101 Writing Prompts to Inspire You
Compiled here are 101 great ideas to get you inspired and working on your next writing project. Want to tell a story, but have no idea where to start? That’s where writing prompts come in. Think of it like training wheels or the handrails on a staircase– these are here to support you in your endeavor, so use them often, use them well, and use them widely to create the most creative pieces of writing you can!
1. Focus on a memory of a game that you played when you were a kid. It could be chess, it could be paintball, it could even be Cowboys and Indians– anything where you really got into the game. Start by writing about the experience itself, and then make it more real. Suddenly you are the king, the soldier, the intrepid native out to reclaim his lands!
2. Think of a buddy or a relative and then focus on something that always reminds you of them (like their perfume, their sense of style, maybe something they love to do) and then write a story that centers around that.
3. Think of a memorable quote from a book, show or movie, remove it entirely from its original context, streamline/improve it, and then write a story around it using a completely different plot, completely different characters, and even a completely different world!
4. Pick up an object near you and look at it. Really study it. Try to find some aspect of it that future generations might change or improve on it. Now imagine that it’s your job to market this new and improved object to the public. What do you say? How do you approach the futuristic masses with this item that could go so far in making their lives better?
5. Choose a mythological tradition (i.e. Norse, Judeo-Christian, Babylonian, Greek, Roman, etc.) and look it up on Wikipedia. Next, follow links until you track down a specific god, goddess, angel or spirit that sounds particularly interesting. Write a story that includes this entity and incorporates elements of the mythology surrounding them in a way that preserves some of the ambiance and flavor that attracted you to him/her/it in the first place.
6. Pick three words of things that you like or that sound good when you say them. They could be colors, places, even names. Now, write a story using these three words in creative ways. (I.e. you can combine them, use them for section headings, use them as character names, etc. The possibilities are limitless!)
7. Go for a walk. While you’re out, look for something interesting (it could be a car, a pamphlet, an unusual rock, a chicken, etc.) Sit and think about it for a little while, look at it and really appreciate it, then follow that thought pattern, see where it takes you, and write about it.
8. Take a pad of paper somewhere where you can people watch (a park, a coffee shop, a restaurant) and write down quick notes about the people you see. Now– make up stories about them. What kind of life do they lead? What’s important to them? What sorts of troubles or joys do they come home to at night?
9. Think about a symbol. It can be a peace sign, a star, a cross, a flag, or anything else you’ve seen in the past. Consider what it means to you, really deeply think about it, then put those thoughts into words. Next, write a story using those words.
10. If you have a pet, (a cat, a dog, a snake, a chicken, etc.) take a moment to study them. Look at their features, their eyes– then write about them. Next, take it all a step further and write a story where the main character is a person that has all (or even just some) of those features!
11. Look through the newspaper for a particularly interesting line like “It was a day like any other for Joe Everyman...” Ponder it for a moment, bend it around in your mind and explore the possible places a line like this could go... then write one of them.
12. Write down the basic elements of a whodunnit murder mystery– the name of a guilty person (i.e. Miss Scarlet, Colonel Mustard, etc.) the object they’ve committed the murder with (i.e. a candlestick, etc.) and the place where it was done. (i.e. in the conservatory.) Make each element as random as possible (i.e. Bob Dole with an overfed goat in the Soyuz module) and then write a story that ties it all together. Feel free to make it more fun than believable!
13.Interesting things happen when different cultures come into contact for the first time. Sometimes contact is peaceful, and sometimes it brings disease, war, famine, or other dire concequences. Envision two distinctly different cultures, then write a story where they meet!
14. Type two random and seemingly unrelated words into a google image search (like uncle fuzz) and look through the images that come up. Prepare to be surprised, and if you’re under 18 or easily offended, make sure the family filter is on. Now, find an image that strikes you, then write a story around it.
15. Politicians are masters of spinning sentences of ambiguous commitment that ultimately mean nothing. Look through the speeches of one or two that have had something to hide or get excited about lately and pick apart their words. Find a particularly vague sentence or one teeming with doublespeak and then use it as the backbone of a story.
16. Take a famous line from a famous piece of literature and run it through several different languages on an online translator (like Altavista’s Babelfish) with Korean or Chinese as the last language, and then translate it back to English. Look at what comes out, consider the new meanings hidden within it, and then build a story around it.
