Factual Details Enhance Fun Fantastical Tales

I’m no scientist or astronaut, so writing my Other Worldly series featuring aliens among us on Earth has been a science-based challenge since I realized upon approaching the third novel, Aliens Abound, that my protagonist Rowan Layne would inevitably travel into outer space. Something I hadn’t fathomed when I began writing the first novel, Alienable Rights, in late 2017.

Having just finished drafting the seventh novel, Aliens Watch, which employs extensive scientific details regarding the atmospheres of planet Saturn and several of its 146 moons, I was recently compelled to read an online Writer’s Digest article by author Jack Du Brul, “Why Research Matters in Fiction.”

Du Brul said, “Readers trust us to tell them a story that is truthful and real. So what happens when we have to lie? How can we show authenticity when we are essentially making it up as we go along?” The answer, he said, is research.

It was gratifying to know I’d done just that when I decided which of Saturn’s moons Rowan would visit in Aliens Watch. Choosing Titan, Enceladus, and Janus, not only because their names were pertinent to a story involving giants, but also due to having learned which locales in our solar system Earth’s scientists deem most likely to harbor life.

Du Brul explained that in the course of his 20 novels, he had to school himself on arcane topics in order to include details, and how crucial it is to get those right. Because, as he said, “among your readers is someone who knows that topic far more than you.”

As Rowan Layne would say, boy howdy. I hadn’t known Saturn has a total of 146 moons, much less that one has cloud formations (a popular subject in my Other Worldly novels), giant raindrops (an unpopular subject for Rowan’s mom), a global underground ocean, and yet another has an atmosphere dense enough for humans to gallivant around on its—albeit chilly—surface.

Not to mention an actual, adaptable form of life called pentapods on the moon called Janus. I had some fun with that odd creature, sticking with factual details yet eventually expounding on them to imagine a bizarre entity as if on steroids. Conjuring from science a mutated gigantic life form in keeping with the giant theme of Aliens Watch.

As Du Brul said, what grounds stories and makes them believable is details, because peppering a novel with factual details creates authenticity when combined with fictional elements. I did this at the outset with facts in Alienable Rights about sardines mysteriously gone missing from Monterey Bay in the 1940s, coming up with my own alien-derived explanation for this Earth-bound conundrum.

I’ve since continued this practice of weaving real-life elements into a fantastical story and now realize that traveling into space has provided the ultimate opportunity to do as Du Brul suggested. Using what scientists have determined about faraway planets in our solar system to craft a little (or giant) funky and wild worldbuilding for my Other Worldly novels.

As my beta readers take a look at Aliens Watch before it goes to my editor in June, I’m already looking ahead to the final novel featuring Rowan Layne, Alien Origins. Rowan will at long last travel to Jupiter, aka Cumulus (as in clouds) if you’re a Red Orbiter, but also to one of its moons where the greatest percentage of Rowan’s DNA originates.

I’ve previously addressed potential flora and fauna, including the Rowan tree, to be found on the moon known to humans as Elara, but actually called Actius by aliens. Yet what fun facts will I unearth about Jupiter and its moons that I can use to fashion fantastical elements pertinent to the origins of a fabulous over-fifty feminist protagonist?

One thing’s for sure, the Luna moth, or Actias Luna, will be front and center, building upon facts about this glowing green insect addressed in Alienable Rights. Moths, after all, have the greatest hearing and the greatest auditory range on Earth, greater than all animals and humans, except for Rowan Layne.









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