Adding More Scientific Realism to Sci-Fi in Space: Star Wars The Clone Wars

How Just a Bit of Realism In Your Story can Deepen Your World and Enthrall Your Reader

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (TV Series 2008–2020) - IMDb

Last summer, I spent many late nights toying with the idea of a space novel. There were so many questions I had, so many things I wanted to know about the world I was attempting to create, and at times I had no idea where to begin.

As school began and I got busy, my space novel project got worked on less, but I kept world-building in small ways when inspiration came.

Now, on this extended break from school, I have had much more time freed up. One of the things I have done with that time is watch Star Wars The Clone Wars, which is, in my opinion, an incredible expansion to the Star Wars universe.

Star Wars The Clone Wars TV show was one of the many space-fiction stories that inspired my story. Star Wars is something almost everyone, even someone who isn’t a fan, will recognize as trendsetting space fiction. It was a pop culture phenomenon at its birth and continues to be today. I have always loved the light-saber as a weapon, the many well developed characters, and the expansive galaxy enriched by each new location we visit in the franchise.

Through my writer’s eye, I saw the show in a whole new light. With many different military groups, independent systems, the Republic and the Separatists, the Trade Federation and each different type of planetary government, it is an incredible example of how intergalactic politics might work!

While the plot, characters, and lore remain interesting, and model-worthy as well, I did notice a pattern of something missing. Let’s face it, if there is anything this show lacks, it is the realistic elements of science that pull the reader, or watcher, deeper into a new and different world.

Science fiction doesn’t necessarily have to be very realistic, but some great science fiction (Adrift by Rob Boffard and The Martian for example) have used more realistic depictions of other worlds and future technology to make us believe we are reading something that could truly happen in the future, or is happening in a faraway galaxy.

The Clone Wars, for me, raised many questions about some scientific things not fully explained, or certain elements of the “realism” in the story that if tweaked or expanded upon, might make your story much more realistic and appealing. So without further ado, here’s my writing tips takeaway!

Firstly, how do species on different planets evolve, it seems very unlikely they could all be humanoid, get creative! More creatures like Jabba the Hut! This also rings true for making planets at different stages of carrying life, maybe not all planets your character visits have sentient life forms yet. Keeping with life forms, many planets in this show seem to have only one environment. While that can be cool, remember how diverse Earth is! Depending on how you write your story, a planet with multiple environments and lots of different flora and fauna will certainly enrich the story.

Speaking of planets, perhaps the biggest thing that takes me out of the story in this show is the fact that every planet our Jedi heroes visit appears to have the same atmosphere composition, gravity, and relative temperature. Not even two planets in our solar system have the same gravity or atmosphere.

Instead of ignoring these scientific elements, use them! Create a challenge for your characters and interesting worlds with limited gravity that causes cities to be tethered to the planet! Create technology that filters nitrogen or sulfur-rich air so it is breathable. Have suits that need to be worn by your characters in certain acidic or too hot/cold planets for survival. Play around with the environment, and show how your characters would adapt!

Some more questions to ask; How do the conditions of a certain planet affect how life there has developed if there is life? What would an organism from that planet need to survive if it left? How would a sentient being from a specific planet talk, based on air composition (guttural, high pitched, etc.)? Are there different languages, different races, and cultures on each planet? The more diverse a planet, the more real I find it becomes to the reader/watcher.

These are many of the major questions Star Wars The Clone Wars made me ask about my own book, and they inspire a lot of creative thinking for world-building. For my fellow aspiring writers, perhaps the best piece of advice I can offer is to constantly ask questions about the things you write about, challenge the way you think about things to broaden your creativity, and don’t hesitate to add flair and detail to the world you are creating.

-Sebastian E.

Star Wars books, films, and television shows are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. Additional material can be found online for free through Overdrive

Smoke, Fog and Haze

This short free write is based on a writing prompt I saw online. The prompt is not mine, but the writing is. Write about not being able to see ahead of you.