17. Walk through an unfamiliar aisle of the grocery store or visit an ethnic grocery (Indian, Chinese, Mexican, etc.) and look for a product (or several products) that leap out at you as either strange, neat, frightening or wonderful. Now, use that image as the key motivator or focus for a story. Maybe people are passing the product back and forth while they talk. Experiment, try new things!
18. Write a story where a character is faced with a decision that is very difficult for him or her to make. This is no ordinary decision– it’s hard to make, and it needs to be made soon. The stakes should be high (or maybe just need to seem high to the character) and you can even go so far as action if you want. Whatever happens, more focus on the tension of the decision than on something else (like people’s looks or action-packed shoot-em-up scenes.)
19. People act differently on camera. Write a story from the perspective of someone watching a film where another person reveals a secret that is shocking or frightening. Try to capture the mood of being afraid or angry or reluctant to put the secret into words, make the character in the video real, make them believable.
20. Relationships are full of games, especially when the people in them are young or the connections that have been forged are superficial. Write a story where relationship games are being played between the two people who make up an otherwise loving couple. Put in action, make it real, scream and smash some things. Make it exciting, and let the ending determine on its own where it will go.
21. Take a classic tale from any period (from the Odyssey to Ivanhoe or anything Dickens to anything Spielberg or Romero) and turn it on its head by thoroughly integrating some new element into it (as done in works like Pride and Predjudice and Zombies)
22. You’re on your way to a perfectly ordinary day at work when suddenly a sign looms up before you that says “Road Closed.” You’re forced to take an unmarked detour down an unfamiliar road that seems unusually devoid of traffic. Is it an ordinary short cut, or is something more ominous going on? What awaits you around the next corner? Will the pavement suddenly and inexplicably end? Have you crossed into the proverbial twilight zone?
23. Write a piece where physical “imperfection(s)” in a body or an object ultimately add to its beauty as opposed to making it merely “less than perfect”, and therefore “less than beautiful.” Consider the patina of age or the ancient chipping of a Grecian urn, for example, or the beauty of a more “average” woman compared to the “perfection” of an over-the-top super model. There are a lot of ways you could go with this, both creative and sentimental.
24. Create a story filled with unexpected, unsettling and unexpected twists that still ultimately seem logical and/or realistic while being incredibly jarring. (Maybe a man accidentally takes as hostage the one person who could easily disarm him, or maybe a typical, cliché event [man slips on a banana peel] ends on a different note [man keeps his balance and uses momentum and slipperyness of peel to get to work on time.]) Be creative!
25. Close your eyes and take a moment to focus on the sounds around you. Listen to them, shuffle them around in your memory and use them as key points with which to drive a story forward. What are they the sounds of? What do they remind you of? Anything from your childhood?
26. I once had a Spanish teacher whose mother thought that the main reason why America is such a big player in the world today is because every time you leave the freeway, you see a sign that says “exit”. (you see, exito means “success!” in Spanish) and she assumed that, (as many Americans seem to) the only difference between Exit and Exito was that Spanish seems to add an “o” to the end of a lot of words that either came from English originally, or that we stole wholesale from Spanish and other Latinate tongues over the centuries. Write a story where a mistaken translation creates an erroneous assumption (or judgement) that has either comedic, dangerous, or otherwise interesting consequences.
27. Take a song you’re really into, listen to it, then incorporate elements, concepts or themes from it into a story. If it’s an instrumental piece, think about how it makes you feel, what it reminds you of, and then create a story that uses those images and impressions as part of its most key aspects.
28. Take a hike. Literally. Keep an eye out for a particular place (like a clearing, a meadow, a thicket, a glade) any place that inspires you. Once you find a good spot, sit down and imagine a scene that might have taken place there. It could be a romantic one, an argument, a scene from some world of high fantasy, a murder or anything else. Next: Put pen to paper and write!
29. Everyone has their taboos, phobias and things that disgust them. By playing off these concepts, some of the most terrifying horror is created. Think about what frightens you most, then create a story which incorporates and confronts those elements. If you’re claustrophobic, write about an unlucky someone trapped in the narrow darkness of a cave, alone, unable to escape the stifling pressure of the deep earth no matter how hard he or she tries, etc.
