Home    Workshops    Members Only    Contests    Join    Contact us                       RWA Chapter

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Futuristic Vehicles by Diane Burton

When I grew up in the Detroit-area, every adult I knew worked in the auto industry. They either made cars or made the parts for the cars. Maybe that’s why Detroiters love their cars. I sure do. I love the sleekness of the Corvette, but practicality (and budget) dictates a Chevy.

So when I began writing futuristic novels one of the things I had to figure out was transportation. What kind of vehicle would my heroine have? I need to consider her temperament and her job. In my science fiction romance The Pilot, my heroine is very proud and won’t take charity. As a runaway teen, she indentured herself to a mechanic to survive. After her servitude was finished, she continued to work for him until she could pay for a broken-down cargo hauler, repairing it on her own time. Her ship isn’t glamorous, but it’s functional. On the other hand, the hero came from a wealthy family. His ship is a sleek, top-of-the-line “muscle” ship.

Describing futuristic vehicles takes a bit of imagination. Sure, you can use what you’ve seen in movies or what you’ve read in other sci-fi books. But you don’t want to just copy. You want to make those vehicles your own.

Start with your setting. Does your story take place entirely in space or on land? Or a combination? What’s the culture? Is this a sophisticated society that has a long history of space mobility or one where space travel is in its infancy? If your story takes place on land, consider the same questions.

Consider function. What’s the purpose of the vehicle, besides getting from one place to another? Does the vehicle carry passengers or freight? Is it used for exploration? Or is it a military vehicle? How many people can the ship carry? Does it carry armament? Does it have Faster Than Light (FTL) drive?

My imagination only goes so far so I have to look for pictures that will give me a jumping off point. For each book, I Google stock photo sites or search on Pinterest for spaceships. Thanks to Linnea Sinclair’s yahoogroup, here are some
Once you have the particulars of your ship in mind, it helps to sketch it out. You need to be as familiar with the vehicle as the characters who ride in it. As with many things in your story, you—the author—must know more than the reader. Just as you wouldn’t “dump” the hero’s backstory in the first chapter, you don’t want to bore the reader with a detailed description of the vehicle. Use a light hand and treat the vehicle the way you would a car, motorcycle, or airplane. The reader will get the picture through the characters’ eyes and actions.

Happy travels!

Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides the science fiction romance Switched series, she is the author of The Pilot, the first book in a series about strong women on the frontier of space. One Red Shoe is her first romantic suspense. Diane and her husband live in Michigan. They have two children and two grandchildren.

For more info and excerpts from her books
visit Diane’s WEBSITE



Cathryn Cade said...


Well said! I wonder now how many features of favorite cars show up in my space vehicles.

I think I rely as you and other writers do, on the fabulous research done by the big TV and movie writers. I also include features from luxury jets in my char personal craft. Those private cabins and sleeping quarters, you know!

Thanks for including the site link for more research.

Cathryn Cade

Diane Burton said...

Thanks for commenting, Cathryn. Yes, I've used cabins in luxury jets and yachts for ideas for the interiors of some space vehicles. Luxury is luxury no matter what time period. :)

Carol A. Strickland said...

I have a novel coming up that takes place in a gigantic space station. When I get a chance to work on it again (I hope this will be soon), I've decided to draw a schematic and try to figure out how heavy things will be on the different levels. Then I've got to review that string theory book to recall how the propulsion systems function on the ships visiting that station. Whew.

Diane Burton said...

It sounds like you have a handle on how to work out the details, Carol. Good luck!

Melissa Keir said...

I love cars and always have. Honestly, I thought we'd have flying cars by now. It's frustrating that we don't. :( Come on.. let's get that going!

I love the blog and the details which are so important. Thanks for sharing the links.

Diane Burton said...

Wouldn't flying cars be great? Esp. during rush hour. :) Thanks, Melissa.