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How To Find an Irresistible Idea for Your Science Fiction Novel

A bold idea can draw readers in and keep them riveted with every turn of the page. Here, author A.G. Riddle shares how to find an irresistible idea for your science fiction novel.

Great novels have a character that makes readers want to turn the page. They want to see that character succeed. They want to see that character get out of the hole the world has put them in. But there’s another, very powerful lever that is critical for great fiction: ideas.

A central idea. An irresistible question. A question readers want the answer to. In science fiction, this idea—and question—is often what draws readers in. Some would argue that ideas are the true star of science fiction.

(A.G. Riddle: On a New Take in Murder Mystery)

I think it’s half true. You still need those memorable characters that readers are curious about. But the idea is also important. Ideas are what motivate a lot of sci-fi writers. I’m guilty of it. I find an idea I love, and I build a story around it.

If you really want to supercharge your story, here’s a simple way: Combine two great ideas. Ideally, two original ideas. Sometimes I stumble across one I like, but something’s holding me back from writing it. It’s just not enough. And then, I find another one. And together, they’re dynamite.

So, how do you find that great idea for a science fiction novel? Or two?

I think you have to trust your gut.

How To Find an Irresistible Idea for Your Science Fiction Novel

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My most recent novel, Lost in Time, is about a few ideas.

One: What if, in the future, criminals weren’t sent to prison? They were sent to the past. 200 million years into the past, to the time of the dinosaurs.

Two: What if one of your children was accused of murder? And you knew they were innocent? Would you confess to the crime to save them? Even if it meant traveling back to the time of the dinosaurs? Even if you had invented the machine—Absolom—that did it?

Those are the sort of ideas that get me started. But to each their own. Writing is a custom fit. You find those ideas you love and you make them your own. If you infuse the story with enough passion, others will love it.

Here are three techniques that I use to find story ideas. I hope they’re helpful to you.

Search for popular science magazines. You’ll find a few really great ones. Subscribe to them. Look at the articles that are popular (each month and for the year). Those are the topics intellectual readers are interested in.

But those should only be a starting point. The question is: What are you interested in? Is there a spark there that ignites your imagination? Something that inspires you. Print it out, write it down, commit it to memory. It’s the seed of a story that could grow.

Idea Well #2: In 20 Years…

Imagine the world 20 years from now. What will it be like—in your opinion? What are the greatest technological advances? The biggest changes to society.

Write those down. Hurry. There are no bad ideas. Just scribble it all down.

Drones. AI. Genetic engineering. World War.

Whatever you think it is. Write it down.

Now. Here's the thing: Imagine a family like yours. And how their life would be different. What challenges would they face? Is there conflict there? Imagine what a person from that family might want—what is their goal? Is there a story there?

I hope so.

How To Find an Irresistible Idea for Your Science Fiction Novel

Idea Well #3: My Greatest Fear Is…

What do you fear?

I’m not talking about snakes or heights.

What are the things that would change your life forever?

Those are dark places. But there might be a story idea hiding there.

For me, it was being separated from my family forever. And losing my wife. Both feature heavily in my latest novel. These things hurt to write about, but they can also be a source of inspiration—and great fiction.

I wish you luck with your novel. Remember. When you’re brainstorming, there are no bad ideas. There are only the ideas you use—and those you don’t. And those that get tossed aside this time might be perfect for the next novel.

So, start creating that stack of ideas. As you continue through your writing career, it will be the wind at your back.

Proper grammar, punctuation, and mechanics make your writing correct. In order to truly write well, you must also master the art of form and composition. From sentence structure to polishing your prose, this course will enhance your writing, no matter what type of writing you do.

Proper grammar, punctuation, and mechanics make your writing correct. In order to truly write well, you must also master the art of form and composition. From sentence structure to polishing your prose, this course will enhance your writing, no matter what type of writing you do.

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