30. If there is one constant in the universe, it is change. Think of a profound change or transformation that has occurred in your own life, then use it as the central theme for a piece more fiction and fantastic than fact. Be creative, and feel free to twist the change or transformation until it is wholly unrecognizable from the event that inspired it.
31. Consider a process of ordinary living that goes unseen by most people (like what happens to a letter when it’s between mailboxes, or how meat gets from the cow to the plastic box of the microwave dinner,) and make it fantastic! Maybe the postman puts the letter into an interdimensional pocket on his coat where it falls down a rabbit hole and lands in a heap of similar envelopes waiting to be sorted by spirits or to be carefully considered by a special ops detachment of Santa’s Elves. (The CEA: Central Elf Agency)
32. Secrecy is just another form of government regulation. Consider something unusual that the government might feel should be kept secret, (you can use the previous prompt for ideas) and then draw up a plan designed to keep it secret, including ways to “clean up” any security leaks which might eventually and inevitably occur. Now, imagine that it is your job to blow the lid on this secret– pen your story, regardless of whether it ends in revelation and triumph or defeat and tighter security measures.
33. You’re driving, and BAM! you see an unusual animal out of the corner of your eye, just standing there improbably on the side of the road. What is it? How did it get there? What happens next? You’re the driver, you decide.
34. Take a place, any place at all– it could be the town or city where you live, the house where you grew up, or someplace entirely different, and then imagine what it will be like 25 years from now. Now try to imagine it at 50 years distant. Now try 150, or even 500! Pick one of these future times, then set a story there. What is going amid this future backdrop? Is there love? Spaceships? Are people arguing? Has there been a catastrophe, or just a period of steady growth? What’s left of the place that you remember?
35. Take the basic concept for a genre or a subgenre (like Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction or even Cyberpunk) and recast it through the eyes of an entirely different culture. (Think sword and sorcery gone Kalahari Bushmen or Ancient China’s take on Steampunk, for example.) If you need ideas, check out George Alec Effinger’s “When Gravity Fails”, a book which expertly mixes the rich culture of the Islamic Middle East with the gritty, post-modern flavors of Cyberpunk.
36. During the course of what would otherwise be a normal, ordinary day, you notice that someone you consider it your duty to watch out for has a tiny bag of strange powder that they’re trying to hide– but they aren’t doing a very good job of it. Do you confront them? Do you watch them from a distance? What’s in the bag? A chemical? A drug? Fairy dust? What’s the backstory here? How does your tale resolve itself?
37. A man sits in a parking lot in a strange car that is so different from the norm that you can’t help but notice it. What’s his story? Describe the car. What does it look like? Where has it been? Does the car itself frighten you, disturb you– or does it make you happy? If you were to go out and talk to the man in the car, what would he say? What would you learn?
38. Write a story in which the characters, the places, the products, the clothing brands and everything else take the names of people you know. Throw in references to say, the “Smith Café,” or the “Anderson N-30 Sport Bike,” etc. Use the attributes of the people whose names you are using in order to drive the story forward as well as to set the tone for the environment in which it all takes place, the plot, etc.
39. Write a story about a character that blatantly defies conventions, (like a kindly old elderly woman who wears a bonnet, powders her face, goes to church every Sunday– but also loves videogames, or a baby who travels through time and fixes the problems of the future or past, or a mild mannered pastor who whips his congregation up by summoning demons or awakening hordes of the undead,) and then take a trip through that character’s life. Is his or her unconventional nature ultimately something that will prove to be the instrument of his or her downfall, or is this unconventional person merely awesome?
40. Write a poem where most, if not all of the words used begin with the same letter (Percy’s purple plastic purse portrays people peeling poofy pomegranates patiently) and then explain how this might be possible. Make it real, expand it, describe the scene (in normal prose) of people patiently peeling poofy pomegranates, and then build a story around it.
41. Think about something that really bugs you, something in your life that irritates or frustrates you to no end. Now, put words to that frustration, explore it, let yourself go off and rant on it, and then express your tirade in ink. Finally, formalize it (as an essay or an article) or put it in the mouth of a character who has the same (or a similar) problem.
