5 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:

AI corporation
What if an artificial intelligence gained the status of a corporation? What affect would this have on the economy?

Night glasses
What if in the evening you could don glasses that allowed you to see as if it were daylight, sort of the opposite of sunglasses that block the sun? Are there situations when people wouldn’t wear them? What dangers might exist when people do wear them at night?

Retail-less urban landscape
How does our urban landscape change when retailers no longer exist, as everything is delivered via drones from warehouses to consumers? When downtown stores and malls are merely office spaces, how do parks change as a place for people to congregate?

Sniffing computers
What if your computer came with a sense of smell? If it could detect spoiled food, the level of your illness, and toxic material, how would this change your life?

Thinking teeth
What if a thin, invisible sensor could be tattooed to your teeth to detect dangerous bacteria? When it detected plaque buildup, cavities or infection, it would automatically set up an appointment with your dentist.


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.