Today I’d like to share a selection of fiction writing prompts from my book, 1200 Creative Writing Prompts, which includes 500 fiction prompts plus prompts for writing poetry and creative nonfiction.
Writing prompts are ideal for when you’re feeling uninspired because they provide you with ideas for fresh projects.
But prompts are also useful for those times when you’re not motivated to write. I’ve found that the sheer act of reading through a few good fiction writing prompts gives me the impetus to stop procrastinating and start writing.
These fiction writing prompts cover a range of genres, including literary, suspense, thriller, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance, historical, humor, satire, children’s, and young adult. Read more
Animals have played a huge role in literature throughout history. They appear in poems and stories, and plenty of nonfiction works have been written about animals and humans’ experiences with animals.
And it’s no wonder. We humans have forged strong bonds with animals. Our pets are like family members. In fact, Americans spend $41 billion dollars a year on their animal companions (source). Billions more are donated to wildlife preservation, animal welfare advocacy, and conservation efforts.
Naturally, animals fit comfortably into the stories we tell. Today’s creative writing prompts pay homage to our animal friends by inspiring a writing session that features animals. Read more
Today I’d like to share a few excerpts from 1200 Creative Writing Prompts, which is packed with fiction, poetry, and nonfiction writing prompts.
1200 Creative Writing Prompts will be the final book in the Adventures in Writing series. It’s the leanest book in the series with a short introduction and three lists of prompts separated into fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. There isn’t any technique or instruction–just a straightforward collection of prompts so you can get started writing.
Today’s post features an excerpt from the introduction and a selection of five prompts from each section.
Excerpts from 1200 Creative Writing Prompts
Have you ever wanted to write but weren’t sure where to begin? Maybe you wanted to write a story, but you couldn’t think of a plot. Maybe you wanted to write an essay or an article, but you couldn’t think of a subject to write about. Maybe you wanted to write a poem, but you couldn’t find the words. Read more
Most authors agree that fiction is primarily driven by characters. Successful authors talk about characters who take over the story, who have their own separate and independent consciousnesses. Outlines and plans for plot go out the window as characters insist on moving the story in a direction of their own design.
Because characters are central to most stories and because their primary function is to explore the human condition, it’s essential for characters to be believable. In other words, characters may not be real, but they most certainly should feel real.
It’s not easy to write believable and realistic characters. People (and therefore characters) are highly complex and layered, full of contradictions and flaws. Because writing imposes space-time limitations, we can never craft a character that is as complicated as a real person, but we can certainly try.
Today’s creative writing prompts encourage you to explore the characters in your writing. By working outside of your project on a series of exercises that force you to explore and engage with your characters, you will get to know them better. You’ll also get to use techniques for creating characters that have depth and dimension.
Creative Writing Prompts
These creative writing prompts are broken into various categories. You can mix and match the prompts according to which ones are most attractive to you or choose the ones you think will help resolve character problems that you’re struggling with.
Feel free to let these character-related writing prompts inspire new prompts–in other words, you don’t have to write exactly what the prompt says. One set of prompts deals with character fears and flaws. These might inspire you to write about your character’s strengths and virtues.
Be creative, have fun, and keep writing!
Background and Family
- Unearth your character’s roots. What is the character’s ancestry or cultural background? How does ancestry shape your character? Is the character at odds with family traditions?
- Write a series of short paragraphical biographies of each of the character’s closest family members: spouse, children, parents, grandparents, siblings, close friends, etc.
- Write a monologue in which your character summarizes his or her life story; be sure to write it in the character’s voice.
Motivations and Goals
- What motivates your character? Money? Love? Truth? Power? Justice?
- What does your character want more than anything else in the world? What is he or she searching for?
- What other characters or events are interfering with your character’s goals? What obstacles are in the way?
Flaws and Fears
- What is your character’s single greatest fear? How did your character acquire his or her fears?
- What are your character’s flaws and weaknesses?
- How does the character’s fears and flaws prevent them from reaching their goals?
- What does your character look like? Make a list and include the following: hair, eyes, height, weight, build, etc.
