Top 100 Short Story Ideas
by Joe Bunting | 128 comments
Do you want to write but just need a great story idea? Or perhaps you have too many ideas and can’t choose the best one? Well, good news. We’ve got you covered.
Below are one hundred short story ideas for all your favorite genres. You can use them as a book idea, as writing prompts for writing contests , for stories to publish in literary magazines , or just for fun!
Use these 100 story ideas to get your creative writing started now.
Editor’s note: This is a recurring guide, regularly updated with ideas and information.
If you're in a hurry, here's my 10 best story ideas in brief, or scroll down for the full version.
Top 10 Story Ideas
- Tell the story of a scar.
- A group of children discover a dead body.
- A young prodigy becomes orphaned.
- A middle-aged woman discovers a ghost.
- A woman who is deeply in love is crushed when her fiancé breaks up with her.
- A talented young man's deepest fear is holding his life back.
- A poor young boy or girl comes into an unexpected fortune.
- A shy, young woman unexpectedly bumps into her soulmate.
- A long journey is interrupted by a disaster.
- A young couple run into the path of a psychopath.
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Why Creative Writing Prompts Are Helpful
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:
1. Practice the Language!
Even for those of us who are native English speakers, we're all on a language journey to go from beginners to skilled writers. To make progress on this language journey, you have to practice, and at The Write Practice, believe it or not, we're really into practice! Creative writing prompts are easy, fun ways to practice.
Use the prompts below to practice your storytelling and use of language. The more you practice, the better of a writer you'll become.
2. When you have no ideas and are stuck.
Sometimes, you want to write, but you can't think up any ideas. You could either just sit there, staring at a blank page, or you could find a few ideas to help you get started. Even better if the list of ideas is curated from our best plot ideas over the last decade that we've been publishing lessons, writing exercises, and prompts.
Use the story ideas below to get your writing started. Then when your creativity is warmed up, you'll start to come up with your own ideas!
3. To develop your own ideas.
Maybe you do have an idea already, but you're not sure it's good. Or maybe you feel like it's just missing some small piece to make it better. By reading other ideas, and incorporating your favorites into your story, you can fill your plot holes and generate creative ideas of your own.
Use the story ideas below to develop your own ideas.
4. They're fun!
Thousands of writers use the prompts below every month, some at home, some in classrooms, and even a few pros at their writing “office.” Why? Because writing prompts can be fun. They get your creativity started, help you come up with new ideas of your own, and often take your writing in new, unexpected directions.
Use the plot ideas to have more fun with writing!
How to Write a Story
One last thing before we get to the 100 story ideas, let’s talk about how to write a great short story . (Already know how to write a great story? No problem. Just skip down to the ideas below.)
- First, read stories. If you’ve never read a story, you’re going to have a hard time writing one. Where do you find great stories? There are a lot of places, but check out our list of 46 Literary Magazines we’ve curated over here .
- Write your story in a single sitting. Write the first draft of your story in as short a time as possible, and if you’re writing a short story , try to write it in one sitting. Trust me, this works. Everyone hates being interrupted when they’re telling compelling stories. Use that to your advantage and don’t stop writing until you’ve finished telling yours.
- Read your draft. Read your story through once, without changing anything. This will give you a sense of what work it needs going forward.
- Write a premise. After reading your first draft, get your head around the main idea behind your story by summarizing your story in a one sentence premise. Your premise should contain four things: a character, a goal, a situation, and a special sauce. Not sure what that means or how to actually do that? Here’s a full premise writing guide .
- Write, edit, write, and edit. Good writing is rewriting. Use your second draft to fill in the plot holes and cut out the extraneous scenes and characters you discovered when you read the first draft in step #2. Then, polish up your final draft on the next round of edits.
- Submit! Real writers don’t keep their writing all to themselves. They share it. Submit your story to a literary magazine , an anthology series , enter it into a writing contest , or even share it with a small group of friends. And if it gets rejected, don’t feel bad. You’ll be in good company.
Want to know more? Learn more about how to write a great short story here .
Our 100 Best Short Story Ideas, Plot Ideas, and Creative Writing Prompts
Ready to get writing? Here are our 100 best short story ideas to kickstart your writing. Enjoy!
10 Best General Short Story Ideas
Our first batch of plot ideas are for any kind of story, whether a spy thriller or a memoir of your personal life story. Here are the best story ideas:
- Tell the story of a scar, whether a physical scar or emotional one. To be a writer, said Stephen King, “The only requirement is the ability to remember every scar .”
- A group of children discover a dead body. Good writers don’t turn away from death, which is, after all, the universal human experience. Instead, they look it directly into its dark face and describe what they see on the page.
- A young prodigy becomes orphaned. Orphans are uniquely vulnerable, and as such, they have the most potential for growth.
- A middle-aged woman discovers a ghost. What do Edgar Allen Poe, Ron Weasley, King Saul from the Bible, Odysseus, and Ebenezer Scrooge have in common? They all encountered ghosts!
- A woman who is deeply in love is crushed when her fiancé breaks up with her. “In life every ending is just a new beginning,” says Dakota Fanning’s character in Uptown Girls.
- A talented young man’s deepest fear is holding his life back. Your character’s biggest fear is your story’s secret weapon. Don’t run from it, write about it.
- A poor young boy or girl comes into an unexpected fortune. Not all fortunes are good. Sometimes discovering a fortune will destroy your life.
- A shy, young woman unexpectedly bumps into her soulmate (literally bumps into him). In film, this is called the “meet cute,” when the hero bumps into the heroine in the coffee shop or the department store or the hallway, knocking her books to the floor, and forcing them into conversation.
- A long journey is interrupted by a disaster. Who hasn’t been longing to get to a destination only to be delayed by something unexpected? This is the plot of Gravity , The Odyssey , and even Lord of the Rings .
- A young couple run into the path of a psychopath. Monsters, whether people who do monstrous things or scaly beasts or a monster of a natural disaster, reveal what’s really inside a person. Let your character fall into the path of a monster and see how they handle themselves.
Now that you have an idea, learn exactly what to do with it. Check out my new book The Write Structure which helps writers take their ideas and write books readers love. Click to check out The Write Structure here.
More Short Story Ideas Based on Genre
Need more ideas? Here are ideas based on whichever literary genre you write. Use them as character inspiration, to start your own story, or borrow pieces to generate your own ideas. The only rule is, have fun writing!
By the way, for more story writing tips for each these plot types, check out our full guide to the 10 types of stories here .
10 Thriller Story Ideas
A thriller is any story that “thrills” the reader—i.e., gets adrenaline pumping, the heart racing, and the emotions piqued.
Thrillers come in all shapes and forms, dipping freely into other genres. In other words, expect the unexpected!
Here are a few of my favorite thriller story ideas :
Rosa Rivera-Ortiz is an up-and-coming lawyer in a San Diego firm. Held back by her ethnicity and her gender, she works twice as hard as her colleagues, and she’s as surprised as anyone when she’s requested specifically for a high-profile case. Bron Welty, an A-list actor and action star, has been arrested for the murder of his live-in housekeeper. The cop heading the case is older, ex-military, a veteran of more than one war, and an occasional sufferer of PTSD. Rosa’s hired to defend the movie star; and it seems like an easy win until she uncovers some secrets that not only make her believe her client is guilty, but may be one of the worst serial killers in the past two decades… and he knows she found out .
It’s the Cold War. Sergei, a double-agent for the CIA working in Berlin, is about to retire when he’s given one final mission: he’s been asked to “defect” to the USSR to help find and assassinate a suspected double-agent for the Kremlin. Sergei is highly trusted, and he’s given to understand that this mission is need-to-know only between him and very few superior officers. But as he falls deeper into the folds of the Iron Curtain, he begins to suspect that his superior officer might just be the mole, and the mark Sergei’s been sent to kill is on the cusp of exposing the leak.
It is 1800. A lighthouse on a barren cliff in Canada. Two lighthouse keepers, German immigrants, are alone for the winter and effectively cut off from the rest of the world until the ice thaws. Both Wilhelm and Matthias are settled in for the long haul with warm clothes, canned goods, and matches a-plenty. Then Wilhelm starts hearing voices. His personal belongings disappear from where he’d placed them, only to reappear in strange spots—like the catwalk, or dangling beneath the spiral stair knotted in brown twine. Matthias begs innocence. Little by little, Wilhelm grows convinced that Matthias is trying to convince him (Wilhelm) to kill himself. Is the insanity real, or is this really Matthias’ doing? And if it is real, what will he do to defend himself? There are so many months until the thaw.
20 Mystery Story Ideas
Enjoy a good whodunit? Then you’ll love these mystery story ideas .
Here are a few of my favorites:
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
Ready to write a love story? Or perhaps you want to create a subplot with a secondary character? We've got ideas for you!
Hint: When it comes to romance, a sense of humor is always a good idea. Have fun! Here are a few of my favorite love 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
From the minimum-wage-earning, ancient-artifact-hunting time traveller to the space-exploring, sentient dinosaurs, these sci-fi writing prompts will get you set loose your inner nerd.
Here are a few of my favorite sci-fi 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
Need a dose of sword-in-the-stone, hero and/or heroine packed coming-of-age glory? We love fantasy stories!
Here are a few of my favorite fantasy story ideas:
Bored teenaged wizards throwing a graduation celebration.
Uncomfortable wedding preparation between a magic wielding family tree and those more on the Muggle side of things.
A fairy prince who decides to abandon his responsibilities to become a street musician.
Just try to not have fun writing (or even just reading!) these fantasy writing prompts.
The Secret to Choosing the Best Story Idea
Stories, more than any other artistic expression, have the power to make people care. Stories have the ability to change people’s lives.
But to write a great story, a life-changing story, don’t just write about what your characters did, said, and saw. Ask yourself, “Where do I fit in to this story? What is my personal connection to this story?”
Robert Frost said this:
If you can connect your personal story to the story you’re writing, you will not only be more motivated to finish your story, you might just be able to change the lives of your readers.
Next Step: Write Your Best Story
No matter how good your idea, writing a story or a book can be a long difficult process. How do you create an outline, come up with a great plot, and then actually finish it?
My new book The Write Structure will help. You'll learn how to take your idea and structure a strong plot around it. Then you'll be guided through the exact process I've used to write dozens of short stories and over fifteen books.
You can learn more about The Write Structure and get your copy here.
Have a great short story idea? We'd love to hear it. Share it in the comments !
Choose one of these ideas and write a short story in one sitting (aim for 1,000 words or less!). When you're finished, share your story in the practice box below (or our latest writing contest ) for feedback from the community. And if you share, please be sure to comment on a few stories by other writers.
Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris , a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).
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40 writing topics to inspire your next story
Getting inspiration through writing topics and prompts is one way to find your next story idea. Here are 40 writing topics organized by genre plus ways to come up with your own:
- Post author By Jordan
- 5 Comments on 40 writing topics to inspire your next story
1. Writing topics for fantasy writers
Think about elements of fantasy that make the genre identifiable. Magic. Other worlds. Arcane abilities. Mythical creatures. Supernatural phenomena. Here are 5 fantasy writing topics:
- A magician uses a forbidden spell with disastrous consequences. What is the spell, and what are the consequences?
- A mythical creature is found living in a small town’s lake. What is it and how does finding it change the local community, for better or worse?
- An apprentice gets a spell wrong in their final examination with unintended consequences. What are they? What will restore order?
- Human children find a portal to another world. Tell the story from the viewpoint of a character whom they encounter in this other world.
- Magical ability is available to a race when people turn a certain age. Yet they must make a major sacrifice to gain it. What is the sacrifice? Is it worth it in the end?
2. Writing ideas for romance writers
The central conflict in romance is often the thing keeping two lovers apart. Here are some ideas for romantic story topics:
- Two would-be lovers from different cultures are kept apart by cultural differences that make their families interfere. What are the differences and how will they overcome them to be together?
- A character falls in love with an artificially intelligent virtual companion. How does the connection develop and change how do other people react?
- Two people who’ve only been on one date together are forced to quarantine together for 3 months. Explore how their relationship developments (or falls apart) in this time.
- Two travelers are intercepted at a border and asked to prove their relationship. They share how they met and in doing so make up a lie they have to continue to forge.
- Write a riches to rags story where two people’s love for each other makes them poorer but their bond survives the challenges they face.
3. Writing subjects for sci-fi writers
We live in a time of rapid technological advancement that supplies plenty of fodder for interesting sci-fi stories . Here are 5 topics ideas:
- A robotics developer’s creation falls in love with her and becoms a stalker.
- Humans are able to upload their minds to complex AI systems to amplify their power. What dangers emerge?
- A woman’s scientific innovation revolutionises healthcare. Powerful people want to stop her at all costs. Who are they and how does the conflict play out?
- A private space company like SpaceX colonizes Mars successfully. Everything goes well, until the anniversary of their arrival. Then something catastrophic occurs. What happens?
- Scientists working on an important vaccine discover something completely new that completely changes the way the world views X. What is X, and how does the discovery change culture and society?
Brainstorm strong writing ideas
Use easy, step-by-step writing tools that guide you through ideation with structure.
4. Writing topics for thriller writers
A good thriller is full of suspense and simmering tension . Five thriller topic ideas:
- A criminal prosecutor is charged with first-degree murder, though they’re innocent. Why? And how do they overcome the situation?
- A strange YouTube video implying illicit government activity goes viral, then quickly disappears. What is the government up to, and who released the video and why?
- Two governments enter a dangerous game of one-upmanship after one accuses the other of manufacturing biological weapons.
