Inventing Reality: A Guide to Writing Science Fiction


How can you plant a message in your story without sounding preachy? What are some ways that objects, settings and characters can take on a symbolic quality? The topics on this page address these and many other theme-related questions.

What is theme? 
Even the most action-packed, blood-and-gore story has some message or point that the tale makes. The proposition that is argued or some aspect of human experience that is examined in your story is its theme.
Moral order
An aspect of theme is your story’s “moral order” – the sense of what’s right and wrong based on how your characters are rewarded and punished for their actions.
Self-indulgent digression
Many science fiction authors write stories to make a statement about an ethical or political issue. Unfortunately, authors sometimes are tempted to get on their soapbox rather than allow the message to unfold with the story.

Evils of duality
When developing a storyline about a main character overcoming a problem, some writers fall into the trap of creating an adversary who personifies evil. In doing so, the theme and plot of the story is reduced to the level of good guys vs. bad guys.
One of the fun aspects of science fiction is that the story can mean much more than the action-adventure tale it appears to be at first glance. Indeed, science fiction often is a literature of social criticism because its characters, planets and gizmos represent something in our world.
Science fiction often has been called “the literature of ideas” because it examines deep, philosophical concepts by placing characters in extraordinary situations where viewpoints and the logic behind decisions are tested. One powerful way to explore profound ideas is through the use of metaphor.