I bet you just asked Google to search for creative writing prompts.
Or was it writing ideas? Short story ideas? Or maybe writer’s block?
Boy, are you stuck!
But don’t worry. It doesn’t matter if you’re halfway through writing a book, sweating over social media posts, or journaling about your own life, all writers get stuck for creative ideas sometimes.
So, it’s great to have you here.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
We’ll start with a few common questions and answers…
What are Writing Prompts?
A writing prompt can be a phrase, an image, or even a physical object that kick starts your imagination and motivates you to write. It provides a spark of an idea as a starting point to stimulate a natural flow of writing.
Writing prompts are ideal for any form of writing, like fiction or nonfiction, journaling, copywriting, blogging, or poetry. They usually contain two parts: an idea or a potential topic to write about, and the instructions on what you should do next.
For example, a creative writing prompt for fiction writers might be:
Your main character has a car accident and starts to hear voices while in the hospital. Write a short story about the conflict between the character and the voices and what really happened at the time of the car accident.
While journal prompts tend to focus on topics of self-awareness, such as:
Write about a turning point in your life. How different would things be now if you had made a different decision at the time?
What is the Purpose of Writing Prompts?
Writing prompts are like a pre-match warm-up. They help to relax your creative muscles, unblock your imagination, and free up your mind to focus on the main game of writing without fear or hesitation.
Instead of wasting time by thinking of a topic to write about, writing prompts get your creative juices flowing straight away, compelling you to put pen to paper.
Writing prompts also help you see things in a new light. They force you to think outside your comfort zone and use your imagination and creativity like never before.
Without them, we can become permanently sidelined by our inner critic. Or worse still, the gripping cramp of writer’s block.
How Do You Use Writing Prompts?
Like all muscle-building exercises, writing prompts are most effective when you make them a daily habit. Over time, with repetition, you’ll find your flow of writing becomes more natural, and your ability to write for longer strengthens.
But don’t feel you have to follow a prompt to the letter. If the prompt suggests you write about romance, but it sparks an idea for a poem, write a poem. Let your imagination guide you through the writing process.
Here are some other hot tips:
- Don’t overthink it. Just start writing.
- Don’t edit as you go.
- If it’s not working for your style of writing, move on to another prompt. Find the prompts that make you want to write.
- The creative writing prompt is a starting point. The finish is up to you. You don’t have to write a complete story, a poem, or an essay. Feel free to discard your work halfway through and move on to something else.
- Adopt the Ernest Hemingway approach: Accept that most of what you write is likely to be crap, and you’re going to toss it. This isn’t about producing ready-to-publish work for your latest freelance writing job. It’s about the practice of writing.
How Else Can I Improve My Creative Writing Skills?
Improving your skills takes lots of writing practice. And using creative writing prompts is one of the best ways to do just that. But it’s not the only way. Here are a few other techniques you might want to explore:
This is when you write about anything that pops into your head. Take a blank page, set a timer for 30 minutes, and start writing. Write whatever your brain tells you to, and don’t worry if it’s nonsensical.
This writing exercise is great for pushing through writer’s block and allowing your mind to head off in spontaneous directions.
The Adjectives Game
List 5 things you like or dislike tasting, and then list 5 adjectives for each item. For example, you might like the taste of cake. The 5 adjectives might be: sweet, gooey, yummy, nutty, and scrumptious. Now do the same for your other senses.
This builds your sensory vocabulary and ability to write with flair and color.
Write about a recent incident you were involved in, from the point of view of someone else who was involved. Empathy is hugely important in writing and this exercise forces you to step into the shoes of another person and understand their point of view.
Writing authentic dialogue is notoriously hard to master, so this writing exercise will help.
Write about 300 words of a conversation between two people without using ‘he said/she said’ tags. Show the difference and relationship between the two speakers only through the words they use. It’s more challenging than it sounds.
Think of a color. Now go for a walk or a ride on the bus and note down everything you see of that color. When you get home, write up what you remember (take notes as you go to make it easier).
How many different hues of the color did you see? What did the things you saw make you feel? Was there any connection between them?
Think of an anecdote you like to recount. Write it up in less than 500 words. Now rewrite the same story in 100 words. Now in 50 words. And finally, in 25 words or less, if you can achieve it.
This exercise shows how filler words, background, and context can sometimes get in the way of a good story. It will help you choose your words carefully.
If you’ve got the time and energy, here are a few more exercises to really help flex those writing muscles.
Now, let’s explore those creative writing prompts we promised you.
72 Writing Prompts to Help You Kickstart Your Imagination
Fiction Writing Prompts
- “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” Use this famous opening line to start your own novel.
- Rewrite your resume as a short story, either in the first or third person.
- Open the dictionary at any page and select the first word that catches your eye. Write the opening few paragraphs of a thriller using that word at least three times.
- Write a synopsis of your version of the movie, Groundhog Day. What would your day look like and why?
- Write a short story using these words: Mountainous, parched, field mouse, time travel, and Black Forest Gateau.
- Sit in a café and write a short story about the person or couple at the next table. Take note of their body language and clothing, what they’re eating, or doing. And if you can eavesdrop, let their conversation inspire you too.