- An abduction at a theme park by a human trafficking ring starts a time-sensitive manhunt. Where are the traffickers headed and who has the information to stop them?
- An intrepid reporter takes on a large corporation conducting a massive agricultural crime threatening global food security for individual profit. What happens?
5. Writing ideas for mystery writers
Gritty detective novels, cozy mysteries featuring amateur sleuths – whatever subgenre of mystery you enjoy, it’s fun piecing together clues for readers . Here are 5 mystery ideas:
- A man receives a pizza delivery intended for someone else and when he rings the number on the box finds the pizzeria doesn’t exist. Explore and explain the situation.
- A child is snatched from a seaside resort aged 5. But when they’re tracked down 25 years later, something doesn’t match up. What is it? What explains the discrepancy?
- A couple on a camping trip with 4 other couples vanishes with no trace and no clues. All 4 remaining couples claim innocence. Are they telling the truth, and what is the explanation?
- A woman hears mysterious voices that tell her to take actions that turn out to be life-saving. Where do the voices come from and what explains her imaginary world matching the real one?
- Three prisoners escape the highest security prison in the world. How do they achieve this without any assistance from wardens or others on the inside?
6. Writing subjects for historical fiction writers
History is full of dramatic lives and incidents and curious, colourful characters . Here are 5 topic ideas:
- Pick a famous composer and read through their Wikipedia. Pick a strange incident to be the focus of their story. (For example, t he strange adventures of Haydn’s head .)
- Write about a famous historical figure from the viewpoint of their greatest rival.
- Go to history.com’s ‘This Day in History’ page . Find inspiration for a story from the day’s historical event.
- A famous monarch strikes up an unlikely friendship – bend the facts to suit the story.
- A child prodigy in the 1800s stows away on a ship and tours the world giving concerts. Write their fictional autobiography.
7. Writing topics for horror writers
Horror is full of supernatural chills , gory misadventures and things that go bump in the night. Here are 5 horror story ideas:
- A TV chef uses … unorthodox ingredients, and there’s a related spike in mysterious disappearances in town.
- Four childhood friends think the weird house on the corner is haunted. The reality is far worse and much more sinister. What is it?
- A teenaged boy who loves Marvel and DC comics wishes he had superpowers. Then he gets terrifying superpowers with grisly consequences.
- A zombie must deal with a horrifying and deadly plague of humans.
- In a sleepy, mundane suburb a mysterious drumming starts up each night at nightfall. Only the children can hear it. If you hear it you have to hide very well, or what?
8. Writing ideas for YA writers
Young Adult or YA novels are typically pitched at readers aged 12 to 18 (though many adults enjoy them). They often deal with the challenges and discoveries involved in coming of age. Here are 5 ideas:
- A middle-school kid is diagnosed with a rare condition and achieves their dreams despite it. What is the condition, what are their dreams, and how do they find a way through the obstacles they face?
- A kid with two moms of different ethnicities in a conservative town grapples with identity and overcomes prejudice as they grow up.
- A young musician must navigate a complicated, sometimes exploitative industry and find their voice.
- A girl’s family immigrates to a big city from abroad when she’s 12. She must overcome language barriers and other challenges and navigate multiple cultural expectations and pressures.
- Two teens meet in a juvenile detention facility and strike up a life-long friendship.
Find your own writing topics:
To find the best book topics :
- Search Google News for keywords to do with subjects that interest you (e.g. ‘music’, ‘romance’, ‘travel’, etc.) See if headlines inspire ideas
- Open a book to a random page and use the first sentence you read as the first sentence of a story (you can erase it and find a new one later)
- Read this list of fifteen ways to find story ideas
- Use Now Novel’s free ‘Central Idea’ tool to find and finesse a great story idea
- Get extra writing prompts via this Pinterest board (and follow us at pinterest.com/nownovel !)
Ready to find and develop a great story idea? Join Now Novel for story outlining tools, a supportive critique community and more.
- Finding story topics when stuck: 5 simple methods
- Top ten romance novels: Books to inspire you
- 100 character development questions to inspire deeper arcs
- Tags writing prompts
Jordan is a writer, editor, community manager and product developer. He received his BA Honours in English Literature and his undergraduate in English Literature and Music from the University of Cape Town.
5 replies on “40 writing topics to inspire your next story”
I have written a story about my life and it is stored on my computer and on a thumb drive. I want to publish my story but do not have the funds to do so. What should I do? My goal is to make copies for my 26 grandchildren and 6 children. I am contemplating making just one copy for now and more as I can afford it.
Hi Eddie, congratulations on finishing your life story. That would be a lovely gift to your children and grandchildren. If you don’t mind it not being a surprise, you could tell them you would like to turn your story into a book and have them club together for a birthday or other occasion? Printing can be expensive but a small run that looks fairly professional is possible if using a small press that specializes in this sort of thing (though so-called ‘vanity’ presses can be expensive since bulk printing works with the economy of scale). Other options include crowdfunding, if you intend to share your story with a wider audience.
Alternatively, a digital eBook would have lower costs as you wouldn’t need to cover the cost of printing, though it can never replace the pleasure of a tactile, tangible book, of course.
Hello, I self-published with Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing). It’s free and you get a few reduced-printing price copies. You can do ebook and/OR paperback. You actually set your own price, so you can set it to zero to make it available to family for the printing cost only. I made a book for the non-profit I work for and did that, essentially using Amazon as a printing company. Congrats and good luck!
Thanks so much for sharing this, Margriet!
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Creative Writing Prompts
When the idea to start a weekly newsletter with writing inspiration first came to us, we decided that we wanted to do more than provide people with topics to write about. We wanted to try and help authors form a regular writing habit and also give them a place to proudly display their work. So we started the weekly Creative Writing Prompts newsletter. Since then, Prompts has grown to a community of more than 450,000 authors, complete with its own literary magazine, Prompted .
Here's how our contest works: every Friday, we send out a newsletter containing five creative writing prompts. Each week, the story ideas center around a different theme. Authors then have one week — until the following Friday — to submit a short story based on one of our prompts. A winner is picked each week to win $250 and is highlighted on our Reedsy Prompts page.
Why we love creative writing prompts
If you've ever sat in front of a computer or notebook and felt the urge to start creating worlds, characters, and storylines — all the while finding yourself unable to do so — then you've met the author's age-old foe: writer's block. There's nothing more frustrating than finding the time but not the words to be creative. Enter our directory! If you're ready to kick writer's block to the curb and finally get started on your short story or novel, these unique story ideas might just be your ticket.
This list of 1800+ creative writing prompts has been created by the Reedsy team to help you develop a rock-solid writing routine. As all aspiring authors know, this is the #1 challenge — and solution! — for reaching your literary goals. Feel free to filter through different genres, which include...
Dramatic — If you want to make people laugh and cry within the same story, this might be your genre.
Funny — Whether satire or slapstick, this is an opportunity to write with your funny bone.
Romance — One of the most popular commercial genres out there. Check out these story ideas out if you love writing about love.
Fantasy — The beauty of this genre is that the possibilities are as endless as your imagination.
Dystopian – Explore the shadowy side of human nature and contemporary technology in dark speculative fiction.
Mystery — From whodunnits to cozy mysteries, it's time to bring out your inner detective.
Thriller and Suspense — There's nothing like a page-turner that elicits a gasp of surprise at the end.
High School — Encourage teens to let their imaginations run free.
Want to submit your own story ideas to help inspire fellow writers? Send them to us here.
After you find the perfect story idea
Finding inspiration is just one piece of the puzzle. Next, you need to refine your craft skills — and then display them to the world. We've worked hard to create resources that help you do just that! Check them out:
- How to Write a Short Story That Gets Published — a free, ten-day course by Laura Mae Isaacman, a full-time editor who runs a book editing company in Brooklyn.
- Best Literary Magazines of 2023 — a directory of 100+ reputable magazines that accept unsolicited submissions.
- Writing Contests in 2023 — the finest contests of 2021 for fiction and non-fiction authors of short stories, poetry, essays, and more.
Beyond creative writing prompts: how to build a writing routine
While writing prompts are a great tactic to spark your creative sessions, a writer generally needs a couple more tools in their toolbelt when it comes to developing a rock-solid writing routine . To that end, here are a few more additional tips for incorporating your craft into your everyday life.
- NNWT. Or, as book coach Kevin Johns calls it , “Non-Negotiable Writing Time.” This time should be scheduled into your routine, whether that’s once a day or once a week. Treat it as a serious commitment, and don’t schedule anything else during your NNWT unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- Set word count goals. And make them realistic! Don’t start out with lofty goals you’re unlikely to achieve. Give some thought to how many words you think you can write a week, and start there. If you find you’re hitting your weekly or daily goals easily, keep upping the stakes as your craft time becomes more ingrained in your routine.
- Talk to friends and family about the project you’re working on. Doing so means that those close to you are likely to check in about the status of your piece — which in turn keeps you more accountable.
Arm yourself against writer’s block. Writer’s block will inevitably come, no matter how much story ideas initially inspire you. So it’s best to be prepared with tips and tricks you can use to keep yourself on track before the block hits. You can find 20 solid tips here — including how to establish a relationship with your inner critic and apps that can help you defeat procrastination or lack of motivation.
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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 105 creative writing prompts to try out.
The most common advice out there for being a writer is, "if you want to write, write." While this is true (and good advice), it's not always that easy, particularly if you're not writing regularly.
Whether you're looking for help getting started on your next project, or just want to spend 20 minutes being creative, writing prompts are great ways to rev up your imagination. Read on for our list of over 100 creative writing prompts!
feature image credit: r. nial bradshaw /Flickr
10 Short Writing Prompts
If you're looking for a quick boost to get yourself going, these 10 short writing prompts will do the trick.
#1 : Write a scene starting with a regular family ritual that goes awry.
#2 : Describe exactly what you see/smell/hear/etc, right now. Include objects, people, and anything else in your immediate environment.
#3 : Suggest eight possible ways to get a ping pong ball out of a vertical pipe.
#4 : A shoe falls out of the sky. Justify why.
#5 : If your brain were a tangible, physical place, what would it be like?
#6 : Begin your writing with the phrase, "The stage was set."
#7 : You have been asked to write a history of "The Summer of [this past year]." Your publisher wants a table of contents. What events will you submit?
#8 : Write a sympathetic story from the point of view of the "bad guy." (Think fractured fairy tales like Wicked or The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! , although the story doesn't have to be a fairy tale.)
#9 : Look at everyday objects in a new way and write about the stories one of these objects contains.
#10 : One person meets a stranger on a mode of transportation. Write the story that ensues.
11 Writing Prompts for Kids
Any of these prompts can be used by writers of any age, but we chose the following 11 prompts as ones that would be particularly fun for kids to write about. (Most of them I used myself as a young writer, so I can vouch for their working!)
#1 : Include something falling in your writing.
#2 : Write a short poem (or story) with the title, "We don't know when it will be fixed."
#3 : Write from the perspective of someone of a different gender than you.
#4 : Write a dumb internet quiz.
#5 : Finish this thought: "A perfect day in my imagination begins like this:"
#6 : Write a character's inner monologue (what they are thinking as they go about their day).
#7 : Think of a character. Write a paragraph each about:
- An important childhood experience that character had.
- The character's living situation.
- Two hobbies or things the character likes to do.
- The room where the character sleeps.
- An ambition of the character.
- Two physical characteristics of the character.
- What happens when a second person and this character meet.
- Two important defining personal traits of this character.
#8 : Start a story with a quote from a song.
#9 : Begin a story with, "It was the summer of ______ when ______"
#10 : Pretend everyday objects have no names. Think about what you would name them based on what they do, what you can use them for, and what they look like.
#11 : Start a story with the phrases "My grandparents are/were," "My parents are/were," or "My mother/father/parent is/was."
15 Cool Writing Prompts
#1 : List five issues that you're passionate about. Write about them from the opposite point of view (or from the perspective of a character with the opposite point of view).
#2 : Walk around and write down a phrase you hear (or read). Make a story out of it.
#3 : Write using no adjectives or adverbs.
#4 : Write a character's inner dialogue between different aspects of a character's self (rather than an inner monologue).
#5 : Write a true story from your past that involves light or darkness in some way.
#6 : "Saying goodbye awakens us to the true nature of things." Write something in which someone has to say goodbye and has a realization.
#7 : Begin by writing the end of the story.
#8 : Write a recipe for an intangible thing.
#9 : Write a horror story about an ordinary situation (e.g., buying groceries, going to the bank, listening to music).
#10 : Write a story from within a bubble.
#11 : Write down 2-3 short character descriptions and then write the characters in conversation with one another.
#12 : Write a story in second person.
#13 : Write a story that keeps contradicting itself.
#14 : Write about a character with at least three big problems.
#15 : Write something that takes place on a Friday, the 13th (of any month).
15 Funny Writing Prompts
#1 : Write a story which starts with someone eating a pickle and potato sandwich.
#2 : Write a short script where the plot has to do with evil dolls trying to take over something.
#3 : Write about writers' block.
#4 : List five election issues that would be ridiculous to includes as part of your election platform (e.g. outlawing mechanical pencils and clicky pens, mandating every person over the age of 30 must own an emergency last rites kit). Choose one of the ridiculous issues and write a speech in favor of it.
#5 : Write a children's story that is insanely inappropriate but can't use graphic language, curses, or violence.
#6 : List five careers. Write about someone with one of those careers who wants to quit it.
#7 : Write down a list of murder methods. Choose one at random from the list to use in a story.
