The Writing Prompts Master List

It's writing time! But where are all the writing prompts? They're right here, in this article, and the linked articles below. Here you'll find writing prompts for every genre from fantasy to romance to horror and science fiction.

You'll also find writing prompts for middle and high school students, short story ideas, and fill-in-the-blank story prompts. So get out that pen and paper (or open your laptop) and get started! The words are waiting for you.

Fantasy Writing Prompts

Write a story about an innkeeper in a village that gets many pilgrims, travelers, or people on quests. Who do they meet during their work? What mysteries or secrets do they uncover? What do they know that nobody else knows? Hard mode: During the story, they never leave the village.

Write a story about a young girl taken by the fae. She has to complete three tasks to earn her freedom, but she doesn't know what they are. What kind of tasks do her captors give her? How does she go about completing them? Extra twist: She willingly takes the place of a little boy, maybe her younger brother.

Write a story about an aging king on his deathbed who wants to figure out what happens when you die before he kicks it. He calls for ten of his wisest men and gets ten different answers. What answers do they give him? Which one turns out to be right?

Write a story set in a fantasy world from a cat's perspective. How does the cat describe the world s/he lives in? What does she think of the the legendary characters she meets? What do different types of magic look like to a cat? Can this cat do magic herself? Hard mode: The cat can't understand human speech, but can understand some supernatural creatures (e.g. fae, elves, goblins, etc.).

Write a story where the main character discovers a portal to a world threatened by imminent destruction. Extra twist: the protagonist is from a fantasy world, transported to today's society.

Mystery and Suspense Writing Prompts

Start a story with a suspect confessing to a murder, but their story doesn't add up. What are they hiding that's worse than murder? Who actually murdered the person? And why are they covering for them?

Write a story about two detectives investigating the murder of a senator. They have no clues, no suspects, and it seems like they'll never solve the case. But then a strange coincidence puts them on the killer's trail. Is it really a coincidence? If not, who manufactured it? Extra twist: The senator was killed because of their involvement in a secret government project, or a scandal of some kind.

Write a story about a woman who wakes up one day to find that she can't remember anything from the last five years. She has no idea what happened during that time, and her husband and friends all act like she's been gone for only days. What secrets does she uncover in her investigation of her own life?

Romance Writing Prompts

Write a love story about two people who meet at their favorite place. Explain why this place is their favorite. Maybe one of them associates the restaurant with a childhood memory, and the other just loves the ambience and food. Maybe the heroine has returned to her childhood home, and the hero lives there now. Hard mode: These two are from very different backgrounds, and seem completely incompatible at first.

Write a love story that starts in a very unromantic setting: a desert island, rush hour traffic, a smelly bus stop. What series of unfortunate events brings these two lovebirds together? Hard mode: it's the morning of their favorite holiday.

Write a story about a famous person suddenly entering a parallel dimension where they're not famous at all. The only person who remembers them entered this dimension at the same time as the celebrity, and found out that they're massively famous in their new home. What brings these two together? Hard mode: the ex-celebrity does not miss fame, and the new celebrity loves it–or vice versa.

Write a story about a time traveler who falls in love with a person from the past. Hard mode: they fall in love by writing letters, but can't physically meet each other until much later.

Write a story about two people who are forced to get married to cement a political alliance. They're from different social spheres, and their families are enemies. Why were they forced to get married? How do they fall in love? Hard mode: One of them is already infatuated with someone else.

Write a story about two good friends who fall in love. They know everything about each other and share a special bond. What changed to make them fall for each other? What challenges does their relationship face? Hard mode: One of them is moving away soon.

Write a story about a teacher who starts dating a star player from her least favorite sport. She has no idea who he is, but everyone assumes she does because he's a household name in every other household. Hard mode: Her brother is a huge fan of this sport, particularly this player.

Science Fiction Writing Prompts

Write a story about a young girl living on a space station with her parents. Her parents work on the ship, but they're killed in an accident soon after she arrives. The girl is left completely alone on the ship as it hurtles through outer space. Nobody is there to help her or show her how to operate it. How does she survive? How does she get back to Earth? Hard mode: the space station is way off course, and the girl doesn't know how to get it back to Earth.

Write a story about an alien who impersonates someone famous or important to study humans without their knowledge. Perhaps s/he's writing a dissertation on human behavior for his planet of origin. What happens when this character meets other famous people? How do they navigate this strange new world? Hard mode: the main character falls in love with a human.

Write a story about a post-apocalyptic world where the only humans left are those who have been mutated by radiation. They can't reproduce, so their numbers dwindle with each generation. One day, a stranger arrives in their settlement; somebody who doesn't look like them at all. Who is this stranger? What are they? Are there more of them? Hard mode: make this post-apocalyptic world beautiful instead of ugly. Fill it with wild-growing trees, shrubs, and flowers. What else makes it more beautiful than the world we live in today?

Write a story about an alien who regularly visits Earth in disguise. One day, the disguise fails, and the alien reveals his/her true form in front of a huge crowd. What kind of alien are they? What are the aftereffects of the ? Hard mode: They're not an alien, but a human from the future.