- Write about a person who is arrested for committing a crime, but they can’t remember anything about the night the crime occurred. What is the crime, why can’t they remember and what happens next?
Fantasy Writing Prompts
- If you could come back to life as any person, animal or thing, what or who would you be and how would you live your second life?
- The world’s oceans dry up. Who or what survives?
- You open the bathroom door and find the room’s disappeared. In its place is another world. Describe what you see and hear, and what you do next?
- You’re sitting at a bar talking to a giraffe. What’s the conversation about?
- You live in a fantasy world where people communicate without talking. Write about an average day in this sci-fi, fairy tale world.
- You are the inventor of a popular video game. One day the main character from your game knocks on your front door. What does he want?
- Write about a character who has a superhuman power. The problem is, they don’t want it. Write about the conflict between the character, his or her power and the everyday life they are forced to lead.
Romance Writing Prompts
- What is the most romantic season of the year and why?
- Write a story about love at first sight. It doesn’t have to be about young people, or even about people.
- “Last Christmas” was a song by George Michael that inspired a movie by the same name in 2019. Think of your favorite romantic song and write a film synopsis for it.
- If you are a woman, write a short love story about the most romantic experience you could imagine, as a man. If you are a man, reverse the exercise.
- The song “Summer Nights” from Grease is about the summer romance between two high school students, with their friends begging to hear more. What memory does that evoke for you about the first time you fell in love, and who did you tell?
- Next time you visit a grocery store make a note of the first person you see. What are they wearing, what are they buying, are they alone? Write a description of them as the main character for your next romantic novel.
- Your protagonist is about to marry the man she has been in love with for years. A week before the wedding she meets a stranger and falls madly and hopelessly in love. What does she do?
Comedy Writing Prompts
- You are a bartender on a quiet night, listening to man drown his sorrows as he tells you how his wife has recently left him for a neighbor. A second man enters and sits at the other end of the bar. It’s the neighbor. Describe the comedy of errors that happens next.
- What makes you laugh out loud?
- What’s the funniest joke you know? Write the backstory to the main character in the joke.
- What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you in real-life? Write it as a stand-up comedy anecdote with lots of observational humor thrown in.
- Your shopping bag rips apart, and all the contents tumble out at the feet of the girl or guy who lives in the apartment below you, who you have fancied for some time. What does your shopping reveal about you and why are you so embarrassed?
- List posts are one of the most popular forms of blogging. Write a funny list post about all the things you are not going to do in 2020.
Horror Writing Prompts?
- Write the opening chapter to a story that begins: “I stared at my beautiful, evil wife and realized the horror had only just begun.
- “Terror made me cruel” is a line from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Write about a situation where terror might make you cruel.
- You’re walking home alone late one night when you realize several cats are stalking you. Then the streetlights go out. What happens next?
- There’s a locked door at the top of the house you’re staying in. What’s behind it?
- What are you really, really scared of? Put yourself in that situation and describe how it feels.
- Write a horror story set in either a bar or a graveyard (or both). Include a blue-veined hand, a serial killer, and the phrase “all that spit and sweat.”
Persuasive Copywriting Prompts
- Your best friend doesn’t much care for Chinese food. Write down all the reasons why they need to reconsider their opinion and join you tonight at your favorite Chinese restaurant.
- Your mother’s always nagging you to clean your room. Write an account of the last time she nagged you, but from her point of view.
- Have you ever seen a ghost, or sensed a ghostly presence? Write an account of your experience knowing it will be read by a skeptic.
- Talk the Christmas Grinch out of being a Grinch.
- A man finds a letter in a bottle while walking on the beach. Where has the bottle come from, how old is it, and what does the letter say? What does it compel the man to do?
- Think of a cliché and write an argument against it. Here are a few to start you off:
Time heals all wounds
It’s better to be safe than sorry
Money is the root of all evil
Ignorance is bliss
Poetry Writing Prompts
- Open the dictionary at any page and select the first word that catches your eye. Set a timer for 5 minutes and write a list of rhyming words. Now write a poem using as many of those words as you can.
- Write a poem about rhythm. It might be about music, or the flow of a river, or the clattering sound of a train. Weave the rhythm you hear in your head into the tempo of your poem.
- Write a poem about a feast. Describe how it looks, smells and tastes. Include the different sensations of spices and flavors, the texture and feel of the dishes and how each one made you feel as you ate more and more.
- Write a poem about the “Thrilla in Manila.”
Journal Writing Prompts
- Write about your plans for tomorrow and how you hope they’ll turn out.
- “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done.” This is a famous quote about self-sacrifice from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Write an honest journal entry about how far you would be prepared to go to sacrifice your wealth, happiness, health, or safety for a person or principle.
- Write about a single day — either the first or last of your life.
- Think about the last time you woke up at 4am, in a cold sweat. What was on your mind and how did you resolve it? Did you feel differently about it in the daylight?
- Write a letter in your journal to each of your family members, telling them what your love (and/or hate) about them.
- What is your personal manifesto? What are the core principles and values that guide everything you do in life?