#8 : Write a romance story in which the hero must have a last name corresponding with a physical characteristic (e.g. Jacques Hairyback or Flora Dimple).
#9 : Come up with 10 different ways to:
- order a pizza
- congratulate someone on a job well done
- return to the store something that's broken
#10 : Search for "random Renaissance painting" (or any other inspirational image search text you can think of) on any online internet image search engine. Picking one image, write half a page each of:
- Statements about this image (e.g. "I meant bring me the BREAD of John the Baptist").
- Questions about this image (e.g. "How many of those cherubs look like their necks are broken?").
- Explanations of this image (e.g. "The painter ran out of blue paint halfway through and had to improvise for the color of the sky").
- Commands said by people in this image or about this image (e.g. "Stop telling me to smile!" or "Bring me some gasoline!").
#11 : Write starting with a word that sounds like "chute" (e.g. "chute," "shoot," "shooed").
#12 : Write about a character named X "The [article of clothing]" Y (e.g. Julie "The Yellow Darted Skirt" Whyte) or simply referred to by their clothing (e.g. "the man in the brown suit" or "the woman in black").
#13 : Write down a paragraph each describing two wildly different settings. Write a story involving both settings.
#14 : Think of a fictional holiday based around some natural event (e.g. the Earth being at its farthest point from the sun, in memory of a volcanic eruption, that time a cloud looked like a rabbit riding a bicycle). Write about how this holiday is celebrated.
#15 : Write a "Just-So" type story about a fictional creature (e.g. "how the dragon got its firebreath" or "how the mudkip got its cheek gills").
54 Other Writing Prompt Ideas
#1 : Borrow a character from some other form of media (or create your own). Write from that character's perspective.
#2 : Write for and against a non-consequential controversy (e.g., salt vs. pepper, Mac vs. PC, best kind of door).
#3 : Choose an ancestor or a person from the past to write about or to.
#4 : Write a pirate story with a twist.
#5 : Have a character talk about another character and their feelings about that other character.
#6 : Pick a season and think about an event in your life that occurred in that season. Write a creative nonfiction piece about that event and that season.
#7 : Think of something very complicated and long. Write a page about it using short sentences.
#8 : Write a story as a dream.
#9 : Describe around a food without ever directly naming it.
#10 : Write a monologue (one character, talking to the audience/reader) (*not* an inner monologue).
#11 : Begin a story with the phrase, "It only took five seconds to..."
#12 : List five strong emotions. Choosing one, write about a character experiencing that emotion, but only use the character's actions to convey how they are feeling (no outright statements).
#13 : Write a chapter of the memoir of your life.
#14 : Look through the (physical) things you're currently carrying with you or wearing. Write about the memories or emotions tied with each of them.
#15 : Go be in nature. Write drawing your story from your surroundings (both physical, social, and mental/emotional).
#16 : Write from the perspective of a bubble (or bubble-like creature).
#17 : A person is jogging along an asphalt road. Write a story.
#18 : Title your story (or poem, or play, etc) "Anti-_____". Fill in the blank and write the story.
#19 : Write something that must include an animal, a mineral, and a vegetable.
#20 : Begin your writing with the phrase, "6 weeks later..."
#21 : List 5-10 office jobs. Pick one of them and describe a person working in that job as if you were a commentator on an Olympic sporting event.
#22 : Practice your poetic imagery: overwrite a description of a character's breakfast routine.
#23 : Write about a character (or group of characters) trying to convince another character to try something they're scared of.
#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" ).
#25 : Fill in the blank with the first word that comes to mind: "_______ Riot!" Write a newspaper-style article describing the events that that took place.
#26 : Write from the point of view of your most-loved possession. What does it think of you?
#27 : Think of five common sayings (e.g., "An apple a day keeps the doctor away"). Write a horror story whose plot is one of those common sayings.
#28 : Write a scene in which two characters are finally hashing out a long-standing misunderstanding or disagreement.
#29 : You start receiving text messages from an unknown number. Tell the story of what happens next.
#30 : Write one character bragging to another about the story behind their new tattoo.
#31 : Superheroes save the world...but they also leave a lot of destruction in their wake. Write about a normal person in a superhero's world.
#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.
#33 : Write a story that begins in the middle of the plot's action ( en media res ).
#34 : Everyone says you can never have too much of a good thing. Write a story where that isn't true.
#35 : What do ghosts do when they're not creating mischief? Write about the secret lives of ghosts.
#36 : Every year, you dread the last week of April. Write a story about why.
#37 : Write a story about what it would be like to have an animal sidekick in real life.
#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.
#40 : Write a story about a secret room.
#41 : You find a message in a bottle with very specific directions. Write a story about the adventure you embark upon.
#42 : "You'll always be okay as long as you know where your _______ is." Fill in the blank and write a story (either fictional or from your life) illustrating this statement.
#43 : Forcing people into prolonged proximity can change and deepen relationships. Write about characters on a road trip together.
#44 : In music, sonata form includes three main parts: exposition, development, and recapitulation. Write a short story that follows this format.
#45 : Begin writing with a character saying, "I'm afraid this simply can't wait."
#46 : Write a story with a happy ending (either happily-ever-after or happy-for-now).
#47 : Write about a character before and after a tragedy in that character's life.
#48 : Choose an object or concept you encounter in everyday life (e.g. tables, the feeling of hot or cold, oxygen) and write an infomercial about it.
#49 : "Life is a series of quests, whether important or mundane." Write about a quest you've gone on (or would like to go on, or will have to go on).
#50 : List 10 different ways to learn. Choose one (or more) and write a story where a character learns something using that one (or more) method.
#51 : You've been called to the principal's office for bad behavior. You know what you did. Explain and justify yourself.
#52 : A character discovers their sibling owns a cursed object. Write about what happens next.
#53 : Write a character description by writing a list of items that would be on a scavenger hunt about them.
#54 : The slogan for a product or service you're advertising is, "Kid-tested, _____." Fill in the blank and write the copy for a radio or podcast advertisement for your product.
How to Use Creative Writing Prompts
There's no wrong way to use a creative writing prompt (unless it's to harass and hurt someone)—the point of them is to get you writing and your imagination flowing.
To help you get the most out of these writing prompts, however, we've come up with the six tips below. Try them out!
#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.
#2: DON'T Edit as You Write
The purposes of writing prompts is to get you writing, typos and weird grammar and all. Editing comes later, once you've finished writing and have some space from it to come back to what you wrote.
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).
If you're using a writing prompt, it doesn't have to be the first sentence of your story or poem, either; you can also use the prompt as a goal to work towards in your writing.
#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
If you need more inspiration, feel free to combine multiple prompts (but don't overwhelm yourself with too much to write about).
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
The more regularly you write, the easier it will be to write (with or without writing prompts).
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).
Thinking about attending college or grad school for creative writing? Our articles on whether or not you should major in creative writing and the best creative writing programs are there for you! Plus, if you're a high schooler, you should check out these top writing contests .
Creative writing doesn't necessarily have to be fiction. Check out these three examples of narrative writing and our tips for how to write your own narrative stories and essays .
Just as writing prompts can help give form to amorphous creative energy, using specific writing structures or devices can be great starting points for your next story. Read through our discussion of the top 20 poetic devices to know and see if you can work at least one new one into your next writing session.
Still looking for more writing ideas? Try repurposing our 100+ easy drawing ideas for characters, settings, or plot points in your writing.
Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and earned a Master's degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel in high school.
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The 35 Best Short Story Prompts That Will Surely Inspire You To Write
- March 16, 2022
“I love short stories because I believe they are the way we live. They are what our friends tell us, in their pain and joy, their passion and rage, their yearning and their cry against injustice.” Andre Dubus
Are you running out of short story prompts? Or, are you experiencing writer’s block? Want to write a short story, but you have no story idea where to even begin?
If so, this article is for you. We included a long list of creative writing prompts in this article, story ideas, and writing exercises to help you get your creative juices flowing.
What Makes a Good Short Story?
Any good short story has rich characters , an interesting plot, and an immersive setting.
Unlike a novel, short story writers have to traverse their character arcs in a short amount of time in a way that keeps the reader engaged.
The writing skills required to write a short story are:
- An ability to be concise
- The ability to engage the reader immediately
- Natural and realistic use of dialogue
- The power to paint a compelling image with words
- Interesting plot developments and character arcs
If you have a short story that you would like to publish or are trying to get started with just writing it, consider the abovementioned points. If your story lacks any of the above, it is wise to revisit and add whatever is missing.
Kurt Vonnegut on Writing Short Stories
In Kurt Vonnegut’s Bagombo Snuff Box , the renowned American 20th-century writer shares some important tips for anyone who wishes to write a compelling short story. According to Vonnegut’s advice, a short story should:
- Use the time of a total stranger so that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
- Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
- Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
- Every sentence must do one of two things: reveal character or advance the action.
- Start as close to the end as possible.
- Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters are, make awful things happen to them so that the reader may see what they are made of.
- Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
- Give your readers as much information as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such a complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
How Long Should My Short Story Be?
There is no exact word count for a short story . Some are merely a page or two, while others can be 10 or 20 pages. Typically, the word count of a good short story falls somewhere between 5000-10,000 words.
The Importance of Feedback
It is always wise to get as much feedback as possible about your story or even your short story idea. Share your work with fellow writers, avid readers, and friends and family who do not write or read much at all.
Get all kinds of opinions, insights, and criticisms from all sorts of people to gain a clearer sense of your story’s impact.
Short Story Ideas and Writing Prompts to Help You Get Started
Feel free to use the following story prompts or in combination with your own story ideas.
- A man wakes up in a new town with no idea how he got there.
- A young woman receives a letter from a mysterious stranger.
- Three strangers who look alike meet in a bar.
- A man gets blamed for a crime he did not commit.
- A child’s dog wanders through the forest, and he follows it.
- A character notices that his neighbor is acting strange and suspicious.
- The internet shuts down all over the world without warning.
- Passengers on a train wake up one by one at an abandoned station.
- A quiz show winner enjoys their prize until someone claims that the show was rigged.
- A young woman loses her partner for years and sets out on a solo adventure worldwide.
- A coming-of-age story in which high school students prepare for their final exams and the different journey the friend group will take when they move on to university.
- A middle-aged man gets tired of his job and quits on a whim. Now jobless and in need of income, he joins a team of young professionals who create a dating app for middle-aged singles. He volunteers to provide greater information for the team and the app – in person, by going on as many dates as he can.
More Creative Writing Prompts
We have included some genre-specific short story ideas below, including fantasy, science fiction , and romance . Even if these are not your go-to genres, it is worth checking them out. In attempting to write one of the following, you may find inspiration for a different story altogether.
Fantasy Short Story Prompts
- A young man stumbles across an ancient gemstone. With the stone in his possession, the character finds himself the center of attention of strange people who seem to want to harm him and one new friend who has some unexpected answers.
- A young girl who lives on a farm with her family finds a large unhatched egg. She takes care of the egg in her room without telling her parents. The egg begins to hatch, but the creature that emerges is far from what she expected.
- The main character makes a living selling fake artifacts. One artifact in his collection is the real deal, but he has no idea until a strange customer shows up.
- A prince is captured in a foreign land and is held at ransom. The hostage-taker is a mercenary hired by someone close to the prince.
- A teenage farm boy is visited at night by a white horse. The horse stands outside his window, and the boy approaches. The horse walks on, stops, and waits for the boy. The boy follows and eventually mounts the horse. As the horse begins to gallop, the boy looks back at his house, only to find that the entire landscape has changed and his house is no longer there.
Science Fiction Short Story Ideas
- An airplane flies through turbulence. The turbulence passes, the plane stabilizes, but half of the passengers are missing. The pilot tries to contact the ground but to no avail.
- A man reports strange sights in the skies, but no one believes him. He pleads them to believe him because he is convinced that what he saw was not of this earth. As more and more people begin to see the strange lights in the sky, the man is nowhere to be found.
- The main character wakes up with no memory of his past. He finds himself equipped with advanced weapons, strange technology, and a chip in his arm. War and conflict rage outside his room. As he begins to wake up, he notices a letter by his bed with an address and note that says ‘Urgent!’
- AI has advanced exponentially since our current day, most of humanity has been wiped out, and the remaining humans now live in small tribes. A team of humans who take refuge deep in the desert must traverse, but the AIs occupied the lands for more resources for their survival.
- A large unidentified object hurtles through space on a direct trajectory to earth. A team of scientists and astronauts are on a timer to divert the object before it gets too close. Time is ticking, people are panicking, and the team faces resistance when gathering support.
- The year is 3100. Humanity lives in bunkers underground due to an apocalyptic event 500 years earlier. As the dust settles, the surviving humans begin to emerge from their underground shelter only to find new inhabitants living and ruling on the surface.
- A scientist discovers a means of traversing galaxies at light speed, but the cost of the technology is millions of lives. Authorities seek to understand and control his discovery. However, his moral compass drives him to keep his discovery out of the hands of those who would sacrifice millions without a second thought.
- Humans on a mission to revive a dead planet are met by resistance from living creatures under the surface. On their escape back to earth, one of the planet’s inhabitants has made its way onto their ship and hides there until the team arrives home.
- A microchip inserted into the brain allows authorities to influence and control the thoughts of chipped people. The unchipped are now few in numbers but are the only humans left who can think independently. Time is ticking as the last remaining free-thinkers are mercilessly hunted down. A ragtag group, a multi-disciplinary team of survivalists, scientists, and hackers, must fight the authority and free those who have been brainwashed into the authority’s oppressive regime.
