In the world of creative writing, we’ve only begun tapping the possibilities in speculative fiction, a genre that includes science fiction, fantasy, supernatural and superhero stories, or 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 fans are rabid. In fact, you won’t find a more dedicated group of readers anywhere else.
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 a novel idea. 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 — all of the passengers except for 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 six 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 are 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 their 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 on 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.
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:
Show, Don’t Tell
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,” Elizabeth 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 — we’d never work anyway.” 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 Elizabeth 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 show readers the feeling in 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 that 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.).
Update: 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!
In writing, imagery is the key that can unlock a reader’s imagination. When an image is rendered with the right combination of words, it magically appears in the reader’s mind like a photograph or film clip.
Here’s an example:
A woman wearing a black dress is lying on the floor in a disheveled room.
Now look at the image on the left. Note the details that are missing from the sentence above — the tilting couch and mirror, the shiny hardwood floor, and the brightly colored plastic flower in the foreground. These details were left out of the example sentence to create a white space, which the readers can fill in for themselves.
One reader might imagine clothing scattered across a carpet, a broken lamp, and a woman who has been injured lying on the floor, waiting for help. Another reader might picture the aftermath of a party — dirty dishes, empty bottles, and a woman passed out from drinking too much wine. One reader will imagine a wild and beautiful young woman, another will picture an older, more refined woman.
The perfect balance of description and white space provides just enough detail to make the image manifest, but not so much that the reader’s own imagination fails to be engaged. As a writer, it’s your job to know how much detail you need to include in your writing in order to bring out the most important elements of any image.
Creative Writing Prompts
Today’s creative writing prompts deal with creating imagery in writing. Each prompt consists of an item, which functions as the inspiration for a larger image. You’ll need to paint in the final strokes so the image and its emotional implications become clear.
As you work through these creative writing prompts, try asking questions about the item you’ve chosen from the list. Where is it? Who put it there? Why? When you determine the background of the item you’ve chosen, the image will slowly come into focus. Then, all you have to do is use your words to paint the picture.
You can use these writing prompts to create an essay, short story, or a quick freewrite. You can write a few paragraphs or a few pages. Let the prompt provide the image, and then let a story about that image unfold. Use your words to follow wherever the image takes you. Does it evolve into a scene from a film? A poem? Ride it to its conclusion.
- A pair of baby shoes
- A torn photograph
- A broken bottle
- A guitar pick
- A rusty hand saw
- A “no smoking” sign
- A pair of fishnet stockings
- An oxygen tank
- A partially deflated basketball
- A fishing rod
Once you’re done, come back and tell us how these creative writing prompts worked for you. And keep writing.
We all want our writing to be compelling, even mesmerizing. One effective way to captivate readers is to engage their senses.
When you trigger a reader’s sense of sight, smell, sound, touch, or taste, you illicit a physiological response to your writing, and the reader will connect with it on a deeper, sensory level.
Food is a great way to stimulate readers’ senses because food has the rare ability to affect any or all of the senses. We see food, smell it, touch it, and taste it. We even hear it. Just think about french fries sizzling in a greasy skillet. Mmm.
Writing about food or incorporating food into our writing is an ideal way to engage readers’ senses. That’s why today’s creative writing prompts focus on food, drink, and delectable treats.
Taste These Creative Writing Prompts
Each of the creative writing prompts below presents a specific sensory stimuli, telling you which sense is being engaged (sight, smell, sound, touch, or taste) and which food or drink is involved. Your job is to choose a prompt and build a scene around it, write a poem about it, or compose a short essay that includes it. You can write anything you want, but the goal is to get the prompt in there.
You don’t have to use the writing prompt verbatim in your piece of writing. Feel free to reword the prompt in any way you see fit. You’ll see that some prompts include a lot of detail while others just provide basic information. The details are available with some prompts to give you ideas. They are absent from others to challenge you. Choose accordingly.
Bonus Challenge: Each prompt engages one sense. Try to expand that to include other senses as well. Earlier, I mentioned the sound of french fries sizzling in a skillet. How do they look, taste, and smell? If you touch them, how do they feel? (Hot, I bet!).
- Sight – a banana split: three scoops of ice cream with split banana on either side and a big mound of whipped cream on top laced with chocolate sauce and sprinkled with chopped nuts. All topped off with a plump, red cherry.
- Smell – pizza: cheesy, doughy, saucy, spicy pizza baking in the oven.
- Sound – fizz: cola being poured into a glass full of ice cubes.
- Touch – greasy fingers: digging your fingers through a box of hot, buttered and salted popcorn in a dark movie theater.
- Taste - medicine: cherry-flavored cough syrup.
