We are becoming obsessed with the wildly inventive world of Steampunk novels. The Victorian setting and the crazy gadgets—what’s not to love? We couldn’t put down Kady Cross’s first novel, The Girl in the Steel Corset, and we highly recommend the follow-up, The Girl in the Clockwork Collar, in which Finley Jayne, a girl who’s a little more than human, and her band of roving misfit friends travel to America to rescue their friend Jasper. We asked Kady to share some tips on how to write a Steampunk story—and a writing challenge! Read below for a chance to get your work featured on the Figment homepage.
When I was asked to write a blog post offering advice for young authors on writing Steampunk, I had absolutely no idea what to say. Every author has a different process for putting together his/her story and every author will give you different advice on writing. But here are three things (in no particular order) that I think are important when writing a Steampunk story.
1. Research: This is incredibly important. Whether you’re setting your story in America or England, or another part of the world, you need to know about that particular place. Setting is as important to a story as character or plot. You also need to know about the time period. Most writers set their Steampunk novels in the late 19th century, but the Industrial Revolution has its beginnings in the early 1800s, and continued into the early 1900s. So many things changed between 1810 and 1920, and much of it will color your world. It’s important that your gadgets at least sound plausible and stay true to your time period. For example, in one of my adult Steampunk books the heroine has a machine that allows her to see the last few moments of a person’s life. The Victorians were fascinated with death and the afterlife. If someone in the 19th century could have invented such a machine, they would have.
2. Hope and Fear: In my opinion, the reason that most Steampunk is set in the Victorian era is because that was a period of great change. People were questioning the Church, and Charles Darwin added fuel to the fire with his theory of evolution. Machines were doing the jobs of men. The occult was popular. Developments in travel, such as the steam engine, united the world in new ways. It was a time of great hope and wonder. It was also one of fear and anxiety. To me, that duality is the core of Steampunk‑people were both amazed and afraid by the great innovation. The Victorian era gave us recorded music and moving pictures. It also gave us Jack the Ripper and child labor.
3. Love: I don’t mean love between your characters. When I say you need love to write Steampunk, I mean you have to love Steampunk. I attend Steampunk events and conventions. I have friends who are part of the local Steampunk community. I look for Steampunk music, read Steampunk books, and watch Steampunk movies. I don’t do those things because Steampunk is hot and I want to ride that train; I do them because I love Steampunk. Trust me: You do not want to write about something you don’t love. Readers will pick up on it and you will fail. Being a writer is a hard job, so why write something you don’t feel in your bones?
With some good research, a little hope and fear, and a lot of love, you too can create a great Steampunk story. I would love to read something by you! Pick a place and time for your story that interests you. Set up a scenario that excites you that showcases the feel of your story, and create the kind of character you want to read about. And then I want you to do the most important thing as you begin to write–have fun.
Your challenge: Write an alternative history in 150 words or fewer and tag your story KadyCrossFlash. You can write a Victorian-era story, like Kady’s, or you can choose another historical time period that you love. Imagine that something very fundamental has changed in this world you’ve created—maybe there’s different technology, like in a Steampunk story, or maybe your world has magic. It’s up to you!
The Figment team will choose four winners to be featured along with The Girl in the Clockwork Collar on the Figment homepage. You have until 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 10 to tag your writing. Read the full guidelines, and get writing!