Below, you’ll find our best creative writing prompts and plot ideas for every genre, but first, why do we use prompts? Is it just a waste of time, or can they actually help you? Here are three reasons we love writing prompts at The Write Practice:
Forty-Four Short Story Ideas
Here are lots of short story ideas that you can use as writing prompts. Use these story starters on their own or to get ideas for the CWN online writing courses. You’ll also find links to more creative writing prompts at the bottom of the page.
- A babysitter is snooping around her employer’s house and finds a disturbing photograph.
- At a Chinese restaurant, your character opens his fortune cookie and reads the following message: "Your life is in danger. Say nothing to anyone. You must leave the city immediately and never return. Repeat: say nothing.".
- Your character’s boss invites her and her husband to dinner. Your character wants to make a good impression, but her husband has a tendency to drink too much and say exactly what’s on his mind.
- It’s your character’s first day at a new school. He or she wants to get a fresh start, develop a new identity. But in his or her homeroom, your character encounters a kid he or she knows from summer camp.
- Your character has to tell his parents that he’s getting a divorce. He knows his parents will take his wife’s side, and he is right.
- At the airport, a stranger offers your character money to carry a mysterious package onto the plane. The stranger assures your character that it’s nothing illegal and points out that it has already been through the security check. Your character has serious doubts, but needs the money, and therefore agrees.
- Your character suspects her husband is having an affair and decides to spy on him. What she discovers is not what she was expecting.
- A man elbows your character in a crowd. After he is gone, she discovers her cell phone is too. She calls her own number, and the man answers. She explains that the cell phone has personal information on it and asks the man to send it back to her. He hangs up. Instead of going to the police, your character decides to take matters into her own hands.
- After your character loses his job, he is home during the day. That’s how he discovers that his teenage son has a small marijuana plantation behind the garage. Your character confronts his son, who, instead of acting repentant, explains to your character exactly how much money he is making from the marijuana and tries to persuade your character to join in the business.
- At a garage sale, your character buys an antique urn which she thinks will look nice decorating her bookcase. But when she gets home, she realizes there are someone’s ashes in it.
54 Other Writing Prompt Ideas
#24: Keep an eye out in your environment for examples of greengrocer’s apostrophes and rogue quotation marks. Pick an example and write about what the misplaced punctuation implies (e.g., we have the "best" meat or we have the best "meat").
#32: Sometimes, family is who we are related to; sometimes, family is a group of people we gather around ourselves. Write a story about (some of) a character’s found family and relatives meeting for the first time.
This particular ghost seems to be going on an epic quest to. photograph some ancient artifacts and not steal them? Look, fiction can be whatever you want it to be.
#38: Heists don’t just have to be black-clad thieves stealing into vaults to steal rare art or money. Write about a group of people (adults or children) who commit a heist for something of seemingly little monetary value.
#39: "Life is like a chooseable-path adventure, except you don’t get to see what would have happened if you chose differently." Think of a choice you’ve made and write about a world where you made a different choice.
How to Use Creative Writing Prompts
#1: DON’T Limit Yourself to Prose
Unless you’re writing for a particular assignment, there’s no reason everything you write in response to a writing prompt has to be prose fiction. Instead of writing your response to a prompt as a story, try writing a poem, nonfiction essay, play, screenplay, or some other format entirely.
You never know what combination of prompt and medium will spark your next great poem/story/play/nonfiction essay! Plus, taking a break from writing in the same format all the time might make you think about story structure or language in a different way.
#2: DON’T Edit as You Write
It’s OK to fix things that will make it difficult to read what you’ve written (e.g., a weird autocorrect that changes the meaning of a sentence), but don’t worry too much about typos or perfect grammar when you’re writing; those are easy enough to fix in edits. You also can always insert asterisks or a short note as you’re writing to remind yourself to go back to fix something (for instance, if as you’re writing it seems like you want to move around the order of your paragraphs or insert something earlier).
