So, I have this idea of writing a novel set in the future. Not the far future but a few decades away from today. Could you please give me an advice for that. The reason that I am asking this is that I had read somewhere before that writing about the future is not a good idea (the readers and the story have to be connected?).

So, I would like to know if I could change the future that we are expecting and leaving it the same way it is now. It sound complicated and confusing. I'm not sure how to explain my idea.

Let me explain it with more details. Since it's taking place in the future, I assume the readers will think about technology. So, I was thinking about excluding that concept. To explain the elimination of the concept, I thought of having an "event" that happened in between the present and the future (where the story begins). This event caused the future to stay the same as of today, but there will be some minor futuristic concept.

You might find this confusing to understand and like I said before, it's complicated for me to explain this clearly. I tried my best and I hope you understand it, so you can help me with it.

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    It's not clear what your specific difficulty is. If this page doesn't help you with the writing, it should at least help you identify what you want help on: wikihow.com/Write-a-Futuristic-Story
    – J.G.
    May 31, 2018 at 6:44
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    As @Galastel has mentioned below, The Handmaid's Tale could be a real inspiration, it's a possible near-future and I don't remember it ever mentioning what year it's supposed to be (someone may correct me there). The Christian fundamentalism at play in the novel rejects modern society and is the cause of a 'stunted' future where progression is reversed for more 'traditional' values. The TV adaptation of the book is excellent too and definitely worth a watch. Really inspiring writing in both book and adaptation, it may give you some ideas for how to proceed with your own work. Good luck, Joe!
    – GGx
    May 31, 2018 at 12:30
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    I see there are already good answers, but to point you to right direction, can you tell us why your future has to be a few decades away? Not weeks, not centuries, but decades?
    – Alexander
    May 31, 2018 at 16:49
  • @Alexander I just didn't want the future to be centuries away because now there a re a lot of novels based on the far future with greater technologies. I want it to be decades away since it is not that far neither that close. Perhaps 50 years from now, something close.
    – Joe
    May 31, 2018 at 17:07
  • @Joe, Ok, not centuries, got it. But still - why not 5 years or 5 days? What is the particular change that you are trying to show?
    – Alexander
    May 31, 2018 at 17:27

4 Answers 4


The trope you're referring to, if I understand what you're saying, is "20 minutes into the future" (TV Tropes link here and onwards). Works based on this trope would usually focus on societal, rather than technological changes, exploring the progression of modern trends. Famous examples of such works are George Orwell's 1984 and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Technological changes are present in 1984, but they serve the narrative; they are not its focal point, not the thing that's being explored. Since technology is not the thing that's being explored, it doesn't receive more focus than is required by the exploration of societal changes. In The Handmaid's Tale, the societal change actually forces a technological step backwards.

If you want to focus on societal, rather than technological, changes, what happens in your story should serve that goal. You don't want to explore technological changes - that's fine. If an "event" stops technological progress and ties into what you do want to explore, go ahead and have it. If not, if it's just something you write so you can handwave the technological issue and get on with your story, consider not writing it at all, and just getting on with your story. It's the story that people are going to care about, not the things that were "less interesting" and so you chose not to tell about them.

There is another trope: Next Sunday A.D. That's stories set literally "next year" - in a future so close, that you can very well expect there would be no technological changes. For all intents and purposes, they are set in the present. Why are they set in the future then? Usually such works would have a cataclysmic change happen within the story. A famous example would be H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds. Since the cataclysmic event has clearly not occurred in our present, the story must perforce be set "tomorrow" rather than "today".
But that was not what you meant, was it? (Just making sure.)

  • That's what I wanted. You gave me some great advice. I didn't know about only using societal rather than technology. I started a few months ago to read more and practice more in writing. That is exactly what I want to do with the future for the novel. I thought that writing about the future has to have what almost everyone expects about the future, technologies. As for your question, why are they set in the future then? I want the novel to take place in the future because of how society is progressing. I want to the story to be apart from today's time, so I can write about the future of it.
    – Joe
    May 31, 2018 at 17:31

I’m a little confused by your question and it may be worth providing more information if you want more answers, but these are my initial thoughts:

As per the link that @J.G. has provided suggests, futuristic fiction is set apart by its distinctive setting. If your future is exactly the same as the present day, surely, the only thing you are changing is the date and therefore you aren’t really writing about the future at all. It certainly won’t present any struggles in terms of dreaming up a possible future if nothing’s changed.

