Writing prompts are a useful tool and resource for any writer, from beginners to published authors. A good prompt can give you the inspiration you need to craft a paragraph, a book, or an entire series.
You can also use them just for writing practice and to get your creative juices flowing. See where these ideas take you.
Fantasy Writing Prompts
- In your character’s world, only strong magic–users are allowed to survive past their 13th birthday. Your character has no magical ability—but even at 11 years old, they’ve discovered a way to fake it.
- Your character is granted one day in the land of the dead to retrieve their deceased beloved, only to discover that their one true love faked death to escape marriage.
- A mysterious statue appears in the forest that makes perfect duplicates of any human being that touches it. Your character is one such duplicate—and your “sponsor-body” is wanted for murder.
- Your character is a witch-hunter, tasked to track down and slay a powerful target—who is currently pregnant with your character’s child.
- A monster emerges from the forest and forces your character to care for its newborn offspring, which begins to look more human the longer your character cares for it.
- Your character is one of a species of sea creatures that inhabit the very deepest part of the ocean. This species has created an advanced civilization—and they’re getting ready to break the surface and take their rightful place as Earth’s rulers, with your character at the helm.
- Your character discovers that a certain mythical being is real—and they’re about to go extinct.
- Your character falls in love with a magical being. To keep their love alive, your character has to fight not only their family, but their entire race.
Historical Fiction Writing Prompts
- Your character is the daughter of a poor clergyman in mid-19th-century England. Without a dowry, she has little chance for marriage. Without a husband, she’s doomed to a spinster’s life as a governess or servant. In 1854 she joins Florence Nightingale’s group of female nurses bound for the Crimean Peninsula, where she discovers that the hell of war extends into the hospital at Scutari.
- Your character is an artisan in 12th-century Ireland at Clonmacnoise, a monastery that anchored a wealthy community of art, learning, and craftsmanship on the Shannon River. Medieval life is good in this beautiful town … until the Vikings arrive.
- England, 1776: A young astronomer has receives the job of a lifetime: traveling with the famous Captain Cook on his voyage to discover the fabled Northwest Passage. After the rigorous journey takes the crew from Tahiti to Siberia, damage to the ship’s mast forces a stop for repairs in Hawaii. Turns out the natives aren’t as friendly as they thought.
- Your character is one of the hundreds of thousands of craftsman tasked with creating the terracotta army in ancient China. He molds each soldier’s face after someone he knows: his father, his grandfather, a friend from his village, etc., and thinks about their lives and legacies as he works.
- Research the history of your own city or town. Imagine you lived there 50, 100, or even 200 years ago. What would your life have been like?
Horror/Thriller Writing Prompts
- Your character has a stalker with the ability to stop time. The stalker uses this ability to manipulate your character—and their efforts are escalating.
- Your character’s lover died in a horrible accident—but one day they simply return, and nobody but your character remembers that they died.
- Your character and their college friends attend their first off-campus party, and discover too late that the fraternity throwing the bash is a cult—and very serious about the concept of brotherhood.
- Your character is marooned on a tiny desert island. One morning, an idol appears outside their shelter’s front door. It’s stone—except for the real human head on top.
- Your character’s family moves into a new house with an in-ground pool that the previous owners paved over. At night, your character can hear something screaming beneath the concrete—something that isn’t human.
- Your character’s neighbor is an older man who mostly keeps to himself; your character often sees him taking walks or puttering around his garden. But when your character knocks on the old man’s door to invite him to a block party, things take a turn for the sinister.
- Your character is a mobile phone. The phone has just been purchased by a woman who turns out to be a criminal mastermind.
- Your character is a regular office clerk who just discovered that your company is brainwashing its employees. The goal of the company is menacing.
- Your character is on their way to work when they get stuck in a massive traffic jam. Suddenly, in the distance, there is a huge explosion.
- Your character is a serial killer, confessing to his crimes.
- Your character is at a Halloween party at a bar. Everyone is in costume when a man suddenly drops dead.