#3: DO Interpret the Prompt Broadly
The point of using a writing prompt is not to write something that best exemplifies the prompt, but something that sparks your own creativity. Again, unless you’re writing in response to an assignment with specific directions, feel free to interpret writing prompts as broadly or as narrowly as you want.
For instance, if your prompt is to write a story that begins with "The stage was set," you could write about anything from someone preparing to put a plan into motion to a literal theatre stage constructed out of pieces of old sets (or something else entirely).
#4: DO Try Switching Up Your Writing Methods
If it’s a possibility for you, see if you write differently in different media. Do you write the same kind of stories by hand as you would typing at a computer? What about if you dictate a story and then transcribe it? Or text it to a friend? Varying the method you use to write can affect the stories you’re able to tell.
For example, you may find that it’s easier for you to tell stories about your life to a voice recorder than to try to write out a personal essay. Or maybe you have trouble writing poetry, but can easily text yourself or a friend a poem. You might even find you like a writing method you’ve not tried before better than what you’ve been doing!
#5: DO Mix and Match Prompt Ideas
You can also try switching genres from what might be suggested in the prompt. For instance, try writing a prompt that seems funny in a serious and sad way, or finding the humor in something that otherwise seems humorless. The categories we’ve organized the prompts into are by no means limiters on what you’re allowed to write about.
#6: DO Try to Write Regularly
For some people, this means writing daily; for others, it means setting aside time to write each weekend or each month. Set yourself an achievable goal (write 2x a week, write 1000 words a month) and stick to it. You can always start small and then ramp your wordcount or frequency up.
If you do better when you have something outside yourself prompting to write, you may also want to try something like morning pages, which encourages you to write at least 750 words every day, in any format (story, diary entry, social media postings, etc).
20 Mystery Story Ideas
Ever hear the phrase, “It is not who fired the shot but who paid for the bullet?” This is a philosophy Tomoe Gozen lives by. Brave and clever, Tomoe follows clues until she learns who ordered the murder: Emperor Antoku himself. But why would the emperor of Japan want to kill a lowly soldier?
Mystery writer Dan Rodriguez takes the subway every day. Every day, nothing happens. He wears earbuds and a hoodie; he’s ignored, and he ignores. Then one evening, on his way home from a stressful meeting with his publisher, Dan is startled out of his funk when a frantic Middle-Eastern man knocks him over at a dead run, then races up the stairs—pursued by several other thugs. The Middle-Eastern man is shot; and Dan discovers a mysterious package in the front pocket of his hoodie. What’s inside, and what does he need to do to survive the answer?
A headless corpse is found in a freshly-dug grave in Arkansas. The local police chief, Arley Socket, has never had to deal with more than missing gas cans and treed cats. His exploration of this weird murder digs up a mystery older than the 100-year-old town of Jericho that harkens all the way back to a European blood-feud.
20 Romance Story Ideas
She’s a cop. He’s the owner of a jewelry store. A sudden rash of break-ins brings her to his store over and over and over again, until it becomes obvious that he might be tripping the alarm on purpose—just to see her. That’s illegal—but she’s kind of falling for him, too. Write the moment she realizes she has to do something about this crazy illicit courtship.
Colorado Animal Rescue has never been more challenging than after that zoo caught on fire. Sally Cougar (no jokes on the name, or she’ll kill you) tracks down three missing tiger cubs, only to find they’ve been adopted by millionaire Bryce Champion. Thanks to an antiquated law on the books, he legally has the right to keep them. It’s going to take everything Sally has to get those tiger cubs back.
He’s a museum curator with a fetish for perfection. No one’s ever gotten close to him; how could they? They’re never as perfect as the portraits, the sculptures, the art that never changes. Then one day, an intern is hired on—a young, messy, disorganized intern, whose hair and desk are in a constant state of disarray. The curator is going half-mad with this walking embodiment of chaos; so why can’t the he stand the thought of the intern leaving at the end of their assistantship?