- Make a list of all the things you’d like to say no to, and then write down the reasons why you don’t — or can’t — say no. Is there a pattern? Is there something you can change?
Blog Writing Prompts
- Write about the biggest challenge you have faced and how you overcame it.
- Write an open letter to a person or group of people you strongly disagree with and explain why. Use reason not emotion.
- Write about the best writing or weight loss tips you can share.
- Interview your favorite fictional character.
- Describe social media to someone who has never heard of it before. Include advice on which platform might be best for them.
- Think of the 3 most unhealthy habits you indulge in and write about how you might be able to break those habits.
- What are the top 10 style trends you would like to see make a comeback in 2020?
Non-Fiction Writing Prompts
- Write about your views on climate change. Are you a believer or a skeptic? Is the world doing enough? What facts do you know?
- Write about a time you had to swallow your pride and do something that made you uncomfortable, either morally or physically.
- There is no such thing as a truly unselfish deed. Defend this statement.
- If you were to write an autobiography, how would it start?
Random Writing Prompts
- Write a fantasy story based on the last dream you had.
- Write about your favorite place and how it makes you feel. Use all the sensory language you can muster to describe the place.
- If you were a dog, what type would you be and who would own you?
- If you had the opportunity to turn back time what would you change about the course of your life and why?
- What is your favorite thing to eat and what memories does it evoke?
- Write a list of your three most prized possessions (inanimate objects, not people or animals). Imagine you are forced to discard one. Which one would it be and explain the reasons for your choice?
- Write your own eulogy as a diary entry. What would you like people to know and say about you?
- Write 500 words on what financial freedom looks like to you?
- Select a book from your bookshelf and open it to any page. Write out the last sentence of the last complete paragraph on that page and continue writing.
- Think of your favorite book or film. Now rewrite the ending to something completely different.
- If you were to buy a plane ticket today — no expense spared — where would you go and why?
There they are. A compact list of 72 writing prompts. And when you’ve worked your way through these, you might want to move on to the motherlode of creative writing prompts over at Reddit.
Reddit is part social media platform, part community, part media curator, with 520 million monthly visitors subscribing to message boards across 1.2 million sub-categories. Phew!
One of these subcategories is Writing Prompts, with over 14 million subscribers who have posted years’ worth of prompts, so you’ll never run out of inspiration again.
6 Bonus Writing Tips to Power Up Your Passion and Sharpen Your Skills
Before we let you go…
If you’re looking for creative writing prompts or story ideas, there’s an excellent chance you’re looking for other ways to hone your skills and improve your craft.
Here are 6 bonus writing tips to help you on your journey:
1. Make Time to Write
If you’re not setting aside time to write, you may as well ignore every other piece of advice in this post. Make your writing time sacred and block it off in your calendar. Turn off your phone. Disconnect the internet, close your door, and write.
This is the single best thing you can do if you want to be a writer.
2. Set Writing Goals
We set goals for everything in our life: losing weight, saving for a dream holiday, growing our business, and so on. So, do the same for your writing. Measure your progress.
Start with, say, a 300 or 500 word count in a daily session. Once you consistently reach this goal with ease, up the ante and shoot for more challenging targets. 1,000 words a session; 25,000 words a month, and so on. But make sure your goals are not overwhelming.
Writing goals will help you write faster and with more confidence. Over time you will recognize when you are most productive and can use this to your advantage.
3. Pack Your Writing with a Powerful Punch
Use these two writing devices to turbocharge your prose and watch the words burst off the page with intention.
4. Harness the Power of Grammar
Grammar reduces confusion and brings clarity and confidence to your writing. It’s a good thing and you need to learn the rules.
But grammar can sometimes get in the way of creativity and turn fluid prose into a turgid swamp of clunky awkwardness.
If starting a sentence with a conjunction feels right, go for it. If you want to brazenly split an infinitive to avoid mangling a sentence, split away.
So, learn the grammar rules, but then learn how to break them. Effectively.
5. Copy Your Writing Heroes — Literally
Pick a writer you’ve always admired, even envied. Now, put pen to paper and rewrite exactly what they wrote by hand. Don’t think too hard about it. Just go with it.
As you write out their words, you’ll absorb their writing style, their pace and rhythm, their grammar, their word choice, and their sentence structure.
This is one of the most effective ways to sharpen your writing skills and inspire your own writing voice.
6. Read Your Way to Writing Stardom
Every great writer is a great reader. There are no exceptions.
Read fiction and biographies, or read books, blogs and articles. But read in an active way. Stay alert to what grabs your attention and how the writer has crafted his words. Then consciously apply the best techniques to your own writing process.
A Final Word on Writing Prompts
The purpose of a writing prompt is to kickstart your creativity and spur you into writing something… anything.
Initially, the process may seem a little intimidating. But that’s OK. Most writers draw a blank when they first start with writing prompts.
Keep pushing through, because something thrilling will start to happen.
The more you practice using the prompts in this post, the more your creative juices will flow, and the more words and ideas will start pouring out of you.
So, let yourself go. Abandon yourself to the power of writing prompts and let the magic happen.