFR as a reader, and that I try to bring in as a writer. Do you have any to add? Or would place more or less importance on any of those I’ve discussed?
Bio: A stay-at-home mum of three who spent twelve years working as an Analytical Chemist in a Metals and Minerals laboratory, Pippa Jay bases her stories on a lifetime addiction to science-fiction books and films. Somewhere along the line a touch of romance crept into her work and refused to leave. In between torturing her plethora of characters, she spends the odd free moments trying to learn guitar, indulging in freestyle street dance and drinking high-caffeine coffee. Although happily settled in historical Colchester in the UK with her husband of 20 years, she continues to roam the rest of the Universe in her head.
Pippa Jay is a dedicated member of the SFR Brigade, a community of science fiction romance authors and publishing professionals committed to writing and promoting the very best in the genre.
Website – http://www.pippajay.co.uk
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Spacefreighters Lounge – http://www.spacefreighters.blogspot.com
Romancing the Genres – http://www.romancingthegenres.blogspot.co.uk/
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