20 Sci-Fi Story Ideas
In a future society, neural implants translate music into physical pleasure, and earphones (“jacking in”) are now the drug of choice. Write either from the perspective of a music addict, OR the Sonforce agent (sonance + enforcer) who has the job of cracking down.
It’s the year 5000. Our planet was wrecked in the great Crisis of 3500, and remaining human civilization survives only in a half dozen giant domed cities. There are two unbreakable rules: strict adherence to Life Quality (recycling doesn’t even begin to cover these laws), and a complete ban on reproduction (only the “worthy” are permitted to create new humans). Write from the perspective of a young woman who just discovered she’s been chosen to reproduce—but she has no interest in being a mother.
So yeah, ancient Egypt really was “all that” after all, and the pyramids turn out to be fully functional spaceships (the limestone was to preserve the electronics hidden inside). Write from the perspective of the tourist exploring the ancient society who accidentally turns one on.
20 Fantasy Story Ideas
Informational text gets the point across clearly and concisely. Expository writing is a type of informational writing that explains who, what, where, when, and why something occurred. Research writing and procedural writing are other ways to convey information.
100 Creative Writing Prompts for Middle School
By middle school, students have the skills and ability to write complex pieces. However, they may be lacking inspiration and not know where to start. Check out this list of 100 Common Core-aligned writing prompts that are adaptable for all writing levels in middle school.
- John opened the door and picked up the brown package on the porch. Immediately, he knew something wasn’t right.
- Today seemed like the perfect day, until.
- The aliens were all around us. They looked like.
- I couldn’t believe it when my favorite celebrity wanted to hang out with me! The first thing we did was…
- April ran as fast as she could, desperate to get away from…
- No one was more surprised than I was when the dog began to talk.
- I couldn’t believe I had washed up on a desert island. Luckily, I still had my…
- Katie watched as her friends walked away. She never thought their friendship would end after something like this. It all started when…
- When I woke up, the first thing I noticed was that I wasn’t in my house.
- Dev was shocked to discover that inside his uncle’s gift was.
Personal Narrative Prompts
- Write about the biggest surprise of your life.
- Describe the most memorable holiday in your family, including how you felt and why it was memorable.
- Choose one event that happened recently (today, yesterday, or earlier in the week). Use all five senses to describe the event in a vivid way.
- Write about a time when you felt afraid.
- Talk about a time you felt disappointed. Include what you expected from the situation and how reality did not live up to your expectations.
- What is your favorite place in the world? Use descriptive language to explain how it makes you feel.
- Have you overcome a major challenge in your life? What did it teach you?
- Write about a time when you thought a situation was worse than it really was.
- Describe a memory you have with an animal. Why was this moment special for you?
- Think about your favorite smell. What does it remind you of?
- Think about a terrible smell. What does it remind you of?
Reflective Writing Prompts
Reflective writing is the process where a writer records their thoughts about an experience. Like personal narratives, reflective writing is nonfiction. The difference is that it is not meant for other readers. It also does not use formal writing. Keeping a journal is one type of reflective writing.
- Describe the events in your day over the course of a week. Which day was the busiest? Did it feel that way?
- Record your emotional reactions for several days in a row. Do you see a pattern? What can you do to change an emotional pattern?
- Make a goal in the morning and reflect back on it at night. Write about whether you accomplished that goal, and if so, what helped you. If you didn’t accomplish your goal, reflect on what you could do differently next time.
- Write out a conversation you had as if it were dialogue in a story. Would you change any of your lines if you could do it again?
- Keep a journal in which you track acts of kindness you perform each day. How did you help someone?
- Reflect on your relationship with someone in your family. How do you get along with them? What would you change about your behavior? What could they change?
- List your goals and priorities for the week. Reflect on whether they reflect your personality or just your schedule.
- Describe your favorite things about yourself. What makes you unique? What makes you belong to a bigger group, such as your family, friends, or community?
Argument Writing Prompts
Argument Essay Prompts
- What is the best way to prepare eggs?
