Maybe writing comes easily to you. You simply sit down at your computer, open up a document, and the ideas—and the words—flow instantly. No? That’s not how it goes for me either!
Like most writers, I have days when I feel completely uninspired. Even looking at my novel in progress feels daunting. Writing prompts make a great warm-up if you’re struggling to get into writing mode. They can be lots of fun and even give you short story ideas.
What is a writing prompt?
A writing prompt can be anything from a word to a few sentences. It’s perfect when you’re wondering what to write about.
Writing prompts aren’t quite the same as writing exercises.
If you’ve taken a creative writing course (or read a book that includes exercises), these are usually designed to help you learn how to write fiction by practicing different skills—like showing instead of telling, or writing great dialogue.
While there’s certainly some overlap between writing prompts and writing exercises, writing prompts are generally starting points for your own creativity. They aim to give you writing inspiration and things to write about.
How To Use Writing Prompts
Using a writing prompt is easy: pick a prompt, and write. There’s no right or wrong way to use them.
Prompts can help you “warm up” at the start of a writing session. They can get you moving again when you’re stuck partway through a story (one-word prompts are great for this). Story prompts can even help you come up with new short story ideas.
Most of the prompts I’ve listed are fiction writing prompts but the one-word prompts could work well for non-fiction too. I’ve also included ten non-fiction prompts.
100+ Writing Prompts
Feel free to alter the prompts if that suits you better. E.g. change the gender, age, or number of characters involved in a situation, or combine two or more prompts.
Fiction Writing Prompts
- Three teenage children are left alone at home all summer.
- A man flicks idly through a newspaper while waiting for a doctor’s appointment. He reads about a crime…and realizes he knows who did it.
- While digging in the garden of her newly bought house, a woman uncovers a pile of bones.
- A group of people met at summer camp as teenagers a decade ago. They hoped never to see one another again. Now, their lives become entwined once more—and they must come to terms with what happened at camp.
- A 40-year-old woman walks away from her former life, taking nothing except the clothes she’s wearing and £1,000 in cash.
- A couple return home after a night out to find all their furniture missing.
- Two children find out a terrifying secret about one of their teachers.
- A family is camping in an isolated cabin when a blizzard begins one evening. They’re miles from any neighbors and the snow has closed the roads. There’s a knock on the door.
- A man in his 50s receives a cryptic crossword in the mail each day. He begins to suspect that whoever’s compiling the crosswords is sending a secret message.
- An ordinary trip to buy groceries goes horribly wrong.
Romance Writing Prompts
- Two strangers marry for a bet between a group of friends in Vegas…and slowly begin to realize they’re falling in love.
- Two highly competitive members of a sales team end up stuck together in a hotel room after their work accommodation plans fall through. They begin to realize they have feelings for one another.
- A misunderstanding leads to two lifelong friends being mistaken for lovers. This makes them see one another in a new way…
- Two friends agree to a marriage of convenience to surmount a legal hurdle. It’s only intended to be platonic, but then they begin to fall in love.
- A woman on a terrible blind date is rescued by a stranger who pretends to know her to give her an easy way to leave. He’s handsome but unforthcoming.
- Two high school friends meet again many years later in a retirement village. The love they couldn’t admit 50 years ago now flourishes.
- Two strangers sit next to one another (and behind a screaming baby) on a long-haul flight. They’re exchanging numbers when they realize they’re going to be staying at the same hotel.
- One day, a college student who’s always early to class arrives a few minutes later than usual to find his usual chair taken. He ends up sitting next to someone who he’s barely noticed…until now.
- After a very long day at work, a woman finds she’s lost her front door key. She keeps a spare with her neighbor, a spritely grandmother—but when she knocks on the door, she finds a handsome young man there instead.
- Two students in an art class are told to draw “Anything that catches your eye.” At the end of the session, they find that they’ve drawn each other.
