5 Fantastic Sci-Fi Writing Prompts

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:

Alpha Centauri colonized
What if humanity colonized an Earth-like planet orbiting Alpha Centauri B? A planet could exist in a habitable zone just slightly farther than Venus is from the Sun.

Green walls
What if to fight land degradation nations planted wide lines of drought-resistant trees to form a green wall hundreds of miles long? What would have to be done to make this a reality in desert countries of Africa or in China?

Laser harp
What if 16 laser beams in a 4-yard square grid hooked to a computer could be played as a musical instrument when the player interacts with the beams? Different sounds are made as the voltage varies.

Male contraceptive pills
What if men also could take pills to prevent pregnancy? How does this change sexual mores?

Near-infrared goggles
What if this device were developed to help surgeons view cancer cells and see tumors as small as 1 mm? What other applications could there be for this technology?


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.