Creative Writing Prompts

Here are some creative writing prompts we've developed that you may find useful. We'll be adding to these periodically, so check back often. These have been compiled by many people, please feel free to contact us if you think of any. We'll be happy to add them.

Creative Writing Prompts: Story Starters

  • Think back to a time when you say a stranger say or do something that that caught your attention. Write one page from the stranger's point of view about what they are doing and why.
  • Sometimes it's a single image that sparks a story. Have you ever seen something in your mind's eye that captured your imagination? Write about it. Make sure to include a description of all the five senses to really set the tone for your piece. Then try broadening your view of the image. Are there people there? What are they doing? Who are they? See where it takes you.
  • A jewel-encrusted box is found in an ancient abandoned temple. Describe the box, what is in the box, and the temple. See where it takes you.
  • Take some time out of your day to people watch. This works especially well in a coffee shop, restaurant, or some other public place where interaction is the norm. Jot down observations about the people around you. Describe a loner, a couple, someone how works in this public area. How do they interact? What's their body language say about them at this point in time? How does the employee react to those around him?
  • Write down your first three memories. Are your memories vivid enough to construct a scene from? If not, could you fill in the details? Try, even if there are gaping holes in your memory, keep going
  • Recall a vivid or perhaps reoccurring dream. Write one page, making the dream as believable as possible. Don't mention they are dreams. Allow yourself to let go and create a drifting stream of consciousness account. Leave all your notions of punctuation, proper paragraph structure, and logical jumps behind (which if you're anything like me shouldn't be hard). This gives you practice for writing surreal scenes and images in a story.
  • Finish this sentence: "My mother never..."
  • Finish this sentence: "My father is..."
  • Finish this sentence: "That's what happens when you follow your heart..."
  • Finish this thought: "I didn't go to ____ looking for redemption, but somehow I found it."
  • Write about a place where two rivers meet.
  • Write about regret.
  • Write about fear
  • There is a saying in the martial arts to describe the proper mind frame needed to become a master. Mind like water. This is a state of mind that writers must strive for as well. Write about that feeling. Have you ever experienced it? If so how did it feel? What images does the phrase "Mind like water" bring to...well your mind?
  • Write a page about an embarrassing, or painful incident that happened to you.
  • Every family has an anecdote. A short, usually funny story that is told at almost every family gathering. In my family it's the story of the time when I was three and disappeared from my mother's side while she was hanging clothes out on the line. Now, I remember this even though I was only three, but I've heard the story so many times it's hard to tell where my memory ends and the story begins. Is there a story like that in your family? Something that has been told and retold by several members of your family? Can you broaden the idea, make it a real story with details and dialog? You might need to fill in gaps with your imagination, but see what happens.
  • Poems, or lyrics to songs are often times great sparks for an idea. Both rely heavily on images conveyed in words that can stir your imagination. They also usually hint at a broader story, or portray an emotional state. Try picking up a book of poems or lyrics and see if anything speaks to you.
  • A stepparent has placed his/her ancient family portrait in the characters house. Describe the portrait.
  • Use a family portrait to start a story - how are the characters different than they appear? What do they look like? Do they appear happy when they're not, etc?

Creative Writing Prompts: Character Development

  • Your character comes upon a fork in a road and has no idea where to go. How does he feel? Which road does he take and why? What's at the end of the road?
  • Your character is being lectured by someone in a position of authority, how do they react?
  • What does your character most love to do when he/she has free time? Why?
  • Is there anything that makes your character feel safe? Something comforting? Describe what it is and why it makes them feel safe?
  • Describe the following things from your character's point of view. A meadow. A crowded room. An empty room. The room where they spent their childhood. Their current house or living area. A city. A farm.
  • Being in touch with the things you are passionate about help you write deeper more meaningful stories. Create a list of five things you love, now pick one thing and have a character like it as well. Write one page on this loved object from your character's point of view, make sure to change it up a little so that the character's view of the object is slightly different from yours.
  • Now, write a list of ten things you hate. Have one of your characters like that thing you hate. This will expand your ability to see things from someone else's point of view. Write one page.
  • Three characters enter a room; an old embittered woman, angry at life and full of regret, a young idealistic boy, and a mother of a newborn baby. How does each character describe the room?
  • Introduce the antagonist in a story, allow his physical description and body language to convey his/her sinister or selfish nature.
  • Describe your main characters hands in one paragraph, try to convey as much about his/her personality in the description.
  • Memories are a major force in our lives; we are our memories. Have your character make a journal entry about a particularly vivid memory she/he has. Make it as real and vivid for the reader.
Creative Writing Prompts: Setting
  • In a paragraph describe the setting for a haunted house.
  • a paragraph describe the setting for a love scene.
  • In a paragraph describe the setting for a fight, either verbal or physical.
  • Describe the rooms of the following three characters; an artist, a spoiled child, a military leader.
  • Here is a classic creative writing prompt that can be found in almost every writing workshop. Describe a building from the point of view of a man who just lost his only son in war. Do it without mentioning death, war, his son, or himself. Describe that same building at the same time of day and weather conditions, from the point of view of a man who has just discovered he's going to be a father. The same rules apply however, don't mention birth, or babies. (If you feel more comfortable change it to a woman's point of view.) The point of this is to challenge yourself to see through your characters eyes. What is ugly and brutal to one person, in one frame of mind, may not be to another.
Creative Writing Prompts: Point of View
  • Mark is a thief, but after his third burglary, he is caught by police. Write his story in first person (from Mark's point of view), omniscient point of view (the all knowing, all seeing "God-like" voice), from limited third person, switching between Mark and one of the police officers who arrest him.
Creative Writing Prompts: Plot Development
  • Can you plot out a murder mystery? Give it a try. Write out a rough plot for a mystery, making sure to include false leads, and the real clues, as well as suspects for the crime. (If you've never read or seen a mystery, try another genre your familiar with, romance, sci-fi, horror). Are there any plot points common to this genre? For example, usually in mystery the antagonist's (bad guy) identity is hidden. In romance, the basic plot goes something like this; independent girl meets attractive man, she either dislikes him right off the bat or they fall madly in love, eventually they get together, something happens that makes it look as if they won't live happily ever after, the problem is solved, and they ride off into the sunset together. While I've watered this down a lot, you see the point. What plot elements are common in the genre you write in? How can you work with that, or change it up a little while still giving the reader what they expect?
  • In order to fully understand plot, it's a good idea to study the books of writers you admire. Try plotting out two novels you've recently read and enjoyed. Make sure to include all the major plot points, and twists. Now do it with two short stories. This allows you to see how much tighter a short story is in comparison with a novel. Now that you've plotted it out, are there any weak spots? Places you might have gone a different direction? What works for the plot? (Note: if this seems like a lot of work, try plotting out a couple of movies and then sitcoms, or hour long drama series. Notice the difference between TV and movies; it's similar to the difference between novels and short stories.)
  • In the above example you made a plot outline for a longer piece of work, now try summarizing the entire plot of the novel or movie you choose, and condense it into one sentence. Write that sentence. Can you do the same with a story of yours? If not why? It's helpful as a writer to be able to condense a plot like this. It helps us find our themes to a story, our main ideas. Something that can get lost in a longer, more complex piece of work.

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