Ghostwriting Science Fiction, or Why Your Narrative Voice Must Be Credible

Over the years, a good number of fantasy-sci/fi manuscripts have been submitted to me. Almost always, the writer possesses a prodigious imagination and fertile creativity, one in which epic battles between good and evil take place in exotic environments, fought by little people, small folk, elves, dwarves or innocent humans against dark, frightening agents of evil.

I applaud these writing efforts even though they almost always fall well short of their creative and imaginative potential. Worse, they fall far short of any real chance to reach what is unquestionably a huge potential audience. There are millions of readers who hunger for a well-told fantasy-sci/fi book (does the name Harry Potter come to mind? The Lord of the Rings?)

Creativity and imagination. A huge potential audience. What could go wrong?

Sentences? Weak sentences can be edited. Characterizations? Awkward characterization can be improved. Dialogue? Flat dialogue can be brought to life. These things are easy. The more difficult task is to make the narrative, and therefore the narration, believable.

There is a curious relationship that a reader has with a narrator, with the storyteller rather than the story. While readers of fantasy-sci/fi live for the remarkable flights of fancy that are part and parcel of the genre, those flights of fancy only work when they are related by a storyteller that is firmly rooted in “reality.” (This is why we love a story told by a kindly, grandfather-type, telling of an adventure that happened to him “long ago.” The story can be incredible, but it’s being told by grandpa, sitting comfortably and safely in front of the fire. In a different, though related, context, it’s also the reason why we love roller coasters – we really, really trust the seat belts! We want the exhilaration, but only when we know the danger is “pretend”. Ultimately we want to know we’re safe.)

A fantasy story without a credible narrator is nothing more than the rambling of a lunatic just, as a roller coaster ride without a seat belt is less exhilarating ride and more playing with self-destruction.

A narrative depends on the narrative “voice.” You always want your narrative voice to be credible and authoritative. When it is not, your story will fail. This is particularly true when you are writing fantasy-sci/fi. If I, as a reader, trust the narrator, I will have no problem believing in flying people, dragons, magical elves and strange creatures that have lived through several cycles of creation. Characters can walk on clouds or go to sleep in an arid desert only to wake up in an eagle’s nest. If I do not trust the narrator, I will likely question a character walking across the room on a summer’s day.

Novice writers are often capable of writing good sentences, and of conjuring up delightful characters. It is in “speaking” with an authoritative voice that they often fall short and need to seek professional assistance from a ghostwriter.

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