- In the near future, the elites will control the fate of the rest of us at the press of a button. Access to water, food, and even sunshine depend on a nation or community’s willingness to send a large proportion of their population into competition against each other for survival.
Scary Story Ideas
- A young couple moves into a new house in the countryside. The house is empty except for an old-fashioned dress in a wardrobe. The young woman, packing her stuff away, tries on the dress. As soon as she wears it, she starts acting strange.
- One night in an allegedly haunted house in the country, friends planned a trip. They partied, drank, and danced all through the night. Later, one of the friends pulls out an Ouija board. Most of the friends disagree and go to bed for the night. Five friends stayed up and played the game with ghostly consequences.
- Kids visit their grandmother’s house and find a secret room in the basement. They enter the room, and the door vanishes.
- Trick or treaters visit houses on Halloween night. One family offers lots of candy to the kids who show up and say trick or treat! A child shows up at the house and rings the bell. When the family answers, the child is alone and silent. The family invites him in to ask where his friends and parents are, the greatest mistake they ever made.
Romantic Short Story Ideas
Here are some romantic short story ideas to try out:
- A correspondence of love letters between two now long separated and aged former lovers. They are no longer together, but the letters reveal the ups and downs of their relationships and how close yet far they were from becoming lasting lovers.
- A young man about to take off on his travels stops by a café to grab a coffee before he goes. While sipping his coffee, he meets a high school crush he knew years earlier. She has a suitcase.
- A woman plans an exotic holiday on her time off from work with her best friend. Her best friend decides to cancel at the last minute, so, on a whim, the woman asks her coworker to join. They set off on this unexpected journey, but the shared journey is not the only thing they had not expected.
- A man’s sick and dying mother is being taken care of by an at-home nurse. The character finds out about his mother’s fading health and decides to rush home to be with her, worried and guilty for not having spent time with her in recent months. The nurse and the man’s mother have developed a close relationship, and even though the mother is dying, the nurse keeps her in good humor. After her passing, the nurse and the man do not want to say goodbye to each other.
Whether you are a student required to submit a good story for a writing class, a first-time short story writer looking for inspiration or a seasoned writer stumped with writer’s block, the prompts and story ideas above should help you get a story flowing.
Even if you do not decide to follow through with any of the short story prompts above, attempt writing at least one of them—the more you write, the more skilled you become, so write poorly, write slowly but make sure to keep writing.
“You should write because you love the shape of stories and sentences and the creation of different words on a page. Writing comes from reading, and reading is the best teacher of how to write.” Annie Proulx
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100 Story Ideas
Since I have more story ideas than I can possibly explore in a lifetime, please allow me to offer some to you in this post.
Pick the idea that excites you the most, and you’ll find that its momentum will conjure up a whole new story world, replete with fascinating new characters!
Here are 100 story ideas you can steal right now. And if that’s not enough, generate your own with the Idea Engine , or peruse these lists of scene ideas , flash fiction prompts , and writing prompts .
Write a story about…
- A character with an addiction who discovers that they’re someone else’s addiction.
- A historical character who travels to the present day and causes chaos when they steal back something that originally belonged to them.
- An alien species that lands on earth but is only detectable through literature.
- A world where every other person is born with wings and the history of how this came about.
- A magical object that teleports into the hand of anyone who thinks about it, and the difficulties this causes for its owner.
- A character who’s seeking justice for a murder they committed but can’t prove.
- A faustian musician who’s trying to resurrect a dead musician so they can jam together.
- A character who’s trying to win back their partner who ran away with their best friend.
- A spirit animal’s quest to choose their human.
- A mythical drug that’s at the root of someone’s family tree.
- A fountain pen collector who’s found murdered, and the murder weapon is a fountain pen that was rumoured to have belonged to a famous historical figure.
- A teenage boy who dreams of marrying a(n alien) princess.
- A wedding planner who bears a secret grudge against happily married (or engaged) couples.
- The history of a family who are committed to resurrecting an ancient art.
- A character whose obsession with entomology threatens to unleash a plague of biblical proportions.
- A group of archeologists who discover the ruins of Atlantis on a newly-formed volcanic island.
- A knight who spends five years trying to break a spell cast on him by a witch, only to slowly fall in love with her.
- A character whose family and friends believe that they are a mythological figure resurrected, even though they don’t believe it themselves.
- A sailor who is shipwrecked on an artificial island-kingdom owned by an eccentric billionaire who has been presumed dead for ten years.
- A character making friends while waiting for a hurricane to hit the hotel where they’re staying.
- A graveyard that’s besieged by the souls of those who were buried outside its walls.
- A bookshop that’s the last refuge of a group of fans of an unusual (and very specific) genre.
- An occultist who develops a sudden interest in science.
- A vintner who mans an interplanetary expedition to solve the mystery of a grape blight.
- A dragon who’s in love with a rain deity and wants to find them the perfect gift.
- A guest who begins to suspect that they’re not the only guest.
- The founders of a town where the average IQ of the residents is abnormally high.
- A warrior who discovers that their clan has been at war for centuries because of a typographical error that may have ben deliberate.
- A magical world where all of the magic turns out to be an elaborate illusion.
- A teacher who takes attendance and finds that there’s an extra student in their class.
- An innkeeper who hires a magus, a troll, and an elf to guard their secret recipe, but finds they’ve put their trust in the wrong people.
- A blind date that’s interrupted by a guardian angel.
- A psychic tour guide who organises tours that help people turn their lives around.
- A painter who travels to another planet in search of a rare pigment.
- A character who discovers a strange calendar which appears to prophesy important events in their life.
- A teenager who has to choose between two very different schools.
- A builder who specialises in magical doors, extensions, and passages.
- A character who gets trapped in their memory palace and has to find a way out in order to save someone else.
- A character who accidentally discovers the world’s best pencil and spends the rest of their life trying to keep it secret at all cost.
- A goddess who wakes up and finds that her religion has been abandoned, and sets out to seek the cause, and convert people back.
- A miner who hits a vein of a strange new rock and becomes a target for a government agency that wants to keep the discovery a secret.
- A florist who sends flowers to a wrong address and initiates a chain of events that leads to two people meeting and falling in love.
- A country where citizens vote AI into leadership, rather than people.
- A character who is obsessed with perfecting their life story by travelling back in time to correct mistakes or flaws.
- A character who has to fall in love with someone from an enemy clan in order to lift a curse.
- A book critic who is writing their first book but becomes paralysed by the fear of receiving vengeful reviews.
- A character whose job is to create treasure hunts, but who finds themselves on someone else’s treasure hunt, and ends up discovering an old coffin.
- A knitter who unravels a ball of yarn only to find it stained with blood, and helps the police investigate a possible murder.
- A character who is afraid to leave their house, but needs to travel to see a loved one who is critically ill in hospital.
- A character who steals what they think are the questions to an exam, and finds that they’re actually an application form for a secret, mythical order of scholars.
- A protest that’s staged as cover for a huge heist.
- A character who regains their sanity through chess.
- The history of the most valuable dress in the world.
- A character who discovers a secret message on a bottle of shampoo while showering, and is driven by curiosity to investigate it.
- A peace treaty that’s signed on board a dirigible over no-man’s-land, and the people who fought for it.
- A wealthy character who goes on a daytrip with a poor, homeless person, and switches places with them without realising.
- Two people who fall in love but come from planets where time runs very differently.
- A character who is the “chosen one” and discovers that they were the one who created the prophecy.
- A society that’s organised according to an ancient symbol that they’ve misinterpreted.
- A character who learns that the omens in their life are created by beings trying to guide them from another dimension.
- A character who finds a baby abandoned in a bus shelter and embarks on a roadtrip with a wet nurse to try to find its parents.
- A time-travelling antique dealer who steals their favourite author’s writing desk.
- A detective who has to overcome their fear of flying in order to investigate the murder of a flight attendant.
- A character who is biologically attracted to danger.
- A character who is preparing to go through a rite of passage that involves death but not resurrection.
- A character whose lover breaks up with them and then secretly follows them for a decade.
- A gamer who has to rescue a real princess.
- Two characters who leave to seek their fortunes in order to get married.
- A rock band that tours the world and investigates crimes.
- A psychologist who’s trying to hide their agoraphobia.
- The crew of a spaceship that have been trying to find their way back to their home planet for centuries.
- A vampire who gives blood rather than drinking it.
- A private letter that falls into the hands of an influential leader and changes their outlook on life.
- A character who learns that their parents were guilty of a terrible crime, and sets out to collect evidence against them.
- A character who has been living as a recluse for many years, and learns that the people of a nearby settlement regard them as a guru, and have written books and made films about them.
- What Romeo and Juliet get up to in the afterlife.
- A character who stumbles upon a strange machine that their science teacher has been building in the school basement, and decides to help.
- A character who reads their first book at the age of 81.
- A character who awakens an ancient mythical beast while scouting for a movie location at a remote monastery.
- Another planet’s space race.
- A tattoo artist who helps a detective solve murders that involve tattooed victims.
- Two lovers who are separated by a bridge that can’t be maintained much longer.
- A fortune teller who becomes a suspect in a murder when it’s discovered that they foretold the victim’s death.
- A retired hitman who resolves to atone for his work by saving people who are being targeted by their former employer.
- A world where the gods of several pantheons join forces to eradicate their worshippers.
- A character who is addicted to seeking out experiences of extreme solitude, and their eventual “healing”.
- A memoirist whose distinction between their life story and the life they’re living begins to dissolve until their friends stage an intervention for them.
- A diplomat to the fairy realm whose task is to negotiate a trade agreement.
- A decorator who becomes increasingly convinced that the owner of the house they’re working on is trying to cover up a murder, even as they fall in love with them.
- A character who works on a telephone helpline develops a relationship with one of the callers, and arranges to meet them only to be stood up.
- A doctor investigating a rare disease that they specialise in who discovers that it’s artificially engineered, just as they begin to show symptoms themselves.
- A character whose job is to clean up people’s imaginations.
- A world where the people develop space travel in order to communicate with their deities who live on another planet, but find that the gods have vanished mysteriously.
- A character living in a nursing home who wakes up one day to find themselves inundated with fan mail.
- A character whose commute lasts a lightyear.
- A character whose fear of missing out drives them to establish a surveillance network.
- A character who has a fascination with all kinds of forgery, and how this interest will eventually lead to their death.
- A film star who is actually two film stars.
- A society that encourages and rewards mistakes and failure over success.
- A writer who’s trying to give up their writing addiction.
How to Develop Your Story Ideas
This free writing workshop walks you through a STEP by STEP method to develop your story idea. Grab a sheet of paper and press play !
Where to Find More Story Ideas
- Generate even more ideas by transposing the story ideas above into different genres , by replacing words or clauses, or by combining 2 or more ideas together.
- My friend, Emma Welsh, has an ENORMOUS list of 365 story ideas here . My favourites: #8, #17, #111, #213, #273 & #360!
- Watch this fun video to see how easy it is to invent 100 story ideas in an hour.
- Self Publishing School has some great story prompts divided by genre.
- I have another list of 52 romance story ideas with built-in conflict!
- Bestselling author, Jerry Jenkins, has an excellent post on finding story ideas and developing them into a full story (+ the Greyhound Bus Challenge)!
- Too many story ideas? Try the Idea Ranker .
I write about literature, language, love, and living off your pen. Also, fortifying fiction, personal amelioration, and tea.
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104 Of The Best Short Story Ideas And Prompts To Grab Your Readers
So, you want to write a short story — and not just a mildly entertaining short story but one your readers can’t put down until they’ve finished it.
You want a story that gets reactions like “Wow!” and “How did you do that?” and “Do you have more like this?”
What writer doesn’t want that kind of reaction, right?
And since short stories are short, you have less time to wait for your readers’ reactions — but you also have less time to grab their attention.
That’s why a great topic is worth its weight in gold when it comes to writing these little gems.
Even with the challenges inherent to short story writing, you’ll most likely finish a short story in far less time than you would a novel.
So, you’ll get to explore more story topics in less time than if you were writing longer works.
But how do you generate short story ideas that are worth the time you’ll invest in crafting a short story your readers will love?
If you’ve been writing for long enough, you already know good story ideas are everywhere, and you might even have some in mind as you read this.
But which of those ideas should be on your shortlist for story writing projects?
And if you don’t have any great ideas at the moment, where do you get some?
Short Story Idea Generator (how to generate story ideas)
Short story writing exercises, generating story ideas with the short story formula, timeless themes and emotional impact, 35 short story ideas, 69 short story writing prompts.
When it comes to generating new story ideas, you can take more than one approach. You might try these three:
- Writing exercises
- Writing prompts
- The Short Story Formula
Think of your school days when your English teacher assigned an essay or invited you to write a paragraph in answer to a question.
Maybe all you had to do was write one complete sentence. Or maybe your teacher wanted a haiku — or a rhyming couplet.
School isn’t the only place for writing exercises , though. If you’ve ever joined a creative writing group, your leader may have encouraged you to spend some time each day freewriting or writing a character sketch .
The purpose of writing exercises is to practice writing — or to practice a specific kind of writing (voice journaling, essays, persuasive ad copy, song lyrics, etc.).
So, whether it’s NaNoWriMo, Twitter’s #VSS (Very Short Story) challenge, or writing sprints, the more time you invest in these exercises, and the more you open yourself up to constructive criticism, the more quickly your writing will improve.
The most effective writing prompts and writing exercises make use of themes with a history of captivating and inspiring others. Because of this, either one might lead you to a story idea that you can hardly wait to explore.
