In science fiction, you need a great idea that lives in your mind and leads to characters and situations that inspire you. Here are five tips to help you generate science fiction plot ideas for your next script or book.
Look at the Big Unanswered Questions
Like, did aliens spread magic mushrooms across the universe to monitor signs of life? And what’ll happen at the end of the universe? And so on. The bigger and more insoluble the question, the less likely it is your answer will be disproved next week. Once you come up with your own weird explanation for a big cosmic riddle, then you can work backwards from that to create a story around it .
Add Philosophy to the Mix
As Arthur C. Clarke would tell us, science fiction has the ability to get really cosmic and massive in its explorations of the big questions. Who are we, where do we come from, who created us, and so on. A lot of philosophers are moving into territory formerly occupied by physics, because physics is dealing with the big existential questions. You, too, can leave behind “hard” science and get into the big questions about meaning — and the result might actually be purer science fiction than if you just stuck to the actual science questions.
Project Today’s Problems into the Future
There are things that we all sort of know, but we don’t really grasp them because they’re too huge and unthinkable. Science fiction, in particular, has a lot of ways to talk about uncomfortable, weird facts without getting preachy or sledgehammery, by changing the setting or scale. You can make people identify with someone who’s smack in the middle of future water wars, and drive home the likelihood of water shortages without ever lecturing.
Imagine the Consequences of a New Scientific or Technological Discovery
Try to imagine how a brand new science could wreck the lives of people in the future. It’s always more interesting to see people struggling with new technology than to watch them just do the happy “yay new technology” dance. Think of all the possible ripple effects from a new miracle technology — and then pick one of the least obvious to build your story around. The short film Sight explores privacy issues that arise with technology similar to Google Glass.
Give Truth to False Beliefs
We all have beliefs we’ve discarded over the years. Everything from “Santa Claus is real” to “authority figures are always right”. Pick a belief you used to hold, that’s been disproven by events or that you’ve outgrown for some reason and try to imagine a universe where that belief is true. Take all of the energy of your former belief, plus the distance that comes from your change of heart, and try to create a story around that.