Character-Driven Fiction Writing Prompts

creative writing prompts

Creative writing prompts for creating characters.

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. Read More

Story Starters: Ten Fiction Writing Prompts

fiction writing prompts

Give these fiction writing prompts a try.

Fiction writing prompts are a great way to stimulate creativity when you’re in the mood to do a little writing but need some fresh story ideas.

Prompts and other creative writing exercises can trigger your imagination. Sometimes, prompts and exercises help you come up with new ideas for projects you’re already working on, and other times, they give you ideas for projects you haven’t started yet. They’re also a great source of motivation.

10 Fiction Writing Prompts

The fiction writing prompts below are story starters. Try starting the first sentence of a new piece with one of the prompts and run with it, or write a story that includes one of the prompts somewhere in the text. As an alternative, use the prompts to generate story ideas and plan a story around a prompt (you don’t have to include the actual prompt anywhere in the story). You can even use one of the prompts as the final sentence in a story and use your imagination to fill in what happens leading up to it.

Feel free to alter any of the prompts to your liking. Use one or use them all. Have fun.




  1. She rolled over and felt her body push up against something hard.
  2. My wife disappeared on August 28, 1998.
  3. Sonny jumped up against the chain-link fence, wagging his tail furiously.
  4. Mom says it happens to all girls, but I think she’s just trying to make me feel normal.
  5. I’ve been to nine planets in twelve years and it’s starting to show.
  6. They say Old Weezie’s been reading palms out of her run-down shack for a hundred years or more.
  7. Acronyms give me a headache in general, but PBRT gives me a migraine.
  8. Ashley stared at the fruit, so lost in amazement that she didn’t think to comment on its size.
  9. Every day the sun comes up and every night it goes down again.
  10. When the elven guard put out a call to action, their plea went unheard and what followed was sheer terror.

Bonus challenge: Write a story that includes each and every one of the ten prompts above. That would be quite a feat!

Looking for more fiction writing prompts and story starters? Some of today’s fiction prompts appear in 1200 Creative Writing Prompts, available in paperback and ebook.

Creative Writing Prompts

Fiction Writing Prompts for Every Genre

fiction writing prompts

Fiction writing prompts for every genre.

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 your writing sessions and 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.

Fiction Writing Prompts

Using the prompts is simple. Just choose a prompt that resonates with you and start writing. There are no rules. You can write a short story, a novel, or an outline. Want to write a story with lots subplots? Choose two or three prompts and weave them together in a single story.




  • There’s an old man sitting in a rickety wooden chair, fishing through a hole in the ice on a frozen lake. A loud cracking sound reverberates across the lake’s surface, and he feels the ice shift beneath him. He scurries, but the hole expands too quickly, and he goes into the icy water. What happens next?
  • When his or her commanding officer is found dead, one young soldier goes AWOL and launches a personal investigation to find out who did it.
  • At the height of human technological development, a special child is born who can communicate telepathically with computers and other mechanical and electronic devices.
  • Two ambitious coworkers want the same promotion, and they’re both willing to do just about anything to get it. Then they fall in love. Does the competition heat up or die down? Will their romance survive office politics?
  • Choose a period of history and a place that interests you, and write a multi-generational saga about a family that lived during that era.
  • Write a comedy about a rural, salt-of-the-earth family moving to a big city and trying to get along with city folk who are sophisticated and refined.
  • While shopping in a department store during the holidays, a child is separated from his or her parents and discovers a portal to a winter wonderland.
  • When marriage becomes a living hell, the protagonist attempts to kill his or her spouse by bringing on depression and encouraging overeating and other unhealthy lifestyle choices.
  • Scientists discover that the galaxy itself is a living organism.
  • In the 1970s, someone started putting rocks in boxes and selling them as Pet Rocks, complete with care and training manuals. The business made millions. Write a story about an inventor or businessperson who comes up with a ridiculous product.
  • Children love to pretend and play grown-up. Write a story about a child playing grown-up and pretending to have a particular career: teacher, veterinarian, artist, etc.
  • In the midst of a natural disaster, a classroom is locked down and everyone inside is trapped until they are rescued three days later.

Did any of these fiction writing prompts inspire or motivate you? Do you have any fiction prompts to share? Leave a comment!

Creative Writing Prompts

25 Story Starters for Writing Fiction

story starters

Get creative with these story starters.

Are you a storyteller? Do you want to be a storyteller?

