Collaborative Speculative Fiction Part 3

Onto the next installment of our group story! Here’s the photo for our collaborative speculative fiction part 3. In collaborative fiction, writers take turns adding sentences or paragraphs to a story. To read the first installment, click here. The second installment is here. Below is the last paragraph from last week. My next contribution is below it. I’d love for your to play along! Write your inspiration in the comments.

What was it? And why was it coming toward me? The creature’s eyes had to be as big as my head. And its eyes were fixed on me. It was approaching me fast, now only ten feet away. A wild cry, a high-pitched roar that seemed to slice my ear drums, raged from the creature’s throat. I spun on my heels, adrenaline surging and heart pounding, but I slipped on the wet pier and face planted the cement. Was this it? Why, oh why did I leave the house, slam the door, yell that I never wanted to see any of them again? Was that really the end of it all?

I whipped around to a seated position, expecting to see the creature opening its mouth for its first taste of me.

Instead it lifted its head and made a sound like a giant sniff. Then it swam toward the end of the pier.

Leaping to my feet, I was about to turn and put as much distance between me and the sea as I could when I saw a light bobbing at the furthest point of the pier. That bobbing had to mean a person was holding a light. I’d thought I was alone on the pier. Had the light or whoever was holding it attracted the creature?

Lessons Learned in Writing Speculative Fiction

I’m always excited to introduce a new author to my readers, so it’s a pleasure to welcome new novelist Dana Li as a guest blogger. Her first novel, The Vermillion Riddle, released in March, gave her a graduate course in the craft of writing, and she’s here today to share lessons learned in writing speculative fiction.

Fantasy and science fiction were the first genres to really hook me on stories. When I felt the itch to start writing my own, I naturally wanted to tell the fantastical, epic kind of tales that captivated me. Turns out, it takes more than a burst of enthusiasm or inspiration to finish writing a novel, let alone one where I’m building an entire world. My writing endeavors began in fanfiction, and honestly, I think that’s a great place to start – I was playing in someone else’s sandbox, with an already defined world and characters. Leveling up to writing original speculative fiction was hard: I needed to build the world from scratch, and introduce characters that would win readers over. I published my first fantasy novel, The Vermilion Riddle, this year, and it’s been a long but worthwhile journey. These are just some of the lessons I learned along the way!

Create the characters that inspire you. 

Even if you’re writing in a different world with different rules and reality, you want readers to connect with your characters. As a reader, the fantasy and sci-fi stories I loved most were largely due to the memorable characters. They’re relatable, yet brushed with strokes of heroism. In a fantasy, we get to send characters on epic adventures and have them face seemingly insurmountable trials. Take advantage of this! It’s an opportunity to tell stories with a lot of heart, showcasing qualities like courage, loyalty, and nobility. The stakes are high – let the characters rise to meet the challenges. These are the moments that stay with readers for a long time.

Commit to extra world-building. 

For The Vermilion Riddle, I created a calendar, map, and thought through the political and religious system. Not all of it was critical to the plot, but having it at my fingertips to reference in a passing remark or description enriched the story. It makes readers feel like there really is an entire world hovering in the background, and there’s more history, geography, and lore to explore beyond the confines of this particular story. Just don’t hit readers with a deluge of information. They shouldn’t need to read a primer on your magical system as a prerequisite to understanding your novel. Let them uncover bits and pieces of how things work as the story progresses.

Don’t sacrifice the plot for the sake of being preachy. 

Most speculative fiction has a point, or a moral behind the story. As a Christian, telling a good story is not the same as preaching a sermon. We’re not writing a theological treatise; we’re seeking to tell good, thought-provoking stories as Christians, and our worldview will display itself in how we portray good and evil, the nature of humanity, and more. We also don’t want to gloss over the reality that we’re plagued by sin and a broken world, and not all stories wrap up with a bow and happily ever after. Good stories will face the darkness and acknowledge our brokenness, but reject nihilism. Our stories may not talk about Christ and the cross explicitly, but let’s show that good prevails against evil, life has dignity and value, and our hope is not in vain.

Thank you so much for all the wonderful advice! Learn more about her debut novel and how to connect with Dana below.

*****

“To enter Faerie’s blessed demesne

four secrets must be found:

the land unbound by time and space

opens only to the one who knows

the Light, the Song, and Mortal Gate.”

