I truly enjoyed the book, and wasn't disappointed in the movie (something that frequently happens to book lovers - especially if story changes are made). After reading this story and watching several interviews with the author, I realized there are three basic lessons any writer can learn, or have reinforced for them, from Weir's work.
1) First lines are important - We are frequently told that opening scenes matter most. Their job is to lure the reader in, and force them to continue. Some authors have condensed this advice to "hook them with the first line." Weir does an excellent job of this... I'm pretty much fucked. Your feelings about use of language aside, the reader is immediately invested in this character and this story. They already want to know what went wrong, and if it's possible to fix the situation. Curious how some of the best books ever written have begun? Take a look at these 100 opening lines.
2) Write what you know - Weir's father was a physicist, his mother an electrical engineer, and his own admitted hobbies include space travel, orbital dynamics, astronomy, and the history of manned space flight. Even when you specialize in a field, or have completed hours of research, believeability is more important than reality. When you know your material like a pro, you can take liberties with the facts and readers will follow you anyway. See more here.
3) Characters are more important than plot - Even people who don't particularly care for science fiction were able to enjoy this book because of the characters. The main character had a personality you couldn't help but enjoy. And the author spent time allowing a glimpse into the lives - emotions and relationships - of the minor characters as well. If your reader becomes invested in the characters, it doesn't matter if your plot has a small hole in it; if the details aren't all there. The readers won't be able to put the book down if they love the people inside the story.
Curious what Adam Savage and real-life astronauts thought of Weir's tale? Check out the panel discussion with the author below.
Did you read this book, see the movie, or learn anything interesting from either?