If you’re interested in writing flash fiction, short stories, or novels, then you’re going to need lots of ideas, especially if you want to write professionally.

Some of us have too many ideas; others don’t have enough ideas. Maybe we have a solid idea for a story, but something’s missing. We need to spice it up by adding subplots or characters. Maybe the setting or story world isn’t rich enough. Perhaps your story lacks theme.

Story starters are a great way to get ideas for writing stories, but they can also be used to generate ideas for improving stories that are already in the works.

Story Starters

Today, I’d like to share twenty-five story starters. You can use these story starters to inspire a new story or to breathe new life into a story you’re already working on. Use them to write whatever you want — flash fiction, short stories, or a novel.

  1. We all know about conspiracy theorists. They believe the moon landing was a farce. Come up with a new conspiracy that theorists rally around. The public thinks they’re crazy, but are they?
  2. The world is run by politicians, but sometimes, ordinary people get caught up in political drama and intrigue. What happens when a bike messenger, a waitress, and a daycare teacher get unwillingly sucked into the affairs of state?
  3. Technology has developed at a splitting speed over the past century. Before we know it, every house will be equipped with a robot and a virtual reality system. But what happens when a couple of kids venture into the wrong area of the virtual reality and get stuck there?
  4. Witnesses to crimes can find themselves in grave danger, which is why there are protection programs for such persons. But what if the witness decided to join forces with the prime suspect? What does the witness get in exchange for false testimony that acquits a terrible criminal?
  5. Take a look at the world we live in. In some places, life is pretty good. But in other places, life is difficult for most people, especially where there’s a lot of inequality, poverty, and oppression. What if an oppressive culture used war or the media to spread itself around the globe? What would that look like, and would we ever overcome it?
  6. After a family moves into a new house, one of the kids looks for a hiding place to stash some secret belongings and discovers a panel at the back of a closet. Assuming it leads to the attic, the kid goes inside only to find that it’s a portal to a world populated with magic and monsters.
  7. Two politicians are in a heated race to win a critical election (governor, president, etc.) and through negative campaigning have become arch enemies. But their kids go to the same college and have fallen in love. What happens when the relationship is revealed in the media?
  8. All the evidence in a brutal, premeditated murder points to one primary suspect, including footage from security cameras. The only problem is there’s no motive, and the alleged killer insists on his or her innocence. Who committed this heinous crime?
  9. While working on a more fuel-efficient space shuttle that will transport tourists to and from the moon, one engineer stumbles into a way to make faster-than-light (FTL) engines a reality.
  10. A stranger comes to a small town that hasn’t seen a new resident since the town’s youngest child was born sixteen years ago. The stranger rarely leaves his or her formerly abandoned home except to buy groceries and strange supplies from the local home improvement store, and the townspeople think something’s not right.
  11. Step back in time hundreds — or perhaps thousands — of years. The leader of a small tribe is butting heads with the tribe’s healer. Meanwhile, a powerful neighboring tribe is infiltrating their territory.
  12. Inspired by Jurassic Park, a biological engineer is committed to recreating dinosaurs. While researching ancient dinosaurs, the scientist stumbles into evidence that fire-breathing dragons once soared over the land and decides to recreate those instead.
  13. While representing an accused killer, the attorney falls in love with the client, partially because he or she believes the accused is innocent.
  14. Teenagers love to rebel and experiment. But what happens when one teenager’s antics end up on video and go viral? Bullying and humiliation ensue.
  15. After working hard for decades, the main character has finally managed to retire and purchase a condo on a small, tropical island, where he or she intends to write a novel. But strange things start happening — things go missing, there are creepy noises, and our character feels like he or she is constantly being watched.
  16. For centuries, humans have wondered if they are alone in the universe. The answer finally comes when aliens arrive. But it’s a time when tensions are high between the nations of Earth. Will humanity unite, or will some nations form an alliance with the aliens?
  17. A young couple believes their fairy tale has finally come true and they will live happily ever after. They are recently married, have good jobs, recently bought a home, and there’s a baby on the way. But the fairy tale seems to unravel as secrets and lies begin to surface.
  18. When a foreign operative embedded in the CIA disappears with loads of government secrets, all hell breaks loose. But is this operative truly a foreign spy, or is it a citizen intent on blowing the cover off government corruption?
  19. A mid-sized tourist plane crashes on a remote deserted island, leaving all but a handful of survivors. Rescue is on the way until a devastating storm arises, barring access to the island. Now these urbanites have to learn to live off the land and with each other.
  20. After serving a ten-year sentence for a heinous crime she didn’t commit, a former college student gets a new identity and becomes a private investigator intent on exonerating herself.
  21. A group of teenagers spends a summer day on a scavenger hunt in the woods just outside of town. When they reconvene to name the winner of the hunt, one of them doesn’t show up and cannot be found.
  22. When a kid finds out both parents are out of work and the family might have to move in with the grandparents, he or she decides to solve the problem by starting the modern version of a lemonade stand — an online enterprise.
  23. One couple’s nasty divorce leaves their two young children in the custody of their grandparents. Will the couple put aside their differences to get their children back?
  24. Dreams come true when a foster child is finally adopted. But the child’s new family is filled with secrets, and he or she begins to suspect that it wasn’t a chance adoption after all.
  25. The main character receives a strange inheritance from an unknown deceased relative: a key ring with no keys on it. Unusual events occur whenever the key ring is present.

