7 Advanced Science Fiction Writing Prompts

Instructions

These prompts are going to go beyond the normal and ask you to challenge yourself. Take the challenge. Don’t turn away from the challenge. By accepting it, you’re stepping into a new stage of writing where you’re using deliberate practice to get better. This is what the professionals do.

Spend your time focusing on the craft element that each prompt highlights. Don’t worry about writing the best story you can. Worry about how you’re using the craft element to strengthen the story.

Contemplate your practice not the end goal.

This will help you work on your writing muscles while getting you in the mood to write. Each of these prompts is meant to be written in a flash style. So keep your writing under 1,500-words. The added constraint is a part of the deliberate practice. You’re forcing yourself into a crunch mode and trying to focus on what is most important to the story and to the reader, which is how you should always be writing.


Writing Prompt #1

Write a story about a shipbuilder working on designing a colony ship he wants to escape his home planet on but can’t because of a drug addiction that makes space travel nearly impossible. Do it all without using the words ‘ship’, ‘spaceship’, ‘rocket’, or ‘rocketship’ to describe the spaceship(s) that he’s working on and never repeat the same word twice.

Craft Elements: word choice and metaphor

By working to come up with different names to call a spaceship, you are actively exercising your vocabulary and use of metaphor. Perhaps your shipbuilder calls the ships he works on oceanic terms like whales or fishes. Or perhaps he’s more technical and calls them by their proper names like X Class 45-CR. Maybe his drug addiction has seeped into his vernacular so he gives all the ships he works on drug codenames.

Be creative and think about who your character is, what world they inhabit, and the themes of your story.


Writing Prompt #2

Write a story about a dressmaker in a future Thailand searching for their parent’s wedding dress for their bride-to-be who refuses to get married in anything else, but the dressmaker must go back home and face the family they abandoned in order to do it. Have measuring tape brought up several times in different contexts throughout the story that change the meaning of the word.

Craft Elements: symbolism and motif

Symbolism and motif are narrative techniques related to theme and deepening a story. They, along with the other craft elements, can be used in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction as ways to have your story resonate with the reader. In this prompt, the measuring tape imagery is where you’ll utilize symbolism and motif. Think of the different ways that you can use measuring tape throughout your story.

For example, it can show up once as an actual tool that the dressmaker uses, then appear again in a photograph they look at of their home. Or it can appear only in photos as a continuous reminder of the theme of the past. Once again, push yourself to think outside of the box of what you can do with the symbol of measuring tape within this story.


Writing Prompt #3

Write a story about a teacher who is a mortal working at a superhero daycare center who wants to become a superhero too, but to do that, they must sacrifice their best friend to one of the toddlers who has the power to bestow superpowers. Reveal to the reader the teacher’s motivation and intentions within the first paragraph.

Craft Elements: dramatic irony and character motivation

Dramatic irony is when the reader or audience knows something that characters in the story don’t know. It’s a way to create conflict, intrigue, humor, and more. Oftentimes, this is used in police procedurals or thrillers like Luther and You. This writing prompt focuses on targeting your ability to show character motivation through the narrative technique of dramatic irony.

Within your story, you can use dramatic irony to make your tale a funny one with a lot of high jinks or you can use it to raise the tension throughout the story. Keep in mind how you want the story to resonate with readers and how you can accomplish that with dramatic irony and the character’s motivation.


Writing Prompt #4

Write a story about a political protestor who must team up with a diplomat to save their partner from an alien infection turning everyone to stone, but they will have to sacrifice their life to save them. Have the political protestor or the other main character not change throughout the story while everyone and everything else around them does.

Craft Element: static character

Our stories are populated by all types and forms of characters but not all of them do the same thing. Writers are frequently lectured on the need for their character to change, but there are stories and characters that don’t feature character change in the traditional sense. Think of characters like Doctor Who, Michael Myers, and Tarzan who don’t change over the course of their storylines, but instead, their lack of change highlights the change taking place around them.