- Now choose one aspect of the character’s appearance, a detail (bitten nails, frizzy hair, a scar) and elaborate on it.
- Write a short scene in which your character is looking in the mirror or write a short scene in which another character first sees your character.
- How does your character feel on the inside? What kind of person is your character and what does the character’s internal landscape look like?
- We don’t always present ourselves to others in a way that accurately reflects how we feel inside. We might be shy or insecure but come across as stuck-up and aloof. How do others perceive your character?
- Write a scene with dialogue that reveals your character’s external and internal personalities. Good settings for this dialogue would be an interview, appointment with a therapist, or a conversation with a romantic interest or close friend. Write the scene in third-person omniscient so you can get inside your character’s head as well as the other character’s head; this will allow you explore how your character feels and how he or she is perceived.
If you tackle these creative writing prompts, come back and tell us how they worked for you. What did you write? Did you learn anything new about your character or how to write about your character? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.
There’s nothing quite like sitting with a room full of strangers in a darkened movie theater. The air is filled with the smell of hot, buttered popcorn. Feet shuffle, chairs creak, and you can hear ice rattling around in plastic cups. The movie’s about to start.
Even though we have unlimited access to movies from the comfort of our homes, theaters are still going strong, and for good reason. Seeing a movie in a theater is an experience.
Films have impassioned and inspired countless writers to craft poems, compose stories and songs, and write articles, essays, and even blogs. Today, let’s find out how the movies can inspire your writing.
You can use these writing prompts to write anything you want. Change them up or switch them around. Use one or use them all. Just have fun.
- It’s your all-time favorite movie. You know the one. You’ve seen it a million times and you can recite the dialogue by heart. You stop to watch it whenever it’s on, and just thinking about it makes you want to go watch it again right now. Now, imagine you are your favorite character in that movie.
- Indiana Jones carried a whip. Luke Skywalker had a lightsaber. Robin Hood–he had a crossbow. In your adventure story, what is the weapon of choice? How is it used? Who possesses these weapons?
- It all started in an old, abandoned movie theater…
- What if every moment of your life was on film, as seen from your own eyes? What if the camera’s perspective was pointed at you at all times?
- Some of the greatest books have been brought to life by filmmakers. But they say the book is always better than the movie. Is that true? Are there exceptions? Write about adaptations.
Choose the writing prompts that speak to you the most. Once you’re done, come back and tell us how these prompts worked for you.
Do you ever use writing prompts for your writing sessions? Have you found them helpful? Got any writing prompts of your own to share? Leave a comment!
Creative writing prompts are excellent tools for writers who are feeling uninspired or who simply want to tackle a new writing challenge. Today’s creative writing prompts focus on nature.
For centuries, writers have been composing poems that celebrate nature, stories that explore it, and essays that analyze it.
Nature is a huge source of inspiration for all creative people. You can find it heavily featured in film, television, art, and music.
Creative Writing Prompts
You can use these creative writing prompts in any way you choose. Sketch a scene, write a poem, draft a story, or compose an essay. The purpose of these prompts is to inspire you, so take the images they bring to your mind and run with them. And have fun!
- A young girl and her mother walk to the edge of a field, kneel down in the grass, and plant a tree.
- A small team of graduate students are conducting research at sea when they are overtaken by a wild storm.
- A middle-aged man wakes up in a seemingly endless field of wildflowers in full bloom.
- A family of five from a large, urban city decides to spend their one-week vacation camping.
- An elderly couple traveling through the desert spend an evening stargazing.
- A woman is working in her garden.
- Some people are hiking in the woods when they are suddenly surrounded by hundreds of butterflies.
- A person who lives in a metropolitan apartment connects with nature through the birds that come to the window.
- A group of college students launch a project to grow their own food so they can eat healthier and be closer to nature.
- A rural family moves into a big city, or
- A city family moves to the country.
- Two adolescents, a sister and brother, are visiting their relatives’ farm and witness a sow giving birth.
As you work through these prompts, contemplate them as scenes and ask questions about what is going on. Give the people and places names. Come up with unexpected reasons why the people are in the given circumstance. Let nature be a character in the scene by making it vivid and active.