Have you ever used story starters or writing prompts? Where do you find inspiration for writing fiction? Share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment, and keep writing.

Creative Writing Prompts

Fiction Writing Prompts for Romance and Love Stories

Fiction writing prompts

Fiction writing prompts for lovers.

The biggest selling books in the world are nonfiction and children’s books, but in the adult fiction categories, romance tops the list, outselling every other genre. And romance readers are voracious — I’ve heard that many romance readers consume a book a day.

The main rule of the romance genre is the happy ending. These stories tend to conclude with a couple figuratively walking into the sunset, hand-in-hand.

But not all real-life or fictional love stories end with a happy couple. Romeo and Juliet immediately springs to mind as a love story with a tragic ending. Even though it’s a wildly romantic tale, we’d never put it in the romance category because it doesn’t have the requisite happy ending.

I have to admit, I think it’s sort of bizarre that we’ve created an entire genre of storytelling where the ending is basically guaranteed. But many romance novels aren’t exclusively about romance. Cross-genre stories meld romance with science fiction or fantasy, and historical romances have always been popular. Some of these work very well because there’s there’s another plot running alongside the romance, and we don’t know how that secondary plot is going to end.




Amorous Fiction Writing Prompts

Today’s fiction writing prompts are designed to spark ideas for writing either a romance or a love story. Some of these prompts encourage you cross genres.

  1. Two characters are at odds with each other because they want the same thing, but only one of them can have it. The thing they want could be a job, winning a contest or sporting event, or they could be on separate quests for a priceless artifact. How do these two end up falling in love, and how does the competition affect their romance?
  2. Explore a relationship between two people who are married for some reason other than love. Maybe they were in love when they married but now they’re not. Maybe they’re in an arranged marriage. Maybe they married for practical reasons, such as merging two kingdoms or a shared political or business goal.
  3. Write a story about a human character falling in love with an alien or magical creature that is not human.
  4. The idea of casting a love spell on someone is unethical because it takes away that person’s free will. The love is therefore not real. Write a story about a character who casts a love spell on another character.
  5. What happens when characters who are mortal enemies fall in love?
  6. They say love is blind, and it makes people do strange things. Write about a character who is blinded by love or who does strange or dangerous things for the object of his or her desire.
  7. Write about a relationship that is genuine and passionate but doesn’t work out in the end, either because tragedy strikes or because circumstances separate the characters and they cannot be together.
  8. In biblical times, men had many wives and most marriages were arranged. Use time travel to develop a story that depicts how love, romance, and marriage have changed throughout the centuries.
  9. Love and fear: two emotions that contradict each other. Love should be safe and warm, everything that fear is not. But what happens when two people who are in love find themselves facing a devastating, life-threatening danger? Do they ultimately fend for themselves or risk their safety for each other?
  10. Write a story that examines traditional gender roles within a marriage. Traditionally, women stayed home to tend to the home and children while men were the breadwinners. What does it look like when a couple bucks these traditional roles? What if one or both wants a traditional marriage but circumstances prevent them from achieving that (maybe the woman earns more than the man, and they need her income)? What if one or both does not want a traditional marriage (maybe the man wants to tend to the home)?

I hope you enjoyed these fiction writing prompts for crafting romance and love stories. Let us know how these worked out for you by leaving a comment, and keep writing!