- Sight – feast: the spread of a holiday feast (think Thanksgiving). Are your eyes bigger than your stomach?
- Smell – coffee: waking up to the smell of hot, freshly brewing coffee.
- Sound – crunch: the sound in your head when you munch on crispy chips or crackers.
- Touch – dough: the squish of kneading dough between your fingers, the smooth texture of it when you pat it and roll it out.
- Taste – hot/spicy: you dip your chip into a bowl of salsa and when you take a bite, your mouth goes up in red-hot, spicy flames.
- Sight – fruit: it’s a hot day. You open the fridge and there’s a big bowl of chilled, fresh, summer fruit – colorful, juicy, and sweet.
- Smell – fast food: you’re driving through town with your windows down and pass that intersection where you can smell all the fast food restaurants.
- Sound – whistle: you’re not feeling so hot, so you put the teapot on. Soon, it starts to scream…
- Touch – water/apple/teeth: it’s Halloween and you’re bobbing for apples. You stick your face in the cool water, chomp around searching for purchase and feel the apples bobbing against your face, floating away from you. Then, you get a ripe little apple lodged firmly between your teeth.
- Taste – sweets: after a light but satisfying meal, you order your dessert. It’s rich, sweet, and freshly baked. You bite into it and your taste buds explode with delight.
Did you find these creative writing prompts helpful or challenging? Share your thoughts or leave an excerpt from the piece you wrote by leaving a comment. And keep writing!
Travel and adventure are the themes behind some of the greatest poems ever written and best stories ever told.
Blockbuster movies like Star Wars and the Indiana Jones franchise, TV shows like Lost, and books such as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn all use adventure as a premise to telling a riveting tale.
Today’s creative writing prompts are designed to get you out of the house and away to a far-off place. You can go anywhere you want — some of these places are fantastical while others can be found on any map.
Creative Writing Prompts
You can use these creative writing prompts any way you see fit. Write a poem, a story, an article about a similar experience you’ve had, or just draft an entry in your journal (write whatever comes to mind). Change these writing prompts as much as you need to so that they work for you. And have fun!
- You have a chance to take an all-expense paid trip to anywhere in the world, but you’ll have to spend three months there. Where do you go and why?
- You’re flying somewhere — anywhere — but when your plane lands, you and the other passengers quickly realize you didn’t reach your intended destination. In fact, you’ve arrived in a strange, wondrous (or terrible) world that you never knew existed.
- Sometimes, to go someplace, you don’t even need to leave your home. Some people travel far and wide in their dreams.
- What if you discovered a portal to another world? Where is the portal? How does it work? What’s on the other side?
- Some adventures are nothing more than a series of mishaps. The flight is delayed, the hotel reservations were made for the wrong dates, there are no available car rentals.
Use these creative writing prompts to write anything at all — poetry, fiction, essays, or just sit down and start freewriting.
Do you ever use creative writing prompts to spark writing sessions? Have you found them helpful? Got any writing prompts of your own to share? Leave a comment!
Writers and artists, and human beings in general, have always been inspired by the seasons. After all, the seasons provide a rotating backdrop for our lives. They mark the passage of time. They represent moving on and letting go.
A season can provide a setting for your story or the subject for your poem. Seasons can function as metaphors. They can bring challenges for characters in the form of natural disasters. Even the absence of seasons will affect a piece of writing.
On a tropical island, the weather doesn’t change much. Seasons barely exist in some places, and that shapes the rhythm of life there. On the other hand, in more common climates, seasons dictate daily life. Plant in the spring and harvest in the fall.
Today’s creative writing prompts look to the seasons for inspiration.
Creative Writing Prompts
All writers get stuck. Call it writer’s block, lack of inspiration, or absence of the muse. Sometimes, ideas just don’t come easily. That’s when creative writing prompts and other writing exercises keep your creativity going.
These prompts are an accessible way to jump-start a writing session when you’re fresh out of ideas. Use these creative writing prompts to write a poem, a story, jot down a few thoughts in your journal, or compose a blog post.
The sun is shining, the kids are out of school, and there are long lines at fairgrounds all across the country. It’s the season of heat, bright colors, and tan lines.
- You’re relaxing in an easy chair with the fan blowing in your face and an iced drink by your side. The aroma from a nearby barbecue makes your mouth water. In the distance, you hear children splashing in the water and squealing with delight.
- Four kids are meeting up at the movies for a summer afternoon matinee.
- A woman is walking alone on a beach in the summer twilight (or at dawn).
- Two words: road trip.
- Flip-flops, tank tops, sundresses, and shades. The attire of summer is light and breezy. Who’s wearing what?