- Your character is out for a jog early in the morning, trips, and loses consciousness. When they wake up, they are in a morgue surrounded by dead and dissected bodies.
Mystery Writing Prompts
- A powerful pharmaceutical company recently released a new drug to market that dampens the arousal response in human beings. Your character is a private detective brought in to solve an unusual murder. The weapon? A lethal dose of this new drug, which was previously thought to be harmless.
- Your character’s child has been bringing home peculiar drawings from school for the past two weeks. Your character thinks nothing of it, until they realize that each drawing corresponds to one in a series of brutal murders that have plagued their tiny town.
- A marine zoologist is vacationing on a beach in a foreign country when they read about a local political figure who was killed in a shark attack. But from the photos, your character realizes that no shark made those puncture marks on the victim’s stomach—and that the accident may have, in fact, been murder most foul.
- A young police detective must find the kidnapped daughter of a powerful city planner. The hitch? She was at a Star Trek convention when she was kidnapped, and the only description of the culprit is that he “looked like Mr. Spock.”
- After taking a DNA test, your character discovers that their genetic material was altered in the womb. But your character was adopted, and has no records of who their birth parents are, or where they were born.
- Your character has been happily married to their partner for 25 years. But one day, a mysterious stranger shows up claiming to be your partner’s spouse and demanding to know what your character is doing in this stranger’s home.
- Your character is a retired military officer who is ready to leave his past behind him. One day, you accidentally walk in on a bank robbery in progress—and these aren’t ordinary criminals.
- Your character finds out that their deceased twin had multiple passports IDs with different names and faces. To find out more, your character must assume these identities in his place.
- Your character, an important New York businessperson, wakes up naked and alone in a strange, foreign land, with no recollection of how you got there. The native people take you in, but you don’t speak their language and know nothing about the culture. You must learn to communicate in order to get home.
Romance Writing Prompts
- After moving into a new house, your character begins to receive love letters addressed to the previous occupant. The letters have no return address, but they are so beautifully written that your character begins to fall in love with the writer, despite never having met the author.
- Your character is the first person in history to fall in love. They cannot describe the feeling to anybody else, especially not the person for whom they’ve fallen head over heels.
- Your characters have been married for over 700 years; when they die, they are reincarnated with all their memories, and simply find each other again.
- When your character’s country loses a long war, your character is tasked with negotiating the surrender. The person across the table holds the fate of both countries in their hands … and they’re pretty darn cute, too.
- Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. The catch? Their parents are engaged to be married!
- Your character is a teenager who writes short, fictional romance stories and posts them to a blog that they believe no one reads. One day, a fan starts responding to the stories, and your character connects with the fan on many levels, creating their own idealized, fictional romance story online. Now, they must decide whether they’re willing to let go of their “perfect” love story to meet the real (and inevitably, imperfect) person on the other side of the screen.
- Your character was born deaf and your character’s spouse was just involved in an accident that made them blind. After being together for six years, they must re-learn how to navigate the world together.
- Your character has a mental condition that landed them in a rehab facility. There, your character meets a recovering addict, and they connect instantly and begin to find healing in each other.
- Your character dreams of a person they’ve never met and wakes up convinced it is their true love.
- Your character shows up for an interview for their dream job, and discovers that their could-be boss is also their ex.
Science Fiction Writing Prompts
- Your character wakes up on a slab in a high-tech medical facility, hooked up to strange machines and occupying a body you don’t recognize. Before the doctors arrive, you hear a voice in your head: it’s your new body’s original owner, and they want it back.
- The aliens that land in your backyard strike a deal with your character: Murder one innocent person on the planet, and they will spare the earth. Refuse, or reveal the aliens’ existence to the world, and the planet is doomed.
- Your character is captain of a long-distance spaceship taking thousands of Earthling colonists to a new planet. One day, completely by accident, you discover what this spaceship uses for fuel, and are faced with a terrible moral dilemma of how to handle this information.
- Your main character is the warden of a virtual-reality prison. One day, a notorious murderer attempts to orchestrate a “breakout.”