In the sheltered town of Carmel, women do not have a future outside of a good marriage. That future is threatened when Leah Edwards’ father gambles away the family’s livelihood and estate. She and her sisters must hurry to find husbands. Then August Fox, a Guardian from Cariath, comes to town and purchases a supposedly haunted manor. Charged to keep the peace between mortals and Faerie, the Guardians are the stuff of legend. After he stuns her with a marriage proposal, Leah reluctantly journeys to Cariath, discovering there is more to August and the legends than she guessed.

Nimrod and his Oath-breakers betrayed the Guardians, seeking to solve an ancient riddle that would unlock the Faerie realm. Not all his followers share his desire for conquest. Benedict Fox, his second-in-command, has different motives. But as he continues fulfilling Nimrod’s plan, Benedict hurtles towards a choice between saving his family and settling a personal vendetta.

For Leah, August, and their allies, it is a race against time to solve the ancient riddle before the Oath-breakers, and reunite the Guardians to save the mortal realm. The war is never really over, and this time, the battle lines cut through blood ties and brotherhood.

*****

Dana Li

Dana Li is a software product manager by day, and a novelist by night. She holds an MS in management science and engineering from Stanford University and a BS in computer science from USC, but she’s always been better at writing stories than code. Her writing misadventures began with a dozen now-deleted Star Wars fanfiction tales. She loves good fantasy/sci-fi, classy cuisines, and roller coasters (but not all at once). Dana currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, and The Vermilion Riddle is her first novel. 

You can follow Dana on Instagram and Facebook, or learn more about her work at www.penandfire.com

Collaborative Speculative Fiction Part 2

Here’s the photo for our collaborative speculative fiction part 2. In collaborative fiction, writers take turns adding sentences or paragraphs to a story. To read the first installment, click here. I’ll write the next section, and you can take it from there.

I ran onto the pier. I had to get out of the house, go some place without people–people meant problems.

Slowing to a walk, I jammed my hands into my windbreaker. The cold night and rising fog had left the pier empty of people. Perfect.

I leaned on the railing, breathing in the salt air. The sea was still, touched with silver where the moonlight could slip through the mist.

I stared at the horizon. How far could I see? How many miles? How many miles could I put between myself and–

The smooth surface of the water rippled. Something was swimming toward the pier. Something big.

My eyes widening, I felt my heart take a jump.

The ripple stopped, and a head broke the surface. A head like every dragon I’d ever seen in a fairy tale.

I slapped my hand over my mouth to squash a scream.

Could We? Should We? Part 2

“Could We? Should We? Part 2” is the second half of the guest blog written by author/editor Michelle L. Levigne. To read the first part, click here. She discusses at greater length and depth about Christians writing speculative fiction in her book To Eternity (and beyond).

St. Augustine:

[No help is to be despised, even though it come from a profane source.]

But whether the fact is as Varro has related, or is not so, still we ought not to give up music because of the superstition of the heathen, if we can derive anything from it that is of use for the understanding of Holy Scriptures; … For we ought not to refuse to learn letters because they say that Mercury discovered them; nor because they have dedicated temples to Justice and Virtue, and prefer to worship in the form of stones things that ought to have their place in the heart, ought we on that account to forsake justice and virtue. Nay, but let every good and true Christian understand that wherever truth may be found it belongs to his Master;[1]

[Whatever has been rightly said by the heathen we must appropriate to our uses.]

Moreover, if those who are called philosophers, and especially the Platonists, have said aught that is true and in harmony with our faith, we are not only not to shrink from it, but to claim it for our own use from those who have unlawful possession of it. For, as the Egyptians had not only the idols and heavy burdens which the people of Israel hated and fled from, but also vessels and ornaments of gold and silver, and garments, which the same people when going out of Egypt appropriated to themselves, designing them for a better use, not doing this on their own authority but by the command of God, the Egyptians themselves, in their ignorance, providing them with things which they themselves were not making a good use of; in the same way all branches of heathen learning have not only false and superstitious fancies and heavy burdens of unnecessary toil, which every one of us, when going out under the leadership of Christ from the fellowship of the heathen, ought to abhor and avoid; but they contain also liberal instruction which is better adapted to the use of the truth, and some most excellent precepts of morality; and some truths in regard even to the worship of the One God are found among them. Now these are, so to speak, their gold and silver, which they did not create themselves, but dug out of the mines of God’s providence which are everywhere scattered abroad, and are perversely and unlawfully prostituting to the worship of devils. These, therefore, the Christian, when he separates himself in the spirit from the miserable fellowship of these men, ought to take away from them, and to devote to their proper use in preaching the gospel. Their garments, also that is, human institutions such as are adapted to that intercourse with men which is indispensable in this life — we must take and turn to Christian use.[2]

[1] St. Augustine. On Christian DoctrineGreat Books of the Western World. Robert Maynard Hutchins, Editor in Chief. (Encyclopedia Brittanica, Inc. Chicago 1952) pp. 646.
[2] Ibid. pp. 655.

