Writing Prompts

How to Write a Technology-Based Sci-Fi Novel

Many science fiction novels revolve around a new device, gadget, program, or other technology. These are often plot-driven novels full of excitement and action. They are fun to write and fun to read, but can also contain a message about society. If done correctly, these types of books engage the reader in an intriguing story while subtly conveying the ideal the author wishes to express. Here are some question to help you come up with the framework for such a story. You will have to insert the character arcs and any subplots necessary to give the framework meaning, but these will get you started.

1) Let’s star by coming up with a new technology. What problem would you like to see solved with technology? It can be a personal, small scale problem like expediting showers, or a large-scale problem, like clean water for everyone. Make a list of things that technology could potentially solve. (Note, wider scale problems, like clean water, tend to seem the best for carrying a message but that isn’t always so. The message could be anything from how we use technology to solve mundane problems to how engaged we are with each other. If a small-scale issue is experienced by everyone, it becomes a large scale issue.)

2) Now, who would be in the best position to solve that problem and invent your new technology? A student, a hobbyist, a lab-coat-wearing scientist, or a work-with-your-hands engineer? What leads them to want to solve the problem? Why are they the only ones to come up with a solution? Or are they the only ones?

3) What good is the technology invented for? Who is supposed to benefit?

4) What evil could the technology be used for? How could it hurt those it was supposed to help?

5) Who would be the worst person/entity to get control of this technology?

6) Who would gain the most by taking control of the new technology? This may or may not be the same as the answer to Number 5.

7) What mistake can the inventor/owner of the technology make to lose it and let it fall into the hands of the person in Number 5 or 6? The “mistake” can be a literal accident or it can be a deliberate action that in the grand scheme of things is a mistake.)

8) How does the inventor/owner react to the “bad guys” getting control of the technology? Do they care? Are they the ones to try and get it back or did they let it go intentionally?

9) What unexpected uses does the technology have that could be used against those who would misuse it? Can you find a way for the “good guys” to reclaim the technology using this unexpected use?

10) How can the intended beneficiaries gain control of it for themselves?

11) What happens to the “bad guys” after they lose the technology? Do they swear revenge? Are they processed by the justice system? Do they carry on and move to new enterprises? Do they suffer a regime change at the hands of the stock holders?

12) Should the technology be allowed to exist or is it too dangerous? Do the risks outweigh the benefits?

13) How does the life cycle of your invention (creation, loss, use for evil, use against evil, return to original purpose) affect the characters of your story? How does it affect the world at large? Which part of the cycle is your message about? Is it about the creation of something that shouldn’t exist? Is it about good being corrupted by evil? Is it about the original, supposedly benign, intentions not being all that much better than the evil?

14) Think about your characters? What do they represent? What aspect of your message does each character act out for the reader? Your message will mean more and be better received if the characters act it out rather than the narration telling about it.

15) At the end of the story, how have your characters changed? Do the “good guys” learn a lesson? Do the “bad guys” learn a lesson? Does anyone change their attitude toward the message you are expressing? If nothing changes, is that the message?

These questions should get you on your way to creating a thrilling science fiction novel. Let me know in the comments what your favorite technology-gone-wrong book is.

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