Take one (or more) of those popular themes and combine them with a context that is both unique and relatable, and you have the formula for a compelling story idea.
Story writing ideas are generally more fully developed than writing prompts. It’s not unusual, for example, to begin with a writing prompt , develop it into a story idea, and then write the actual story.
And don’t beat yourself up if the first idea that comes to mind is a cliché. You’re human, and familiar ideas are the easiest to think of. Nothing wrong with that. The first idea is like a first draft , in that it gives you something to start with.
And don’t be afraid to mix it up — literally. Take one idea, mix it up with another, and play with it for a while. Who knows how you might juice up your story idea without even trying?
The best fiction story ideas make use of timeless themes. You’ll find one or more of the ten themes that follow in most stories that have been written, read, and shared over the centuries.
- The End of a Relationship
- Rags to Riches
- Scars / Wounds
- Ghosts / the Paranormal
- Deepest Fears
- A Soulmate Encounter
- A Journey Interrupted
- Monsters (human or otherwise)
The story idea itself — in its simplest form — doesn’t have to be original, and in fact, it shouldn’t be. But the way you embody and develop that idea should surprise your readers and evoke an emotional response in them.
It’s that emotional impact that makes your story not only worth finishing but memorable.
Short story ideas will look different from novel ideas, though — mainly because short stories have to make a big impact with fewer words. And because of this, the most powerful short stories have what James Scott Bell describes as the “one shattering moment.”
In his book, How to Write Short Stories and Use Them to Further Your Writing Career, Bell describes that moment as “something that happens to a character, an emotional blast which they cannot ignore. It changes them, in a large or a subtle way — in a way that cannot be ignored.”
Any one of the popular themes listed above could you give your main character a shattering moment that would change that character’s life or perspective.
Take a look at the following creative story ideas, many of which combine two or more of the popular themes listed, and feel free to modify any of them to create your next unputdownable short story.
1. Your character’s loved one has died , and he learns while going through that loved one’s belongings that the latter had a terrible secret that unnervingly correlates to your character’s deepest fear.
The rest of the story explores your character’s reaction to this discovery and how it affects his/her relationships and decision-making.
2. Your character has married the man she saw as her “soulmate.” During their honeymoon, he shows her his list of goals for their first five years together, and they have their first real argument over one of those goals — which requires something of her that she never agreed to.
She has a sudden memory of their first date and of the moment when she first decided he was the one, but she sees it now from his perspective, and it changes everything.
3. Your orphaned character inherits a house and moves in to find that it’s already occupied — by the spirits of the character’s long-deceased parents, who aren’t at all like the people other relatives have described.
4. Your character is having trouble getting past his anger over the wounds inflicted by those who raised him and by those with whom he had one failed relationship after the next.
After losing his job, he goes on a journey to change the direction of his life, but that journey is interrupted by the death of one of his parents — the one who hurt him the most.
5. Your character is widely regarded as a monster and doesn’t deny or hide from that designation.
When his closest confidante gets fed up with him, tells him off, and leaves the company they founded together, your character finds himself disoriented by grief and does something different.
6. Your character is content with her life but suddenly inherits a large sum of money and a palatial estate on the east coast.
She sees the inheritance as proof that the Law of Attraction works, and she invites family and a few close friends to move with her and share the wealth. On the first night of their stay, someone dies.
7. Your character’s snake-loving neighbor has just been found in the belly of her pet boa constrictor (who she swore was a better “snuggler” than her ex).
The ex shows up and is angry when he finds out that your neighbor left the house and everything in it to your character. He threatens to ruin her life if she doesn’t turn the house over to him.
8. Your character meets his/her soulmate on a flight that almost doesn’t make it to its destination; both of them respond to emergencies on the plane (one as a cop and the other as a doctor).
Once at the airport, your character learns that this soulmate is already in a relationship with a well-known philanthropist. But your character notices something odd and calls the philanthropist out.
9. Your character’s best friend just announced the end of a relationship, and your character is surprised to find this friend in a celebratory state of mind (rather than heartbroken).
Your character then finds out the disturbing reason for the friend’s manic behavior.
10. One of your character’s siblings is getting married, and during wedding preparations, your character learns something she was never meant to know. This discovery changes her relationships with everyone.
11. The happy couple living next door to your character has died in a horrific accident, and when the parents show up for the funeral, you find out why the couple always changed the subject whenever you asked them about their families.
12. Your character starts receiving messages from someone who knows his/her deepest fears and intends to exploit them. At the same time, your character is discovering a latent ability that relates to those fears but might also help him overcome them. Or they might change him into something the messenger never saw coming.
13. Your character meets a soulmate at a community grief counseling group meeting and learns that this soulmate also attends AA meetings (like your mc) — though with a different group and with a friend who doesn’t particularly like your main character.
The surprising reason comes out when your character goes on a first date with this soulmate. The soulmate’s friend swears he/she knows your mc from a different reality — which he/she visits in dreams.
14. Your character breaks free of a painful relationship and embarks on a journey to discover what she’s capable of. After volunteering at a nursing home — reading to vision-impaired residents and writing letters for them — she agrees to personally deliver one of those letters to the resident’s estranged son.
15. After avoiding close relationships because of deep scars from his childhood, your main character learns something about one of his parents that changes everything for him. He then has an opportunity to take a step off his accustomed path.
16. Your character has been married for 19 years before her spouse — after a weekend that reminds her of when they met and why she married him — hands her divorce papers.
17. Your character is making a list of reasons to break up with her boyfriend of two years when the latter comes home early and tells her he’s won the lottery jackpot.
18. Your character is a locally famous writer whose hero story ideas come from his freewheeling lifestyle and insatiable curiosity about others.
One day, out of boredom, he offers a homeless man $100 to propose to the first woman he takes a fancy to, while he watches from a safe distance. The proposal goes terrifyingly wrong.
19. Your character has just lost a child by miscarriage , and when she comes home, her married life has changed. Her husband, who was always the more talkative of the two, spends their time together quietly grieving in his own way.
Your character, on the other hand, becomes more outgoing and starts spending more time (and money) on her appearance.
20. Your young adult character finds himself suddenly orphaned when his parents die in a plane crash. The funeral is the beginning of a dramatic shift in his perspective and in the choices he makes.
He breaks off a relationship with a woman his parents adored, he quits the lucrative job that he hates, and he leaves the country.
21. Your character has just learned that his spouse has been cheating on him, and he confronts her when she gets home that night.
She reveals that what he saw as proof of her infidelity was something completely innocent — but that she’s already decided to make a permanent and dramatic end to their marriage.
22. The only child of your character is diagnosed with a fatal illness, and your character doesn’t know how to deal with the worry and dread that now consumes her.
Her doctor suggests one anti-anxiety med after another, and her husband and his family urge her to try one — for her husband’s and her son’s sakes. She goes into a fugue state with the experimental drug she tries, and she wakes up to the consequences.
23. Your character’s new glasses — created as a free gift from an old friend with unusual connections — reveal more than the physical objects in his field of vision.
After looking at a coworker and seeing the latter’s death just hours before it happens, he goes to replace the glasses with a plain pair from a local chain. Then he catches his full-length reflection in a window.
24. Your character wakes up alone in an unfamiliar place and is told by everyone he encounters that the life he thought he’d lived for the past six years — with a wife and three kids and with the job that barely paid the bills — must have been a dream.
He’s actually stunningly wealthy, treated with respect by everyone he meets, and desired by more than one woman. So, why is there a picture of him with his nonexistent family on his desk?
25. A year ago, your character met someone who offered her the power to transform the interior of her home to anything she wants — in exchange for a DNA sample from her only child, who is a gifted storyteller.
During the year after she accepted the offer, her home becomes everything she wants it to be, but her son stops telling stories, and one day she finds out why.
26. Your character makes drastic changes to his diet and adopts new habits that alienate him from his usual circle of friends but lead him to a new one.
He then wins a large sum of money from a scratch ticket that an estranged friend (a compulsive gambler) slipped under his door.
27. Your character has returned from a successful quest to find his home empty, with no sign of his loved ones other than a note left on the refrigerator.
Not only does he now have no one with whom to share his victory, but what he learns calls that very victory into question.
28. Your character has spent eleven years living with the consequences of a vow she has taken. When she forges a new friendship with a counselor, she learns something about herself that scares her and makes her avoid the counselor, for his own sake.
Keenly aware of her own vulnerability, she brands herself to ward off unwelcome attention.
29. Your character, after 15 years of living in a house chosen mainly to fit her spouse’s preferences, sees an ad for an apartment in town that represents the life she gave up to make her husband happy.
After hearing him complain about his life and their house for one too many times, she goes to look at this apartment and finds it has almost everything she wants. The apartment manager, a well-dressed woman close to her own age, hears your character’s last name and appears shaken by it.
30. Your character splurges on a new rug for her living room floor — the kind of rug she’s coveted for years — and her S.O. criticizes it and later “accidentally” spills his drink on it.
The final straw is his suggestion that she wait ‘til it dries and return it to the store for a refund or exchange it for something more practical.
31. Your character has recently broken free from a cult that had drawn him in when he was vulnerable from a family tragedy. His new support system — a group of other cult survivors — is having varying degrees of difficulty re-entering society and repairing damaged relationships.
Your character meets with them one evening at their accustomed café table and confronts a server whose off-handed comment provokes him. What begins as a calm request for respectful treatment escalates as other members of the group chime in and the server’s manager gets involved.
32. Your character has joined a church and finds herself under the tutelage of a church member who leans toward the traditionalist end of the spectrum and who regards her as the daughter he never had.
When he decides to renounce the church’s leadership and join an extreme traditionalist group, she backs away from him — after explaining to him why she won’t do the same. His behavior toward her changes and she makes a change of her own.
33. Your character is so desperate for money that he does something he never would have done otherwise. He doesn’t get caught, but he doesn’t get away with it, either. Consumed by guilt, he undergoes a penance of his choosing, which spirals out of control.
34. Your character walks into a tourist shop and buys a homemade “tonic” freshly mixed by the owner, after tasting and enjoying an innocuous sample in the same flavor. The tonic changes him in a way he can’t ignore or undo.
35. Your character inherits an old music shop with a secret back room where his uncle kept a few instruments that can make even someone like him — who has never played an instrument — a virtuoso in seconds. He takes the piano to his apartment and learns why his uncle (in a letter he’d written before his death) had warned him not to — and why his uncle kept the door to that secret room locked.
With writing prompts , you get a launching pad of sorts: a question, an idea, a provocative quote, or something that inspires a reaction — specifically a written one. Maybe that reaction is an argument, or maybe it’s an impassioned defense of an idea.
Whatever it is, the purpose here is to take that prompt and use it to generate a written response in one form or another. The aim of writing prompts for short stories is to get you started on a new short story .
The prompt could be as simple as a word or as detailed as a character sketch or an elevator pitch. It could even be a picture or a song. It could be an observation you make while (discreetly) people-watching.
We’ve create 69 short story writing prompts that flesh out an idea more thoroughly, giving you a good headstart for your story.
1. You get a new job, and your new boss approaches you on the first day with an invitation to the “After Hours Club.” He tells you it’s no big deal if you decline, but you get a strong impression that it would be.
2. One day, on the way home from work, your new car takes over and drives you to a remote area, stopping beside other cars in a clearing underneath a new moon. You wake up underneath a full moon and drive yourself home. But much has changed in your absence — and so have you.
3. You bake pies for a local bakery, and when a celebrity comes to town and tastes your locally famous turtle pie, he invites you to go on tour with him — to a movie set somewhere in Europe — to be his personal pie maker. You say yes.
4. You buy a single rose from a street vendor, and it lasts a week, then two weeks, then three, and then a full month. Only then does someone point out to you that previously healthy people in the neighborhood have been falling ill and dying at an abnormal rate.
5. It’s time for your 10-year-old daughter to make her First Confession, but when her turn comes to go into the confessional, she panics and won’t be persuaded to go in.
6. You’re stranded in a small village down a winding road from Burgos (Spain) on a Sunday. A stranger comes by on a motorcycle and goes to fetch a taxi for you. You’re waiting at the bus station when he tells you he knows you’re meant to replace his recently deceased wife.
7. The bartender brings you your first Irish coffee in what looks like a candy dish. Halfway through, you notice the whole cafe seems to be floating, and since you can’t put the rest into a to-go cup (alas), you pay your tab and head out. You think you’re doing fine until your key doesn’t work in the front door of your apartment building. Someone else kindly lets you in, and you recognize him as the bartender from that cafe.
8. You’re exploring an old Spanish town, and you realize someone is following you. You turn and find an old woman who asks if you’ll help her find her hotel. You help her, and she invites you in, telling you she has a son who shares your interest in all things Tolkien. You’re not in a hurry to get back to your hotel room, so you go up with her.
9. Your fingers don’t respond to you the way they used to, and you’ve been having other difficulties. You go see your doctor, and they run some tests to check for neurological diseases but don’t find anything. They think it’s probably stress-related. Your life has been stressful lately, and it doesn’t help that your new roommate has been acting strangely toward you.
10. You wake up with your heart racing, but you don’t remember why. You almost never remember your dreams but often wake up covered in sweat with your heart pounding. You’re tired of having to shower every morning and feeling sick for the rest of the day, so you decide to undergo hypnosis, hoping to find out what’s going on.
11. Your neighbors have been up to some strange shenanigans lately, and their lights are on well into the wee hours of the morning. You’d like to know why, but every neighbor you’ve talked to who have gone over there to ask about it has, later on, told you that nothing suspicious is going on and that those neighbors are “very spiritual, and so, so nice!”
