Three science fiction writing exercises

Illustration for article titled Three science fiction writing exercises

Author Monica Valentinelli offers three writing exercises to help get you thinking about science fiction story ideas. Create an alien, destroy the world, and create a fantastical invention.


Since many of you who visit this site are also science fiction authors yourselves, I thought it might be fun to offer a few writing exercises to help get your creative juices flowing. Instead of focusing on a plot or a character, here are a few things that you can develop that might exist within your story.

Create an Alien: Whether you create something that's humanoid or the size of an amoeba, designing an alien can be a lot of fun and help spark a few story ideas. There are a number of different methods that you can work with to add a bit of chance to the results. One approach you could take would be to write several types of adjectives on small pieces of paper. Toss them in a shoebox and then randomly pull out a string of descriptions. Another method would be to pick an environment, like a Martian desert, and design an alien based on how they'd survive within it. If your goal is to create an alien for a dark fiction setting, you could try creating a cute alien first and then twisting it into something predatory. After you have your creation in hand, you can then explore several different options to flesh out your alien. You could determine how they reproduce, if there are any other types of aliens within that species, what type of pets they might have or food they might eat, etc.

Predict the End of the World: Several post-apocalyptic settings are based upon an event that ended up either destroying or irrevocably altering an entire society. What type of an event would change the world forever? When and where would this event occur? How would the event start? By attempting to predict the end of the world, your imagination can travel in some interesting directions and naturally explore the causes and effects of the event you're predicting. Once you have the event figured out, your mind will attempt put the pieces together to logically create the before, during and after of a post-apocalyptic sequence that you could create a setting around.

Design an Invention: In many areas of science fiction, you'll often find interesting inventions that end up tying back into the plot in some fashion. Some of these "inventions" are organically-based, like a bio-organic ship or weapon. Others might employ nanotechnology, like a "living" spy mechanism that exists in your bloodstream, or an energy field, like a fish tank that is contained by an invisible force field. If you're stuck, you could base your design off of your favorite current device and figure out how to render it obsolete. An e-reader, for example, is primarily a substitution for a book. What sorts of inventions would you design that currently don't exist in modern technology? After you've created an invention, it can lead to a good brainstorming session about where, when and how it might be used in your setting.

I hope these exercises will help jump start your creative mind. What sorts of science fiction writing exercises have you worked with? Do you have any suggestions to share?

Monica Valentinelli is a professional author and game designer. Described as a "force of nature" by her peers, Monica is best known for her work in the horror, dark fantasy and dark science fiction genres and has been published through Abstract Nova Press, Eden Studios, White Wolf Publishing, Apex Magazine and others. Her credits include: a short story entitled "Pie" in the award-winning BURIED TALES OF PINEBOX, TEXAS anthology through 12 to Midnight. Her new release, entitled THE QUEEN OF CROWS, is the number one best-selling title at


This post by Monica Valentinelli originally appeared at Apex Book Company.



I would hope that most authors think about this stuff already but it's always nice to read what published authors think you should do. I am still doing research and creation, and I feel like I am creating a Bible/Dictionary/Encyclopedia for my work. Actually that's exactly what I am doing, I'm such a sad geeky person.