Creative Writing Prompts

Top Secret Fiction Writing Prompts

Fiction writing prompts filled with secrets.

Fiction writing prompts filled with secrets.

“Ssh, don’t tell anyone. Put it in the vault!”

Most of us have had those very words whispered into our ears. In fact, most of us have probably whispered those words into someone else’s ear.

They say everyone has a secret. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that secrets sure pique people’s curiosity.

And if you can capture a reader’s curiosity, you’ll have them hooked.

That’s the essence of today’s fiction writing prompts.

The Power of Secrets

Don’t your ears perk up just a little bit when you hear the word secret? And don’t you get all quiet and attentive when someone says, “I have a secret to tell you?” Secrets are powerful. They imply mystery and drama; they evoke suspense and build tension; and they capture people’s attention. Most importantly, they keep readers turning the pages.

Secrets can be integral to a plot, but usually the secrets belong exclusively to characters. In fact, sometimes a secret will shape a character’s personality. How would keeping a secret for decades impact a person’s behavior? What kind of secret would weigh on someone’s conscience? How do the other characters view someone who can’t keep a secret?




There are big secrets and little secrets, important ones and silly ones. Some secrets are cliché (she had a baby and gave it up for adoption) and others are funny (one time, at band camp…).

The best secrets are surprising. I’m not talking about the sitcom variety of the overheard misunderstanding, where one character overhears another and gets the wrong idea. I’m talking about secrets that, when revealed, make readers’ jaws drop.

Secretive Fiction Writing Prompts

Think about the secrets in books like The Da Vinci Code or in films like The Usual Suspects — secrets that shock you or make you think about the world in new ways. Try to come up with some interesting secrets for your fiction. Use the fiction writing prompts below to write a scene, a whole story, or to come up with some really great character traits or plot twists.

  1. A character is harboring a secret that is preventing him or her from fulfilling a true desire.
  2. Two characters share a secret, but it’s not what everyone thinks it is.
  3. It’s an old family secret, and there’s only one person alive who knows about it. Will he or she take it to the grave?
  4. There’s a secret and everyone knows about it except one particular character and it happens to affect that character the most.
  5. There is a small group of people who meet in secret at regular intervals.
  6. A character has a secret, and if anyone found out, it would destroy his or her life.
  7. One character discovers another character’s shocking, sad, or terrible secret.
  8. A character thinks he or she has a very private secret, but most of the people close to him or her know about it.
  9. A character knows a secret that would destroy one person’s life but save the life of another person.
  10. There is a secret that would affect everyone on the planet, but only a small, elite group of characters know about it.

Tips for Writing Secrets Into Your Fiction

Writing secrets into your story can make it a lot more exciting, and you can conjure up secrets whenever a character seems flat or the plot is thinning out. But you have to be careful with secrets. Here are a few final tips for writing secrets into your fiction:

  • Avoid common or stereotypical secrets unless you can give them a really intriguing twist. Examples: sordid affairs, the family member you never knew you had, the person who went to prison but didn’t commit the crime, etc.
  • Usually, the audience gets in on the secret before a key character does, but don’t let it out too early. If you can, reveal the secret over time and make it a guessing game for the reader to figure out.
  • If you build a lot of tension, you better have a secret that delivers. There’s nothing worse than a lot of buildup for something like “I’m the one who broke your favorite snow globe in second grade.” Try to come up with a real doozy.

Tell Me Your Secrets

If you have any secrets (real or made up), feel free to leave them in the comments, or post a secret from a novel or a film that you thought was especially clever.

Have fun with today’s top secret fiction writing prompts (how could you not?), and keep writing!

If you have any fiction writing prompts to share, feel free to post them in the comments.

Creative Writing Prompts

Fiction Writing Prompts for the Young Adult (YA) Genre

ya fiction writing prompts

Fiction writing prompts: young adult.

Young adult literature is one of the most exciting genres in fiction. Young people are bright, bold, and open-minded. More importantly, they are going to shape the future. What they read matters.

Young adult books like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Outsiders, and Lord of the Flies tell entertaining stories populated with compelling characters, but these stories also highlight important social questions and issues.

Stories like Catcher in the Rye inspire introspection, and books like The Hunger Games force readers to consider the future of humanity.

And who can forget what is possibly the oldest and most famous young adult story in Western culture: Romeo and Juliet, the classic tale of two star-crossed lovers who are destined for tragedy?

