3 characterizations a scifi writer used to wow me

Science fcition reader


So what is a literary writer, character driven reader doing talking about scifi, especially when she will nearly always pass on scifi even though she will readily admit to being a bit of a geek when it comes to Star Trek?

The answer is simple: I read an indie. It’s no secret I love to read, and I do read a variety of genres. Independent publishing has opened up a whole new world to me. Recently, I picked up an ebook by KC May: Venom of Vipers. And I read it. And I loved it. And wait for it–I reviewed it. I rarely review. I hate to review, but when I find I’ve truly enjoyed a book for some reason, I just might put pixel to screen and pen a few glowing words. (Thus many of my reviews tend to be 4 and 5 star for indies)

Then I started to wonder why this character driven writer and reader so enjoyed the book, and I realized it was Ms. Mays’s characterization.

That meant I simply had to think about it some more. So I settled down to dissect for you what I think made her characters spot on.


1st: The author introduced the main character straight away and stuck with keeping setting in the *ahem* background. This is a strange choice for scifi–setting is crucial, like fantasy, to show what the genre is. Let me explain: setting was in response to character rather than the other way round. The author showed the time and necessary specifics as they related to the character’s emotional state. She didn’t pause to layout each notion of how the world had changed, what timeframe it was, etc. She just let the character exist in the time and the reader connected to the character that way.

2nd:The characters ALL had flaws and ALL had good qualities. I fond myself rooting for one or two of the villains at one time or other. There was no clear-cut, black and white, hard edge to them. This had me wondering which side they’d end up on by the end.

3rd: The most important, I think: the writer always gave me the impression she’d spent time with the characters, that she knew them outside what she was letting come through in the book. this made me think they could live beyond the confines of the plot they existed in. This meant the characterization was invisible: something I always strive for. That  also means I can’t say exactly what the author did to accomplish it. It simply showed that the characters were ruminated over outside the writing time. you can’t fake this depth. Just like spending time with friends, there is no recipe for getting to know someone.


Brava, Ms. May. You are one more indie author who has demonstrated attention to craft to me.


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Thea is the author of several novels that she considers left of mainstream. You can find her on BN, Kobo, Sony, Apple

Anomaly by Thea Atkinson
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Thea Atkinson is a writer of character driven fiction.

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11 comments on “3 characterizations a scifi writer used to wow me
  1. Thea, I recently wrote a 5* review for Michael Hicks’ IN HER NAME: EMPIRE http://tinyurl.com/6wl42yg. I don’t usually like SciFi, but Michael’s writing is wonderful. I loved the characters and the story. Michael is another indie author. You can find him at http://authormichaelhicks.com/ or Twitter@kreelanwarrior.

  2. David Dufty says:

    I have two words for you.
    Read Dune.

  3. It often surprises me how many readers who loved Star Trek, Star Wars, and Avatar won’t give SF or SFR a chance in print (and/or digital). I think it’s the stereotypes you mentioned, Thea, and while there are SF/SFR books that do fall into that category, many are fascinating reads with vibrant characters and fresh, non-intrusive world-building.

    Glad you found a keeper!

  4. I guess there’s a distinction between ‘pulp SF’ and ‘literate SF’ – the former, alas, tends to guide our perceptions of what SF or fantasy should be, via mass media products like Star Wars, Trek, and some of the novels. Ultimately the story should be about people irrespective of the gee-whizz nature of the tale.

    Matthew Wright

  5. I think it’s wonderful that one good book may have opened your eyes to an entirely new genre. I am still learning how to create deep, well rounded characters.

    Good post Thea. 🙂

  6. It’s great that you enjoyed the book. However, reading your points, I don’t think any of them are particularly rare in sci-fi. Good science fiction, like any other genre, requires characters who are well-rounded individuals you can believe in. The setting should be in the background. As you say, it’s important to the story in a sci-fi book, but it should be seen through the eyes of the characters in a natural way.

    I think you should take a chance on sci-fi more often and you may find the genre contains many more books that wow you.

    • I totally agree! It was so pleasant. I guess I have my own stereotypes of what genres contain, so imagine how excited I was to find the things I love about stories in a genre I never read.

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