Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Putting the Steam into Steampunk

Okay. You’ve thought of a great idea, and you’ve plotted it out. Your characters kick ass, too, but…

How to make it steamy when you don’t understand steam engines and so on.
Well, here’s a few tips.

1)Research, research, research.A simple google search for how steam engines work returned 3,460,000 results. You don’t need to read them all, thank God, but wikipedia, and How Stuff Works are great starting points, of course.

2)Ground it in realityObviously, 100 feet tall steam powered robots didn’t terrorise London in the 1880s, but if you want them to in your novel, you have to ground everything else in reality. That means paying attention to how characters speak, interact, dress, etc. Don’t forget the place religion and etiquette had in society.

3)Don’t make your POV character a steam engine expertIf you came across the steam engine in real life, and the police later asked you for a description, would you say… it was a Trevithick engine, but not like any I had ever seen… this one clearly had two vacuum pumps and two hotwells and several other multiplied areas, and, clearly, a ramming stoker, which was a surprise. Or would you say… it was a great big, moving metal machine, parts rising and falling, clunking and clanging, whilst other parts spinned with a whirring noise, and a constant fountain of steam rose from it. Make the POV character an expert, and you have to know what you’re talking about.

Well, that’s enough to get you started.

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