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50 Creative Writing Prompts for Short Stories, Novels and More

Updated on December 9, 2015

1. Write a character who doesn’t know what they want to do in life. Put them in a setting where they’re staring off into space, wondering what they’re going to do with their life, when something suddenly falls into their lap - literally - and things start to change.

2. It is dark outside, but there is a bright, light hovering outside your character’s bedroom window. Write what happens next. Is the light making a noise? Did it wake your character up, or were they already awake?

3. Your character finds a palm-size gadget of some kind outside their residence. It seems to work, but is running out of battery life. Write what happens as your character tries to figure out what it is and where it came from.

4. Write a character who has never used profanity in their life finally dropping a swear word. Include the reactions of people around them.

5. A woman lives in an impoverished city and has just run out of the last of her savings. She is unemployed and needs to feed her child. Write what happens next.

6. Some kind of fluid has leaked out from under the character’s front door. She hesitates to open it. The fluid is bright purple, and she has no idea what something like that would be doing in her apartment. Write what happens next.

7. A politician is returning to normal life after twenty years in office. His neighbors despise him, though. How do their show their disdain? Does he do anything to try to patch things up?

8. Write a character who somehow landed a part as a backup dancer in a music video, only to discover that the shoes they have to dance in are way too high-heeled for any kind of movement.

9. Write a character who unwittingly stumbles upon a protest and joins in without realizing what’s going on. Why is the character there in the first place? Did someone invite them? Was the cause misrepresented to them?

10. Write a character who is beginning to realize that the person they have a crush is actually a terrible person. What begins to set off this revelation?

11. Write a character who manages to set their chemistry lab on fire. What is the reaction of their professor? How does the character manage to atone for their error?

12. Write a character who keeps having their work interrupted by a nosy, attention-seeking animal (probably a cat, of course.)

13. Write a character who ends up in a mysterious underground tunnel with someone they don’t trust. Where does the tunnel lead? How did they end up down there? Is the tunnel stone, concrete, dirt, wood, or some other material?

14. Write a day in the life of someone in jail. It can be a future jail, a historical jail, or anything in between, but do your research as needed! Why are they in jail? How long have they been in there? Who have they made friends with?

15. Write a narrative from a character who works as a maid at a fancy hotel. What are some of the things she comes across on a daily basis? What are some of the more unusual occurrences in the hotel?

16. Write a first-person POV from someone who got way too drunk way too fast at their friend’s bachelorette party. Where do they end up? How do they get home? What sorts of ridiculous things do they say?

17. Write your absolute worst nightmare. Is it surreal? Bloody? Are you able to wake yourself up, or does your alarm clock have to wake you up?

18. Write a young college student who is attempting to do laundry by themselves for the first time. Do they overload their washing machine? Do they look up tips on their computer or phone before doing it? Do they start the washer and then forget about it overnight?

19. Write a scene at a bar with three characters, all of whom just got fired from their jobs. How did they happen to meet? Do they work together?

20. A subway train is trapped underground due to a power outage. Write what happens next. Is it completely dark, or are there emergency lights? Does someone take the lead and try to evacuate the group? Is there a ghost, vampire, or some other explanation for the disturbance?

21. Write a scene where the maid of honor and the bride get into an argument right before the wedding ceremony. Does someone smooth things over in time for the ceremony, or do they have to patch things up at the reception? Is it an argument over something silly, or something life-changing?

22. Write a character who wants nothing more than to get off of their planet. Maybe they’re in an era where space travel is common, or maybe they’re in the 1960s and they’re watching men land on the moon. What’s getting in the way of their dream?

23. There’s a huge festival happening, but two characters are struggling to enjoy it. What’s causing the problems? Describe the setting and the events going on around them in detail.

24. The year is 2305 AD, and there is only one physical library left on Earth. Who works there, and what’s in it? What caused the other libraries to become obsolete?

25. Write a bartender who specializes in comforting a particular group of people. Maybe it’s nurses, or teachers, or people working minimum wage, or college students. What makes this bartender able to relate to them?

