The Starving Activist is the sometimes-home for words. AR Neal (that’s me) finds them, cultivates them, and leaves them here. Enjoy.

Why All Good #Fiction is #ScienceFiction

It's true: there is a science to all good fiction (gotcha, didn't I?).Have you ever turned on a movie and found yourself yelling at the screen because the storyline was so awful? That's bad fiction, right? When the plot is so obvious, the characters are undeveloped, and you can easily identify who did it within the first five minutes, you've got major bad fiction on your hands. And most likely, the remote is soon to follow, since the pain of watching bad fiction is sometimes not even worth the enjoyment of laughing at the show or film.Bad fiction is what turns books into support structures for that table with the short leg.Conversely, good fiction is the evidence of good sleuthing on the part of the writer.When you don't want to blink during the film or go to work with bleary eyes because you couldn't put the book down until you finished it, you've found a piece of good fiction. The characters are believable, the plot is an adventure, and you are surprised to discover the villain (even if you had suspicions of who he, she, or they might be from early on).What does this idea of science mean to you, my fellow writer? You might be saying to yourself, this chick is way off the mark. I mean, my book is about [fill in the blank here. For the sake of the discussion, let's go with this:] Viking unicorns in space. It's complete fantasy, so I don't need any blinkin' science!First, let me congratulate you on developing a story about Viking unicorns in space -- that sounds like a fresh idea if ever I heard.Second, your book is all up in the science, my friend. What do you know about unicorns? Is there any authoritative manual that discusses their physiology or social habits? What about Vikings? Do you know what the culture is all about? If you don't know those two bits, you have no idea how to make Viking unicorns even potentially plausable. Plus, you want to send them to space -- what's that all about? Where -- somewhere here, in the Milky Way? Will they live on Europa? Or off in the depths of the Crab Nebula? Do they have (here we go, back to physiology ...) some way to breathe in space and if not, who puts on their space suits? How does the horn fit inside a helmet?Even if you decide to write about Viking unicorns in space and can't get any information on their biology you can extrapolate. Most of the images of unicorns I've seen make them look like horses with horns.If you can't find a novice's guide to unicorn anatomy, why not start with horse anatomy and go from there?I'm no expert but from what I have seen of unicorns in the media, they tend to be rather mild-mannered. How will they fit into Viking culture?Ah -- there it is: the science, see? You've got to do your research before you put your book out there.I often find myself stopping in the middle of a writing session to hop online to investigate something I want for my character. My current #WIP is a realistic fiction, which means I sometimes need to consult maps for correct street names and to ensure the direction they go. If I say my character is walking on Main Street to get to the coffee shop, but everyone who knows the town also knows there is no coffee shop on Main Street, it's not the end of the world. However, if the crux of my story is that the streets and locations are accurate ... well you see the dilemma.I wanted to incorporate something about underground dwellings. It's fine to suggest that the indicated characters lived in a tunnel somewhere, but doesn't it become more reasonable when the tunnel actually exists? Sure it does!As far as character traits, I have a minor character who is a practicing Muslim. I can't have him saying things related to Islam that aren't true -- that's offensive to anyone of this particular faith! When I have a scene with him in it and something connects to Islamic practices, I have to review the topic as it relates to the Qur'an to be as accurate as I can. I can accomplish this by reading various scholarly texts, asking someone I know, or going to a local Imam.These are just a few basic examples, but there you have it. If you are writing fiction, do your research. Even if you think you've made it all up, haven't we all? But we wouldn't be writing it if some small part of us wanted a reader, somewhere, to believe, now would we?Are you a fiction writer? How diligent are you with researching information either before or after you start writing? What tips might you offer in this regard?

Scribe's Cave Picture Prompt: Where have all the People Gone?

#WIP: Introducing Carla Emerson