- Is it more important to be honest or popular?
- Should your school have a dress code?
- Where is the best location for a vacation? Why should others go there?
- Why should someone vote for you in a mock presidential election?
- Is music important in a person’s daily life?
- Should students be allowed to eat in class?
- Is it ethical to test products on animals?
- Should users be able to download movies and TV shows for free?
- Write a letter to the editor about an article in the paper with which you agree or disagree.
- Why should you receive a higher allowance?
- Should your school reduce the amount of homework?
- Do you believe that smokers should be able to smoke wherever they want?
- What is the worst chore to have?
- Would you rather have a long summer break or more frequent breaks throughout the year?
- The best thing about middle school is…
- The worst thing about middle school is…
- Would you rather shrink to the size of a penny or grow to the size of a building?
100 Creative Writing Prompts for Writers
3. Misheard Lyrics. Think of some of the song lyrics you have misheard throughout the years. Pick your favorite, and use these misheard lyrics as the title of a new creative writing piece. Write a story, scene, or poem based on this title.
4. I’m Glad You Called. The person whom you or your character has been trying to talk to for ages finally answers the phone. Who is this person? Why were you or your character trying to track them down for so long? How does the phone conversation progress?
9. Museum Artifacts. Take a look around a museum or recall your favorite pieces in a museum. Imagine what the past lives of these artifacts look like. Alternatively, you may imagine what the everyday objects in our lives might look like in a museum and what stories future generations will tell about them.
10. Thrift Store Finds. Take a trip to the thrift store or think about your latest trip. Pick one item you find interesting and imagine who its past owner(s) was. How did they use the item? Why did they end up donating it to the thrift store?
16. It’s My Story and I’ll Pitch if I Want To. Imagine that you are a character from a classic tale pitching your memoir to a literary agent. You know that it will become the next bestseller. Write your query letter, story synopsis, or elevator pitch to the agent.
23. Write What You Know. Begin with something familiar from your own life—such as a past event, something you know how to do, a character inspired by someone you know, or a place from your life—and put it in a fictionalized scene or story.
29. Letters From Summer Camp. Imagine your character is a child or camp counselor at a summer camp that is the setting of a horror-comedy movie. Write a letter home to family or friends from your character’s perspective, telling your family about the strange happenings at camp.
42. All the Chatter. Visit a park, coffee shop, or another public place that is buzzing with activity. Take note of what you hear the people around you say. Begin an original scene or story that includes something you overheard.
70. Story to Structure. Tell a story in a unique form. It can borrow the format of a question & answer session, the writing on the back of a cereal box, shopping list, job application, business profit and loss statement, recipe, etc.
72. Clothing Your Character. Create a new character, beginning with the clothing they wear. Look in your closet, costume box, or search online vintage retailers such as Etsy for inspiration. Write a scene or story starring this character.
74. Story Title Generator. Begin a new story, with the title structure of "A [Fill in the Blank] of [Object A] and [Object B]." Use the title generator in this article to fill in the blanks based on your star sign, first initial, and last initial.
82. Fortune Cookies. I just ate three fortune cookies, which gave me the following fortunes. Interpret them how you will: "Do you want to be a power in the world? Then be yourself." "Call an old friend today." "A close friend reveals a hidden talent." Write a scene or story inspired by one of the fortunes.
86. Top 10 List. Write a top 10 list in the voice of a character. Is your character a tween writing in their diary? A person making a bucket list? How about someone listing their greatest fears? What does the list they make say about the character?
88. Word Association Exercise: Holiday. Step 1: Brainstorm a list of images or ideas that you associate with the word holiday. What comes to mind when you hear the word—a vacation, special tradition, or Billie Holiday? Step 2: Write a scene or story inspired by your associations.
90. The Transformation. Happy new year! 2021 will kick off with a prompt excerpted from Going Short, a great new guide to writing flash fiction by Nancy Stohlman: "Write a story in which something transforms into something else."
