Tips for writing futuristic fiction from award-winning YA author Erin Bow

The YA author of The Scorpion Rules and just of CBC Books' The First Page writing challenge talks about how you can write the unimaginable.
Erin Bow is the author of the young adult novel The Scorpion Rules and the judge of CBC Books' First Page student writing challenge. (Jay Parson/CBC Books)

Writing believable science fiction is a daunting task, even for award-winning YA author Erin Bow. Bow, a two-time winner of the Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy, shared her insights on the subject with Tara McCarthy on CBC's Airplay.

Bow is judging The First Page, CBC Books' new writing competition for students in Grades 7 to 12.

Don't abandon your reader

"In science fiction you can feel lost in the strangeness of the world. These worlds can be really complicated, have a lot of detail and they can be very unfamiliar. So if you drop someone into it, you need to give them a guide. They need someone to follow around. You need promise them as much with a strong opening."

Make it personal

"The best stories are the ones you are passionate about. As a living, I write about talking cats and crazy robots. I am always working out the things I'm interested in through the lens of science fiction. What I'm hoping is young writers can find something they're interested in and project it into the future in a fresh way."

Assemble your world one piece at a time

"It's Canada 150 — it's the year we all learned how to spell sesquicentennial. This is our chance to look ahead. We've been looking 150 years back and the world has changed so much that looking 150 years forward seems really daunting. What I do is write about one or two pieces of the future, telling a story about something like a world with no wild animals in it. If you take these elements one step further, you get quite a dystopian novel."

The full interview can be heard here:

Erin Bow on Airplay with Tara McCarthy

Erin Bow's comments have been edited and condensed.


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