In the autumn, the leaves turn and then drift to the ground. The air grows cooler, our clothes grow warmer. School starts. Harvest is just ahead. Before you know it, the holidays will be here in full swing.
- On the first day of school, two best friends discover a terrifying secret about one of their new teachers.
- A man is raking leaves on his lawn. He pauses for a breath and glances at his neighbor’s lawn. They never rake their leaves, he thinks to himself.
- Halloween is just around the corner and you have a lot do this year: candy, costumes, and pumpkin carving. The house smells like apples and caramel. You look outside and see something astonishing…
- Now that it’s off-season, there are tons of deals on flights and hotels. You can take a vacation for half of what it would cost in the summer. Where do you go and why?
- It’s a great time of year for a garage sale. You can have one of your own or take a Saturday to tour all the sales in your neighborhood. Maybe you’ll find a unique treasure with special qualities.
It’s really starting to get cold. Snow, rain, and cloudy skies loom overhead. But there’s a bright spot, too: all those twinkling, colorful holiday lights. Winter is warmed by crackling fires, hot cocoa, and thick blankets.
- All the kids are looking forward to the winter break. There’s a school-sponsored ski trip, and one girl is aching to go so she can try snowboarding for the first time.
- Puppies and kittens aren’t always born in spring. This winter, a special puppy is born, one that will change people’s lives.
- Get out your hockey sticks, skates, and skis. Winter sports are in full swing. Are you on a team or do you play solo?
- It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Wait — no it’s not! The holidays are cheesy. Bah humbug!
- Hot soup, freshly baked bread — just out of the oven, and a steaming cup of cocoa set the stage for a perfect winter night.
From budding flowers to torrential downpours, the entire season provides a wide canvas of colors, shapes, and sounds.
- The only place anything interesting is happening is outside. One kid in a big city is bored. School won’t be out for a couple of months. There are no holidays to look forward to. He (or she) wishes the family lived in the country. (Where do kids get these ideas?)
- There is a light drizzle. The skies are mostly cloudy but the sun is doing his best to show his face. A man and woman stand beside a car outside of a convenience store. They are arguing.
- There are seeds to plant! It’s time to create your very own garden. Will it be a flower garden or a vegetable garden? Maybe you’d prefer a grove of trees instead?
- This just might be the last snowfall of the year. What do you do? Go sledding? Build a snowman? Head to the pond for spring skating?
- Everyone is getting tired of the cold and eagerly anticipating summer. But this summer is going to bring more than sunshine and easy days at the beach . . .
Be Imaginative and Have Fun!
Got Any Creative Writing Prompts?
If you use any of these creative writing prompts, come back and tell us how they worked for you. Feel free to make up your own seasonal creative writing prompts and leave them in the comments. And keep on writing.
Some days, ideas just don’t come easily. You may find yourself staring at a blank screen or doodling in your notebook with nothing to write about. You may find that you’d really rather just listen to some music or go out dancing. Maybe you’d rather play your guitar?
If you’re a writer and a music lover, then these creative writing prompts are perfect for you. They’ll infuse your words with musicality and make your writing rock.
Creative Writing Prompts
Creative writing prompts are a great way to break through writer’s block.
There are two sets of prompts to choose from. First you’ll find a series of word lists. Pick any of these lists and use all the words from the list you’ve chosen in a piece of writing. Or mix and match the words. The possibilities are endless.
Below the word lists, you’ll find a series of music-related creative writing prompts to spark a writing session. Some get you thinking about your own relationship with music while others give you a scene where music is a key player.
Use these prompts to write anything you want: a short story, poem, essay, article, or fill a page in your journal.
|The Composer||The Player||The Singer||The Listener||The Dancer|
More musically inspiring creative writing prompts:
- A six-year-old girl comes home from school one day to find a piano sitting in the living room. “What’s that for?” she asks her mother. “Today, you start piano lessons,” her mom says.
- What was the first record you ever bought? Do you still like listening to it?
- After a twenty-year career as a successful, underground singer with a voice that gives audiences chills, a singer with no other skills or experience loses his or her voice.
- Have you ever played an instrument or performed music to a live audience? Ever recorded yourself singing?
- A talented and homeless twenty-something is busking in the subway. A well-to-do Juliard student passes by, then stops, turns around and approaches the busker with the offer of a lifetime.
- Do you prefer to sing in the shower or in the car while you’re driving?
- After years of writing commercial jingles and cheesy, B-movie scores, a composer writes a masterful piece that propels him (or her) into the limelight.
- Are you one of those people who “don’t dance?” Why? Do you think everyone is watching you?
- A young, professional dancer injures her knee and can never dance professionally again. She decides if she can’t move to the music, she’ll make it. Which instrument does she choose and why?
