Science fiction and fantasy provide incredible opportunities to exercise your imagination. You are not limited to one planet, one advanced species, or the limited powers we have available to us. You can explore other worlds, races, technology and magic.
That said, good sci-fi and fantasy writing has many elements in common with writing from other genres – dynamic characters, an unpredictable yet convincing plot, world building and a myriad of other elements.
We've divided these 42 creative writing prompts into five sections to help you learn valuable skills and develop story ideas. Prompts are also a great way to help overcome writer’s block.
- Science fiction story ideas
- Sci-fi prompts
- Fantasy story ideas
- Fantasy prompts
- Extra challenges
- Science fantasy
Science Fiction Story Ideas
- Sci-fi garage
Hidden in the Amazon Jungle you find an ancient garage jammed with rusty alien vehicles. A cyborg jerks slowly back to life and says, “Master, you have returned.”
- DNA murder mystery
Memories can be extracted from an alien's DNA. You're about to see their last memory.
- The wet wormhole
You receive a signal from aliens explaining how to create a wormhole to connect with them. The instant the wormhole’s opened, water starts pouring out of it. They’re an underwater species and you just created a wormhole to their capital city.
- Conflict with a clone
A scientist clones their ex-girlfriend only to have their relationship problems appear all over again.
- Just a regular guy
In a world of superheroes, your protagonist has an aura of normalcy around them. No superpowers work near them. They are about to enter the main bad guy’s lair.
- Pet pals
It’s 2237. Animals have been genetically modified to have the same intelligence as humans, though they are still treated as pets. Now, they’ve taken over the world.
- The artificial intelligence dilemma
A.I. has found out that we’re concerned they might take over the world. They’re considering a pre-emptive strike before we do something rash. Your job is to convince them otherwise.
- Alcoholic aliens
You are an alien visiting Earth but become addicted to booze.
In addition to prompts, we have a great selection of creative writing games that can be used solo or with a group.
Sci-Fi Writing Prompts to Develop Your Skill as an Author
While these science fiction writing prompts can be used to generate story ideas, they’re written with developing specific abilities as an author in mind.
- Sonar senses
You’re blind and have been fitted with a sonar headset that helps you see. It tells you how far away everything is. You can see the shape of objects and faces, but can't tell if it's light or dark, or detect any colours. Describe what it's like to see the world using sonar.
Having watched a bunch of masterclasses on creative fiction writing, all the authors say the more conflict you include, the better. Here's a prompt that covers two types of conflict.
A spaceship is sending you a distress signal. Half the crew members want to go to the rescue but are scared it’s a trap (internal conflict); the other half want to ignore it due to other demands or simple laziness (external conflict). How do they resolve this disagreement?
- Time travel machine
Writing dialogue can be a challenge. One way to make it more interesting is to combine speech with action. Write a discussion between two engineers as they put the finishing touches on a time travel machine.
- World building
On an alien planet everything moves. Trees walk about, buildings crawl along wherever their whim takes them. Even mountains are unstable. What aliens have evolved there and what technology do they use?
- Colourful emotions
You are injected with a drug which means every time you experience an emotion all the sensations are heightened. It alters your physical sensations and all 5 senses. Write a scene where you experience a strong emotion.
- Earth building
To stop global warming, we spray the Earth with a chemical meant to increase cloud coverage. It goes wrong and the whole Earth is now covered in a fog so dense you can only see a few centimetres in front of you. Plan what happens over the next few years and how your protagonist specifically will cope.
- Cyborg shell
It’s great to use a mixture of senses in your descriptions. You are fitted with an outer shell of a cyborg. What does it feel like while it’s being fitted? Or when you move? Or fight? Try to use all the senses – hearing, smell, taste, touch, sight and internal sensations.
- Romantic robots
Long after humans have gone extinct, A.I. is living happily on. Robots often fall in love with each other. What are their relationships like?
Fantasy Story Ideas
These fantasy prompts act as story idea generators – whether for a short story, or a whole novel.
- The magic book
You open an enchanted book and are sucked into a fictional world. You find yourself in one of your favourite books, but in a geographic location you know nothing about.
- Feeling out of this world
After heart surgery when you get emotional all kinds of weird things happen. It rains when you’re sad. Things catch fire when you’re angry. You’ve just started to have a panic attack.
- Just another day in the life
Your parents are a goblin and an elf. Your adopted sister is an ogre. It’s breakfast time.
- The floating castle
You are arrested and sent to the floating castle. Using your magical ability of turning invisible, how do you escape? Oh, the invisibility only works when you close your eyes.
- Sorcerous sisters
Your twin sister just got chosen to join the witch’s coven. You have no magical talents, but really want to go. You hide the invite from her and go in her place.
