Sci fi (short for science fiction) is one of the more misunderstood genres out there. A lot of people think it’s only about books set in space. Not true! (Though books set in space can, and usually do, fall under the sci fi umbrella.) So, what other kind of sci fi stories can you write? We’ll get you started with some scifi writing prompts, both out of this world and down to Earth, too.
What is the Sci Fi Genre?
Sci fi can be defined as follows:
“Science fiction is a form of fiction that deals principally with the impact of actual or imagined science upon society or individuals.”
So basically anything that involves science and technology—real or imagined!—as a major element to the story is considered sci fi.
Elements of Sci Fi
“Science and technology” is a pretty broad category, so let’s narrow it down some.
There are a lot of common elements in sci fi stories. Some examples are:
- Space (A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Dune)
- Robots and AI (I, Robot, Ancillary Justice)
- Speculative technology (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Flowers for Algernon)
- Dystopian societies (1984, The Fifth Season)
But that’s not all! Really, the sky (and beyond) is the limit when it comes to sci fi.
How to Write Sci Fi Stories
The thing you need to start with when it comes to writing sci fi is the question of what if?
What if scientists found a way to bring dinosaurs back to life? (Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park)
What if an astronaut was stranded on Mars—and had to find a way to survive all by himself? (Andy Weir’s The Martian)
What if humans were cloned in order to create a dearth of organ donors—but those clones had their own thoughts, feelings, and personalities? (Kashuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go)
Start with “what if,” and the sci fi ideas are endless!
Sci Fi Short Stories
Of course, novels aren’t the only formats sci fi can take. Short sci fi stories can be just as interesting and creative. In short stories, you can focus on the one central idea and explore its immediate impact on the world.
Exhalation: Stories, the short story collection by Ted Chiang, is a stunning example of short sci fi done incredibly well. Other notable examples: Mountain Ways by Ursula Le Guin, or Bloodchild by Octavia Butler. Many novelists also write short stories, and vice versa.
SciFi Writing Prompts
If you’re looking to write your own sci fi, there are a lot of ways to get started. Check out this article on six expert steps to take, take a class, read up on how to create an amazing sci fi world with our guide to world-building, or just start with some writing prompts—check out the ideas below:
- They’ve lived their whole lives inside an airport, but have never seen any aircraft. One day, an airplane arrives.
- She’s always known she’s different—she can hear other people’s thoughts. Then one day, she encounters a boy who can do the same.
- Their spaceship crash-landed on an unknown planet. They emerge to find it looks remarkably like the one they’ve left behind—only it’s a century in the past.
- In a far-flung future, doctors have been replaced by AI—who never make mistakes. Then one day, all the AIs stop functioning.
- He’s on the first manned mission to the Andromeda galaxy. His team arrives on an outer planet—to find humans already there. And one of them is his great-grandson—who hasn’t been born yet.
- She wakes up from a coma—to find she’s no longer a human, but a robot. They had to replace her body with metal in order for her to survive.
- Her best friend is acting a little off. After a few weeks, she sneaks into her best friend’s phone—to find out the person in her best friend’s body isn’t her best friend at all, but someone else.
- He’s an archeologist working in England, where he unearths a stone tablet. He deciphers the language on it—it’s series of instructions. He begins to follow them.
- New planets have been terraformed and colonized to deal with overcrowding on Earth—but this is the first planet ever made that’s blocked entirely from the sun by another planet. They’ll have to learn to live with no sunlight—ever.
- A high school student finds a way to create his own baby mammoth from a fossil. But—the mammoth won’t be a baby forever.
What Will You Write?
Writing sci fi can be challenging—but it can also be tons of fun. Scifi writing prompts can come from anywhere—all you have to do is open your eyes, look at the world around you, and ask what if?
Start Your Sci Fi Story
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