But, I think you may have an issue with believability. While you can write anything that isn’t remotely plausible, it still has to be believable otherwise you will lose the trust of your readers. On the flip side you can write something entirely plausible but if it isn’t presented in a believable way, readers don’t even buy what’s possible.

If you think about how things have changed in the last 25 years, not necessarily in terms of new inventions but inventions becoming more accessible and prolific: drones, smartphones, electric cars, DNA profiling, social media, broadband internet, digital cameras, MP3 and portable music, stem cell research… the list goes on and on and on…

…Unless you can present your story in a way that’s completely believable, with rational reasoning and explanations, I think readers will struggle to believe that the world has ceased to advance, considering how quickly it advances in just two decades.

If you're setting up an unchanged future as a way of avoiding the thought and research that would go into creating a changed future, I'd say you'll hit bumps down the road. It smacks of laziness (sorry) and I think a stunted future may be harder to believe than whatever fictional future you could dream up.

I guess it comes down to whether setting your story in the future is just a quirk that you want to add to your story or whether the whole story revolves around and depends upon it. If it’s the former, I would consider setting it in the present and removing the difficulty of believability. If it’s the latter, you will have work to do in convincing your readers as to why the whole human race stopped advancing in the way it has done since time immemorial. You'd be better off doing the work of creating a 'realistic' future.

  • You have great points. I really like what you wrote about "believability". You are right about myself not providing more information. I do want to have some improved inventions in the novel. I just thought that since the time of the story is far from today technology have to be "better" (similar to a Netflix series called Altered Carbon).
    – Joe
    May 31, 2018 at 17:26
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    @Joe the believability part comes from personal experience. A twist in my novel which is entirely possible was dismissed by a publisher as being implausible because of the way I had presented it. That same publisher had just super-released a novel where people enter into each other's bodies through lucid dreaming and commit crimes, yet that entirely impossible phenomenon was considered believable because of the way she presented it (great book). WRT technology, as others have said, it can be a small part of your future, it doesn't have to take the entire focus unless you want it to. Good luck!
    – GGx
    Jun 5, 2018 at 9:14

You can but don't need to. Alternate realities which are present day with some slightly different characters/events are totally fine. Unless you're planning to reference things that are happening today (in which case, sure write in the future). An audience will give you great allowance so long as you don't confuse them. Whatever advice you think you read was probably narrow opinion and is generically untrue.

Spending time on a plot device to "freeze technological advance" is likely a waste of your time. So don't worry about. Write your story, find poeple in the target audience and see if they accept it.

  • Referencing things that are happening today is what I want to write about. Since society is changing, good and bad things will happen in the future. That's why I want to write about the future while referencing events that are happening now.
    – Joe
    May 31, 2018 at 17:34

I would say that this setting isn't unheard of and is easy for readers to forgive. The problem will be that technology doesn't always advance at the rate you expect it to.. the common complaint is "Where's my flying car/jet pack/hover board!" The flip side of this is also true: Some tech seen in future adaptations is outdated by the time the year given in the work is reached. For example, the original Star Trek Series posited in 1967(?) that flip-phone style communicators would be available to the military in the 2267... in real life the flip phone was available to the public in the late 1990s. By the time of Picard, both the communication system and the tricorders were miniturized in about 100 years time... in real life, not only was Bluetooth and smaller Cellphones a thing by the mid 2000s, but Kirk's flip phone style was obsolete, in favor of touch screen (only available to large consol computers in Piccard era) and had similar functions to the Tricorder and was smaller than that!

Tech advances cannot be predicted... but this is built into the equation. I would look at the tech that is bleeding edge cool... the stuff that science says is on the edge of being real and factor that in with more efficient designs than the modern one (look at first gen iPhone and the... tent now... iteration and note even physical differences).

I would also ask if the tech has changed the society or if the society was changed for other reasons... how much does the tech featured factor into the design of society. The more the story revolves around the technology, the more the setting could look futuristic. The less the change is in societal thinking, the less you need to depend on the tech.

Having a story in the future is not a bad thing and shouldn't be avoided. If you're good on your research, you might get praised for calling how the future works. Your praise for new common tech will be just as likely as your mocking for not producing a rocket pogo stick in the correct time period... the point of these stories is to explore the implications of technology and humanity.

  • The problem I am having with this novel is that it is somewhat fiction and possibly non-fiction. The world is changing, there might be more wars in the future. Counties might get together or not. There is a lot to write about. Some things from the novels will be non-fiction of course, but the concept that I have about the story could potentially happen (or not).
    – Joe
    May 31, 2018 at 17:37

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