- A haunting tale
You’ve been trying to haunt your murderer for years, but they just put it down to weird coincidences. Now you’ve discovered how to get their attention.
- Hysterical history
Your history teacher is interrupted from a long ramble about Europe in 1803 by a student who shouts that they’re wrong. They get into an argument and the student says, “I remember exactly what happened.” You’ve always suspected they were a vampire.
- Metaphysical movies
Something odd'd been happening to you at night and every morning you wake to find exotic dust floating in the air. Last night, you filmed it for the first time. You’re about to watch the recording.
For a free in-depth course on writing fantasy from Brandon Sanderson, I highly recommend his free Fantasy Writing course on YouTube.
Fantasy Prompts to Learn Creative Writing Techniques
- Enchanted emotions
You are a wizard and are sampling potions which each give a different emotion. Describe how it feels when you drink from different bottles without naming the emotion itself.
- The king and the pauper
You are a peasant and are begging a cruel king not to execute your husband. Spend ten minutes writing the scene from the peasant’s perspective, then rewrite the same scene from the king’s perspective.
R.L. Stine says that he tries to end as many chapters as possible with a cliffhanger. Write a scene which ends with two hobbits literally hanging off a cliff.
- Water magic
Imagine that wizards arose today who could control the element of water – even water inside the body. How would they use it? How would the magic system work?
- Metaphorical monsters and slithering similes
Metaphors and similes are where you compare one thing to another. In The Hobbit J.R.R. Tolkien uses these two similes to describe Smaug:
Smaug lay with wings folded like an immeasurable bat...
Smaug had left his lair in silent stealth… in the dark like a monstrous crow…
Describe a monster using metaphors and similes. Ideally the things you compare the monster to should evoke feelings of awe or disgust. An “immeasurable bat” or “monstrous crow” works far better than a “giant eagle,” as this evokes a warmer emotion.
- Twisting of tropes
Fantasy is full of popular tropes – the all-powerful wizard and his legion of followers, the nobody who turns out to be the chosen one, etc. See if you can think of a common fantasy trope and how you could subvert it. This is a great way to surprise readers and create a more original plot.
The following prompts are particularly challenging as they require you to combine a lot of different writing techniques – world building, character development, plot creation and writing from an unusual perspective. When writing a novel if a scene can serve multiple purposes, then it will be all the richer for it. These prompts were written with that in mind.
- The castle of fantasy
In a world where magic is abundant and we can use it for anything, what magical features would your standard castle have? Write a scene where a princess is preparing to fly off on an adventure and include some of these features from her perspective – where see sees them everyday and they’re just normal to her.
- Sci-fi supermarket
Two aliens try to grab the last Gazulomph from a space station’s supermarket shelf. What happens? See if you can create two different alien races, decide what a Gazulomph is, imagine what a supermarket in a space station might be like and create a conflict that mentions the sense of taste.
- Steampunk simulation
You live in a steampunk virtual reality world and aren't sure you want to leave.
- Science meets art
You are the first scientist to have an artificial intelligence art generator built into your brain. You can create masterpieces in minutes. One day, your hand starts painting an image that will reveal the future.
- Everyday time travel
Time travel becomes common place and everyone gains the ability to pop between time zones on a regular basis. Explore your character's journey as causality disintegrates.
The following prompts combine elements of both science fiction and fantasy.
- Denizens of the deep
A ship called Metamorphosis which researches lycanthropy sinks. You are the only lycanthrope (werewolf) that has gained the ability to shapechange into other animals. You must now swim into the depths of the ocean before chemicals spill that could have disastrous effects - mutating the wildlife in the ocean.
- Conjuring climate change
A secret society of beings made of cloud come out of hiding to prevent global warming.
- The cursed cyborg
An old crone cursed the android YRE1 so no human will ever trust them. Now they must fly to planet Aplixxa to lift the curse. Planet Aplixxa is the only planet in the galaxy where magic still exists.
- Secret shapeshifters
The war between humans and the Gorrux has been waging for centuries. You live on a distant planet and are a shapeshifting human. You're on a spy mission and can't reveal your true form, otherwise the Gorrux will annihilate you.
- Magic machines
A supercomputer discovers how to use magic.
- Stuck in this dimension
An alternative version of you magically teleports to a post apocalyptic Earth and gets stranded there.
- An unlikely friendship
Planet Domaadar has drifted away from its star for millennia. There is no light, but a blind aquatic race exist deep under its ocean. A magician who is drowning summons one and they form an unlikely friendship.
If you've enjoyed these prompts, then check out 63 more creative writing prompts for adults or our range of solo and group writing exercises. We'd also be delighted if you share this page on social media, or link to it from your blog.
Article by Martin Woods.