I’ve always had mixed feelings about television. It’s a bit disturbing when people spend all their free waking hours staring at a screen with their brains turned off and a glazed look on their faces. And television is unreliable as a source of information. I’ve found that many of the news shows and documentaries that air on commercial television stations are full of factual errors and misinformation. These days, we all need to double-check the facts (and sources) before repeating what we hear on TV.
On the other hand, there are some great shows that have graced television screens over the past century.
I often think about how my favorite books, movies, and TV shows can influence my own writing. For example, I’ve recently named a few of my characters after TV actors. I’ve observed non-linear storytelling on television and thought about how I could translate that to a novel. I’ve even made it a point to study dialogue from television shows (TV writers have a knack for good dialogue).
All in all, I’ve found that if you’re selective about your viewing habits and thoughtful about how much time you give the old boob tube, television can actually be an excellent source of inspiration. Therefore, all of today’s writing prompts are inspired by TV shows.
Writing Prompts from Television
For these writing prompts, I tried to cover a variety of decades and genres. Each prompt includes a brief overview of one television show plus a few writing prompts and ideas that come directly from the show.
Because of the nature of television, these prompts are perfect for fiction writing and storytelling, but feel free to use them to write whatever you want — poems, blog posts, or essays. You can even write a review of one of these TV shows (make sure you watch all the episodes first!).
- Star Trek boldly went where no one had gone before, to the far reaches of outer space. Set your story somewhere in deep space. Or write about a group of adventurers (in any time or place) intent on discovery and exploration. Star Trek also emphasized logic and rational thinking balanced by compassion and humanism. These ideals were embodied in the characters of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. Try creating characters that embody specific philosophic ideals.
- Happy Days was a classic show about family, friendship, and growing up. From its sock-hop theme song to all the characters telling each other to “sit on it,” Happy Days captured the culture of the 50s and imparted coming-of-age lessons to its audience. Write about an iconic time period. Mix friends, family, and outcasts together in a ensemble of characters for your story. Develop catchy bits of dialogue and original expressions for your tale.
- What a great premise for a serialized TV show: every week, guests visited Fantasy Island to live out their dreams. I don’t think we ever learned where the island got its magic or how Mr. Roarke and Tattoo came to live there and run the place. Write a concept for a series (novels, books, or movies) in which characters’ greatest fantasies or worst nightmares are realized. Focus on world building and explaining how this mysterious fantasy fulfillment works by developing an origin story.
- Twin Peaks is a cult classic, a mystery show about the murder of a teenage girl that had everyone asking, “Who killed Laura Palmer?” This dark story was colored with bizarre symbols and dream sequences contrasted against intensely ordinary characters living in a small town. The show featured a haunting score and a deeply disturbing conclusion. Everyone has a dark side, and we are all subjected to evil. Face your own dark side by writing something mysterious, terrifying, and horrific — but believable (in other words, not supernatural or paranormal). Look for ways to embellish your piece with bizarre surrealism through hallucinations and dream sequences.
- Friends was one of the most successful shows in television history. It seemed like everyone in the country watched must-see TV on Thursday nights for Friends’ entire run. Stories about friendship have always been a hit when they’re cast with lovable and relatable characters in a distinct setting. These New Yorkers were in their late twenties, navigating friendship, their love lives, and New York City (a premise we’ve seen in many stories). Write about friendship and group dynamics. Put your characters in a real but vivid setting. Establish their age group and think about the types of issues they would be facing. What are their goals? Struggles? What challenges affect their group dynamics?
- I had to save the best for last. LOST is the ultimate adventure — a story about a group of survivors living on a mysterious island after their plane crashes. They must learn to survive and live together. They have to remember and let go. LOST was considered a breakthrough show because it felt like a movie, with sweeping cinematography and an original, live-recorded score. Mysteries and puzzles abounded, and every time the show answered one question, we got ten new questions to puzzle over. The show’s unique format included non-linear storytelling through flashbacks, flashforwards, and flashsideways. LOST was also deeply philosophical. But for all of its experimentalism, the characters always came first. Think about how you can use non-linear storytelling in a story or poem. Develop a setting that has magical and mysterious qualities and functions as a character in the story. Plant lots of classic literary symbols, pop culture references, and just plain confusing twists in your story. Go ahead and get LOST in your writing!
Do you watch a lot of TV? What are your favorite shows? Has television ever inspired you? Do you love stories, whether they’re told on film or paper? Did any of these writing prompts spark ideas? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.
Some of the best poems and stories ask the age old question, “What if…?”
The phrase “what if?” is a writing prompt in its own right. Pause to contemplate it for a few minutes, and pretty soon, your mind will produce a host of scenarios that engage your imagination and spark plenty of writing ideas.
Today’s writing prompts use the what-if premise to ignite a writing session.
What-If Writing Prompts
The prompts below use “you” as the subject, but you should feel free to insert characters and write fiction. Use these prompts to inspire a poem, a story, a script, or even an essay. Just choose a prompt, think about it for a few minutes, and then start writing! You can sketch ideas, brainstorm characters, or outline a plot. As always, feel free to modify the prompts in whatever way you want.
- What if you woke up naked in a public place?
- What if the police showed up at your door and arrested you for a serious crime, like murder or treason?
- What if someone you loved dearly was injured and in a coma for months?
- What if you won the lottery?
- What if you could blink your eyes and transport yourself to anywhere in the world in a flash?
- What if you could meet any famous person, living or dead?
