It’s been a while since this came up, and someone asked ‘what is Human Wave, anyway?” in a group I belong to. There is more at the original Sarah Hoyt post, but this is, in a nutshell, how to write a human wave story. I’ve gone through and added emphasis to draw the eye to the really important bits, but read it all. It’s worth the time and hopefully will leave you thinking, and encouraged.
1 – Your writing should be entertaining. If you’re writing for the awards and the literary recognition, you’re hanging out with the wrong crowd. (Does the other crowd have a tiny raccoon in a kilt? Or even a quilt? Think!)
2 – Your writing shouldn’t leave anyone feeling like they should scrub with pumice or commit suicide by swallowing stoats for the crime of being human, or like humans are a blight upon the Earth, or that the future is dark, dreary, evil and fraught with nastiness, because that’s all humans can do, and woe is us.
3 – Your writing should not leave anyone feeling ashamed of being: male, female, western, non-western, sickly, hale, powerful, powerless. It should use characters as characters and not as broad groups that are then used to shame other groups. Fiction is not agit prop.
4- Your writing shouldn’t be all about the message. You can, of course, have a message. But the message should not be the be-all end-all of the novel. If it is, perhaps you should be writing pamphlets.
5 – You shall not commit grey goo. Grey goo, in which characters of indeterminate moral status move in a landscape of indeterminate importance towards goals that will leave no one better or worse off is not entertaining. (Unless it is to see how the book bounces off the far wall, and that has limited entertainment. Also, I’m not flinging my kindle.)
6 – Unless absolutely necessary you will have a positive feeling to your story. By this we don’t mean it will have a happy ending or that we expect pollyanish sentiments out of you. Your novel and setting can be as dystopic as you want it. In fact, your character can die at the end. Just make sure he goes down fighting and dies for something, so the reader doesn’t feel cheated.
7 – You will write in language that can be understood. You will have an idea of what your story is about, or at least of its beginning, middle and end. And so will your reader, once he reads it.
8 – You are allowed to write scientific speculation that counters “currently established fact” – just give us a reason why that makes sense in your universe. (For some universes it can be highly whimsical, for others you’ll need serious handwavium.)
9 – You will not be boring. Or at least you’ll do your best not to be boring.
10 – You shall not spend your life explaining why your not-boring is better than your fellow writers not-boring. Instead you will shut up and write.
And this is the original manifesto, for fiction that entertains, is inclusive, diverse, and above all, healthy.
You are allowed to write escapist science fiction – or fantasy. Sometimes we just need a good read. If it doesn’t have a big idea but is enjoyable, it’s still a worthy endeavor.
You are allowed to write as much as you wish. In the new limitless market we see no reason to artificially restrict your output. Anyone who thinks quality depends on how long something took to write has never known either professional writers or struggling middle-graders.
You are allowed to write first person. You are also allowed to write second person, third person, and in persons yet to be invented. As long as your work is entertaining, we hold you harmless in matters relating to verbal malfeasance.
If your world building holds internal consistency, at least according to the buying public, anyone objecting because it doesn’t conform to his or her idea of a future shall be pelted with soft boiled eggs and wear the yolk of shame.
Your objective is to sell books. Writing is communication. Your objective is to communicate with as many people as possible. Or at least to amuse them, distract them, or make the burden of life less burdensome for a while. Wishing to feed your family is also an acceptable goal.
You can write male heroes. You can write female heroes. You can write alien heroes. You can write human heroes. You can write western heroes. You can write non-western heroes. You can write squirrel-heroes (but you have to know you’re weird.) You can write it in a boat, you can write it with a goat (but which end do you hold on the paper?) You can write it in a moat (but it will probably drip) and you can write it on a stoat.
You can have a happy ever after. You can have a happy for a while. You can have a fleeting happy. It’s your happy and you can have it if you want to.
You can write action and plot oriented books. (Who will stop you? You’ve researched fighting techniques, right?)
You can write sex. Or not. It all depends what fits the plot. You can even write sex with a robot.
You can write politics. You can write them from the right, from the left, from the middle, the top, the bottom or everywhere at once. Just remember to make them fit the plot. And remember not to infodump.