42. Create a new holiday, one with a long, traditional background (either on Earth or somewhere else entirely!) And use it as the backdrop for a story. Detail it, give it festivals, parties, taboos, requirements, wakes, etc. Flush them out and make them real, then merge it all into the plot of a story. Use it to set the mood, to accentuate points, events, and even the climax. Make it the metaphor for the tale you’ve woven into it.
43. Write a story where two people are thinking about each other without being anywhere near each other. Consider two lovers, or maybe two people who’ve just gone home after their first date, or even two friends with some point of contention between them, any of whom are having their own silent conversations in their minds. The thoughts could be dramatic, even misguided– the characters could make assumptions, judgements that could come quick and furious like the words of an argument– because that’s exactly what you’re going for. Now take these two lines of internal conversation and interlace them so that it’s almost as if the two people were talking or arguing all along.
44. Create a story where all the characters feature objectified names. Consider the relationship that could spring up between Left and Right, between Red and Tall, between Green and Cube. Consider how these relationships could interrelate: Is Green stalking Tall? Is Cube cheating on Right with Red? Remembering to keep things abstract. Put pen to paper and see where a few objectified names can take you!
45. Consider for a moment a particle, a wave, an atom, a photon, or a neutron, and then consider what it might be like to be that thing if it were consciously aware of what was going on around it. Consider the human implications of all matter being compressed into a single one-dimensional point right before the big bang that flung everything out and created the universe (as if there were human thought, as if you were occupying the point along with countless others) and then take it a step further. Look for places in science and theory that seem alien and cold to you, places where no rational mind could logically project a human consciousness, and then go into it and play around with it. Become a quark for a day and discuss how irritating the subatomic bonds that hold you to your brothers are, or marvel in the long trip a photon takes toward Earth, only to miss it just barely and be sent on into the depths of space.
46. Write a modern story in such a way that it feels like Science Fiction– but isn’t. Go heavy with the technology and the explanations of proven theory that in an earlier decade might have been classified as Science Fiction. Talk about things is odd detail, like how the wireless transmitter in someone’s iPhone links up with distant towers of silicon and steel to connect him to a massive unseen network of information people refer to as “The Internet.” or explore the technobabble of computer engineers, create a crisis of the network that echoes elements of Scotty in Engineering going “She’s not going to hold together much longer, Captain! She’s gonna blow!”
47. Take something in the society around you that makes you uncomfortable or disgusted (like beauty contests, drag queens, McDonalds, pot smokers or American Idol) and write a story that casts it in a good light. Do it honestly, really try. It can be a story of redemption, of inspiration and strength that either leads the character out of the disturbing thing or further into it, depending on which way you want to go. (Like a drag queen who starts small but manages to transcend so many boundaries, so many stigmas and so much adversity that he wins some massive televised event and is recognized all over the world as someone incredible, someone who has fought hard and won through in spite of everything the world has thrown in his path to try to trip him up.)
48. Write a story where two things that are normally seen as total opposites (like love and garbage) become metaphors for one another. Be creative about it. It can be anything– poverty and affluence, etc.
49. Take some time to check out some of the “outer circle” dialects of English in the world today and use their examples to create characters who speak these (or similar) unusual dialects. Now, throw them into an unusual situation. You can create a world where everybody in the upper class talks one dialect and everyone in the lower talks another, (this actually happens in some countries) or even throw three different dialect speakers into the same room and see where it goes, considering what words mean different things (or nothing at all) to people who speak a variation of English that comes from another side of the globe entirely.
50. Take something mundane that you have to do regularly and according to a certain schedule (like going to school or work) and make it fantastic. Instead of walking across campus to sit in a musty classroom that smells like old banana pancakes to listen to lectures from a bespectacled professor with a comb over who shakes and drools as he talks (and probably farts dust when he’s alone in his equally musty office), fly across campus in a biomimetic thrust pack, grind the asphalt with plates of steel and nanoregenerative shielding and slide across scarred linoleum into a hangar bay where a cute technician in a skin-tight jumpsuit (who just happens to have a thing for you) stands waiting to teach you how to pilot the latest in uberdestructive mecha.