Essentially, Christians are commanded to plunder the “treasures” of the non-believers and turn them to God’s service and glorification. Countless times, the Israelites were commanded to plunder their conquered enemies and keep what they took. And there were always instructions for what and how much went to the Tabernacle and the priesthood.

Yet, there were also occasions when the Israelites were ordered to destroy all the possessions of the enemy, and not keep even one small coin of the spoil. This can be extended to modern times to apply to Satan’s tools of drugs, pornography, profanity, and anything that is not profitable for God’s service. These things are perversions, warping away from the true intent of their basic drives. Such twisted things only distract from the truth and must be totally wiped out.

Just because some science fiction/fantasy seems to promote occultism or immorality does not mean all the rest is bad. Certain cults use the cross as part of their symbolism, and others use the Bible, with their own twisted interpretations. Does that mean Christians should stop wearing the cross and reading the Bible? Of course not. It must all be redeemed and used for the good of society and the furtherance of the Gospel. People must be trained to want the good over the evil, to tell the difference between the two opposing forces, and to find the side of light to be more attractive than the side of darkness. 

Science fiction/fantasy is stepping in and filling the needs in people’s lives that the church and other institutions are not filling, or if they are, not meeting the need adequately. Such as the need for wonder, and fostering the imagination, and hope in desperate, dark circumstances. Don’t condemn the genre for doing this — condemn the ones who are not doing their jobs. Christians should study and get involved in science fiction/fantasy and all the sub-genres associated with it, so that the uses and abuses can be understood, and either redeemed, turned to their proper uses, or guarded against.

There will always be those who say something is wrong for Christians because they don’t feel comfortable with it. God works differently with everyone. All His people are individuals. A story will have a desired effect on one group of people, a sermon will have the same effect on a different group of people, and a song will be designed to have the same effect on yet another group of people. God uses many tools. He used Balaam’s donkey, so who has the wisdom and authority to dictate His choices in either tools or methods?

Thank you, Michelle! Wonderful insight into writing speculative fiction as a Christian. To connect with Michelle, check out her bio and social media links below.


Michelle L. Levigne

On the road to publication, Michelle fell into fandom in college and has 40+ stories in various SF and fantasy universes. She has a bunch of useless degrees in theater, English, film/communication, and writing. Even worse, she has over 100 books and novellas with multiple small presses, in science fiction and fantasy, YA, suspense, women’s fiction, and sub-genres of romance. 

Her training includes the Institute for Children’s Literature; proofreading at an advertising agency; and working at a community newspaper. She is a tea snob and freelance edits for a living (MichelleLevigne@gmail.com for info/rates), but only enough to give her time to write. Want to learn about upcoming books, book launch parties, inside information, and cover reveals? Go to Michelle’s website or blog to sign up. You can also find her at www.YeOldeDragonBooks.comwww.MtZionRidgePress.comFacebook, and Instagram.

Collaborative Speculative Fiction Part 1

My theme this month is speculative fiction. So I thought I’d try another collaborative story for prompts this month. I did this back in October for my mystery theme. I’ll post a picture, write a paragraph or more about it, and then you can add your sentence or paragraph to continue the story. Each Monday, I’ll post a another picture for the next installment of our story.

I’ll start us off with the first prompt.

The creature barely had to swish his tail, the sea was so calm. The moon turned the surface to silver, and the creature’s wake appeared as an arrow cleaving through it.

Lifting his head, the creature looked to the horizon, where many pinpricks of light dotted it, his nostrils flaring. He inhaled deeply, then tilted his head to one side and gazed at the sparks of light, which lined the horizon as if the stars overhead had fallen into a rut.

With one great last of his tail, the creature pivoted. Then with his tail acting as both rudder and engine, he swam toward the lights .

For more speculative fiction prompts, click here.

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