Again, you can use these creative writing prompts to write anything at all–poems, stories, songs, essays, blog posts, or just sit down and start freewriting.
Stories and poems for children are among the most magical and delightful written works in the literary canon.
Children’s literature has a universal appeal; the phenomenal international popularity of the Harry Potter books and movies is a testament to the power of children’s stories.
But there plenty of other works that affirm the longevity of children’s literature: nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and classics such as Where the Wild Things Are, Goodnight Moon, and everything Dr. Seuss ever wrote.
Most of us writers first fell in love with the written word when we were children. Stories carried us on fantastical adventures. Words danced and soared through our imaginations. Many of us never grew out of the poems and stories we first cherished. We continue to enjoy them, and we pass them on to our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.
Today’s writing prompts celebrate children’s literature and pay tribute to the young and the young at heart.
These writing prompts are filled with childlike wonder. Use them to write a poem, a story, or anything else that comes to mind.
- Mythological Creatures
- Dragons, unicorns, fairies, and mermaids. Trolls, goblins, and things that go bump in the night. Lore, legend, and myth are heavily populated with mythological beasts and creatures.
- Maybe a character in your story discovers and befriends a legendary creature. Or maybe one of these creatures is the main character in your story. Better yet, invent a mythological creature of your own.
- Magic Portals
- Alice went down the rabbit hole and found herself in Wonderland. Lucy stepped through the wardrobe and into Narnia. Wendy, John, and Michael were sprinkled with pixie dust, which enabled them to fly off to Neverland. All great adventures begin somewhere, and some of the best stories start out in the ordinary world and then take readers through a portal to a fantastically magical place.
- How do your characters get from one world to another? Create your own magic portal, and then, if the mood strikes, build the fantastical world beyond.
- Silly Nonsense
- The nonsense of writers like Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein is a wonder to behold. What is it about their stories and poems that delight children? Much of their work defies logic and is purely nonsensical. But it is riddled with wondrous images and language that rolls off the tongue like music.
- Forget about the laws of physics and the rules of the real world. Write a bit of silly nonsense in prose or verse. Fill it with unusual but mesmerizing characters and images and try to make it rhyme!
- Loving Lessons
- Children’s literature is often full of simple, useful lessons. But presenting a lesson without sounding preachy, whiny, or nagging is anything but easy. These stories have to be fun and intriguing, and the best lessons are not immediately obvious.
- Think of a lesson or value that you’d like to impart to children, then build a story around it. Better yet, just write a story for children and see if holds a message within it.
- Nursery rhymes like “Hey Diddle Diddle” and ”Ring Around the Rosie” have captivated children for centuries. They are often nonsensical and always easy to remember and fun to sing.
- Write a nursery rhyme from scratch. If you get stuck, use an existing nursery rhyme for your rhythm and meter, and then make up new words for it.
Some Tips for Using These Writing Prompts:
- Children’s writing uses simple language and made-up words.
- Nothing speaks to children like bright, vivid images and lively characters.
- Use rhyme and other musical devices and choose words that are fun to say.
Do you still read children’s poems and stories? Do you remember the ones you loved best as a child? Have you ever tried writing for kids? Do these writing prompts inspire you? Share your thoughts in the comments, and keep writing!
How would people in the Middle Ages respond to a television? What would someone from the 1700s think of a helicopter? What would a person from the early twentieth century think of a computer, or more specifically, the Internet?
They would think these things were magical–either illusions or genuine supernatural occurrences. They might even believe the persons yielding the magical objects were witches, wizards, or gods.
But you and I both know that’s not the case. Televisions, helicopters, and computers are all very real, and thanks to modern technology, most of us have access to them.
We humans have a tendency to believe that we are at the apex of knowledge–that right now, we know as much as we ever will. As much as we love stories like The Time Traveler’s Wife or Star Wars, we tend to think of them as fanciful. Sure, a great writer or a skilled filmmaker can help us suspend our disbelief for the duration of a book or a film, but sitting in your living room on an ordinary day, it all seems rather unlikely, doesn’t it? People bouncing around in time? Fighting intergalactic wars in outer space? Come on.