Enjoy these creative writing prompts, rock on, and keep on writing!
Do you find these creative writing prompts useful? Got any prompts or writing ideas to share? Leave a comment!
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.
From E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web to Jane Goodall’s books on primatology, authors and readers alike have delighted in writing and reading about 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.
Creative Writing Prompts to Honor the Animals
Below, you’ll find a series of creative writing prompts. Each one sets a scene. Your challenge is to bring that scene to life by writing about it. Turn it into a short story, a poem, a play, or an essay. Write anything you want (if you can’t decide what to write, then do a freewrite).
- A mama cat gives birth to a litter of five orange tabbies and one little gray runt.
- A young man on his first hunting trip has a deer in his sight and suddenly remembers the day his dad took him to see Bambi.
- A school of dolphins is too trusting and approaches a boat whose passengers are intent on capturing the dolphins and bringing them to a theme park for a “swim with the dolphins” attraction.
- A bird and squirrel live together in the same tree (like the odd couple).
- Two children, a brother and sister, respectively capture a butterfly and a moth, then proceed to argue over which insect is superior.
Make up Your Own Creative Writing Prompts
Feel free to make up your own animal-related creative writing prompts, leave them in the comments, and I’ll pull them into this post during a future update.
Be Imaginative and Have Fun!
If you use any of these creative writing prompts to spark a writing session, come back and tell us how they worked for you. What did you write? Did you learn anything new? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment. And keep on writing.
Don’t you just hate writer’s block? Some say it’s a disease that only attacks creative workers. Some say it’s a curse. Others argue that it doesn’t exist at all. But just about everyone has been there — sitting in front of a blank screen, fingers itching to create a masterpiece. And nothing comes.
For me, the most bizarre thing about writer’s block is that it strikes randomly. Most of the time, I’m overwhelmed with ideas — more than I can possibly write about. Then, out of the blue, I’ll sit down and just go blank. Sure, I flip through my notebooks and review all the ideas I’ve had, but nothing feels right. I want something fresh. I need a new angle.
Luckily, I have several books and other writing resources that are packed with writing exercises and creative writing prompts. Sometimes, all it takes are a few words to get me started, and then I’m off, writing into the sunset.
Here at Writing Forward, I’ve published poetry prompts, journal prompts, fiction and poetry writing exercises, but today I’d like to try something different. Here’s a mash-up of creative writing prompts. There are no rules. Write a poem. Write a short story. Write an essay. Aim for a hundred words or aim for a thousand. Just start writing. Take off and fly, and have fun.
Creative Writing Prompts
- You’re digging in your garden and find a fist-sized nugget of gold.
- Write about something ugly — war, fear, hate, cruelty — but find the beauty (silver lining) in it.
- The asteroid was hurtling straight for…
- A kid comes out of the bathroom with toilet paper dangling from his or her waistband.
- Write about your early memories of faith, religion, or spirituality; yours or someone else’s.
- There’s a guy sitting on a park bench reading a newspaper…
- Write a poem about a first romantic (dare I say: sexual) experience or encounter.
- He turned the key in the lock and opened the door. To his horror, he saw…
- Silvery flakes drifted down, glittering in the bright light of the harvest moon. The blackbird…
- The detective saw his opportunity. He grabbed the waitress’s arm and said…
- There are three children sitting on a log near a stream. One of them looks up at the sky and says…
- There is a magic talisman that allows its keeper to read minds. It falls into the hands of a young politician…
- And you thought dragons didn’t exist…
- Write about nature. Include the following words: hard drive, stapler, phone, car, billboard.
- The doctor put his hand on her arm and said gently, “You or the baby will survive. Not both. I’m sorry.”
- The nation is controlled by…
- You walk into your house and it’s completely different — furniture, decor, all changed. And nobody’s home.
- Write about one (or both) of your parents. Start with “I was born…”
- The most beautiful smile I ever saw…
- I believe that animals exist to…
- A twinkling eye can mean many things. The one that is twinkling at me right now…
- Good versus evil. Does it truly exist? What are the gray areas? Do good people do bad things?
- My body…
- Have you ever been just about to drift off to sleep only to be roused because you spontaneously remembered an embarrassing moment from your past?
- Get a package of one of your favorite canned or boxed foods and look at the ingredients. Use every ingredient in your writing session.
Now It’s Your Turn
If none of these prompts inspired you, don’t despair. Come up with some creative writing prompts of your own, and then share them in the comments. Later, I’ll publish them in a post or republish an updated version of this post with your prompts added to the list. Anyone who contributes will be credited!
Keep on writing!
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 consciousness. 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 that you think will help you 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 on 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, 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 try any of 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.