Author: admin

Writing About Isolated Characters

I read once that authors write the same story over and over again. The setting and characters might vary with each book, but scratch the surface and the themes and ideas are the same.

At the time I didn’t agree with this, but as I look back over the books I’ve written, a clear theme begins to emerge. Nearly all my novels are about characters who are isolated in some way (prior to publishing Omniscience I wrote under a pen name).

In Omniscience the characters are forced to flee from the city to the Australian outback. In my other books, they find themselves alone in remote cabins, forbidding mansions and even on a desert island for a reality TV show. In my current work-in-progress (historical fiction) my main character spends several chapters alone in a cottage in the woods.

I’m not the only one who is drawn to isolation. It’s common in many bestselling novels. Some examples are Where the Crawdads Sing, The Road, I Am Legend, Life of Pi and The Old Man and the Sea.

Isolation for Authors

As an author I understand why isolation is so compelling in fiction. It forces the characters to draw on their inner resources, and this is ideal for drama and growth.

Being alone can be scary, creating suspense and thrills. It also does away with the hassle of having to include extraneous characters which are needed for realism in everyday settings.

The other reason I think isolation is so popular in books is because a lot of authors are introverts and HSPs. Personally, I love nothing better than being alone or with a few other people at most. Busy and crowded settings overwhelm me, and I become scattered pretty quickly.

I dream about escaping to somewhere truly remote with only the trees and birds for company. It’s not surprising that when my imagination is set free it always takes me in this direction.

Solitude for Readers

I suspect that a lot of readers are also introverts. It comes with the territory really. Reading is a solitary activity that requires the ability to live inside your own head for extended periods. To do this, you need to be in a quiet place with no distractions.

What reader doesn’t dream of curling up in front of the fire with a good book and a hot beveridge? The only suitable companion for this activity is a dog or cat.

Introverts don’t fear isolation, we crave it because we need time to live in the world of our imagination. This is how we recharge our batteries. In our hyper-connected culture being alone is usually portrayed in a negative way. This is reflected in books where characters who are by themselves are often frightened or miserable.

As any introvert will confirm, alone time doesn’t have to be lonely or scary. It can be a truly fulfilling and regenerating experience. I’ve attempted to capture this in my current WIP Moonshadow by having a protagonist who truly relishes her own company.

The Challenge of Marketing ‘Sci-Fi Lite’

My novel Omniscience deals with futuristic themes. Technology plays a big role in the story but it’s scant on details about how this technology actually works. This, I  believe, places my book firmly in the category of sci-fi lite, also known as ‘soft’ science fiction.

According to Wikipedia, there are two types of soft science fiction. The first ‘explores the ‘soft’ sciences (e.g. psychology, political science, anthropology), as opposed to ‘hard’ sciences (e.g. physics, astronomy, biology).”

The second ‘prioritizes human emotions over the scientific accuracy or plausibility of hard science fiction. Soft science fiction of either type is often more concerned with speculative societies and relationships between characters, rather than speculative science or engineering.’

My novel falls into the second category, as the main focus is on the characters and how they deal with the trauma of living under an authoritarian government.

What About Speculative Fiction?

I’m not a big reader of science-fiction and it was a surprise to me when my book went in this direction. I do love speculative stories and feel my novel is better classified under this label.

A good example of speculative fiction is Netlfix’s Black Mirror series. In each Black Mirror episode, we don’t learn much about how the technology functions or how society ended up in its current state. One of my favourite episodes, ‘Metalhead’, involves the protagonist being pursued relentlessly by a robotic dog in a post-apocalyptic world. It’s not necessary to know how the robotic dog functions or how it ended up hunting humans to appreciate the message. The story plays on visceral fears about advances in AI.

Not explicitly providing the backstory to events allows the audience to consider scenarios that might lead to this nightmarish situation. Speculative fiction helps people think more deeply about technological and scientific developments as well as political and societal trends.

I took the same approach in Omnscience which is set in the near future. I didn’t explain in detail how an authoritarian government came to power in Australia because I didn’t think it was necessary. Readers only have to look at the current political climate to recognise how fragile democracy really is, and how easily it could crumble. With surveillance technology becoming more prevalent in our lives, and apps tracking our every move, it’s not hard to imagine how it could be used to monitor and control the population.

Another book which takes the ‘less is more’ approach is Cormac McCarthy’s brilliant speculative novel The Road. McCarthy doesn’t explain how society crashed, all we know is that planet is dying and the remaining humans have been reduced to scavengers. This lack of context doesn’t make his book any less powerful in my opinion.

A Marketing Dilemma

A lot of readers love detailed information about the political context and technology in science fiction. The difficulty lies in trying to market a book with some soft sci-fi elements, without disappointing those who are looking for a more hardcore experience.

Unfortunately, ‘sci-fi lite’ is not a category on Amazon or any of the websites I’ve marketed my book on. ‘Speculative’ is also rarely an option, so I have to rely on the tag ‘science fiction’ and hope that my blurb clearly explains what my book is about.

‘Dystopian’ does help clarify it, and I also use ‘thriller’ but ‘science-fiction’ is the category that gets the most exposure.

I’m guessing a lot of writers grapple with this issue when their books don’t slot neatly into one genre. One of my target markets is women who read domestic thrillers. While Omniscience is different to their usual fare, I think they would enjoy it.

The question is how do I reach these readers who might not even consider ‘science fiction’ or ‘dystopian’ books when searching for their next read?

It’s a quandary. Any suggestions welcome!

Plot Holes in Netflix’s ‘Pieces of Her’

The thriller genre is arguably the most popular on Netflix, and I’m always excited to see a new thriller series pop up in my recommended viewing. Pieces of Her, based on a novel by Karin Slaughter, was of particular interest because my recently released novel Omniscience is also about a mother with a mysterious past.


In the series, Andy (Bella Heathcote) and her mother Laura (Toni Collette) are caught up in a shooting at a local café. Laura confronts the attacker to save Andy and by an incredible fluke, manages to take him out. She becomes an instant hero, and her image is flashed all over the news.


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