51. Create an end of the world, apocalyptic scenario, then invent a technology (or other creative means) with which a fraction of humanity can be saved from it. Now project the setting of your story several centuries (or more) into the future from there. How has the presence of this technology or means of survival effected the lives of the people living in that time? What are the new “big problems” and larger changes in the structure, mythology, and general way of life of the survivors? What is it like to live in this time? What are the little things of life? The common problems? (If you’re strapped for ideas, consider the “traction cities” of Phillip Reeve’s “Mortal Engines” or the “Vaults” of the Fallout series.)
52. Visit an unfamiliar place (like a coffee shop in a different town) and sit around “people watching”. Work on setting a scene in that place, describe the features that make it unique. Feel free to draw from existing features, people and even individual conversations as you work.
53. Study an existing illness (or create a new one) that may or may not be fatal. Now, pen the story of a person who has contracted that illness. What kind of symptoms does that person suffer as the disease progresses? What does it feel like? Taste like? Smell like? Make the reader feel the experience exactly as the victim would. Use fear and more familiar sensations of illness to maximum effect.
54. Take a moment from your past where you feel that you made the wrong decision and in doing so altered the course of your life in a way that you’re not entirely happy with. Now, imagine you have the chance to fix it, to go back and talk to or trick your past self into making the right decision. How do you go about it? What do you say or do? Does it work? How does your present (then future) change as a result?
55. The lone wolf is a key character type that recurs in some form or another in every genre of fiction that has ever been printed or penned (even romance, though the loner might get snared eventually.) Create a piece of fiction that incorporates just such a character, either as the main driving force of the story, or as a character who interacts directly with the main character and in enough of a way that we can’t help but watch him/her and be interested.
56. Write a song, revise it, even go so far as to put it to music if you feel so inclined! Make it real, imagine how it would sound performed live, and then build a story around that song. Make it the most central metaphor for the story, the very crux upon which the entire piece rotates.
57. Step outside your bounds. Think about something that you tell yourself you “can’t write” or “suck at” and force yourself to write it. If you get stuck, study stories that follow the same idea, pick them apart and try to figure out what their authors are doing, how they’re able to write what you think you cannot. Remember– no matter what you might think, you can write anything. It just takes time, effort, and practice.
58. Create your own mythos– H.P. Lovecraft did it with Cthulhu and the elder gods, and others have done it since (like Alan Campbell and the mythos of Ulcis and Labyrinths that rises out of the novel “Scar Night” or the Faith of Yevon from Final Fantasy X.) Write the stories that tie the gods, goddesses and other aspects of divinity and faith together for an entire people, then make a series of short stories (or even just one, like a creation story) out of them, almost as if you were the chief historian or head theologian dedicated to the preservation of all knowledge associated with this interesting and unique faith.
59. Languages are constantly changing. Going back a thousand years, even English becomes virtually unrecognizable to people who speak the modern tongue as their first language. (Take a look at the original work done by Chaucer or the original Anglo Saxon Chronicles if you really want to see what I mean) Take a look at some of the most recent changes that have taken place in the language (or in any given pidgin or creole) and then exaggerate and project them into the future. Create a tongue that might be spoken in the next hundred, several hundred, or even one thousand years. Get creative: introduce new mannerisms, new expressions, concepts, words, and even grammatical rules that reflect where the language has gone in the intervening time. What kind of impact would space-faring frontiersmen have on the language? Alien contact? Exposure to humans from other universes? Other realities? Now, write a story either told in that language, or featuring someone who speaks that way. (If you need ideas, consider the difference in the English spoken by the characters in Joss Whedon’s Firefly, or the differences and variation between forms of Stripjap as illustrated in Richard K. Morgan’s novel Woken Furies.
60. Take a historical figure like Einstein or Gengis Khan (or even a group of historical figures) and put that figure (or them) in an unfamiliar environment. It could be your present, the future, the distant past, or another planet/universe altogether. How would Winston Churchill and Joan of Arc react if they were both suddenly abducted by the same trans-dimensional alien ship and then put in close proximity? Pol Pot and Gandhi? You can also consider where people who have disappeared have gone. What really happened to Amelia Earhart? Jimmy Hoffa? Does it involve a ‘37 chevy floating inexplicably in a distant corner of the galaxy?
