Science fiction, also often known as ‘sci-fi,’ is a genre of literature that is imaginative and based on science. It relies heavily on scientific facts, theories, and principles as support for its settings, characters, themes, and plot. Many of the storylines and plots within science fiction are possible or plausible according to science.
Science fiction is usually futuristic and often presents alternative ways of life and living made possible by technological change. Science-fiction novels are similar to fantasy in that they imagine alternative worlds outside the realms of our natural world.
What are the five elements of science-fiction story writing?
Like other forms of fiction writing, science fiction contains the usual novel elements. These include a specific setting, character development, plot (central conflict, complications, pivotal events, resolution), themes, and structure.
The setting is the context in which a story or scene occurs and comprises the time, place, and social environment. Therefore, it’s essential to create a background in your account, so your readers can visualize and experience; for example, science-fiction settings tend to include space travel, new galaxies, or futuristic times.
A character is a person in a story – a human, a fantasy character, a mythical character, or even an animal. Science fiction is no exception to this element of fiction writing, and the characters in these stories often include aliens, time travelers, and heroic adventurers.
The plot is the main event or events of a play, novel, film, or similar work, devised and presented by the writer as a complementary sequence. The plot of science fiction usually centers around technological discoveries, time travel, and alien invasions.
The theme is the main idea or underlying meaning a writer explores in a story. Science fiction’s most common themes include space travel, time travel, utopias and dystopias, and encounters with alien life forms.
A structure is the important events of a story and how its plot unfolds. Science-fiction stories are usually full of action, adventure, and plot twists that make up the structure.
What are some main components of science-fiction novels?
Here are some of the main features of science-fiction novels:
- time travel;
- mind control, telepathy, and telekinesis;
- alien life forms, and mutants;
- space travel and exploration;
- parallel universes.
Can you think of any novels you’ve read recently that have any of these features?
Famous Science-Fiction Novels and Writers
Here are some famous science-fiction novels you might have heard of or wanted to check out. These novels have been crucial in defining the question ‘what is science fiction?’.
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Frankenstein tells the story of a gifted scientist called Frankenstein who creates a monster. However, the beast is not the perfect specimen that he imagined it to be – it turns out to be a hideous creature that humanity and Frankenstein himself reject.
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The Hunger Games depicts a story of a post-apocalyptic nation called Panem in North America. The Capitol runs it that exercises political control over the rest of the country.
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This story is set in 2045 and follows Wade Watts on his search for an Easter egg in a worldwide virtual reality game. The discovery of this leads him to inherit the game creator’s fortune.
Where did science fiction originate from?
The exact origins and definitions of science fiction have been widely disputed, but the term ‘science fiction’ was thought to have been invented in the 1920s by one of the first advocates for the genre, Hugo Gernsback.
The World Science-Fiction Society held annual awards for outstanding science fiction beginning in 1953. These were named after Gernsback and celebrate the achievements of the world’s top science-fiction writers, editors, illustrators, and films.
Why is science fiction necessary?
The science-fiction genre is essential, and it’s trendy, too. Science fiction often allows people to turn scientific theories into full stories about what is possible and imaginable. People use scientific facts to do things like:
- suggest what could happen in the future;
- explore what could happen if certain events or circumstances came to be;
- present future consequences of technological and scientific advancements and innovation.
How to Start a Science-Fiction Story
Starting a story in a new genre can be tricky, so how can you learn to create a science-fiction novel with your kids? Twinkl is here to help. Check out a few of our pointers, tips, and tricks to help you start your own science-fiction story:
- Keep it short
For children writing their first stories, keeping them short can be the best way to perfect the key components of storytelling. So why not try a flash fiction story?
- Find your hook
Every great story needs a great opening line to hook your reader. A firm beginning in a science-fiction story will make the readers want to know more.
- Plan only one or two exciting characters
Interesting characters are one of the essential parts of any story. However, too many characters will make the story too complex, and the readers won’t be able to tell them apart.
- Pick a common science-fiction theme or trope
Most science-fiction stories explore themes such as technology, aliens, adventure, and space. Picking a common trope or theme from science fiction can help children focus on their accounts. Try these common themes and tropes from science-fiction stories:
- space exploration/adventure;
- advanced technology that shows a glimpse of the future;
- the fate of the world is in the balance;
- aliens invade Earth.
Hard Science-Fiction Novels vs. Soft Science-Fiction Novels
Science fiction is divided into two broad categories: hard sci-fi and soft sci-fi. These terms are vague and flexible, but they give readers a good idea of what to expect from the novel before reading it. Here is the difference between these two types of sci-fi books:
- Complex sci-fi novels are based on scientific facts. ‘hard’ natural sciences inspire them, like chemistry, physics, and astronomy.
- Soft sci-fi novels can be either inaccurate or inspired by ‘soft’ social sciences like psychology, anthropology, and sociology.
Mini Science-Fiction Quiz Questions
Try these science-fiction quiz questions to see how well you can identify whether a text is science fiction. Each question features a made-up story summary, and you must guess whether it would fit in the science-fiction or another genre. Try and answer all of these questions before scrolling down to find the answers!
- A story about an alien teenager growing up on Mars while navigating his way through teenage life.
- A story about a detective who has to follow a series of clues to catch a criminal.
- A story about a princess who decides she doesn’t want to be a princess anymore, so she gives up her position, joins a regular school, and tries to hide her past.
- A story about a group of people whose flight takes a wrong turn and sends them to another planet.
Did you manage to answer all the questions? Try rereading this page. You might find the answers you’re looking for.
Here’s the correct answer for each question:
- This story would be a piece of science fiction.
- This story is not a piece of science fiction – it falls into the detective and crime fiction genre.
- This story would be a piece of teen fiction or young adult fiction.
- This story would be a piece of science fiction.
Science-Fiction Story Topics
If you want your pupils to write their own science-fiction stories, you’ll want to look at some of these topics. These ideas can inspire your pupils to write out-of-this-world stories. Encourage your pupils to use figurative language and ambitious vocabulary while they write!
Science-Fiction Story Topics about Aliens
- A mysterious light appears in your garden at night. You go outside to investigate it, and you find a spaceship. What does it look like? Will you go inside?
- You are an alien flying through space. Suddenly, your spaceship starts to malfunction. You need to make a crash landing! Which planet will you land on? What will you find there?
- You are an astronaut on a mission to explore space. You’ve recently discovered a new planet and species – write a report about what you’ve found.
- Alien life has been discovered, and they want to communicate with the people of planet Earth. Are they friendly, or do they have something sinister up their sleeve?
- One day, an alien ship crashes into your house. The foreign needs help to get back on its feet. What do you do to enable it? How does it adjust to life on Earth?
Science-Fiction Story Topics About Robots
- Robots are now considered equal to humans – they’re even made to go to school! One of your new classmates is a robot. How do you get on?
- You enter a science competition and decide to make a robot. But as things progress, the robot starts to take on a mind of its own.
- Ten thousand years into the future, only robots have survived on Earth. So what does their society look like? How are they different from humans?
- Now that technology has advanced, you can transfer your brain into a robot at the end of your life. Would you choose to do it? Why or why not?
- Robots have now taken up all the positions of power on Earth – it’s thought that their emotions won’t influence their decisions. What is the robot Prime Minister like?