Are you looking for tips on how to write a story set in the future? We’ve included 10 for you below. Scroll down to learn more!
1. How far will you go?
One of the first things you will want to consider if you are writing a story set in the future is how far you want to go. It could be that you only want to jump forward by a few years, or it could be that you are jumping across millennia!
Understanding how far you want to time jump in your story from the present will then allow you to be able to understand the scope of your narrative and what you will need to consider when crafting your setting. For example, if you are only doing a short time jump, then your focus will be on the smaller details that have changed such as trends, politicians, and minor societal tweaks important to your characters, and a bigger jump will usually mean that you need to build the world from scratch.
2. Keep it relatable
Creating a far-flung future world can be incredibly liberating, especially as you have free rein to take it in almost any direction you want. However, although this may be fun for you, at the end of the day you still need to consider how your reader will be able to connect with the world you have created.
Therefore, you’ll want to maintain some level of relatability within your future world. This can be done either through your characters by using them as a way to answer questions that your reader may have about niche aspects of the world you have created, and to convey experiences to your reader, or by explaining strange concepts in a way that is linked to present-day terminology. A good way to check that your future world can be understood is to give it to someone to proofread and ask them what aspects they found hard to get their head around.
3. Consider the similarities and differences
A great way to start to craft your future setting is to start to work out how you want it to look. This means creating a list of various similarities and differences between the world you are creating and the present day.
Spending some time to take note of what is going on right now can help you to find inspiration for catalysts that spur changes and development within your future setting, especially if you are finding it hard to world-build. For example, you could look at some current issues that are a problem, and think of ways that your future society could either improve these or even make them worse.
4. Stepping forward to step back
Future worlds don’t always have to be filled with advanced technology, robots, and space travel. Of course, if this is the route that you want to take, then that’s absolutely fine, but another take you can make on a futuristic setting is to actually have the technology and human progress take a major step backward.
As an example of this, the famous novel The Time Machine by HG Wells comes to mind. The protagonist travels so far forward into the future that civilization has gone back to a primitive state, with many highly evolved humanoids living underground. Of course, you don’t have to go as far as this, but you could look at ways in which modern concepts we rely upon, such as electricity, could be lost to a future world.
5. The language of the future
Writing a story set in the future also gives you the freedom to be able to create new languages and dialects. This is especially true if you have created many technological advancements or societal changes, as the people of your world will need words to call them!
However, it is worth keeping in mind that although you can create all sorts of terminology, this still needs to be something that your reader will understand, so you will likely need to describe the item in your narrative upon its first appearance in the story or have it be explained by your characters when it comes to more abstract concepts.
6. Crazy inventions and patents
For inspiration when it comes to what to put in your futuristic setting, some of the ideas might come from unexpected places. Try looking at old patents put in for different inventions, or even looking at ideas that have been put forward as the next best thing in retro TV programs like Tomorrow’s World. This can often help to bring crazy ideas to the fore that might just work in your story with a few tweaks!
Even old paintings and stories from the Victorian era and the early 20th century can provide some rather extreme ideas about what the future might look like. Granted, a lot of them were imagining how life would look like now even though their predictions were pretty advanced, although there’s nothing stopping you from taking these ideas and pushing them forward a few decades or so.
7. Society or technology?
When building a future setting for your story, a lot of people think about creating a world with massively advanced technology. However, this isn’t the only way that you can create a futuristic setting.
Instead of thinking about the technology of the future, consider crafting a story that focuses on the society and civilization of the future. There have been many famous books that have used this concept, such as The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and 1984 by George Orwell, whose worlds aren’t really much of a departure from their contemporary world in a technological sense, but provide a stark contrast to their societies.
Using stories set in the future in this way creates a fantastic vessel for exploring and criticizing various aspects of modern-day society without it feeling too close to home for your reader or ending up being too controversial of a read. That’s not to say that the above authors didn’t run into their fair share of naysayers!
8. Jump back in time for a reference point
Studying a time period that is the same distance in the past from the present day as you are looking to write about in the future can help you to find enduring features of society that can keep your story feeling believable and relatable to your reader.
For example, if I wanted to jump forward in time by 150 years, I might look at what life was like 150 years ago. I would be able to see similarities and shared experiences, such as the fact that we still travel on trains, like taking photos of each other, and always can’t wait for the next episode in a series (even if back then it was a book rather than a TV show).
By using this philosophy as an example, you can then start to build a picture for yourself about what ideas or concepts are enduring, and what may be the same in your future world as the modern day.
9. The extraordinary becomes just ordinary
A futuristic setting allows you to create all sorts of amazing constructs, technologies, and items for the people in your story that would likely fill you with awe and amazement if you were to experience them yourself. However, you need to remember that in order to keep things realistic in your future world, the people who populate it need to simply take a lot of these amazing inventions for granted.
As disheartening as this sounds, it makes sense if you think about it. For example, 70 years ago people would crowd round tiny televisions, often an entire street’s worth of people, to watch an important event unfold on a screen that wasn’t even in color. Today, everybody has at least one large color TV, which has more channels and streaming services than we can shake a stick at, yet we don’t bat an eyelid at that fact.
The same goes for your futuristic setting. Things that are commonplace there are simply that, and to have a character go crazy over them would be pretty strange!
10. Take inspiration from the greats
If all else fails and you are still stuck when it comes to what direction in which to take your story, there is no shame in finding inspiration from fellow authors who consistently write novels set in the future.
It could be that you learn something from the greats of Sci-Fi, including Arthur C. Clarke, Philip K. Dick, and Ray Bradbury among others, or perhaps look at dystopian fiction writers like Margaret Atwood and Cormac McCarthy.
There are also countless creative writing magazines out there that publish stories set in the future, such as The Fabulist and The Metaworker, although you might find a niche that suits you by looking through a larger literary magazine directory.
Although some may see it as a way to steal the ideas of others, reading similarly placed fiction can help you to understand where your own ideas sit within this space. The way in which other authors have dealt with the challenges of futuristic settings can help you to problem-solve your own.