Event-Inspired Writing Prompts

writing prompts

Writing prompts inspired by real events.

Nonfiction writers are obviously inspired by the real world, but fiction writers and poets also take inspiration from real people and events.

Wars, scandals, scientific advances, and famous figures in history have all been represented in every form of writing.

Works of fiction that resonate best with readers contain a kind of truth, a reflection of our own real experiences. That’s why looking to the events of history for story ideas is a great way to inspire a writing session. And of course, poetry takes inspiration from everything in the universe. While personal experiences may be more popular sources of inspiration, some incredible poems and stories have been triggered by real events throughout history.

Today’s writing prompts come from major events of the 20th and 21st centuries. These prompts are for writing inspiration only and are not meant to be a comprehensive list of big events from the last two centuries. They were chosen at random for their potential for igniting creative writing ideas.

Writing Prompts

You can use these writing prompts to write anything you want–a poem, a short story, a blog post, or a journal entry. The idea is to find the prompt that speaks to you and then start writing.

Prohibition and the Great Depression

In a country that rants and raves about freedom, the government decides that its people should not be allowed to drink liquor. The Great Depression filled the space between Prohibition (which was still in effect during the Depression) and World War II. Well-to-do people lost everything and found themselves standing in food lines. Ordinary people went to extraordinary measures to get a few bucks. Meanwhile, someone, somewhere profited.

World War II

WWII gave rise to the Great Generation. It was a vicious war and most believe it was a righteous war (for the Allies). It gave us models for villains in Hitler and Mussolini. It gave us patriotism and the atomic bomb.

Entertainment: From Radio and Television to the Internet

The entertainment industry boomed in the 20th century. Technology moved entertainment from something you paid to go see in a theater or other public venue to something you could enjoy from the comfort of your home. Black and white silent films evolved into technicolor talkies. Now we have the Internet. What in the world will we think of next?

Spaceships, Planes, and Men on the Moon

We started out traveling around on foot. Then some clever neanderthal invented the wheel. Now, we soar through the skies and tear through space. We’ve even landed men on the moon! Invention doesn’t stop here. Next stop: Mars.

1960s: Civil Rights, Woodstock, Protests

What happens when a nation’s people are divided? What happens when a minority of people are oppressed? What happens when ordinary kids suddenly decide they don’t want to grow up and live just like their parents? Mix in the fact that there’s a war nobody understands and most people don’t believe in. Add a few drugs, flowers, and peace signs and you’ve got the sixties, complete with hippies. What cultural movement will sprout up next?

Assassinations: Gandhi, Martin Luther King, JFK, John Lennon

Sometimes it seems like the bad guys never get what’s coming to them, especially when heroes like these are taken down by madmen, political or religious zealots, revenge seekers, and whomever else you think was behind it all.

Modern Culture

The 21st century is still young but it’s given us plenty of history already. Writing about recent history is easier for most of us because we lived through it and our firsthand experience gives us a closer perspective. Think about a major event that occurred after the turn of the millennium (from 9/11 to Hurricane Sandy) and write about it.

Good luck with these writing prompts! Have fun and don’t forget to come back and tell us how they worked for you.

Got any writing prompts of your own to share or add to this list? Leave a comment.

Creative Writing Prompts

About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.


11 Responses to “Event-Inspired Writing Prompts”

  1. Great ideas for prompts. I’ll be stealing these for my Creative Writing class. Here’s one I came up with for a poetry class I’m teaching this summer. Feel free to try it and give it a more thorough explanation here, if you like it. essentially, the writer goes through his or her twitter feed or Facebook status updates and writes a list of the interesting verbs and nouns, then puts them together in interesting ways to form found poetry or story ideas. Here’s the list I came up with:


  2. Ekaterina says:

    Almost every time when I read scientific news I get ideas for my book set in far future. Or when I look at space pictures from Hubble. Sometimes I simply can’t enjoy reading the articles itself – ideas, ideas are coming! 🙂

    • I know the feeling! I was researching outer space just this weekend. Sometimes, I get so many ideas, it takes me a few days to work out which ones I should use!

  3. Debbie says:

    I found this very interesting. Woodstock caught my eye because although I was not there the music is from my generation. My mind is overflowing with possibilities………….

    • Ooh, cool. Woodstock was before my time, but I’m fascinated by the Woodstock culture. There are definitely stories to be told there! Good luck with yours 🙂

  4. Kelvin Kao says:

    And isn’t it convenient that history just repeats itself? 😉

  5. Roberto says:

    I suppose it could include events in one’s own life? Pretty potent events inspired my entry into fiction.

  6. Jesse Byron says:

    Speaking of cultural movements, does it seem to anyone else that America has entered a sort of
    post-Romantic era?

    • This is from Britannica: “Introspection was inevitable in the literature of an immediately Post-Romantic period, and the age itself was as prone to self-analysis as were its individual authors.”

      I don’t think I’d use that description to describe what is happening in America right now. I would call this a divisive era. Dark, dystopian works seem to be popular juxtaposed against commercial art that could be construed as shallow or meaningless (Hunger Games v. Fifty Shades). In fact, one might say that there is a struggle between materialism and meaning. We could also call it the post-technology age, where we are challenged to adjust to a new system in which we rely heavily on technology and it has cost lots of jobs.

      What a great question, Jesse. It’s given me much to think about. I do believe we are on the cusp of some new era. We live in fascinating times!