That’s what you’re going to do with this story. Showcase change that isn’t the main character’s. By doing this, you’ll learn how to break outside of the standard and boring writing of ‘ALL CHARACTERS MUST DO THIS’ and into a world where your characters and story are complex.


Writing Prompt #5

Write a story about a tourist who has to team up with an old enemy to improve the reputation of a derelict theater in a present-day society governed by a large unseeable force called ‘The Algorithm’. Repeat the phrase ‘out with the old’ throughout the story in different situations that change the meaning of the phrase.

Craft Elements: leitwortstil and theme

For writers who want to create works that resonate with their audience, the use of theme is where you do it. Theme can be seen in different ways and is often talked about in various ways. Here, let’s look at theme as the overarching message of the movie. Leitwortstil is an element of theme that has the writer pick a phrase that reoccurs throughout the story and is closely related to the theme to help connect parts of the story for the reader and build a deeper connection to the text.

In this story, you’re going to use the prescribed phrase to create scenes and moments that resonate with the reader on different levels. For example, you can use the phrase as a logo for a company while also using it as a catchphrase for a particular character. Or you can have just one character say it throughout the story and have them change, showing the change in the phrasing.The Most Misunderstood Storytelling Element
Craft better scenes that keep readers reading and engaged throughout your whole piece.medium.com


Writing Prompt #6

Write a story between a sentient AI inside of an Etch-a-Sketch and its best friend an orphaned six-year-old who are both trying to understand what it means to be real and alive before either of them are separated. Write it entirely in dialogue.

Craft Elements: dialogue and character emotion

Dialogue is how our characters express themselves to other characters and on the page to readers. Too many times, I’ve seen stories in the slush pile where the dialogue is all info-dump, exposition, and telling without any character emotion, personality, or story intrigue. This exercise is going to get you thinking about who your characters are and how they would express themselves during this emotional time.

Consider personal styles and inflections. Think about their relationship and the things they’ve been through or shared with each other. Show their closeness, their intimacy, and who they are through what they choose to say to each other and how.


Write Smarter

I’m a believer in deliberate practice. Throughout my career, I’ve used it to level up my craft quickly and help me sell more stories. It’s helped me publish over 200 stories and be a writer for top publications within my field.

If you want to get better today, start by focusing on where your weak spots are and deliberately working at strengthing them through exercises like these prompts.

Prompts revisited

  1. Write a story about a shipbuilder working on designing a colony ship he wants to escape his home planet on but can’t because of a drug addiction that makes space travel nearly impossible. Do it all without using the words ‘ship’, ‘spaceship’, ‘rocket’, or ‘rocketship’ to describe the spaceship(s) that he’s working on and never repeat the same word twice.
  2. Write a story about a dressmaker in a future Thailand searching for their parent’s wedding dress for their bride-to-be who refuses to get married in anything else, but the dressmaker must go back home and face the family they abandoned in order to do it. Have measuring tape brought up several times in different contexts throughout the story that change the meaning of the word.
  3. Write a story about a teacher who is a mortal working at a superhero daycare center who wants to become a superhero too, but to do that, they must sacrifice their best friend to one of the toddlers who has the power to bestow superpowers. Reveal to the reader the teacher’s motivation and intentions within the first paragraph.
  4. Write a story about a political protestor who must team up with a diplomat to save their partner from an alien infection turning everyone to stone, but they will have to sacrifice their life to save them. Have the political protestor or the other main character not change throughout the story while everyone and everything else around them does.
  5. Write a story about a tourist who has to team up with an old enemy to improve the reputation of a derelict theater in a present-day society governed by a large unseeable force called ‘The Algorithm’. Repeat the phrase ‘out with the old’ throughout the story in different situations that change the meaning of the phrase.
  6. Write a story between a sentient AI inside of an Etch-a-Sketch and its best friend an orphaned six-year-old who are both trying to understand what it means to be real and alive before either of them are separated. Write it entirely in dialogue.

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