The GIMME MORE! Blog Series: My Secrets to Creating Compelling Science Fiction & Fantasy

Written by Danica Cornell

If you were to venture a guess, what would you list as the number one aspiration of today’s fiction writers?   Might it be to make a living doing what we love?  To be famous?  To work less than 50 hours a week?  Actually, for myself, anything less than 60 hours would be a step in the right direction—but I digress.

Digging a little deeper, I’d be willing to bet for the majority of us in the writing/publishing biz, our deepest longing is to gain a loyal following of readers—but not just any readers.  What we really want are readers who HUNGER for our work.  We want them banging down the doors demanding , “When’s your next book coming out?!” Naturally, the question then becomes, how do we achieve this–what’s the magic stuff that makes readers crave our work?

For most of us, the bottom line is this:  We want our readers screaming from the rooftops, “Gimme more!”

On some level, I suspect even beginning authors understand that in order to write as well as the pros, they’d best be advised to begin with an interesting story (a conflict, a problem) within a well constructed story world.   They might also understand they need to deliver the goods when it comes to description and emotional experience—the goal being to have their masterpiece read more like a modern day movie than a centuries-old novel.

When you think about it, a lot of what I’ve outlined here deals directly with the characters themselves.  Their feelings and experiences.  Their conflicts and growth.  This is precisely why I’ve devoted a considerable amount of time to developing my DARK STAR Series’ characters up front—during the planning stages of my novels, NOT while I’m in the middle of writing them.  I realize this technique isn’t for everyone.  But for me, because I believe character development is KING when it comes to creating compelling science fiction/fantasy, (or any kind of fiction for that matter), I’ve chosen to spend the bulk of my time getting to know my characters before word one ever hits the page.

Come again?

That’s right.  Even though I write in what many consider to be one of the most challenging genres out there (due to the imaginary worlds which must be created from scratch), I’m here to tell you I actually spend the bulk of my time developing my characters.

Allow me to explain…

Many of you probably don’t know much (if anything) about my background, so let me start off by saying that I’m not only a writer.  I’m also the owner of a nanotechnology start-up, which is probably why dreaming up sexy, futuristic, high-tech gadgets and weapons systems is second nature to me.  Additionally, because I’ve spent the last fifteen years immersed in nanotechnology business development, I’ve learned a thing or two about technological forecasting and social change— constructs which just so happen to make great fodder for my DARK STAR Scifi/Fantasy Series.

But here’s the deal.   Things get really interesting for readers of science fiction when writers take the time to weave social change into personal change and tie it all together with healthy doses of inter and intrapersonal conflict.  If you think about it, the most fascinating characters any of us have ever known are flawed and complicated.  They’re not stereotypical.  They’re unique, yet believable.  It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about protagonists, antiheroes, villains, sidekicks, or mentors—our main characters need to LEAP off the pages!  As writers, we want our readers to identify with at least one of our main characters.  Why?  Because we want them to experience first hand, their pains, joys, sorrows, and triumphs.   But more than anything else, we want them to become INVESTED in our characters and their journeys—even to the point of morphing into one of them for a few hours while reading our tantalizing tales.  As you might imagine, this becomes especially important than when creating a series–which is why I’m so passionate about character development in the first place.  Let’s face it, if your readers don’t care about your characters, they won’t care about your cool sci-fi tech or out-of-this-world adventures–so give your readers more of what they really want.  Give them characters they can sink their teeth into.


COMING UP:  In my next installment of The GIMME MORE! Blog Series, I’m going to discuss just how I’ve utilized my psychology degree to help develop DARK STAR’s cast of characters.  This promises to be a fruitful discussion, one chock-full of ideas for helping new writers create truly three-dimensional characters.

It’s been a pleasure spending this time with you.  Thanks so much for stopping by and I do hope you’ll come back again real soon!  🙂

Until we meet again…

Happy writing,





Danica Cornell holds a BA in Psychology.  As the President and Co-Owner of Mano Nanotechnologies, Inc., Danica has over 15 years of business development experience, which she uses to guide the advanced technology concepts featured throughout her forthcoming DARK STAR Sci-fi/Fantasy Series.  To learn more about Danica’s writing, her background in nanotechnology and psychology, and her passion for deep character development, please visit her website at

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15 thoughts on “The GIMME MORE! Blog Series: My Secrets to Creating Compelling Science Fiction & Fantasy

  1. So true – stuck mid MS – and realized I do not know one of my key characters! I know the backtory, the crime that led to a murder, the main protagonist – but not the #1 supporting character. Sigh. – back to the drawing board.