26. A teacher discovers that their school is almost definitely haunted by an extremely malicious ghost. What makes them so sure? What do they do next? Does their principal believe them? Do the students know?

27. A private investigator’s stream of clients begins to dry up, and she is forced to look for other work. She doesn’t really have the credentials for most work in business, law, or education, though. Where does she end up, and how does she get there?

28. A cemetery groundskeeper stumbles upon what appears to be the remains of a zombie. Who does he tell first? Does anyone believe him? What makes him think it’s a zombie and not just a random dead body?

29. A mail carrier encounters a package that is addressed to him, but is being sent to his childhood home, which he hasn’t lived in for thirty years. What’s in it, who sent it to him, and why are they finally sending it to him after thirty years?

30. It is Valentine’s Day, and the couple two tables over from you is having a really awkward argument. What are they arguing about? How does the argument end?

31. One character is apologizing to another for something that happened twenty years ago. Was it a serious offense? Did it happen in childhood, or in adulthood? What prompted the apology?

32. A young, very sheltered woman shows up at her first booze-filled, crowded college rock concert. Write what happens next.

33. A young boy has just become the older brother of two twin girls. Does he react with jealousy, love, or a mix of both? Do other family members hover over him to make him feel better, or devote more attention to the girls? Keep in mind that you don’t have to write this from the boy’s perspective.

34. Your character is a social worker who stumbles upon a house full of knives during a home visit to check on the welfare of a child. Write what happens next.

35. A wannabe stand-up comedian is outside smoking a cigarette after a lackluster show. Someone comes up and offers him good news. What is the good news, and what happens next?

36. A man is on trial for a murder he didn’t commit, but a something disrupts the entire courtroom and ends up setting him free in the nick of time. Is he rescued intentionally, or by a freak act of nature? Where does he flee to afterward?

37. Your young character finds a mysterious map in a language he can’t read. Being a curious young person, he takes it to his local library in homes of finding someone who can help translate. Write what happens next.

38. A student protest escalates dramatically, leading to a series of arrests. What are they protesting over? Does your main character agree with them, or oppose them? Are they able to reach some kind of resolution?

39. A pawn shop owner stumbles across something valuable in a guitar left at his shop. What is it, and what does he do with it? Or - what does it do next?

40. Someone has just discovered evidence that humanity did not evolve on Earth on their own, but were actually placed there by aliens - and human civilization has existed for much longer on another planet.

41. Write a character who is dealing with their best friend being a hypochondriac.

42. A beloved cat has gone missing, and the owner is freaking out. Where did the cat end up? How did the cat escape in the first place? Who helps him find his cat? Maybe it’s the start of a beautiful friendship… or just a story.

43. A giant shield system has been built over each major city in your country, but the government isn’t telling anyone what they are for. Write what happens next.

44. You are a young veterinary assistant at a local animal hospital. Write a story in first-person POV that details what happens when a young child brings in a badly injured but very adorable puppy. How did the puppy get hurt? Where did the child find him? Do you end up keeping the puppy?

45. You have just rolled up to the most scandalous Halloween party of the year. What are you wearing? What happens that makes it scandalous? Is it some really juvenile drama, or something actually serious?

46. You are a college student who tags along with someone you have a crush on as they go to a… wait, what’s going on? This isn’t what you thought it was at all! You went along because you wanted to impress your crush, but maybe it turns out that was a mistake. Where are you? What did you think you were going to? What happens next?

47. You are an artist who finally got the chance to create their greatest work. You poured hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars into supplies, but the piece has just unveiled at a local gallery, and it’s not getting the response you expected. Describe the artwork and the public’s reaction to it.

48. You are a high school teacher, and one of your former students just came back by to see you. She’s a genius, and you had high hopes for her, but something went wrong and now she needs your help. What happens next?

49. Write a scene at a bar where two old rivals finally get a chance to make peace with each other.

50. Your character’s father gets her a sketchbook for her birthday. It’s nice and everything, but she’s not much of an artist. What does she draw first? Or - what does she end up doing with it?


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