But if you stop to wonder what our world will look like 100 or 1000 years in the future, these fantastical ideas don’t seem so crazy. What incredible inventions will be developed over the course of the next millennium? Today’s creative writing prompts are one way to find out.
Creative Writing Prompts
These writing prompts are designed to flex your imagination. You’ll need to envision what the world looked like in the past, what it looks like today, and what it might look like in the distant future.
You can use these creative writing prompts to write anything you want–a poem, story, personal essay, or just a brief scene. The goal is to engage your imagination, remove barriers that block all the possibilities, and open your mind.
Some of humankind’s greatest achievements have been in medicine. We now use all the technologies at our disposal to diagnose, treat, and prevent illness–from pills and vaccines to x-rays and MRIs. From a device as simple as a stethascope to one as complex as microscope, we’ve made wellness possible in ways that couldn’t have been imagined a few hundred years ago. What is yet to come? How will health care change in the future? Will we walk through a machine that scans our bodies to detect any possible ailment? Will there be a heal-all pill? And for each advance we make, will another new devastating disease rear its head?
Advances in travel are awe-inspiring. There was a time when humans were limited to travel by foot. Then came the wheel, which made the cart possible. Later, ships carried people across water. Eventually, trains made high-speed, long-distance travel possible. Next, the airplane. Then, spaceships took us higher and submarines took us deeper. Where will we go next? Will intergalactic travel ever be possible? What about teleportation? Time travel? A thousand years ago, it’s doubtful most people believed traveling to the moon was possible. Where will we go a thousand years from now?
Technology has grown rampantly in the past few decades. Since the 70s, almost all households in developed countries are equipped with more than one television, stereo, and computer. We can store an entire libary of books, movies, and music on a device that fits in the palms of our hands. Two hundred years ago, if you wanted to talk to someone, you had to go to their house. Fifty years ago, you had to find a phone and dial their number. Today, you reach into your pocket, pull out your device, and press a button. How will personal technology further advance in the next 100 years?
As you work through these creative writing prompts, you might get stuck. After all, it’s not easy for everyone to imagine things that don’t exist yet. It might help if you can summon your old history lessons. If you can conceptualize where we’ve been and contrast it with where we are now, you might start getting ideas about where we’ll be at some point in the future.
Run with your ideas, even if they seem crazy, absurd, or impossible. The purpose is to let your imagination run wild and to have fun.
Once you’re done, come back and tell us how these creative writing prompts affected your writing session. What did you write? Was it fun to explore the future? Will you keep writing?
Poetry is the most under-appreciated form of writing in the world today. Yet poems are ever-present in our lives. As children, we learn rhythm and language from nursery rhymes, and poems are read aloud at most major life events: baptisms, graduations, weddings, presidential inaugurations, and funerals, to name a few.
Today’s writing prompts are inspired by poetry but that doesn’t mean they have to inspire a poem. Use them to write anything you want: a short story, a blog post, a journal entry, or a freewrite. You might even try writing a song, keeping in mind that song lyrics are a type of poetry in their own right.
Some of these writing prompts require that you use an existing poem. Your poem choice can be a nursery rhyme, a Dr. Seuss story, or song lyrics. Be open and creative, and have fun!
- The hallmark of great poetry is its imagery. A truly compelling poem paints a picture and invites the reader into a vivid and realistic scene. Choose an image or scene from one of your favorite poems and start writing.
- One of the most famous poems in the English language is “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” a lengthy ode to a favorite holiday. What’s your favorite holiday and why?
- Not all poems rhyme, but many do. And song lyrics often rhyme too. Other types of writing may incorporate less obvious rhymes. Give rhyming a shot.
- Some poems are more than just poems. They tell stories. “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” is one example. Shakespeare’s plays are another. Try writing a poem that is also a story, play, or essay. Or try writing a story or essay that is also a poem.
- Read your favorite poem and take a few minutes to contemplate it. Then, write something about the poem. Why do you love it? How does it make you feel? What makes this poem so special to you?
Choose whichever writing prompts speak to you the most. Once you’re done, come back and tell us how it worked out. And keep writing!