Sci-Fi Writing Prompts
- A plane that went missing five years ago lands at a major airport—with all the passengers on board. None of them appear to have aged at all.
- Unsettling new evidence suggests that our universe isn’t expanding, after all. It’s closed in—and it’s being taken somewhere.
- A group of teenage kids are wandering around in the woods behind their neighborhood when they find an abandoned shack. Little do they know they have stumbled upon a portal to another universe.
- In a futuristic society, elective surgery is extremely common, but not just nose jobs and wrinkle correcting. People are adding extra limbs and cartoonish features.
- A new device helps you track your brain’s dopamine levels. Some people become obsessed with mood optimization.
- Each morning for the past week, you’ve received a note with the word “Powerball” and six numbers on it. Each evening, they turn out to be the winning Powerball numbers. Today, you get a similar note, except this one says “LAST CHANCE!” You buy a ticket.
- New technology develops, creating a way for humans to communicate with animals.
- A deadly pandemic kills 95% of people within 24 hours of contracting it—but 5% of people develop mild (but unusual) symptoms before recovering in full. It’s not immediately clear what protects them.
- A spaceship traveling hundreds of lightyears, with children being born, raised, and dying on board, is hijacked.
- A huge alien craft crash lands on Earth, bringing hundreds of refugees from a far-off war.
Fantasy Writing Prompts
- A child discovers they have the ability to rewind time for 10 seconds. They can only use this ability 2 – 3 times per day before being too tired to continue.
- One day, a teenager bunking off school slips and falls in an abandoned quarry—ending up in a deep lake at the bottom. Something lurking beneath the water comes to the rescue.
- A college student brings cookies to a two-hour class. After thirty minutes, the people who’ve eaten cookies realize they can hear one another’s thoughts.
- In a world where dwarves using technology scorn fairies who use magic, it’s discovered that the dwarves’ most impressive work yet is powered by magic.
- An enchanted book makes everything written in it become true, but often in unexpected ways.
- An ancient artifact could destroy the world…and it’s up to a small group of heroes to see that it doesn’t.
- Two friends step through a portal into a different world. Too late, they realize that the portal is only one way.
- A magical coin lets the bearer visit the afterlife and return again, alive. These coins are very rare and very valuable, and forgeries are hard to detect—so royalty often “test” their coins using willing peasants.
- A woman digs a deep pit at a crossroads and buries a name written on a piece of paper. As she does so, the sky turns dark.
- In a very old house, there’s a huge mirror that’s always blurry, however much it’s cleaned. One morning, it isn’t reflecting the room. Instead, there’s another world there, showing up sharp and clear.
“Three Nouns” Writing Prompts
These are inspired by the Writing Exercises “Take Three Nouns” prompt generator (though they’re not taken directly from there). The idea is to create a piece of writing that uses all three nouns.
- Computer, sword, grandmother
- Dinner, necklace, tree
- Shed, coffin, backpack
- Meat, audience, tooth
- Beer, virus, birthday
- Sidewalk, potato, shield
- Ship, apple, speech
- Castle, paper, eyes
- Host, knife, egg
- Honey, army, winner
Mystery Writing Prompts
- One man leaves a party early. He turns back 10 minutes later, realizing he’s forgotten his coat. By the time he gets back there, everyone is dead.
- Four friends take part in an escape room adventure to try to get past recent difficulties. But there’s a power cut. The room is plunged into darkness, the cameras stop working, and the emergency exit is jammed shut. By the time the escape room team gets the room open, one of the friends is dead. The other three swear none of them did it.
- A woman moves into a new apartment, only for a visitor to arrive an hour later. He’s looking for the previous visitor and asks, urgently, if they left a small wooden box behind in the top left kitchen cupboard.
- Seven rich Silicon Valley CEOs decide to spend a week in their high-tech, very expensive, impossible-to-break-into bunker, with no phones, laptops, or any contact with the outside world. On the second day, one of them is found stabbed to death. The emergency alert to contact the outside world doesn’t work. Then another CEO is killed, and another.