My attempts to find a shred of light in the dark abyss were in vain. There was nothing but emptiness and everything was covered in a drab grey blanket. Every direction I turned there seemed to be a dense cloud, trapping me, confining me. My other senses were heightened in place of my impaired vision, but I wish they hadn’t. They intensified my fear. My eardrums tingled at the whistling wind that entwined itself in the creaking tree branches and my arms prickled at the slightest kiss of the chilling evening air. Darkness wrapped itself around my body and placed a tight blindfold over my frantic eyes.

I looked down at my feet, or at least I tried. I wiggled my toes, just making sure they were still there even if I couldn’t see them. Every day I had counted on my trustworthy feet to carry me exactly where I needed to go, but today was different. They didn’t know where to go. It was almost like the GPS in my feet were shut down, like my toes had lost their sense of direction, like my heels were permanently glued to the ground. The thick, smokey world around me shackled my feet to fear and uncertainty. Ironically, taking a leap of faith into the abyss was my only option.

Outstretching my frozen hands, I waved into the void and found emptiness. Each swipe into the nothingness looming before me brought another wave of chills that ran down my back. With a sharp intake of cold breath, I drew up the courage to place one foot in front of me. The dry earth beneath me crunched with a magnificent sound that seemed to echo around me. I gritted my teeth and forced myself to take the next step. Breath by breath and step by step, I teetered my way down the road.

After awhile, pitch black darkness still hindered my sight and all I could hear was my jagged breath. It seemed that I had been trekking for hours and miles, but with the blackness clouding the path behind me, it was hard to tell how far I had actually walked. By now, fear had stopped pulsing through my veins and exhaustion seeped into my bones. The adrenaline that had rushed through my body earlier tired me. My eyelids felt so heavy, but closing them was no different than holding them open and somehow, holding them open made me feel a little braver. Each step required more energy than the last and my arms slowly stopped waving in front of my body. The very feet that carried me this far wanted so desperately to give up. Through the smoke, fog and haze, I felt more hopeless and alone than ever.

-Jessica T.

Nature!

Writing Prompt: Describe a character experiencing an unorthodox morning and their reflection following the morning’s events.

Unfortunately for me, and quite controversially to my motto “life is dumb and I want to sleep”, I found myself stumbling in the muted shimmering light of the rising sun out to sidewalk with a water bottle in hand and athletic shoes snug on my cold feet. Yawning, I let out a puff of air, my breath leaving it’s mark in the air. Not that I was against physical activity or anything but sleeping in until nine o’clock then rising to sip some tea while reading a novel was just, simply put, preferable.

My childhood friend, Jax (that garrulous, manipulative rascal), somehow made me comply to going on a hike at five thirty on a Saturday morning. Last night’s phone call was still vague and fuzzy in my groggy mind. I picked up my pace, feeling the cool air seep into the seams of my leggings and weave through the strands of my ponytail.

An hour or so later, the sun had fully peeped its head out from behind the mountaintops and illuminated the windy path up to 48 Wiles Way, a crooked condo that perched itself on top of a hill overlooking the beach, surfboards and sandy towels scattered around the front door and on the balcony. Ten minutes of hacking through tough vines and unforgiving cacti led me to a meditating Jax, who was gazing at the surf, probably rating the day’s waves. My audible gasps for breath made him spin around and chuckle as if my failure was the best thing he’s seen all morning. “Hey, partner, let’s start this hike, yeah?” and without waiting for my response, he jumped up and his tan hand latched onto my fleshy, pale one and dragged me to the trail that led down to the rocky shore.

The narrow trail, I discovered five minutes in, was home to various creatures, including cockroaches, rats and squirrels, who I was tempted to feed crumbs from my jacket pockets but thought better of it. I didn’t need a line of squirrels tracking me down looking for more old peanut butter toast bits. I was preoccupied with not tripping on  my shoelaces and faceplanting.