Do you ever use writing prompts to inspire a writing session? Have you found them helpful? Got any writing prompts of your own to share? Leave a comment!
In the world of creative writing, we’ve only begun tapping the possibilities in speculative fiction, a genre that includes science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, and superhero stories, as well as anything that ventures beyond known reality.
Speculative fiction is an under-recognized genre: Academia and literary elitists traditionally haven’t given it much credence, although it has been gaining acclaim in recent years.
But the genre’s fans are rabid. In fact, you won’t find a more dedicated group of readers anywhere else, which makes reading and writing speculative fiction a delight.
Plus, it’s a lot of fun to step outside of reality and see just what your imagination can do.
You can write about knights and dragons, spaceships and far-off planets, the apocalypse, ghosts, or strange islands with magical properties. In the world of speculative fiction, anything goes.
The creative writing prompts below can be used in any way you want. Use your imagination. Have fun with a freewrite, compose a poem, or draft a short story. Who knows? Maybe one of these prompts will inspire an idea for a novel. And if you’ve never given science fiction or fantasy a shot, this is your chance to test the waters and find out just how deep they are.
15 Creative Writing Prompts
The Speculative Fiction Edition*
- A plane is flying from Australia to Los Angeles. As the passengers disembark, they start to experience amnesia–that is, all of the passengers except one. The farther they go from the plane on which they flew, the more severe their amnesia.
- Four friends on a nature hike discover a deep cave, complete with running water. As they go deeper and deeper into the cave, they find strange objects–human skeletons, an old computer from the early 80s, a gas mask, and strange mango-sized orbs that emit a glowing blue light.
- The earth has been ravaged by war, famine, disease, and devastating storms. In less than a decade, the population has dwindled from seven billion to less than 42,000. There is no law or order. The grid is gone. Everyone is struggling to survive.
- The year is 1623. A visitor comes to a small, tribal village in Nigeria. The visitor is wearing blue jeans, a Janis Joplin t-shirt, and a baseball cap and is carrying a pack that contains a solar-powered laptop computer.
- Two children, a boy and a girl, decide to make a time capsule and bury it at the edge of a farm, under a big oak tree. While digging, they unearth a metallic object the size of a shoebox. It’s shaped like a bullet and has the number 8 engraved on it. It appears to be a container, since it rattles when they shake it. But there is no obvious way to open it.
- A man who sees ghosts checks himself into a mental institute, not realizing that the facility has been closed for almost thirty years.
- After a near-death experience, a soldier starts to experience a drastic kind of karma–every good deed he does is almost immediately rewarded and every bad deed results in something horrible happening to him. Is the karma real or just a series of coincidences?
- A surgeon who happens to be an adamant man of science and does not believe in miracles is diagnosed with aggressive, terminal cancer and given six months to live. But three years later, he’s alive and the cancer is gone.
- A con man who convinces people they’ve been abducted by aliens and takes their money… is abducted by aliens.
- A deadly virus hits a highly populated metropolitan area, killing thousands of people. And after it passes, those who survived start realizing they have acquired bizarre and impossible new talents.
- A traveler picks up a souvenir, a strange and colorful rock with one side that is completely flat. As she goes about her travels, she realizes that when she has the rock with her, she can understand any language that people are speaking, but she can only speak her own native language.
- While on vacation in Hawaii, a young couple spots a strange, huge green bird with a 16-foot wingspan. One of them is terrified as the bird swoops down and lands just a few yards away from them, but the other one is intrigued. When the bird takes off again, the one who was intrigued insists on following it. So they do.
- A sixteen-year-old who is growing up on a farm is out in a storm, gets hit by lightning, and survives. After that, the kid can hear the thoughts of animals.
- A young girl starts having recurring dreams about a dragon. In one of the dreams, the dragon says, “You made me.” The girl becomes obsessed with dragons and decides her life purpose is to become a genetic biologist so she can, indeed, make a real dragon.
- A team of researchers in a submarine is caught in a deadly sea storm. The instruments on board go haywire. They submerge deep into the ocean in search of calm waters until the storm passes. When it does, the sub surfaces but the instruments are still not functioning properly. They can’t get a fix on their location and cannot find land, which should be nearby. Then the researchers realize there are two moons in the sky and the constellations are completely unfamiliar.