- Ten banks were broken into simultaneously…with all the security systems mysteriously malfunctioning. All potential eye-witnesses claim not to remember anything from the past few hours.
- A man wakes up on the side of the highway with a phone number scrawled in biro on his arm along with the word “DEVON”. He has no idea how he got there and whether Devon is a person, place, or something else.
- In the middle of the school year, a new student arrives, but no one can figure out where he came from or even who he is. The school administrators simply say, “He’s supposed to be here.”
- Twenty classmates gather for the 21st birthday party of a rich, self-important fellow student none of them liked. His self-driving car pulls up outside but he doesn’t get out. Someone goes to check on him—only to find that he’s dead, with a note pinned to his tux.
- The groom is missing on his wedding day. His bride is a police detective. As her family members try to comfort her, believing she’s been jilted and is in denial, she continues to insist that she’ll find him.
- A woman is surprised when a man comes to the door claiming to be her long-lost twin brother. She’s an only child to two close, loving parents. He gives her a bag containing a map, a letter, and five thousand dollars in cash—then drives away.
Dialogue Writing Prompts
I love writing dialogue, and dialogue prompts can be a great way to spark a story idea as they instantly set you up with two characters—the one speaking, and the one they’re speaking to.
- “That’s not where I left it.”
- “I suppose you think you’re funny, do you?”
- “I swear, I don’t know anything about it.”
- “Come on. You can do better than that.”
- “You’ll really take care of everything for me?”
- “That isn’t how I’d have put it … but, yes.”
- “He’s an even bigger idiot than he looks.”
- “No, I can’t lend you the money.”
- “This is as good as it gets, so enjoy it while it lasts.”
- “I don’t care what you say. I’m not moving.”
Funny Writing Prompts
- A police sergeant’s favorite mug has gone missing at work. He conducts an extremely thorough investigation, complete with interrogating suspects.
- A group of supervillains go on a team-building retreat, with hilarious results.
- You’ve heard of “angel investors”—these startups are funded by “demon investors”…
- Everyone on an ordinary suburban street wins a million dollars on the lottery, simultaneously.
- Elementary school friends promise to marry one another at the age of 35 if they’re still single. It turns out they are…but they discover they’re now very different people.
- Someone who’s an inveterate liar wakes up one day and finds they can’t help blurting out the truth.
- A woman buys a dress in a hurry online to wear for her friend’s wedding, thinking a size 8 will be about right. It turns out to be a child’s dress for an 8-year-old—but she only discovers this while getting ready in her hotel room. She has nothing else to wear.
- After the kids’ pranks get out of hand, a group of teachers decide to get their own back. Unfortunately, no one remembered to give the Principal a heads-up.
- An unfortunate stumble in a museum results in the destruction of two priceless artifacts.
- Three friends in a retirement home suffer from insomnia. They decide to sneak out to a nightclub.
Non-Fiction Narrative Writing Prompts
- Picture a place you love. Write about what you love most about it and why.
- Write about your family’s holiday traditions, particularly anything that’s special or unusual.
- Write about five moments in your life you hope you never forget.
- Write about your most special birthday gift. Why was it so precious? Who gave it to you? Do you still have it?
- Share your best advice for living a happy life, whatever that means for you.
- Tell the story of someone who shaped your life without even knowing it.
- Write about your favorite teacher from childhood and share three things you learned from them.
- Explain how you got started on your favorite hobby. Was it tricky to begin with? What drew you to it?
- Share some of the biggest “lessons learned” in a particular area of your life (e.g. work, studying, parenting).
- Choose a photograph you love and tell the story behind it—perhaps it was a special trip, a birthday party, or someone’s wedding.
One-Word Writing Prompts
- Eclectic (my favorite word)
Here’s your challenge for today: grab a prompt and set a timer for 5 minutes. See what you can come up with—you just might surprise yourself.