61. Create a setting where everything seems perfect and way beyond the best expectations... until the characters of your story begin to dig beneath the surface. Soon, everything turns out to be little more than a facade– Luxury gives way to mold and disease, opulence gives way to cheap corner cutting, and what was originally seen as something incredible and perfect is quickly exposed for what it really is.
62. Consider for a moment what it would be like to be directly involved in analyzing a situation or a threat to a population (of humans, bacteria, or other forms of plant or animal life) and addressing a solution of alternative action that could either be a fix (however temporary or permanent) or a preventative measure. Put yourself in the shoes of a professional scientist who considers it to be her or his duty to look at and handle this burgeoning situation– then write your groundbreaking report. If you’re stuck for ideas, create a new disease or “Chronic defect” and then approach it from the observational and detached position of a researcher who is trying to nail down and outline the facts.
63. People in today’s world have all kinds of strange allergies. Just right now, I can think of three such people, one allergic to red dye #5, one allergic to chlorinated water (as in pools) and one who’s allergic to cucumbers (even in the form of pickles.) Using an existing (but bizarre) allergy (or by creating and using a new one) write a story about someone who suffers from it, how it effects their life, and how they ultimately overcome it to live a happier (or at least more interesting) life.
64. Television rules the nation. Write a story where the mainstream media’s domination over the common man is emphasized, where the average populace blurs together into an idiotic mass, and only a few people are truly aloof and free. What makes them different (besides not watching TV?) How do they view the hypnotized masses? As tools? Idiots? Souls to be pitied? Are they interested in change? What will they do to insure it happens (or to keep it from happening?)
65.Some series that have appeared since the advent of entertainment as a medium have become iconic, thoroughly integrating themselves into our society in a way that makes them unforgettable and subject to a massive fan base or to instant recognition (like Sherlock Holmes or Star Wars). What is it that makes them so iconic, so popular? What is it that they have and so much else seems to so painfully lack? Try to capture that something (or at least a piece of it) and instill it into a story of your own invention.
66.Write a “Chop-Saki.” Think about every Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee film you’ve ever seen, every late night kung-fu flick you’ve ever sat and watched without reaching for the remote and changing the channel. Now, put that knowledge to work! Craft something wholly new, something exciting– something that’s only cheesy if you want it to be.
67. The idea of being invaded by a hostile force of any kind is a terrifying one. Write a story where an invasion (either real, fantastic or futuristic, etc.) is imminent, and the invading force is superior in both equipment, tactics, and/or raw bodily strength. How do you prepare to meet this invasion? Will you defend yourself? If so, then with what? However far your ingenuity takes you, will it be enough to turn the tide, or will you and your compatriots fall before your foe(s) anyway?
68. A lot of college humor in the last few decades has focused on the comedic way that binge drinking tends to erase all of the memories of the night before and leave a person holding their head, wondering where they left their pants– and their dignity. Write a story where this is the case, but provide a way for the character (or at least the reader) to track back through the night of debauchery until the true list of the previous night’s events is finally laid bare.
69. Experiment with poetry and form. Try something new, write whatever comes to mind, then play with it until it all fits together. If you’re strapped for ideas, try a Sestina form, a Fibonacci Sequence or a 26 line poem with lines that all begin with a letter of the alphabet, in proper order.
70. Resisting any impulses you may have of seeing it as disturbing or morbid, visit a graveyard and check out the grave markers and headstones until you find one that catches you. Write a story about that person’s life, what it might have been like, the kind of things they might have had to deal with, the people, places and things they loved or held dear.
71. We as humans tend to use a very small percentage of our brains. Write a story where a psychic or a scientist discovers a way to “use” the brain to perform one particular (or more than one) feat that could be classified as superhuman (like flying, teleporting, telekinesis, transformation into another form, etc.) Does this pioneer choose to share this new technique, or instead try to hide it and keep it from being discovered by the general public? If it becomes common knowledge (and common practice), then how does it affect the workings of the world? The economy? Warfare?
72. Go somewhere that there are people, but not too many people (like a coffee shop, a class room, an airport terminal, an airplane, a business meeting, etc.) and then imagine that you (and the people around you) are suddenly the only people left on Earth. How does the story unfold? Do you all survive? Does someone die? What happens to this last, tiny fragment of the human race? Are there, by some freak miracle, others in similar situations lost in distant corners of the globe?