Remember, these creative writing prompts are meant to be inspiring. If one of them gives you an idea, run with it. You don’t have to stick with what the prompt says. Change the characters, the situation, the setting. Just go with the flow, and keep writing. And if you have any creative writing prompts of your own, feel free to share them in the comments.
*All of these creative writing prompts were inspired by the television show LOST.
Writing provides a way to express one’s thoughts, feelings, or ideas. It’s a communication tool.
But writing can also be a tool for self-discovery and critical thinking.
Many authors have stated that they write stories so they can find out what happens to the characters they’ve created. Essayists explain that writing helps them organize their thoughts and ideas, and as a result they gain understanding of themselves and the world around them.
Today’s writing prompts encourage you to dig deeper into yourself and discover what you think about the big, unanswered questions. Even if you’ve already contemplated questions like these, writing out your answers may help you uncover ideas and beliefs you never knew you had.
What is Philosophy?
There are three branches of philosophy: natural, moral, and metaphysical. The term philosophy can refer to the study, analysis, and exploration of any of these branches.
Philosophy largely involves asking questions to which there are no known, absolute answers. Investigating these questions rationally helps us develop principles of existence, knowledge, and ethics or acceptable behavior. Belief systems, including spiritual paths, political systems, and religious organizations, are built on philosophical ideas and conclusions.
These philosophy-inspired writing prompts are designed to promote the exploration of philosophical questions from a personal perspective.
Philosophical Writing Prompts
You can use these writing prompts in any number of ways. You can simply sit down and start writing out your answers to these questions in essay format, which is the best way to truly explore your thoughts. If you write fiction, then try answering these questions from the perspectives of your characters. This will help you better understand your characters’ motivations. You can also use these writing prompts to inspire a poem, story, or freewriting session.
- Humankind has been searching for the meaning of life for millennia. Is there any meaning or purpose to life? Why are we here?
- They say two things are certain: death and taxes. I disagree. Plenty of people live and die without ever paying taxes (for a number of different reasons). But everybody dies. Why? Is eternal life possible? Is there life after death?
- Have you ever had déjà vu, the strange sense that you’ve experienced something before? Have you ever felt like you were meant for something, that some event or moment in your life was fated? Do you think there is always a choice? In other words: do you believe in destiny or free will?
- Do you believe in a higher power or deity? Can the existence of a higher power ever be proven or disproved?
- Where does it all come from–the earth, the stars, the universe, us?
- Do good and evil truly exist? What determines an action or person as good or evil? Who gets to decide who or what is good or evil?
Did you find these writing prompts interesting? Which did you choose? Did you learn anything from your writing session? Leave a comment, and keep writing!
In fiction and poetry, one of the greatest skills that a writer can possess is the ability to make the reader feel. If you can engage readers on an emotional level, you’ll have them hooked.
Think about it. Most of the books, poems, movies, and TV shows that you love best are the ones with which you forged an emotional connection. You felt like the characters were your friends, so you felt for them. You felt with them.
Sounds easy, but emotionally effective writing can be a complex and difficult endeavor. Today’s creative writing prompts include a few simple guidelines and a list of prompts that you can use to launch a writing session that will produce emotionally compelling creative writing.
Rules of the Road
To engage a reader, we have to create scenes that are so vivid they seem real, even if they are not. Through scenes, imagery, and dialogue, writers can actively engage readers with what’s happening on the page. Here are a few tips for engaging readers:
The best writing shows readers what’s going on instead of telling them. If a character is sad, you don’t write, Kate was sad. You write, Kate lowered her eyes and swallowed hard, choking back a sob and blinking away the tears that were welling up in her eyes.
Using imagery goes hand in hand with showing rather than telling. Instead of writing something like Jack’s heart was broken, use a compelling image to show the reader that Jack has a broken heart: Jack stood in the street with his hands clenched at his sides, and he watched her walk away. She didn’t care anymore. Maybe she never had. His entire body shook and tears streamed down his face. She had betrayed him and now he was all alone. It was over.
