Imagining Your Science Fiction Short Story

Author: Catharine Niuzzo Honaman

Time: 2 days
30 minutes to read over lesson and make copies of brainstorming forms
Materials: Setting form
Plot outline
Character outlines
Science and government content and theme outline


Students will brainstorm about their science fiction short story. By using the worksheets provided in the lesson they will begin by sketching out the plot of the story. They will then establish an appropriate setting in a future time that will incorporate the concepts of clean energy generation (the science component) and responsible public policy (the government component). They will also propose characters for the story and begin thinking about their interactions in order to create complex, authentic personalities.

Purpose – This is the Engage Lesson.
Students will use various organizing vehicles to get their ideas for their science fiction short story down on paper. These outlines and graphic organizers will help them to establish a list of characters (and their essential qualities), a plot line, a point of view, a future setting, and accurate scientific as well as government policy information which will be the central elements of this science fiction short story.

Students will be able to:
1. Write out the basic plot
2. Establish an appropriate futuristic setting
3. Create characters that will believably move the story along
4. Decide on an optimistic theme

English Education Standard
W-P6. Write a story that develops complex characters, plot structure, point of view and setting; organizes ideas in meaningful sequence; and includes sensory details and concrete language to advance the story line.
PO 1. Write a first- or third-person story
- develop a point of view
- present events in a logical order
- develop events that convey a unifying theme or tone
- include sensory details, concrete language and/or dialogue
- use literary elements (e.g., plot, setting, character, theme)

Teacher Background
An appreciation of science fiction and a delight in the writing process

Resource Websites

http://www.sacbee.com/static/live/news/projects/denial/text_c1_s2.html (State of Denial
information about hydrogen-powered cars)



Students will have two days to create the framework of their short story. As they work on one aspect of the story (such as characters) they may make connections or see new plot twists that may cause them to redo an aspect that they have already worked out. Tell them that going back and forth among worksheets and re-writing ideas is all part of the process.

1. A logical place to begin is with the setting: when in the future this story takes place and where (of course, extra-terrestrial locations are acceptable!) Tied to this is the clean form of energy that is being used to make life possible in this location.

2. Next look at plot. What is going to happen in the story? One essential component in the story will be the look back to the bad old days. In this flashback the students/writers will recount how horrible life was when pollution, disease, war over resources, etc., was running rampant due to problems with a conventional form of energy. They will also need to tell what was the final straw which convinced/forced/enabled society to seek an alternative form of energy production.

3. Now is an appropriate time to flesh out the story with its characters. Who will make the events of the story take place? Here the students/authors can be as imaginative as they wish. Will all the characters be human? Who are the main characters and who are the minor characters? The major characters need to be described in some detail. Designate what the functions are for the minor characters. Since the role of minor characters is to either move the plot forward or to reveal some sort of information crucial to the unfolding of the story, what will the function of each of the minor characters be?

4. Finally a theme must be decided upon. The tone of these short stories needs to be hopeful; they are a look at what mankind can do to improve life, how science has the power to create a better future, how our future is full of hope, reasonable change, good sound government, sustainable environmental policies, and an improvement in the state of environmental health issues.

5. There are other parameters that you may also wish to establish at this time with your students such as the due date, the length of the story, whether the rough draft needs to be handed in along with the final copy, the size and style of font used, etc.

If time allows have a short class discussion about the creative sticking points and forms of clean energy that the students will be using in their stories and how they envision the positive impact on the environment and society as a whole. What are the environmental health issues that they will be using in their stories? Are there any creative sticking points? Can the students come up with any ideas to help those who are having problems pulling their ideas together?

Embedded Assessment
There are three forms provided in this lesson that the students will need to fill out to establish the framework for their short stories. These should be checked in class as the students work. Assessing these forms in class gives you the opportunity to provide the students with immediate feedback and for the students to bounce ideas off of you. Students should be encouraged to flesh out their ideas as much as possible, even if all of what they propose does not make its way into the final version of the story.

If the students have not been able to complete the work for this lesson in the two class periods provided they need to finish up their story outlines for homework. When they come to class on the following day they will need to be ready to begin writing their actual story.

Embedded Assessment

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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