12. The street lamps that light up your cul de sac have gone dark, and you’re outside waiting for your spouse to get home when something large and dark brushes past you, almost knocking you off balance. Then a man appears and asks, “Have you seen my cat?”
13. Someone has broken into your house while you were away and has taken all the religious articles out of it — every statue, every picture, and every holy water bottle. The thief left everything else alone.
14. You move into an apartment that used to be a hoarder’s paradise, and your manager gives you permission to paint the walls a different color and add some new flooring. You get to work removing the kitchen’s linoleum floor and find something you never expected.
15. You joined a wine delivery service, and the delivery person is every bit as charming as the labels on the posh wine he brings to you each week. When you lose your job and cancel the service, the wine keeps coming.
16. You buy a pound of gourmet coffee beans at a local food festival, and as you’re sipping the first cup from the first pot you’ve brewed, you have a vision, which feels as real as though it were actually happening to you. When the vision ends, you’re still in your kitchen, holding your cup. You take another sip.
17. You’re about ready to gather up all the ceramic village pieces that have been cluttering up your living room and toss them in the trash bin, but your spouse, who knows you hate them, insists you should try selling them on eBay, instead. That’s when the fight starts.
18. You buy a new pair of Bluetooth earbuds that are supposed to enhance your listening experience. You plug them in and use them while watching a movie, and suddenly, you’re there on the scene, about to get flattened (or eaten) by a dinosaur.
19. You need a new toilet, and someone shows up at the door (as though sent by heaven) to sell you a toilet that will flush down ANYTHING. Oddly enough, it doesn’t even need to be hooked up to your septic system. “All you have to do is remove and empty the dust tray at the base every evening, reinsert it for the next day’s flushes, and voila!”
20. You buy a new keyboard , and after typing a few sentences of a new story, it starts typing on its own, and you watch in surprise as it types out a new short story. You submit it to a contest you’ve never won and win first prize. You start thinking you’ll never have trouble paying the rent again! Then you accidentally spill wine on the keyboard, and even stranger things start happening.
Related: 55 Funny Writing Prompts To Inspire Your Inner Comedian
21. Your famous stew recipe has won an award. You go to collect it (a cash prize), and meet the next runner-up, who believes she should have won the first prize instead with her three-bean salad. She warns you not to spend the money, because she will prove you won unfairly. You go home and find a bowl of three-bean salad and a note.
22. You suggest at the breakfast table one morning that you might actually have too many books, and your SO seizes upon this and offers to help you thin out your collection. After breaking up with him, you cull a few volumes for donation and run into the author of one of them.
23. Your first issue of Real Simple magazine has finally arrived, but something has come with it — something you can’t see but that makes your life anything but simpler.
24. A girl scout comes to the door selling cookies, and you tell her you already bought some from her at the table outside your grocery store, and you’ve spent enough for the year. Suddenly, all the food in your house (including the canned food) becomes moldy or rotten. And every bit of food that passes your threshold becomes inedible.
25. You buy a new whiteboard to help you keep track of your writing assignments, but you wake up one morning, and new items have somehow been added to your list. And the new titles have a sinister edge to them. You live alone.
26. You buy a new poster that looks exactly like the TARDIS door, and you put it up on your bedroom wall. One night, right at midnight (you’re up working at your computer), the door opens and you walk through it.
27. You buy a CD with music that’s supposed to help you write more creatively and also lose weight more easily. You start playing it during your writing time, and sure enough, the words flow without effort, and you love what you’ve written. You also start losing ten pounds a week, and soon you can’t afford to lose another ten, but you’ve come to depend on that music CD.
28. You’re a carpenter who has joined a construction team to build a new development of 3,000+ square foot houses. All is going well until someone on the team discovers something buried in the lot for the third house. The foreman removes it and tells everyone to get back to work, but you have a bad feeling. And you’re right to have it.
29. Your boss announces they’re having a potluck and you’re all expected to show up and bring something. He also tells you it has to be homemade. You tell him you can’t cook, but he tells you, “Well, learn, then!” Strangely enough, you do, and you create an entree that has everyone’s mouth-watering when you open the lid at the potluck. But your boss is conspicuously absent.
30. You wake up in the middle of the night and rush to the bathroom, where you empty your stomach of everything you ate that day. Something else comes out, and it’s moving.
31. You stop at a coffee shop while making stops to apply for a new job, and the barista tells you the new bed and breakfast is looking for someone to handle their advertising. You apply, are accepted, and agree to start immediately. But the owner, who openly admires your bicycle, offers you a room at the B&B, so you’ll be more accessible.
32. You have way too much time on your hands since your latest project has earned you enough to more than double your previous year’s salary, and you’re taking a sabbatical. You see an ad for an opportunity to spend a month at a castle in Wales, with full room and board and a bicycle for exploring the countryside. You call the agent and book a flight.
33. One night, as you’re coming back from the bathroom, you see a bright light and follow it to see that your front window is wide open and bugs are swarming in and out. You rush to close it but then you see the view from it — which is not your usual view of the front yard. You see something you want to investigate.
34. Sometimes, people stare when you pull out an index card and start scribbling furiously onto it, but you don’t care. Then someone accuses you of writing something about him and, pulling out a gun, demands you hand the card over to him.
35. You’re starting a new job, and one of your co-workers tells you it’s up to the new guy to keep the coffee pot full for his first week. While you’re brewing the latest refill, muttering to yourself about how little you’re getting done that day, one of your co-workers starts choking and accuses you of trying to poison her.
36. Your home-brewed ale is the talk of the neighborhood, but your next-door neighbor frequently buys up your newest batch. You start imposing limits. He then starts telling other neighbors that your secret is adding pee from your pet guinea pigs, “But it’s cool, because urine is sterile. And that guinea pig pee really adds something!”
37. You inherit a lighthouse from your deceased uncle — along with the small living quarters attached to it. You move right in, looking forward to the solitude. But whenever you’re up at the top scanning the surface of the ocean, you see things that can’t possibly be there. And one of them sees you — and comes to visit.
38. You stop at the local nursery and pick up a new houseplant — a tiny, adorable succulent. The cashier looks nervous as she rings you up. “That plant isn’t normal. If you want to pick another one, I would totally understand.” She’s nodding with wide eyes as she says this, clearly hoping you’ll agree.
39. You live in a studio apartment. Your boss comes to bring you soup when you call in sick and sees the quilt on your bed, which you won at a raffle. “That’s the quilt my mom made!” she says. “She told me someone stole it.”
40. You take your kids trick-or-treating, and you go to your boss’s neighborhood (your boss suggested it). Most houses gave out full-sized candy bars, but one gave out treasure maps, and your kids want to find their treasures before you leave the neighborhood.
41. Someone offers you a chance to win a million dollars just by visiting his website and typing in your address. “I don’t need your checking account info. It’s not safe to give that to just anyone. I’ll just mail the check to you,”he writes.
42. You wonder what it would be like to be a famous actor, and someone, out of the blue, invites you to perform in his movie as an extra — “and, who knows, maybe something more… prominent.”
43. You get a call from the principal’s office that your daughter has been involved in a bullying incident. Someone was bullying her, and she punched him. There were witnesses, and the principal reminds you of their zero-tolerance policy for physical violence…
44. You get a call from the principal’s office that your son has been acting out toward his classmates (who, according to what he’s told you, have been behaving aggressively toward him) and had brought a weapon to school to protect himself. They’ve confiscated the weapon (a paring knife) and have called the police.
45. Your kid has an IEP, and the Special Ed staff at the school always sound so caring and professional at the meetings you attend with them. But your son tells you they behave very differently toward him. The principal assures you that she knows the staff would never do what your son has accused them of doing. She suggests your son may be lying.
46. Your young daughter notices that one of your trees is “sick,” and she goes to visit the tree, talks to it, leans against it, and tells it to please get better. It responds by growing stronger and larger, spreading its branches out and downward to create a sort of cave for your daughter to rest in when she wants to be alone. It becomes her haven.
47. You wake up one morning and start loading your excess possessions into boxes and bags and hauling it off to Goodwill to donate it. That’s when you find the tiny cameras hidden in the bathroom, and bugs hidden in every room.
48. Your favorite coffee mug has broken, and you’re in mourning. The mug you just bought as your “second” just doesn’t feel the same in your hand, but it surprises you by magically refilling your drink with every sip — and keeping it hot for you.
49. The moth on your ceiling doesn’t bother you — much. But every time you look, it’s there. And you wonder why it never leaves. When you finally get a step ladder to get a closer look at it, you can hardly believe what you’re seeing.
50. Your neighbors on the home office side of your house have never been friendly, but one day, the wife comes over with a pie and tells you she made it herself and that she’s tired of being cooped up in the house with no one but her husband to talk to. You look over and see the outline of her husband in an upstairs window.
51. Tired of getting hair in your face, you take an electric hair-trimmer and run it all over your head with the one-inch attachment. You look at the results with satisfaction.
52. Your spouse, who has never done or said a romantic thing since your honeymoon, suddenly comes home with an expensive bouquet and a travel brochure for a place you’ve always wanted to visit. Later on, someone delivers the car you’ve always wanted, and your husband unconvincingly feigns surprise. You ask him if he won the lottery, but he shakes his head and says, “This is way better. You’ll see.”
53. You’re out in your backyard and stumble over something, which turns out to be a small brick half-buried in the grass. You see initials etched into the brick, along with a crudely-shaped heart. You wonder what — or whom — might be buried beneath. Soon, you find other markers like it, and you wonder how you failed to notice them before.
54. Your neighbor invites you over to her house, and you see that every wall has a cross painted on it with crude, hurried strokes. You ask why, and she nervously clears her throat and says, “This place needs them.”
55. You watch an infomercial and order a new face cream, hoping it will restore a youthful look to your face. It does more than that.
56. Your teenage son gets a job and, on his first day, he encounters a rude customer. Unaccustomed to responding with calmness and diplomacy, he lashes out at the customer and gets himself fired. Instead of calling home for a ride, though, he takes a walk through town and runs into the same customer holding up a cardboard sign.
57. You put your headphones on when you start on your writing project, and, at some point, an unfamiliar voice interrupts your playlist to tell you he likes what you’ve written so far. And he thinks you’d get along great.
58. Your spouse starts trying different paint samples on walls all over the house, and you don’t like any of the colors; they’re either too bright or too dark. One day, you paint patches of a pale green-gray that you like next to his acid-bright or dark color patches, and he tells you it’s boring, and that he’s painting the house his way.
59. Someone keeps writing fortune-cookie phrases on your new whiteboard at work, and it’s irritating you. You ask around, and no one knows who keeps writing the messages. Then, one of the predictions comes true.
60. You look out the window while you’re working and you see one neighbor attacking his spouse, knocking her down and then kicking her. You call 9-1-1, but later on, the wife comes over and says, “I know it was you who called. And you’ve made everything worse!”
61. Every time you look outside and see the wind in the trees, you take a deep breath and feel calmer. When the air is still, you feel as though the whole world is holding its breath and that something bad is about to happen. So, when it’s calm outside, you picture wind in the trees and take a deep breath.
62. You see movement in the corner of your eye and whenever you look, you see a huge, black dog in the neighbor’s yard, running back and forth. This time, though, he runs into your yard and starts barking at your front door.
63. Your eight-year-old son gets up and immediately goes for his Kindle Fire to play Minecraft. You’ve found some educational apps you want him to try, so you’ve installed them on his Kindle. He comes to you a few minutes later and says, “This app is telling me to do things I’m not supposed to do.”
64. You try a new recipe for a potluck, hoping it will wow your boss and coworkers, but it turns out terrible, and you end up rushing to a restaurant for something to bring before arriving (late) to find out everyone has already eaten the entree you were most looking forward to trying. When the cops show up later to ask why everyone is violently ill except you, you tell them everything you know.
65. You take your teenage son to his orientation for a new job, and when you come back to pick him up an hour later, you find out no one has seen him — though you saw him walk in the door before you drove off.
66. You’re living in a world where everyone is born with a birthmark that matches that of their soulmate. But you are born without one.
67. You and your best friend are in a terrible car accident, and you both die. Your friend, however, has a very different account of what he saw on the other side.
68. You’re born with the ability to mentally manipulate DNA. You started with plants and moved on to your pets, who now have unique abilities. For the past few years, you’ve been hacking your own DNA.
69. You were raised in the deep South where manners and feigned politeness were a thin veneer covering your family’s questionable history and lingering dysfunction.
More Related Articles:
7 Of The Best Writing Prompts Apps You Need To Try
List of Tragic Hero Traits To Flesh Out Your Character
107 Character Mannerisms For Writers
Did you find these short story ideas and prompts useful?
I hope your mind is buzzing with an idea you can’t wait to start playing with. Keep this article handy, so you can return to it when you’re looking for a new short story idea. You don’t have to follow any of them verbatim; take one and change the details however you like to make the idea your own.
Just don’t forget the “one shattering moment” for your character — and the importance of making an emotional impact on your reader. You make this impact as much with dialogue as with description and the structure of your story. Make it all count.
And when it comes time to edit, cut everything that dampens the impact of your story. Your readers will love you for it!
If you found value from this list of short story prompts, please share it and encourage others to pass it on to support and inspire as many fellow writers out there as possible. Why not even invite them to share their new short stories with you after they’ve written them?
And may your creative energy and goodwill infuse everything else you do today.