When I was a teenager, my favorite movie was The Breakfast Club. To this day, I think it’s one of the most brilliant films ever made. People often mock me when I say that. How could a movie about a bunch of teenagers spending the day in detention be brilliant, or even important, for that matter? But the film is not just about a bunch of teenagers.

It’s about what it means to be human. It’s about how we are more alike than we are different. And it’s about how we treat each other. It’s about class and culture, the haves and the have-nots, and at its heart, it’s about personal growth and how our interactions with others shape who we become. And it’s a story for and about young adults.

Today’s fiction writing prompts are designed for writing young adult fiction. These prompts are taken from my book, 1200 Creative Writing Prompts, which includes fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction prompts.

Fiction Writing Prompts for Writers of YA Fiction




You can use these fiction writing prompts to inspire a short story, novel, or screenplay. Use them to inspire a scene in a project you’re already working on. Mix and match them, change them, adapt them in any way that feels right to you.

  1. On the first day of school, two best friends discover a frightening secret about one of their new teachers.
  2. 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 eighties, a gas mask, and strange mango-sized orbs that emit a glowing blue light.
  3. A youngster on his or her first hunting trip has a deer in his sight and suddenly remembers the day his dad took him to see Bambi.
  4. Write a satirical story about an orphanage that is managed as if it were an animal shelter, or write about an animal shelter that is managed as if it were an orphanage.
  5. Two best friends make a pact. When they get to junior high, they grow apart, but the pact haunts them. Will they fulfill the pact they made as children?
  6. After a car accident and a minor head injury, a teenager starts having precognitive dreams. Initially, family and friends insist the dreams are coincidences, but the proof becomes undeniable when a government agency steps in.
  7. Write a story set in juvenile hall.
  8. A teenager’s beliefs are not in line with his or her parents’ religious system. Can we control what we believe? Can we control what others believe?
  9. In the midst of a natural disaster, a classroom is locked down and everyone inside is trapped until they are rescued three days later.
  10. The story starts when a kid comes out of the school bathroom with toilet paper dangling from his or her waistband. Does someone step forward and whisper a polite word, or do the other kids make fun? What happens in this pivotal moment will drive the story and have a deep impact on the main character.

Have you ever tried writing fiction for young adults? Where do you get your story ideas? Did any of these prompts inspire you? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment, and keep writing.

Mysterious and Thrilling Fiction Writing Prompts

Mystery thriller fiction writing prompts

Mysterious and thrilling fiction writing prompts.

Sometimes it’s hard to start a new writing project. Maybe you’re overwhelmed by too many ideas and can’t decide which one to tackle. Or maybe you’re searching for the right idea, something to spark your imagination and inspire your next story.

Fiction writing prompts are an excellent source of inspiration. They’re useful for generating new ideas, but they can also help you make breakthroughs in projects you’re already working on. If you’re stuck on a scene or chapter, you might find a fiction writing prompt that offers the seed of an idea to help you push your story forward.

All of today’s fiction writing prompts came from the book 1200 Creative Writing Prompts, which is available from your favorite online bookseller.

Fiction Writing Prompts for Mysteries and Thrillers

With these fiction writing prompts, there are no rules. Choose a prompt and then do whatever you want with it. Write a short story, start a novel, or outline a screenplay based on the prompt. Change the prompt. Combine two or more prompts. Most importantly, have fun!




  • The protagonist wakes one morning gagged and tied to the bed, and there’s a maniac sitting in the bedside chair.
  • Over the course of one week, five high-profile CEOs go missing. Were they abducted? Killed? Did they all run off to escape their high-pressure lives?
  • An old man or woman confesses a lifetime of secrets—many of which involve violence, torture, and murder.
  • The protagonist is blamed for a murder but doesn’t remember committing it—even though every shred of evidence along with a hazy memory suggests otherwise.
  • A group of young adults gets together to rent a cabin for a weekend. They drink and party, and the next morning one of them is found murdered. In the months that follow, the friends suspect each other and question themselves. Who did it? Will they figure it out before the police do?
  • A newlywed receives word that his or her spouse was killed in action. A few months later, the widowed protagonist starts receiving communications that could only be from his or her dearly departed spouse.
  • The protagonist buys an antique trunk from a junk shop and discovers a mummified body inside—a body that was murdered.

Did these fiction writing prompts inspire you? Where do you look for inspiration? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment, and keep writing.

Creative Writing Prompts