  2. Danica – thank you very much for writing this. When you talk about getting to know your own characters, what does that look like? How detailed do you get? Do you get down to the level of when they get up in the morning, what comprises a typical breakfast, or are such things incidental and you focus on other, perhaps more societal and personal interests …

    • Hi Bal, thank you for your questions. My apologies for taking a few days to respond, I’ve been on vacation…even managed to come back with a tan! 🙂

      I get pretty detailed, although I don’t always share everything with the reader because it can be too much info. I do mention some favorite foods (snacks) for a couple of the characters. I also know the backstory for each character, even though this is often not included in my writing. I spend a lot of time getting clear (in my own mind) their ambitions, values, and goals. What motivates each character? I find these constructs to be vitally important.

      I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic as well. Thank you again for your questions. 🙂

      Best wishes, D

      • Hi Danica,

        Thank you for taking time to go into this.

        You do much more than I do, though I think that may be largely because I write short stories and have not yet attempted anything larger. (I should)

        I’m guessing that getting to know your characters that well is pleasant when dealing with cool and fun characters. I’m wondering if you find it difficult to get into the heads of villainous characters. I once tried and had great difficulty as just thinking about what an evil person would do to cause another harm brought tears to my eyes. I admire those who can do so either dispassionately or plow through the emotion if it arises.

        – Bal

    • Hi Bal, This reply is to your other reply…I guess WordPress won’t let me reply in the appropriate place. 🙂 Anyway, to answer your question, I actually find it a little easier to get into the head of a villain! Maybe it’s because of my studies in psychology…but to be honest with you, I find creating “bad guys” to be exciting! I must say, you ask some thought-provoking questions. Thank you so much…it’s a delight chatting with you! By the way, I’ve been away from social media and the computer for several days because my dog came down with colitis. I guess he was upset from our recent vacation. 😦 The good news is he’s getting better. Hopefully things will settle down over here now LOL! Thanks again for your response. xoxo

      • Thanks Danica… I appreciate your response and find it interesting. One more question on this to see how it works for you. As you think about the villainous characters, do you do so in a problem-solving context for your heros or do you just put on an “evil-Danica” hat and delight in the deviltry you come up with?

        Sorry about your dog… sick pets are no fun, but it’s the flip side of caring about and for them, yes?

        One idea I’ve thought of doing is to write a short story for each character in a novel. Whether intended for anyone else or not, it would give me a way to develop the character inside the universe I’m creating for him or her (or it). Have you tried this and if so, did it work as I anticipate it would?

        – Bal

      • Hi Bal,

        Ohhh! I just LOVE your questions!!! Thank you so much for your inquiries!!! 🙂 My villains are most definitely designed within a problem-solving context for my protagonist. They’ve also been created as part of the series’ Big Picture, if you know what I mean. 🙂

        As for your idea of a short story for each character–I think this is Fabulous!!!! Ooooh, how I wish I would’ve thought of this! My character descriptions are pretty in-depth, so writing a short story for each of them would have been like icing on the cake. Please do let me know if/when you do this (if you decide to publish, that is)…I’d LOVE to read your work! 🙂

        Thanks for your kind words about my dog. I love the little guy SO MUCH! 🙂 Hugo’s getting better, but he’s not fully back to normal just yet. I guess colitis takes awhile to resolve, eh? He’s been to the vet and I’ve followed the doctor’s instructions To The Letter. Nevertheless, I needed to refill his meds recently. You may find this humorous–I’ve been sleeping on the couch with him for some time now (in case he needs to go out in the middle of the night). So, while Hugo’s improving, my back continues to become more sore with each passing night! LOL. 🙂

        Thanks again, Bal. It’s such a delight chatting with you. I genuinely appreciate your questions, as they make me pause and consider my own work. I’m truly grateful we’ve met and I wish you every success with your writing. xoxo 🙂

    • Hi Bruce, thank you so much! I realize psychology and nanotechnology in one person’s background is probably a bit unusual, so I thought I should probably explain all of this here. As different as it may be, it really is a blessing–especially for what I’m working on. I continue to count my lucky stars every single day! 🙂

    • Thank you Shirley, you’re always so kind and supportive. Having you as a friend is making this journey even more meaningful! I’m really looking forward to growing our careers together! xoxo 🙂

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