- What if people encouraged you to run for public office, anything from mayor of your city to president (or prime minister) of your country?
- What if you wrote a book that became a best-seller and had to go on the talk-show circuit?
- What if you went camping or on a nature hike and found a priceless ancient artifact?
- What if you could travel though time? When would you go?
- What if you could become a master at any one skill, overnight?
- What if you had a superpower?
- What if you could find the love of your life but would only be together for one year?
- What if you discovered a family secret that would change everything?
- What if you found a treasure map that would take you all over the world?
- What if aliens landed in your back yard?
- What if you could visit any fantasy world — Never Land, Wonderland, Oz, Narnia, Hogwarts — which would you pick?
- What if you had the opportunity to be a colonist on another planet?
- What if you could solve any world problem — hunger, poverty, war, or disease?
- What if you found out you were having octuplets — eight babies?
- What if you could control your dreams (lucid dreaming) and you could make events occur in the real world simply by dreaming them?
- What if you were the sole survivor of a plane crash or sunken ship and had to live out the remainder of your days on a desert island? What if there were one or two other survivors with you?
- What if you were drafted to fight in a war?
Did these writing prompts spark any ideas? Do you have any what-if prompts to add to this list? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment, and 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!
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!
Writers and artists have always been inspired by the seasons. Winter, spring, summer, and fall have functioned as metaphors, backdrops, and even characters in literature.
Like all artists, writers are constantly hunting for inspiration. But inspiration is fleeting. Sometimes, we need a little help.
When inspiration isn’t coming from within us, all we need to do is look out the window or step outside, where nature offers an abundance of ideas.
That’s where these writing prompts come in. These prompts are designed to generate imagery that will inspire a writing session. Use these writing prompts to create a poem, a short story, or just spend about twenty minutes freewriting.
You can use these writing prompts to write anything you want. Change them or mix them up. Choose the prompts that seem most vivid to you. Use these as idea-starters to create prompts of your own. Just have fun with them.
- The sky is laden with dark clouds and the land is buried under a blanket of pale, gray snow. The ground, the streams, and the lakes are frozen and the whole world is eerily quiet and still. It’s the perfect day for…
- You have decided that this year, you’re going to take up a winter sport. Now that winter is here, you…
- There’s an old man out on the lake. He’s sitting in a rickety wooden chair and fishing through a hole in the ice. A loud cracking noise suddenly reverberates and he feels the ice shift beneath him. He scurries, but the hole expands too quickly and he goes into the icy water before he can get away. What happens next?
- It’s the season of snowmen and sleigh rides. Children are out galavanting on snowy slopes and making snow angels in their backyards. One little boy longs to join them, but he cannot, so he watches from his lonely upstairs window. Why can’t he go play outside?
- It’s the end of the fall semester and two college students are tackling an unusual project. They’re building an igloo. First, they choose an isolated spot on the crest of a small hill that borders the university town in which they live. Then, they start digging. It’s freezing cold and the work is tough. They’re exhausted. But they are awakened and warmed with excitement when they dig up something unexpected…
Do you ever use writing prompts to initiate your writing sessions? Have you found them useful? Do you have any writing prompts of your own to share? Leave a comment!
What I love best about the holiday season is that there are so many holidays to choose from.
Here in the U.S., most people consider the holidays officially underway at Thanksgiving. From Thanksgiving weekend through the first day of the new year, people are busy celebrating every holiday from Winter Solstice and Hanukkah to Christmas and New Year’s Eve, just to name a few.
The holidays are a difficult time for many people. Those of us who have lost someone special in recent months or years tend to miss them most during this time. All the good cheer and festivities can be a sharp reminder of what’s missing from our lives.
That’s why it’s a good time of year for reflection. Instead of aching for those who are not here, let’s be filled with gratitude for the memories they left behind. Instead of obsessing over the goals we didn’t reach, mourning the jobs we lost, or sitting around wishing we had more, we can choose to embrace all of the positive things that the holiday season has to offer: good food, the company of friends and family, the spirit of giving, and the lights (I love the holiday lights!).
It’s not hard to find inspiration with all that’s happening. Today’s writing prompts honor the holidays and all that they represent.
Use these writing prompts to kick-start a writing session. There are no rules, so you can write anything you want, from a piece of fiction to a poem, an entry in your journal, or a post on your blog. Just pick a prompt that inspires you, and then sit down and start writing.
- If you are one of the many people who celebrate or honor a holiday at this time of year, think about what it means to you. Do you enjoy it? Why do you celebrate it? How does it shape or affect your life for the rest of the year?
- The setting is a festive party honoring the holiday of your choosing. But something unexpected happens, and the guests are all drawn into a drama, adventure, or mystery.
- Some of us don’t think much about the holidays other than the obligations they impose: presents, parties, appearances, and contributions. But holidays exist to remind us of the meaning of something — usually something significant. What does your favorite holiday represent? How did it become a holiday and why do so many people recognize it?
- If you are one of the many who are mourning the loss of someone dear, think about that person and the memories you have with them, especially your holiday memories. It’s hard to do, but there is joy in those memories and if you can embrace that joy (by writing about it), you may be able to honor your loved one’s life with comfort rather than sorrow.
- Although holidays have deeper meanings, we like to truss them up with a lot of decadence and nostalgia. All that food! All those presents! The folklore, the ornaments, and the lights! Oh what fun it is…
Which of these writing prompts did you choose? What did you write? Do you have any writing prompts to share? Leave a comment, and keep writing!