Write a story about a young boy who discovers her parents are actually androids. What's everyday life like for them? Why are they living in the suburbs (or a city, farm, etc.)? How does the boy cope with this revelation? Hard mode: the boy is also an android, but doesn't know it yet.

Write a story about an advanced android who is tasked with writing love stories for humans, and becomes self-aware in the process. Perhaps she becomes self-aware as she starts to actually fall in love. Or is she falling in love, or just imitating what she's read and written? What kind of stories does she write? Hard mode: the android's writing style changes during the story.

Young Adult Writing Prompts

Write a story about a jock who loves Dungeons and Dragons falling in love with a goth girl who joins the cheerleading squad. What happens when these two worlds collide? How do their friends and family react to this romance? Extra twist: the jock is a she, not a he.

Write a story about a scholarship student at an elite private school who has to decide whether or not to leak a wealthy family's secret to a journalist. What is this secret information? What would happen if she leaked it? What would happen if she didn't? What's at stake? Extra twist: She's in love with the wealthy family's son, who goes to her school.

Write a story about a girl whose favorite hobby is writing fanfiction about her favorite book. She later finds out that another author is taking her fanfiction, slightly altering them, and publishing them as her own short stories. What does she do? Who does she enlist to help her? Extra twist: the plagiarist is a teacher, a mentor, or family member writing under a pen name.

Write a story about a boy whose best friend secretly dates his ex-girlfriend. How does he react? What does he do about it? How does their friendship change? Extra twist: the boy is secretly in love with his best friend.

Horror Writing Prompts

Look around your room and pick a random object. Now make it the most important object in your next horror story. If you picked a pen, for example, how could this pen be horrifying? Maybe it writes stories of its own accord, or takes over the mind of the writer. Maybe it's cursed and anyone who holds it dies a gruesome death related to the last thing they wrote. Get creative!

Write a story where a character finds a strange diary in a box. The diary seems like it was written by someone crazy, since it's full of figurative language and descriptions of thigns that don't make sense. But every diary entry eerily corresponds to something that happens in the present day, even though the diary is over a century old. Why is this? Is the character just going crazy?

Write a story that takes place in a hospital where the patients are all zombies. The doctors and nurses are trying to find a cure, but things go from bad to worse when they realize that the virus is airborne and extremely transmissable. Hard mode: Most people outside the hospital don't believe the disease exists, and won't take the medicine that works.

Using defamiliarization, write a story about a historical event (the Trojan War, the death of Marie Antoinette, Woodstock, etc.) from an utterly strange or alien perspective.

Short Story Prompts

Write about two strangers who meet at an airport and share their life stories as they wait to board the plane.

Write about a street performer who can make anything happen with just a few words. What kind of magic does s/he perform? Why do people come to see her/him? Do they know the magic is real? Are they good or bad?

Write a story about your favorite food. Why is it your favorite? What does eating this food mean to you?

Write a story about the last time you were embarrassed.

Write about what happens when an antelope escapes from the zoo and runs loose in New York City's Central Park.

Write a short story based on your earliest memory. Try different writing styles to give different perspectives on the memory.

Look around your room. Pick an object you can see. Now write a short story based on that object.

Write a story based on one random word. It can be the first word that comes to mind, or a word from this article. Here are a few random words to get you started: orange, stretch, favorite, fruit, dog, patches.

Creative Writing Prompts for Any Genre

These prompts can work for any genre with a little tweaking.

What's your favorite movie?

Most huge blockbusters tap into universal fantasies, tropes, and themes that resonate with a broad spectrum of viewers. When you watch these movies, take note of any ideas or situations that resonate with you, and see how they could apply in another genre or type of story.

Try putting these ideas on notecards, and then draw out three notecards at random and create a new story from them. For example, if you're watching Star Wars or Harry Potter, you might draw out the following three

The B Story is the A Story

What would usually be the main story, e.g. the superhero grappling with his powers, the team fighting to save the world, etc., becomes the background story instead of the focus. The B Story, such as a love story or a character's self-discovery, becomes the focus. See “The Zeppo,” episode 3×13 from Buffy the Vampire Slayer for an excellent example of this.

Additional Tips

Writing prompts can be a great way to get started on a new project or generate new ideas when you're stuck. They can also help you to explore a new genre or style of writing. Here are a few tips for using writing prompts:

Outline

Once you have a prompt, write an outline of your story. Even if it's a simple beat sheet, an outline can help steer your course and provide writing inspiration.

Story starters are great, but an outline fleshes out the prompt and makes it your own.

Play

Try several different approaches to a story before committing to one.

Ask yourself, “What would absolutely not happen in this situation?” Then try to make that happen somehow.

Put two or more characters in the same situation and seeing what happens.

Start two stories with the same first sentence to see where they go.

Conclusion

The writing prompts in this article are designed to help you brainstorm new ideas for any genre. Whether it's a horror story or romance, there is something here that will spark your imagination. With these writing prompts and tips, we hope you'll be able to take the next step in creating stories of your own. So what are you waiting for? Pull up a chair, and start writing!