5 Writing Prompts for Sci-Fi 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:

Lie detection glasses
What if police officers, teachers and juries wore glasses that analyzed micro-gestures to determine if a person is lying or not? What happens in a world where even white lies can be detected?

Rearranging rooms
What if compartments in the walls, floors and ceilings of a room could fold out various pieces of furniture and appliances so that it could one moment be a living room then the next a home office and then a workout gym, and so on? How does the change the size of apartments and homes that we need?

What if your hospital bed could read your temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and more? How does this affect health care, especially if the smartbed can be purchased for home use?

Solar roof tiles
What if efficient solar roof tiles looked like and were the same cost as the standard roof tiles we use today? How does solar energy incorporated into millions of homes change our economy?

Vacuum airships
What if airships that maintained an air-displacing interior vacuum were used to explore planets with low atmospheric pressure, such as Mars.


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.