73. Craft a speech. It could be a future politician’s rallying cry, the war plans of a freedom fighter operating out of the underground, or the lost words of some hero (or villain) from the past. Make it real, make it crisp, make it strong and full of power augmented by whatever emotion the “speaker” is trying to convey, whether it be anger, pride, or a solemn sadness.
74. Write a story about a place that comes into existence only once every hundred years or on some other rare basis, presenting itself as mythical and meaningful whenever it appears. It could be a restaurant, an island, a bar, an outhouse, or anything else. The person (or people) that encounter it can be oblivious tourists totally unaware of the majesty of it all, someone actively hunting for this mythical place, or anything in between. Make the place unique, give it character, make it stand out.
75. Write a high seas, swashbuckling adventure. Consider all the pirate movies you’ve ever watched, all the films where sailing ships and rapiers figure prominently, and then write your own pirate legend! Don’t just limit your imagination to Pirates of the Carribean– think about Yellowbeard, Baron Munchausen, Gulliver’s Travels, or even Treasure Island.
76. Try writing something interactive, an adventure in a story or a book that pulls the reader in and forces them to act in order to keep the story going. You might even try writing an adventure for RPG use. Whatever it is, make sure that there are plenty of options for the player(s), and leave the ending up to the reader’s choice (and skill) to determine.
77. Write about someone in your family, someone different, unique, and distinctive. Cast them in a story, whether fiction or non-fiction, and write it in such a way that it reveals, emphasizes and casts a beautiful light on who they truly are.
78. Pick a social issue that bugs you to no end and then blow it all out of proportion in a way that is comedic and not wholly improbable as a possible vision of the future. (If you’re strapped for ideas, consider the way films like Brazil and Idiocracy approach myriad social issues in a bizarre and ultimately comedic way.
79. Create a new career and then write about it. It’s a given in any society that, as new technologies and new needs appear, new people will be trained to work with or repair each new technology and satisfy those new needs. You can write it from a first person, worker’s perspective, or even from the perspective of a pitch. It’s your story. Make it what you want it to be.
80. Write an Indiana Jones-type of thriller, something with a race to get to some ancient object of mystery and power. It can take place in any time period, any setting, any world, but the central idea should center around the action-packed recovery of an object of potentially great importance, either historic, monetary, or even military.
81. When we look at the historical record, things tend to get a little sparse and iffy between the period when humans first became fully modern (about 150,000 years ago) and when what we currently see as the first civilizations (Sumeria, etc.) popped up about 8-10,000 years ago. Sure, we have the paintings of Lascaux and Pont d’Arc in France (30-40,000 years ago) but what happened in all the years that happened in between? Write a story that addresses this, that takes place in (or relates to) something now lost in these grand gulfs of ancient history. After all, it’s only been 2,000 years from Christ to Cellphones– did our fully modern ancestors really just sit around for 100,000 years doing nothing but picking berries and chipping rocks?
82. Think about a season and all that is stereotypical about it. (For winter, think ice and snow, bitter cold, etc.) Now, imagine a world where that season is the only season. How is life effected? It doen’t have to be wholly realistic– it can be fantastic! Make that world the setting for your story.
83. Write a story that incorporates ideas or things that seem fantastically outside the norm of reality (like trees of glass and crystal that live and grow, or men and women that exist in a state of pure plasma.) What is life like in this new reality? What is different? What is the same? Be creative, and feel free to let your mind go places it would normally fear to tread.
84. Create a story, and do it like knitting together sections of a quilt. Create each section individually, each piece strong, independent and complete, then “stitch” them all together to create one cohesive whole.
85. Write a story (though it could take the form of a mock interview or anything else) where the main character (even if [especially if!] it’s the narrator) is clearly under the influence of some kind of drug. It could be a hallucinogen, sodium pentothal (truth serum), some illegal substance, or even just a heavy dose of something prescribed by a doctor, but get creative with it. Cast the light on its effects, how it feels to be under its influence, and describe what the character sees that’s different or isn’t there (if anything.)