- Your character is a child whose stuffed toy comes equipped with a nanny-cam and primitive AI. One day, the toy decides to take your character’s safety into its own mitten-like hands.
- Your character is an average college student. Somehow, your character discovers that everything they’re doing—every movement they make and every word they say, even in private—is being tracked and recorded. Now they must figure out who is recording and why—without the recorder knowing what they’re doing.
- Your character washes up on a remote island that has never been visited by an outsider before. Turns out, there’s a whole civilization there—but these “people” have been isolated for so long, they’ve evolved differently than people in the rest of the world.
- Your character is a troubled teenager who discovers that he has the power to see people’s futures by touching them. When you accidentally bump into a man on the subway, you see the man piloting a spaceship—and it’s moving towards your city. Now, you must find the man—and convince everyone else that the danger is real.
Comedy Writing Prompts
- Over Christmas, your character’s parents decide to take the family to the Caribbean. The first day there, both of your parents get sunburned and decide to spend the rest of the vacation indoors, leaving you and your little brother to your own devices.
- Your character is a reality TV judge, but not one of the judges that appears on TV—you’re one of the judges that decides which contestants even get to be on TV. After being subjected to a string of terrible singers, your character finally discovers someone great, and finds themselves strangely invested in the success of this contestant.
- Your character is a superfan of a popular musician. They wait in line to get front row seats to every show, spend outrageous amounts of money on paraphernalia on eBay, and have plastered nearly every wall of their apartment with posters and ticket stubs. One day, your character finally gets a chance to meet the musician—and he’s not what anyone expected.
- Your character is a schoolteacher who is watching two kids argue over a toy in the sandbox when suddenly, an alien creature rises out of the sand. The students decide to make it the class pet.
- Your character’s life is extremely mundane, until a stray dog starts showing up on their front porch every day.
Memoir/Nonfiction Writing Prompts
- Describe a time when you wanted to experience a spiritual moment or looked for spiritual guidance. Why were you in this situation? What were you hoping to get from it?
- Tell the story of your life in inverted chronological order.
- What was the happiest moment of your life? What made it the happiest?
- Write about an addiction. Include as much detail as possible, including how it started and your journey to overcoming it.
- Write about an experience that made you feel ashamed or guilty. How did it impact you? What have you done to move on?
- Think about the ways in which you’ve changed over the years. Can you identify any turning points? Be specific and describe those moments.
- Write about a job or career move that changed your life.
- Write about how you met your current partner or spouse. Do you think it was fate? What events led to you two meeting?
- Write about a person who has had a profound impact on your life—either positive or negative. How have you changed because of them? What have they done to cause your life to change?
- Write a biography of someone in your family who immigrated from one country to another.
- Create a cookbook in which every recipe is tied to a specific person or moment in your life.
- Describe something you’ve done that you’re proud of. How did you get to that moment? How can others learn from your experience?
- Tell the story of how the seed of faith was planted in your life. When did your spiritual journey began, who influenced and guided you in discovering your faith, and at what point did you realize you needed to change your life?
- Write about a memory of your favorite pet. What can animals teach us about ourselves?
- Think about a time when you learned a new skill. What made you want to learn it? Who did you learn from? How did you practice? How did you improve?
Creative Writing Prompts Can Boost Your Writing Skills
Using writing prompts can boost your creativity and improve your writing skills in a number of ways by:
- Helping to overcome writer’s block
- Exercising your imagination
- Increasing your rate of practice
- Teaching you more about yourself
If you’re still not sure using a writing prompt would be good for you, that’s great! If you feel you are against using writing prompts, then you have reason enough to explore it.
As they say, the opposite of love is not hate—it’s apathy. Strong feelings mean strong opinions and emotions, and writing with strong emotions can be incredibly productive and healing.
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Tom Corson-Knowles is the founder of TCK Publishing, and the bestselling author of 27 books including Secrets of the Six-Figure author. He is also the host of the Publishing Profits Podcast show where we interview successful authors and publishing industry experts to share their tips for creating a successful writing career.