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How to Write a Good Story
Last Updated: November 10, 2023 Fact Checked
This article was co-authored by Lucy V. Hay and by wikiHow staff writer, Danielle Blinka, MA, MPA . Lucy V. Hay is a Professional Writer based in London, England. With over 20 years of industry experience, Lucy is an author, script editor, and award-winning blogger who helps other writers through writing workshops, courses, and her blog Bang2Write. Lucy is the producer of two British thrillers, and Bang2Write has appeared in the Top 100 round-ups for Writer’s Digest & The Write Life and is a UK Blog Awards Finalist and Feedspot’s #1 Screenwriting blog in the UK. She received a B.A. in Scriptwriting for Film & Television from Bournemouth University. There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 1,534,274 times.
A good story captures your reader’s attention and leaves them wanting more. To craft a good story, you need to be willing to revise your work so that every sentence matters. Start your story by creating memorable characters and outlining a plot. Then, write a first draft from beginning to end. Once you have your first draft, improve it using a few writing strategies. Finally, revise your story to create a final draft. You may need to edit a few times but keep doing so until you enjoy the final product.
Things You Should Know
- Make character sheets and choose a story setting. Then, create a plot outline to guide you through the story-writing process.
- Set the scene, introduce the characters, and establish a problem for the characters to solve in the first 2-3 paragraphs.
- Fill the middle of the story with action that shows the character(s) working on the problem. Present 2-3 new challenges to keep things interesting.
- Create dialogue that reveals something about your characters and keeps readers' eyes move down the page.
Developing Your Characters and Plot
- Your life experiences
- A story you heard
- A family story
- A “what if” scenario
- A news story
- An interesting person you saw
- Do the sheet for your protagonist first. Then, make character sheets for your other main characters, like the antagonist. Characters are considered main characters if they play a major role in the story, such as influencing your main character or affecting the plot.
- Figure out what your characters want or what their motivation is. Then, base your plot around your character either getting what they want or being denied it.
- You can create your own character sheets or find templates online.
- For example, a story about a girl who wants to become a doctor would go much differently if it were told in the 1920s instead of 2019. The character would need to overcome additional obstacles, like sexism, due to the setting. However, you might use this setting if your theme is perseverance because it allows you to show your character pursuing her dreams against societal norms.
- As another example, setting a story about camping deep in an unfamiliar forest will create a different mood than putting it in the main character's backyard. The forest setting might focus on the character surviving in nature, while the backyard setting may focus on the character's family relationships.
Warning: When you pick your setting, be careful about choosing a time period or place that's unfamiliar to you. It's easy to get details wrong, and your reader may catch your errors.
- Create a plot diagram consisting of an exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
- Make a traditional outline with the main points being individual scenes.
- Summarize each plot and turn it into a bullet list.
- 1st person POV - A single character tells the story from their perspective. Because the story is the truth according to this one character, their account of events could be unreliable. For instance, “I tiptoed across the floor, hoping not to disturb him.”
- 3rd person limited - A narrator recounts the events of the story but limits the perspective to one character. When using this POV, you can’t provide the thoughts or feelings of other characters, but you can add your interpretation of the setting or events. For example, “She tiptoed across the floor, her entire body tense as she fought to stay quiet.”
- 3rd person omniscient - An all-seeing narrator tells everything that happens in the story, including the thoughts and actions of each character. As an example, “As she tiptoed across the room, he pretended to be asleep. She thought her quiet steps weren’t disturbing him, but she was wrong. Beneath the covers, he clenched his fists.”
Drafting Your Story
- You might start your story like this: “Esther pulled her medical text from the mud, carefully wiping the cover clean on the hem of her dress. The laughing boys sped away on bicycles, leaving her to walk the last mile to the hospital alone. The sun beat down on the rain-soaked landscape, turning the morning’s puddles into a dank afternoon haze. The heat made her want to rest, but she knew her instructor would use tardiness as an excuse to kick her out of the program.”
- For example, let’s say that Esther’s class is going to get the opportunity to work with real patients, and she wants to be chosen as 1 of the students who gets to do it. However, when she gets to the hospital, she’s told she can only go in as a nurse. This sets up a plot where Esther tries to earn her spot as a doctor-in-training.
- For example, Esther might go into the hospital as a nurse, look for her peers, switch her clothes, almost get caught, and then meet a patient who needs her help.
- In Esther's story, the climax might occur when she’s caught trying to treat a patient who’s collapsed. As the hospital tries to remove her, she shouts out a correct diagnosis, causing the senior doctor to demand her release.
- For instance, the senior doctor at the hospital might compliment Esther and offer to be her mentor.
- Esther’s story might end with her starting rounds with her new mentor. She might reflect on what she would have lost if she hadn’t defied the rules to pursue her goal.
Improving Your Story
- For example, starting with Esther walking to the hospital is a better place to start than when she enrolled in medical school. However, it might be even better to start when she arrives at the hospital.
- For example, this piece of dialogue shows us that Esther is frustrated: “But I’m the top student in my class,” Esther pleaded. “Why should they get to examine patients but not me?”
- For example, Esther being denied entry to the hospital as a doctor is a horrible experience for her. Similarly, being grabbed by security would be frightening.
- For example, Esther could react to the smell of the hospital or the sound of beeping machines.
- For instance, Esther has worked really hard for something only to be denied it based on a technicality. Most people have experienced a failure like this before.
Revising and Finalizing Your Story
- Printing out your story may help you see it from a different perspective, so you might try that when you go back to revise it.
- Setting your work aside for a little while is a good move, but don't set it aside for so long that you lose interest in it.
- You can also read your story to other people and ask them for advice.
- The people closest to you, like your parents or best friend, may not provide the best feedback because they care about your feelings too much. However, you may be able to find a writing critique group on Meetup.com or at your local library.
- For feedback to be helpful, you have to be receptive to it. If you think you've written the most perfect story in the world, then you won't actually hear a word anyone says.
- Make sure you're giving your story to the right readers. If you're writing science fiction but have handed your story to your writer friend who enjoys literary fiction, you may not get the best feedback.
Lucy V. Hay
If you're getting good feedback, consider submitting your story to a short story contest. Some short story contests have prizes, like being published in an anthology or having a chance meet an agent. Those types of things can be valuable to you later on. For instance, if you get published in several anthologies, you can utilize that when you're making submissions to agents. Some competitions, like the Bridport Prize and the Bath Short Story Award in the UK, are very prestigious—if you can win one of those, you'll actually be seen as a writer with some significant chops.
- For instance, let’s say there’s a passage where Esther sees a girl in the hospital who reminds her of her sister. While this detail might seem interesting, it doesn’t advance the plot or show something meaningful about Esther, so it’s best to cut it.
- Keep a notebook with you wherever you go so you can write whenever an idea comes to you. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Don't start editing your story right away, as you're less likely to see errors or plot holes. Wait a few days until you can look at the story with fresh eyes. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Do drafts before you do the final copy. This helps a lot with editing. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Don't copy things from other books, because it’s plagiarism . Thanks Helpful 7 Not Helpful 0
- Don't edit as you work, because it slows your writing down. Thanks Helpful 7 Not Helpful 0
- Make sure you vary your sentence lengths. Thanks Helpful 8 Not Helpful 1
- Don’t make your story drag by incorporating extra information that isn’t necessary to the plot or character development. Thanks Helpful 6 Not Helpful 3
You Might Also Like
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/brainstorming/
- ↑ https://www.scad.edu/sites/default/files/PDF/Animation-design-challenge-character-sheets.pdf
- ↑ https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/topics/zkgcwmn/articles/zfh6vk7
- ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/the_writing_process/developing_an_outline/how_to_outline.html
- ↑ https://www.grammarly.com/blog/point-of-view/
- ↑ https://literarydevices.net/rising-action/
- ↑ https://www.rcboe.org/cms/lib010/GA01903614/Centricity/Domain/4395/Elements%20of%20a%20Story.pdf
- ↑ https://penandthepad.com/incorporate-dialogue-narrative-21717.html
- ↑ https://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-to-make-your-writing-suspenseful-victoria-smith
- ↑ https://www.readingrockets.org/strategies/descriptive_writing
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/revising-drafts/
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/getting-feedback/
- ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/conciseness/eliminating_words.html
About This Article
To write a good story, make sure the plot has a conflict and that there's something at stake, which will keep readers hooked. For example, you could write about two men fighting over the same person. You should also come up with characters that are relatable so your readers get invested in them. Also, avoid explaining everything to readers, and instead try to show them through the dialogue and actions of the characters. For example, instead of telling readers that your main character is grumpy and bitter, you could include a scene where they lash out at another character for no reason. For tips on how to come up with story ideas, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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150+ Story Starters: Creative Sentences To Start A Story
The most important thing about writing is finding a good idea . You have to have a great idea to write a story. You have to be able to see the whole picture before you can start to write it. Sometimes, you might need help with that. Story starters are a great way to get the story rolling. You can use them to kick off a story, start a character in a story or even start a scene in a story.
When you start writing a story, you need to have a hook. A hook can be a character or a plot device. It can also be a setting, something like “A young man came into a bar with a horse.” or a setting like “It was the summer of 1969, and there were no cell phones.” The first sentence of a story is often the hook. It can also be a premise or a situation, such as, “A strange old man in a black cloak was sitting on the train platform.”
Story starters are a way to quickly get the story going. They give the reader a place to start reading your story. Some story starters are obvious, and some are not. The best story starters are the ones that give the reader a glimpse into the story. They can be a part of a story or a part of a scene. They can be a way to show the reader the mood of a story. If you want to start a story, you can use a simple sentence. You can also use a question or an inspirational quote. In this post, we have listed over 150 story starters to get your story started with a bang! A great way to use these story starters is at the start of the Finish The Story game .
If you want more story starters, check out this video on some creative story starter sentences to use in your stories:
150+ Creative Story Starters
Here is a list of good sentences to start a story with:
- I’ve read about a million stories about princesses but never thought I could ever be one.
- There was once a man who was very old, but he was wise. He lived for a very long time, and he was very happy.
- What is the difference between a man and a cat? A cat has nine lives.
- In the middle of the night, a boy is running through the woods.
- It is the end of the world.
- He knew he was not allowed to look into the eyes of the princess, but he couldn’t help himself.
- The year is 1893. A young boy was running away from home.
- What if the Forest was actually a magical portal to another dimension, the Forest was a portal to the Otherworld?
- In the Forest, you will find a vast number of magical beings of all sorts.
- It was the middle of the night, and the forest was quiet. No bugs or animals disturbed the silence. There were no birds, no chirping.
- If you wish to stay in the Forest, you will need to follow these rules: No one shall leave the Forest. No one shall enter. No one shall take anything from the Forest.
- “It was a terrible day,” said the old man in a raspy voice.
- A cat is flying through the air, higher and higher, when it happens, and the cat doesn’t know how it got there, how it got to be in the sky.
- I was lying in the woods, and I was daydreaming.
- The Earth is a world of wonders.
- The fairy is the most amazing creature I have ever met.
- A young girl was sitting on a tree stump at the edge of a river when she noticed a magical tree growing in the water.
- My dancing rat is dressed in a jacket, a tie and glasses, which make him look like a person.
- In the darkness of the night, I am alone, but I know that I am not.
- Owls are the oldest, and most intelligent, of all birds.
- My name is Reyna, and I am a fox.
- The woman was drowning.
- One day, he was walking in the forest.
- It was a dark and stormy night…
- There was a young girl who could not sleep…
- A boy in a black cape rode on a white horse…
- A crazy old man in a black cloak was sitting in the middle of the street…
- The sun was setting on a beautiful summer day…
- The dog was restless…”
- There was a young boy in a brown coat…
- I met a young man in the woods…
- In the middle of a dark forest…
- The young girl was at home with her family…
- There was a young man who was sitting on a …
- A young man came into a bar with a horse…
- I have had a lot of bad dreams…
- He was a man who wanted to be king…
- It was the summer of 1969, and there were no cell phones.
- I know what you’re thinking. But no, I don’t want to be a vegetarian. The worst part is I don’t like the taste.
- She looked at the boy and decided to ask him why he wasn’t eating. She didn’t want to look mean, but she was going to ask him anyway.
- The song played on the radio, as Samual wiped away his tears.
- This was the part when everything was about to go downhill. But it didn’t…
- “Why make life harder for yourself?” asked Claire, as she bit into her apple.
- She made a promise to herself that she would never do it.
- I was able to escape.
- I was reading a book when the accident happened.
- “I can’t stand up for people who lie and cheat.” I cried.
- You look at me and I feel beautiful.
- I know what I want to be when I grow up.
- We didn’t have much money. But we knew how to throw a good party.
- The wind blew on the silent streets of London.
- What do you get when you cross an angry bee and my sister?
- The flight was slow and bumpy. I was half asleep when the captain announced we were going down.
- At the far end of the city was a river that was overgrown with weeds.
- It was a quiet night in the middle of a busy week.
- One afternoon, I was eating a sandwich in the park when I spotted a stranger.
- In the late afternoon, a few students sat on the lawn reading.
- The fireflies were dancing in the twilight as the sunset.
- In the early evening, the children played in the park.
- The sun was setting and the moon was rising.
- A crowd gathered in the square as the band played.
- The top of the water tower shone in the moonlight.
- The light in the living room was on, but the light in the kitchen was off.
- When I was a little boy, I used to make up stories about the adventures of these amazing animals, creatures, and so on.
- All of the sudden, I realized I was standing in the middle of an open field surrounded by nothing but wildflowers, and the only thing I remembered about it was that I’d never seen a tree before.