Feelings can be revealed through dialogue, and dialogue can also incorporate imagery. When you use imagery and dialogue together to show (rather than tell) the reader what is happening and to reveal the emotional aspect of the situation, the reader visualizes the action and becomes a part of it, often experiencing the characters’ emotions right along with them:
“Jack, stop talking. I’m not going with you,” Kate said.
“What do you mean you’re not going with me? We’re supposed to go together.”
“We’re not together, Jack. We were, but not anymore.”
Jack couldn’t believe his ears. “You’re leaving me?” he asked.
“That’s right,” she said. “You and me–it would never work.” She started to turn and paused briefly. Jack thought she had changed her mind. He saw her hand flicker and for an instant, he knew she was about to reach for him, but then she pulled her hand back, turned on her heels, and walked off.
“That’s it? You’re just going to walk away?” he screamed. She didn’t stop, didn’t even flinch. Jack hung his head. “You’re just going to walk away,” he whispered.
It’s a lot easier to tell readers what’s happening. Kate’s sad. Jack has a broken heart because Kate left him. But when you show readers what’s happening through imagery and dialogue, they can enter the scene and become part of it. This makes reading an experience and it helps readers connect on an emotional level.
Creative Writing Prompts
Apply the guidelines above to emotionally engage readers with a piece of writing. The creative writing prompts below will help you kick-start your sentence, paragraph, poem, or short story. These prompts allow you to focus on effectively generating emotion instead of trying to come up with characters, plots, and other basic writing ideas.
The creative writing prompts tell you, the writer, what is going on in a scene or situation. It’s your job to craft words that show the reader what’s happening.
- While on vacation and shopping in a department store, a middle-aged man comes face to face with the guy who kidnapped his son ten years earlier.
- A woman has three sons, all of whom are soldiers in a military that is at war. Within the span of three days, she learns that two of her sons were killed in combat. Six weeks later, there’s a knock at the door. When she opens it, she finds her third son standing there.
- A family of five is driving across the desert on their way to vacation in California. They get lost, then the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. The cell phone is dead and the sun is setting. The kids are hot, tired, and hungry. Mom is scared and frazzled. Dad, a mid-level sales manager with no survival skills, is frustrated and angry. An animal howls in the distance.
- The only thing Daniel ever wanted was to be a musician. He loved playing piano more than anything in the world. But after his mom and brother died in a car accident, Daniel’s dad insisted he become active in sports and drop the music. And being active wasn’t enough. He had to be captain of the team or suffer through endless jibes and insults that his father uttered through a beer-induced haze. Then, on his eighteenth birthday, a delivery man brings him a piano, and tells the boy that it’s from his father.
- Rose and Bernie met in high school and married as soon as they graduated. Life wasn’t easy. They had five kids and money was tight. Rose worked as a domestic servant and Bernie had a job with a waste management company. Every day was a financial hardship, but they loved each other. Three years after their youngest child leaves home, Rose and Bernie win the lottery–and they win big.
- A little girl has a sister with a rare and terminal illness, one that eventually takes her sister’s life. The girl vows to become a doctor and cure this rare disease. At the age of 42, she successfully cures a patient with the disease.
- A ten-year-old boy comes home from school and heads out to the backyard to play with his beloved dog, but he finds the dog lying dead underneath a big, shady tree.
As you can see, each of the situations presented in the creative writing prompts above has characters in an emotionally volatile situation. But the prompts are flat. They tell you what’s happening but there’s no essence–no imagery and no dialogue. Craft one (or more) of these creative writing prompts into a scene, a poem, or a short story. Be sure to use images, action, and dialogue to demonstrate what is happening emotionally. Avoid words that describe feelings (sad, angry, excited, remorseful, etc.).
Bonus: Novel Publicity has an insightful post titled “Bring Your Fiction to Life with Emotion,” which is packed with excellent examples and guidelines for writing emotionally compelling scenes.
When you’re done, be sure to edit and polish your piece to make it as sharp and compelling as possible. Then, come back here and either share what you learned from these creative writing prompts or go ahead and post an excerpt from what you wrote using these creative writing prompts. Good luck, and keep writing!