93. Planting the Seed. Did you ever hear the myth that if you swallowed a watermelon seed, a watermelon would grow in your stomach? If Jack had swallowed the magic beans instead of planting them, could he have gained magical powers? Write a scene or story in which a character swallows a seed.
95. Fragrance Notes. Look at the description of the scent of a bottle of perfume or cologne. What notes does the maker list? Include each of these words in a scene or story. For example, if a fragrance is described as smelling like black truffle, orchid, and plum, your story might include a black cat, a garden, and plums for breakfast.
96. In the Listings. Find a listing for a home for sale anywhere that piques your curiosity. Take a look at the photos. What type of story do you envision taking place inside this home? Do you see a murder mystery taking place in a Victorian mansion? A rom-com in the high-rise urban condo? A fairy tale in a country cottage?
97. Characters in a Crunch. Write a scene or story that includes a character eating cereal. What does a character’s favorite cereal say about their personality? Do they carefully pick the marshmallows out of their Lucky Charms, or do they eat Aldi bagged cereal by the handful straight out of the container? Or, perhaps your character prefers a healthy oatmeal with no added sugar.
Social emotional learning journal prompts
School is about more than just books and quizzes — it’s about preparing students for the rest of their lives. Social emotional learning teaches them how to build good relationships with peers, understand and control their emotions and make healthy life decisions.
- Tell me about a tradition you have with your family or friends.
- What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
- Have you ever found something that you lost? How did you feel when you found it?
- What is something you haven’t learned this school year that you’re still wondering about?
- What do you do when you’re angry? Write about three ways you calm yourself down.
- Where do you feel the safest? Why do you feel safe there?
- Write a poem to make a friend happy.
- When was the last time you were kind to someone? How can you be kind to someone today?
- How are you feeling today? Are you happy, sad, excited or anxious?
- If you could give your best friend a present, what would it be?
- What are the qualities you look for in a friend? Why is it important to be a good friend?
- What does responsibility mean to you?
- Who do you talk to when you’re worried about something? How do they make you feel better?
- If you could make a card for anyone in your life, who would it be for and what would it say?
- What’s your favorite thing about yourself?
- Write about a time you had to make a hard decision. How did you make your decision?
- What do you do to make yourself happy when you’re sad?
- Write about a time you were disappointed.
- What are three things that make your best friend awesome?
- What do you think empathy means? Why is it important?
- How can you cheer up a friend who is sad?
- What makes you a good friend? How can you be a better friend?
- What’s the best piece of advice a friend, parent or teacher has ever given you?
- Write three goals for the rest of the school year. How are you going to accomplish them?
- What does responsibility mean to you? What are you responsible for at school and at home?
- What person in your life makes you feel confident?
- What scares you? How can you overcome your fears?
- Tell me about a time when you tried something new. How did it feel? Did you do it again?
If you feel blocked, I recommend using one of the following prompts and writing for ten minutes in a stream of consciousness. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron recommends you write 3 pages every morning as your ‘morning pages’. She calls this, "The bedrock tool of a creative recovery."
50 Book Ideas for Writing a Book You Can Start Today
Maybe you haven’t brought your book ideas to life yet because you’re afraid it means hiding away, churning out page after page, writing a novel that may never be finished. Or maybe you’ve been trying to get your writing fix through writing book reviews. But writing a book can mean anything you want it to—it’s not just for novels. There’s the old saying that we should write what we know, and you may know more than you think.
Unless you’re a born novelist, try your hand at non-fiction first. Not only do you get to start from a place of passion and familiarity, but you also have the market on your side. It’s easier to write, sell, and promote. Non-fiction has a bigger market for both traditionally published books and self-published books. More publishers publish non-fiction than fiction, more book buyers purchase non-fiction books, and it’s easier to build a career out of it by writing articles, giving seminars, and selling related products. Non-fiction writers have it a bit easier than novelists.