An overwhelming wave of sea air blew our direction, rustling the luscious foliage and invading my nose. It proved to be a new scent as my senses were accustomed to the wonderful aroma of brewing coffee and new books. Still, there was an appealing, delicious feature of the ocean air that made me want to grow wings and fly right over the cliff and into the sparkling blue waves. There was a beautiful array of flowers in the bushes we passed, a spectrum of magenta and fiery orange hues. Birds sang songs to each other but quickly flew away, startled when our dusty tennis shoes would slap the ground, sending up delicate clouds of brown dirt in our wake.

By ten, the warm sunshine began to slowly engulf me, creating dark pools of sweat on my back but leaving me feeling exhilarated, empowered and free. I tore my jacket off and released a satisfied, exhausted whoop of excitement. Jax barked a laugh and followed suite. If a stranger were to look up from the sandy nadir, they would see two obnoxious teenagers, pounding the ground, making a rowdy mess of things. But if you saw it through my eyes, you’d see two individuals, sparked into happiness by the energy of the sun, starting the weekend off right in joyful relaxation. As we came to the final stretch, our shouts subsided and we let our huffing breaths fill whatever air the chirping birds and crashing waves didn’t. All too soon, the challenge came to an end and my beating heart leapt in time with the pounding water. When Jax and I found ourselves sprawled on the warm sand, still saying nothing but letting the summer atmosphere speak for us, singing about nature’s unique beauty and awesome power over humans, I scolded myself. Why had I never took up Jax’s offer on a morning run before? This is so beautiful and worth the early morning alarm! Jax turned and gave me a knowing grin as he watched my illuminated face, eyes studying the ever changing waves, lips curving into a permanent smile.

Nature, I concluded, entices us, provides for us, awes us, and inspires us more and more, each time we step foot outside.

-Jessica T.

Writing Prompts

The girl next door…as most people referred to her. Walking down her picturesque street bordered by cookie cutter houses, she smiled and waved at her passing neighbors, very careful to show her perfectly aligned white teeth with every encounter. Adding skips to her timed steps, she radiated with cheerfulness and optimism, portraying the flawless image of innocence. The image she had maintained for all of her fifteen years of polished life. Her skirts never ruffled. There was never a hair astray her shiny, little head. Her personality was unwavering of sunshine, lots and lots of sunshine. And she was not only perfect looking but perfect acting. Straight A’s, big circle of close friends, loving two parent household. You name it she had it. The life everyone dreamed of.

But what everyone didn’t know was…after the long walks through the street, after wearing a smile that stretched her face, after forcing her sweet honey voice out of her croaked throat…she would run up to her bedroom, lock the door behind her, and begin her masterpiece with red paint. Because no one ever knew–or should know–about her secret blood stained toy under her bed, which shredded any image of innocence she tried so hard to build.

(Prompt: Innocent people…pfft everyone’s guilty of something)

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I’m alone. In my room. As usual. Nothing’s really changed here. Sure, there were some ups and downs in school but nothing major. I’m not failing or anything. Although, sometimes I wonder if that would help. Failing, I mean. Maybe they’d pay more attention or say something to me at least. Al I get now are good mornings and good nights, if that. Everyone’s gone radio silence since you left. Is left the right word? Can I replace the word died with left? Anyway, I’m trying really hard not to let it consume me. The pain, the grief. And the voices. Oh, the voices. They won’t ever go away. Every time I try to turn off my brain and go to sleep, a new problem arises,  a new question that I try to ignore. When was the last time I ate? When was the last time someone asked if I was okay? When was the last time I saw you? Ah, that last question. It just brings my back to the beach day. Remember when you got rolled by the waves and sand was everywhere? Oh, you were miserable but laughing at the same time. So happy and light in those moments. I wish I could go back to that. Even if we did end up getting in trouble for trespassing that day. It was worth it. Just for that day with you. So, I guess that’s why I’m writing. To talk to someone. To talk to you. All so that I don’t feel alone.

(Prompt: Write for 5 minutes, starting with “I’m alone”)