- It’s the kind of thing that’s only happened to me once before in my life, but it’s so cool to see it.
- They gave him a little wave as they drove away.
- The car had left the parking lot, and a few hours later we arrived home.
- They were going to play a game of bingo.
- He’d made up his mind to do it. He’d have to tell her soon, though. He was waiting for a moment when they were alone and he could say it without feeling like an idiot. But when that moment came, he couldn’t think of anything to say.
- Jamie always wanted to own a plane, but his parents were a little tight on the budget. So he’d been saving up to buy one of his own.
- The night was getting colder, and the wind was blowing in from the west.
- The doctor stared down at the small, withered corpse.
- She’d never been in the woods before, but she wasn’t afraid.
- The kids were having a great time in the playground.
- The police caught the thieves red-handed.
- The world needs a hero more than ever.
- Mother always said, “Be good and nice things will happen…”
- There is a difference between what you see and what you think you see.
- The sun was low in the sky and the air was warm.
- “It’s time to go home,” she said, “I’m getting a headache.”
- It was a cold winter’s day, and the snow had come early.
- I found a wounded bird in my garden.
- “You should have seen the look on my face.”
- He opened the door and stepped back.
- My father used to say, “All good things come to an end.”
- The problem with fast cars is that they break so easily.
- “What do you think of this one?” asked Mindy.
- “If I asked you to do something, would you do it?” asked Jacob.
- I was surprised to see her on the bus.
- I was never the most popular one in my class.
- We had a bad fight that day.
- The coffee machine had stopped working, so I went to the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea.
- It was a muggy night, and the air-conditioning unit was so loud it hurt my ears.
- I had a sleepless night because I couldn’t get my head to turn off.
- I woke up at dawn and heard a horrible noise.
- I was so tired I didn’t know if I’d be able to sleep that night.
- I put on the light and looked at myself in the mirror.
- I decided to go in, but the door was locked.
- A man in a red sweater stood staring at a little kitten as if it was on fire.
- “It’s so beautiful,” he said, “I’m going to take a picture.”
- “I think we’re lost,” he said, “It’s all your fault.”
- It’s hard to imagine what a better life might be like
- He was a tall, lanky man, with a long face, a nose like a pin, and a thin, sandy moustache.
- He had a face like a lion’s and an eye like a hawk’s.
- The man was so broad and strong that it was as if a mountain had been folded up and carried in his belly.
- I opened the door. I didn’t see her, but I knew she was there.
- I walked down the street. I couldn’t help feeling a little guilty.
- I arrived at my parents’ home at 8:00 AM.
- The nurse had been very helpful.
- On the table was an array of desserts.
- I had just finished putting the last of my books in the trunk.
- A car horn honked, startling me.
- The kitchen was full of pots and pans.
- There are too many things to remember.
- The world was my oyster. I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth.
- “My grandfather was a World War II veteran. He was a decorated hero who’d earned himself a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart.
- Beneath the menacing, skeletal shadow of the mountain, a hermit sat on his ledge. His gnarled hands folded on his gnarled knees. His eyes stared blankly into the fog.
- I heard a story about a dragon, who was said to be the size of a house, that lived on the top of the tallest mountain in the world.
- I was told a story about a man who found a golden treasure, which was buried in this very park.
- He stood alone in the middle of a dark and silent room, his head cocked to one side, the brown locks of his hair, which were parted in the middle, falling down over his eyes.
- Growing up, I was the black sheep of the family. I had my father’s eyes, but my mother’s smile.
- Once upon a time, there was a woman named Miss Muffett, and she lived in a big house with many rooms.
- When I was a child, my mother told me that the water looked so bright because the sun was shining on it. I did not understand what she meant at the time.
- The man in the boat took the water bottle and drank from it as he paddled away.
- The man looked at the child with a mixture of pity and contempt.
- An old man and his grandson sat in their garden. The old man told his grandson to dig a hole.
- An old woman was taking a walk on the beach. The tide was high and she had to wade through the water to get to the other side.
- She looked up at the clock and saw that it was five minutes past seven.
- The man looked up from the map he was studying. “How’s it going, mate?”
- I was in my room on the third floor, staring out of the window.
- A dark silhouette of a woman stood in the doorway.
- The church bells began to ring.
- The moon rose above the horizon.
- A bright light shone over the road.
- The night sky began to glow.
- I could hear my mother cooking in the kitchen.
- The fog began to roll in.
- He came in late to the class and sat at the back.
- A young boy picked up a penny and put it in his pocket.
- He went to the bathroom and looked at his face in the mirror.
- It was the age of wisdom and the age of foolishness. We once had everything and now we have nothing.
- A young man died yesterday, and no one knows why.
- The boy was a little boy. He was not yet a man. He lived in a house in a big city.
- They had just returned from the theatre when the phone rang.
- I walked up to the front of the store and noticed the neon sign was out.
- I always wondered what happened to Mary.
- I stopped to say hello and then walked on.
- The boy’s mother didn’t want him to play outside…
- The lights suddenly went out…
- After 10 years in prison, he was finally out.
- The raindrops pelted the window, which was set high up on the wall, and I could see it was a clear day outside.
- My friend and I had just finished a large pizza, and we were about to open our second.
- I love the smell of the ocean, but it never smells as good as it does when the waves are crashing.
- They just stood there, staring at each other.
- A party was in full swing until the music stopped.
For more ideas on how to start your story, check out these first-line writing prompts . Did you find this list of creative story starters useful? Let us know in the comments below!
Marty the wizard is the master of Imagine Forest. When he's not reading a ton of books or writing some of his own tales, he loves to be surrounded by the magical creatures that live in Imagine Forest. While living in his tree house he has devoted his time to helping children around the world with their writing skills and creativity.
Sometimes, coming up with a story idea is the hardest part about writing fiction. Figuring out what to write about can be frustrating, as the desire to create meets the uncertainty surrounding where to begin.
Writers are often taught how to write their stories, but not how to develop a great story idea. Luckily, the best fiction prompts are already in your head. Let’s answer a common question for fiction writers stuck on the blank page: What should I do if I want to write fiction but have no story ideas?
Finding What to Write About: What Goes Into a Good Story Idea?
There’s no strict definition of a “good story idea.” In fact, many good stories are good because of the way they’re written. You might have heard someone say that every idea has already been written, and while this approach to creative writing is a bit cynical, it’s true that many stories can be reduced to similar narrative arcs.
A striking example of this is the Shakespeare play Hamlet and the Disney movie The Lion King. These two stories have many differences, but they have the same story premise: an orphan prince must avenge the death of his father, to the chagrin of a shady uncle and an unstable family.
Both works of fiction share the same premise, but audiences perceive them differently since they have different writing styles, intended audiences, and storytelling purposes.
Thus, there’s no clear anatomy of a good story idea. As a general rule, however, your idea for a story should answer the following questions:
- Who is your main character?
- What does your main character want?
- What prevents the main character from getting what they want?
The rest is up for you to decide. With this in mind, let’s consider different starting points for how to come up with story ideas.
7 Ways to Come Up With Great Story Ideas
When you ask yourself “ What should I write about?”, starting with one of these methods will go a long way to help you develop a great story idea.
1. Start With the Six Elements of Fiction
The blank page can be overwhelming. As you consider the infinite possibilities of language, it’s easy to get so lost in the details that you lose sight of a clear idea. If you’re the type of writer who gets overwhelmed by the whole process, try coming up with story ideas through a piecemeal approach, by considering the six elements of fiction:
- Plot: the “what happens” of your story
- Characters: whose lives are we watching?
- Setting: the world that the story is set in
- Point of View: from whose eyes do we see the story unfold?
- Theme: the “deeper meaning” of the story, or what the story represents
- Style: how you use words to tell the story
You can read in-depth about each of these in our article on the six elements of fiction.
For example, you might benefit by just starting with a character. Think about different character details, from their physical traits to the things they most desire. From there, you can think about what’s getting in the way of this character’s success, and craft the plot and world around them.
Or you can start with setting. Create the world you want to write in, whether that world is realistic, magical, or somewhere off Earth entirely. Then, think about the limitations of this world and how it both helps and hurts its people; from there, you can craft your characters and plot.
You might even start with style. If you want your story to use certain language, style can act as a scaffolding to story. For example, Toni Morrison wrote her novel Jazz because she wanted to write a story that spontaneously rises and falls in energy and emotion, much like jazz music does. The result is a story that traverses a slice of the early-20th-century African-American experience through Black culture and music, using style to guide and write the story itself.
2. Start With a Story You Want to Read
Toni Morrison said it best: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
Think about a story you’ve always wanted to read. This doesn’t have to be a story that’s revolutionary and wholly unique; start with what you want to read in fiction. For example, maybe you like reading stories that bend genres, and you want a story that combines mystery, romance, historical fiction, and science fiction, but you haven’t read anything like it.
The reason you haven’t read it is because you haven’t written it! Take some time to think about a story you want in the world — whether that’s a story you needed when you were younger, a story that other people need to hear, or a story you’ve always wanted told. That might be what you should write about.
3. Modify a Story Idea That Already Exists
No, you can’t publish your version of The Great Gatsby where every character and detail is the same, except it’s set in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. However, you can start a story from literature that already exists.
In fact, many great works of literature started as, to use a modern term, fanfiction. Shakespeare’s Othello was inspired by a poem called “The Moorish Captain”—he even used the same names and borrowed themes of love and vengeance. Alexandre Dumas wrote The Three Musketeers as fanfiction to a memoir of a French musketeer titled Mémoires de Monsieur d’Artagnan . Finally, William Golding was inspired to write Lord of the Flies after reading the children’s book The Coral Island , a story about three marooned boys from England.
If you’re afraid to call a story “fanfiction,” think of it as a way of improving a story you already love. Make it your own, change your characters, and develop new story ideas. You might just write the next classic!
4. Start With a Creative Writing Prompt
Chances are, you’ve been told to use writing prompts, but not how to use writing prompts. The best way to write from a prompt is to freewrite from the story idea, then edit from there.
For example, let’s say you’re given this prompt: Write a story about a psychic psychiatrist . If you choose to use this prompt, but don’t know where to begin, do a timed freewrite where you “free associate” all of your ideas onto the page. Write for five minutes about what the word “psychic” makes you think of. Give another five minutes to “psychiatrist.”
Then, comb through your freewrite and let your journaling inspire some story ideas. Perhaps you wrote down something about a crystal ball in a psychiatrist’s office, or you imagined a circus tent filled with prescriptions. Let your great story ideas unfold naturally, then write from there.
If you’d like some writing prompts to get you started, here are 24 exercises we think you’ll love.
5. Find Inspiration in Wordplay
Sometimes, words themselves inspire. Drawing creativity from puns , word play , alliterations, and onomatopoeias can create the most unique and interesting stories.
Take our last prompt, for example. Both words in the phrase “psychic psychiatrist” start with “psych,” yet they have vastly different meanings. Psychiatrists are academics, whereas psychics are mystics. What story can you find in the duality of science versus magic? Are they more similar than we realize? Find moments of tension or ambiguity in language, and go from there.
6. Let Yourself Experience Boredom
Most people dislike boredom. However, as creatives, we should embrace it. Why? Because boredom actually boosts creativity.
Our brains prefer a certain level of stimulation. When we feel boredom, our brains are telling us that we’re understimulated. Often, we turn to entertainment when we’re bored—our phones, books, TVs, significant others, etc.
When we don’t turn towards external stimuli, however, our brains produce their own stories and ideas to stay stimulated and entertained. Thus, boredom actually encourages creativity, and if we let our minds wander without external distractions, we might come across a great story idea that needs to be written.
7. Start From Real Life
Our last tip is to start from real life experiences. Many stories—including stories of fantasy and sci-fi—create convincing worlds because they’re modeled after real life. You don’t need to write about your personal experiences themselves, but you can draw from them to write poignant fiction.
For example, Stephen King wrote The Shining after staying in a notoriously haunted hotel that left him with nightmares. That hotel and those nightmares inspired the hotel of The Shining, which is arguably a character within the novel itself.
You can also pull from popular news and events. Agatha Christie wrote her novel Murder on the Orient Express after reading about the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh’s son.
Finally, you can pull from historical events and even write historical fiction. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie does this in her novel Half of a Yellow Sun , which explores the rise and fall of Biafra, a short-lived African nation in the late 1960s.
As Mark Twain once said, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Start from real life and see where your story idea goes.
Develop a Great Story Idea With a Writing Community
The best writing ideas are developed through collaboration and feedback. If you’re looking for an extra set of eyes on your story ideas or fiction drafts, look no further than the Writers.com community. We’ve been in the writing business for over 25 years, and with a strong team of creative writing instructors, we can help make the seed of a story blossom.
Learn more about our upcoming fiction courses , find us on Facebook , or check out our community page. Draw inspiration from our community of writers, and get to work on your next great fiction idea!
Loved your content Sean <3 very well-written! Creativity comes from all sources, but if you’re setting out to write your book for the first time, you need to figure out the best story idea that everyone will remember. Check this out How to Come Up With Great Story Ideas
I completely agree with what you have written. I hope this post could reach more people as this was truly an interesting post.
This is incredible advice. Happy to have found it. Thank you!
this helped a lot thanks !
Great work guys
Thanks its help me writing my scripts for my game
May God bless you for sharing!❤️💝💝
This article helps lots! Thank you!
I used these ideas to form my first ever story and submitted it to the Yong Writers Award, Bennington College… Thank you so much, Sean.
Cheers, Lord Heat
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