Letter Writing Prompts
1. Be an Encourager. Write out a few ways you’d like to encourage this person on a post-it note before you start your real letter and refer to it as you write. It is always nice to think of how you can encourage your recipient rather than just writing until you can’t think of anything else to say. (Here are some free printable encouragement cards that you could use.)
2. Illustrate your day or a recent trip. You might think your day is too boring to illustrate, but it is actually fun to see a peek into someone’s life. What did you eat for breakfast? What did you notice on the way to work or school? When you start looking at your day as an observer, things will start to pop out at you. I once saw a woman very intently reading a book with a large magnifying glass at a coffee shop. And there was the time I was on a run and saw a man playing the trumpet to the ocean waves. Those little random moments made great illustrations!
3. What’s the weather like where you are? I know, nerd alert, but this is nearly always included in my letters. I can’t help myself. I think it is interesting to read about the ice storm that hit the East coast or how the daffodils are coming up early this year.
5. The latest and greatest antics from the kids (or pets). You’ll probably naturally add this in. Did your toddler just start counting to twenty out of nowhere? Has your cat decided it will only eat its food when no one is looking? Random, but funny moments are fun to read.
6. Share what you’re learning. Maybe you are in school and you can take this quite literally by sharing some of the things you’re getting out of your classes. But even if you’re way past school age, you’re always in the state of learning. Did you read something interesting lately? See a good movie that you recommend?
7. Talk about your goals. Most likely you’re writing to someone who loves you so they will probably think it is interesting to see what you’re working on right now. And don’t be intimidated by the word, “goal”. It could be something really simple like sharing how you’re on a mission to learn how to make the perfect scone.
- Describe the emotion the woman in the above image is feeling.
- You are tired and arguing with your best friend over whose turn it is to wash the dishes. It gets out of hand.
- You receive a letter saying, "We would like to publish your novel." How do you react?
- What was the last strong emotion you felt? If this emotion was a type of weather, what weather would that be? Now place a character feeling the opposite emotion in those weather conditions.
- Your teenage daughter gets on the train to go to uni, you wave her off, then stand on the platform as the train pulls away.
- Think of an emotion. Now describe how your protagonist’s body reacts when they feel this emotion.
- Your white friends have just left the supermarket and the security guard ignored them. You’re black and as you leave, he demands to see your receipt.
- A beautiful rainbow shines in the distance, but the storm is headed your way and you’re miles from cover.
Love comes in many forms and is written about in every genre. It goes beyond romantic love, though romance books are the best-selling genre. As so many people have written about love, it can be a challenge to describe love without sounding cliched.
- Bored with your immortal existence, you are gathered with your godly friends to create the ultimate virtual reality game ever. A game you have called ‘Earth’, but just as your first friend enters the game you realise that the game has a terrible flaw.
- You are an orc who wants to do good. You have fled your hometown and arrive at a human village wondering whether you will be welcome.
- You character is approaching a castle. What unusual reason do they have to be there? What do they say to the two guards standing outside it?
- Evil narcists rule the world, but a wizard is determined to stop them by wiping their memory and the memory of everyone who knew them. This allows them to safely re-enter society. You have just found one of your old diaries and discovered that you were once a warlord who commit terrible evil.
- A war between the vampires and werewolves has been going on for centuries in ancient Europe, but you have just found a way to turn the battle. If a werewolf eats garlic, they remain human. You’re about to spread a false rumour that will change history and give vampires the advantage forever.
- You are an alien visiting Earth and chose to assume an anonymous form as a dog. Now someone wants to adopt you.
- Gravity has just reversed itself.
- A wish generator fulfils a wish every time you touch it, but the wish it fulfils isn’t your own.
- Look around you and imagine that an object, plant or piece of furniture you can see is enormous. Decide what this object means to a character. Your character is walking towards it.
Sometimes an image can be more of a prompt than words. As it’s a different medium, it allows you complete freedom to choose how to write about it. Here are 4 visual writing prompts to help with your world building, along with a suggestion of how to use them for each.