How to Write a Space Opera | Everything You Need to Know

BY Zara Choudhry | May 17, 2023 | Fiction, Writing

Let’s start from the basics… 

What is a ‘space opera’ you say? We’re glad you asked! 

A Space Opera is a subgenre of science fiction that typically involves grand space battles, a big adventure, and interstellar conflicts spanning entire galaxies. Think Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica which are classic examples of space opera. 

In this guide, we’ll be taking you through how to write a space opera that is out-of-this-world (quite literally!). 

What’s the Difference Between Space Opera and Sci-Fi?

One of the biggest differences between Space Operas and Sci-Fi is that space operas are completely unrealistic whereas Sci-Fi’s are as scientifically realistic as possible. 

Space Operas allow the reader to dive into a completely fictional universe with epic battles and made-up characters, and they tend to have a good vs evil theme running throughout. 

Tips on Writing an Awesome Space Opera

If you’ve been inspired by the likes of Star Wars and Star Trek (who wouldn’t be?!), you may be interested in writing a space opera yourself. And if that’s the case, we’ve compiled a list of writing tips to help you out! 

1. Create a compelling universe

One of the most important elements of any space opera is the universe that it's set in. You need to create a believable, coherent universe that readers can get lost in. 

This means that you need to think about things like the history of your universe, the politics, the technology, and the cultures that exist within it.

Start by developing a timeline for your universe by thinking about ‘What major events have shaped its history?’ and ‘What were the key technological advancements that allowed for space travel?’  – These are all questions that you should consider as you develop a universe for your story.

2. Develop interesting characters

Once you have a universe in mind, it's time to populate it with interesting characters

Your main characters should be three-dimensional and believable, with their own unique motivations and backstories. 

Consider giving your characters unique abilities or traits that set them apart from the rest of the universe. This could be anything from advanced technology to a particular talent for combat. 

Just make sure that these abilities don't make your characters invincible – readers need to believe that there's a real risk of danger and failure.

3. Focus on the conflict

As sad as it may sound, you’ll want to put your characters into some sort of crisis. All of the greatest space operas surround themselves with epic conflicts, so you’ll want to make sure there’s a focused struggle driving the narrative forward. 

This could be a war between different factions, a struggle for power within a particular government, or a fight against a powerful alien threat.

It needs to be high-stakes and emotionally-gripping for your reader to get invested (and tell everyone they know!). 

4. Use descriptive language

Your goal is to transport your reader to an utterly unrealistic universe so we’ll need to shift it up a gear with our descriptive language as it’s all about the visual image in their mind. 

Think about the different planets, starships, and alien races that exist in your universe. How would they look and feel? What kind of technology would they use?

Use sensory details like auditory imagery to help readers imagine these elements. For example, you might describe the sound of a spaceship's engines, the smell of an alien planet's atmosphere, or the feel of a particular type of weapon.

5. Build tension and suspense

To keep readers engaged, you need to build tension and suspense throughout your story. This means creating moments of high drama and danger that keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Consider using cliffhangers or unexpected plot twists to keep readers guessing. You might also want to vary the pacing of your story, with slower, more introspective scenes interspersed with action-packed set pieces.

6. Have a solid ending – avoid cliffhangers! 

Readers should feel satisfied with the conclusion of your space opera, so tie up any loose ends and solve all of the major plot threads.

Though, you can still leave a few mysteries unresolved, especially if you want to get started on volume two in your series. All great space operas have a prequel!

Next Steps

In summary, writing a space opera requires careful planning and attention to detail. You need to create a believable universe, intriguing characters, and a strong focus on conflict to keep readers invested. 

Focus on using descriptive language to create a compelling universe and remember to have a lot of mind-mapping sessions to get those creative juices flowing! 

We look forward to seeing your space opera taking over…

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