5 Writing Prompts for Science Fiction Writers

Science fiction stories typically arise from a novum, a scientifically plausible concept that is a “reality” in the tale. The novum might be an mechanical device like robot servants, artificial intelligence, or faster-than-light spacecraft; it also can be a hypothetical idea such as “The Earth is a scientific experiment run by aliens to determine the meaning of life” or “The government outlaws books.” The author then asks “What if?” exploring how the world with this novum is different than ours.

Among the problems of many novice science fiction writers is instead of introducing a new novum they rely on used furniture – that is, they borrow novums from popular SF series. After all, how many novels have you read that use starships exploring the galaxy for the Earth-based Federation? Barely changing names to appear as if you are not appropriating – a starcraft seeking M-class worlds for the Earth-centered Alliance – still doesn’t cut it as original or fully using the potential that science fiction offers to examine our culture or humanity.

To help SF writers, here are some novums of potential near-future inventions from which stories could be built:

Future workplaces
What if in the future people worked in warehouse-like centers in which they used banks of 3D printers to create products ordered online and then distributed them locally by drone? What would a day in this workplace be like?

J. Herschel 5173 A colonization
What if future space explorers decided to colonize a planet orbiting this K-type star about 20 light years from Earth? K-type stars are thought to be ideal places to find habitable worlds as they are warm enough that planets in a habitable zone wouldn’t be tidally locked, they are long-lived (15-30 billion years rather than our sun’s 10 billion years), and are far more commonplace than G-type stars like our own sun.

Permanent sunblock
What if you could receive a one-time treatment of sunblock that embedded a treatment of SPF 30 in your skin? You would receive “booster treatments” of it through the years. How does this change our culture?

Thermodynamic coffee
What if food-grade stones could capture excess heat and then disseminate it, so that a cup of coffee or tea will remain warm? What are other potential uses of these stones?

Virtual vacation
What if you could take a vacation in the comfort of a holographic environment? You would essentially rent a room for a week and enjoy the wonders of Disneyland, the Egyptian pyramids, or Mars in this virtual environment. How would you be provided with food/drink?


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.