Creative Writing Prompts

Kate Miller-Wilson
writer at work

Sometimes when it comes to writing, getting started is the hardest part. No matter what genre you write, having a few creative writing prompts can help you break through that wall of writer's block and start putting your great ideas on paper.

Fiction Writing Prompts

If your muse is taking the day off but you need to get some work done on your short story, novel, or other fiction project, these prompts can help. Some are designed to get you writing a new piece, while others will help you move your current story in a new direction.

Prompts for New Short Stories

Need help starting a work of short fiction? Try one of these prompts:

  • "She untied the aged velvet ribbon holding the stack of envelopes together. Pulling the first letter from the crumbling envelope, she slipped into another world...."
  • "Only three people knew my real name, and two of them are dead now. The third is sitting across the table stirring a cup of coffee...."
  • "As he stood up, the bed shifted with his weight. He tried not to think about what he had to do today...."

From drawing on your own personal experiences to getting inspiration from objects in the room, you can also use this slideshow of short story writing prompts to begin your work of short fiction.

New Novel and Play Writing Prompts

Whether you're writing your first novel or play or your tenth, it can be difficult to create the world of your story. You may have a main character, a setting, or a line of dialog in mind, but the rest of the story doesn't seem to be falling into place. Getting to know your character, your setting, and other elements of your story will help you create the longer work of fiction. Although you may not end up using the words you write, you'll have a better understanding of where to take your idea.

These writing prompts can help:

  • Who doesn't fit easily in your setting? Create a main character who is directly challenged by the time or location of your novel and write 500 words about how he or she must learn to cope.
  • Everything was going well for your main character until yesterday. What happened?
  • The words your main character says tell only part of the story. When he or she says, "Really. I'm fine," what is the subtext?
  • What your main character wants is diametrically opposed to the needs of another character. Who is that other character? Describe him or her as you're meeting for the first time.
  • Write the last page of your novel first. What happened? Why?
  • In 500 words, describe your story's setting focusing on sensation and feeling-based words. How does the setting affect your character's body and mind?
  • Pick one tree, house, or other object from your setting and draw a verbal picture of it.

Also consider using prompts for genre fiction if your work falls into a specific form. Mystery writing prompts can give you ideas for locations and scenarios for your longer fiction, and erotica writing prompts can help you create the characters and settings you need for sensual romantic stories.

Prompts to Help You Continue Your Story

If you have a story but are finding that you're dealing with a lull in the action or don't know where to take things next, it can be very frustrating. Without action and a good plan, writing can be very difficult. Fortunately, these story continuation prompts can help:

  • Tonight, when your main character lies down to sleep, he or she has the most disturbing dream. What happens?
  • Although he's in a hurry, your character needs to do one more thing before he leaves the house (or castle, cave, hut, or other dwelling). What is this thing? Why is it so important?
  • Your character hears a knock on the door. She opens it. As soon as the door is opened, the person on the other side collapses in your character's arms. Who is it? What has happened?
  • Your character's cheeks are burning with embarrassment. If this had happened in private, it would have been bad enough. Now everyone knows. What happened? Where is your character?
  • This is one of those times your character's aged grandmother or grandfather warned him about. The worst has come to pass. What is going on?
  • Your character takes a bite of dinner, which tastes just like home. What is she thinking as she eats?
  • Just when he thought he'd handled the situation, he hears the snap of a twig outside. Who is there? What is going to happen?

Prompts for Creative Non-Fiction and Memoir

Writing a personal essay, remembrance, or memoir sometimes takes a little extra inspiration too. These prompts can help you start or continue your story:

  • Describe the setting of your childhood home using sensory-rich language. What did the air smell like? What did you hear if you opened a window?
  • Choose a photograph of yourself from a pivotal time in your life. How was life different before the photo? How did it change after?
  • Describe yourself as you would have during the period you want to write about. How would you have characterized your appearance? What did you consider your best and worst qualities at that time?
  • What is the most difficult decision you've ever had to make? Why was it so hard?
  • Pick a year of your life at random. What was happening that year? How did it change you?
  • How are you like or unlike another person in your memoir or story? Use comparison and contrasting language to develop both of your characters for the reader.
  • Describe your first kiss without using the word "kiss."

Another way to plant the seeds of inspiration for your creative non-fiction project is to keep a journal. Use journal writing prompts to fill the pages with your best ideas.

Prompts for Poetry

With poetry prompts, you'll often find that the real meaning of your poem comes out as you're working. The prompt just helps you get started, but it doesn't dictate the true subject matter of your work. Try some of these ideas to get started:

  • Write a poem about a metaphorical trophy or award you have won.
  • Write a poem about a secret.
  • Write a poem about someone you love without overtly describing that person's physical appearance.

Get even more ideas in this slideshow of poetry writing prompts, including changing perspectives and describing sensory experiences.

Keep the Inspiration and the Ink Flowing

Every creative writer gets stuck from time to time, and writing prompts are the perfect way to keep working. No matter what type of creative writing you do, use prompts to help you keep the inspiration and the ink flowing.

Creative Writing Prompts