86. In contrast (or perhaps in comparison) write a story where the main character is at the mercy of some kind of multiple personality disorder. He/she could be like a collective of souls, the victim of a botched possession, a simple psychotic, or anything else you can think of. Get creative.
87. Write a story where a dark secret in a character’s past comes back to haunt them. It could be anything from the blatant closet skeleton of a murder to something much more subtle and much more on the direct, everyday, human level. Whatever it is, make it real enough (no matter how fantastic it is) that the reader really feels it, really understands the haunting nature of it.
88. While the roof-tile thrown by an old-lady didn’t kill the once-famous conqueror Pyrrhus exactly, the impact of this clay projectile was enough to stun him and give a local soldier a chance to shank him. Write a story where the main hero (or villain) triumphs wildly over his or her foes, only to be taken out utterly by the most unexpected and unlikely of occurrences. (Like a bee sting or a pickle-farmer’s crackshot cucumber throw.)
89. Write a story that explains what happens when we die, but take an alternative path with it. Instead of writing about the valley of eternal spring or the pearly gates, write about something totally unexpected, something that would make the reader look twice. Maybe the afterlife is something glamourous like a realm of pure light and pleasure, and maybe it’s something far more down to earth, gritty and not at all like the heaven painted in the minds of most of the western Christian world.
90. Create a character who embodies one of the classic seven deadly sins (Greed, gluttony, lust, etc.) and then write a story where they ultimately meet their demise at the hands of that which they so heavily indulge in. Don’t go all overboard biblical with it– make the allusions to the cardinal sin more subtle, almost subconscious, and play around with it.
91. Write a story that describes its imagery using terms specific to some other form of art (i.e. describe it as you would describe a painting.) Point out and talk about brush strokes, the way colors blend into one another, etc. Describe people in terms of instruments, tools, methods, strokes or even musical notes– make the effect pervasive, all encompassing, constant.
92. Look at the ceiling where you are. Truly consider it, study it, and then think about what it would be like if it was suddenly your floor, if suddenly your own personal gravity (and nothing else’s) were reversed! What would life be like on the ceiling? Would you have tea parties? Panic uncontrollably? Contemplate mantras of zen buddhism? How would this sudden change in gravity effect your personal life?
93. Write a story where love is created and maintained over a distance. The length and nature of that distance is up to you. It could be the distance between two continents, two cities, or even just between two windows or the rooftops of two neighboring buildings. What lies between, physically and metaphorically? What are the barriers that must be overcome? Are they overcome? How?
94. Some of the most provocative, interesting, disturbing, and downright experimental works out there take a very different and very interesting look at sex. Try writing a story that approaches sex in a way the reader would not expect, but that still retains interest. You can do it by allusion, teasing, putting other words in, leading the reader to a wholly different situation altogether than they were expecting to be led to, by yanking the viewer away at the last second, or anything else creative you can think of.
95. Think of the most beautiful and/or interesting place you’ve ever been to and then set a story there. It doesn’t have to be the exact place (i.e. Tahoe, Vegas, Yellowstone, etc.) it can be a place that only exists in your mind, or even a place you’ve only seen before in pictures. Be creative, feel free to set any scene there, and remember– the only limits are the limits you impose on your own creativity.
96. Revisit the atrocities of the past in a story. You can either write it as a historical fiction (i.e. something that happens in the period in which the atrocity was practiced– like slavery, etc.) or as something that’s happening in a different form (with obvious corollaries) today, or in a future setting.
97. Poke fun at a current social or political issue by taking the opposite stance from what you feel and using that side’s own wit (or lack thereof) and “evidence” to undermine the position utterly. Many authors, including Johnathan Swift and Alexander Pope, have taken this same approach in many of their most famous works. It’s effective, it’s funny, and it makes a great way to get your point across while also cross examining the validity of the views your own ego holds so dear.
98. Try writing in a situation or mindset in which you would never normally write because you feel like too much of what you write would be garbage (i.e. when you’re really tired, when you’re drunk, etc.) Don’t just write a little, write a lot. Then, put it aside for about a week. Forget about it. Once the week has passed, pick it up again and look through it for nuggets of wisdom to use in your next story. You’ll be surprised what you’ll find!
99. Write a medical triage scene. It can take place anywhere, at any point in the history or past (to the thundering of civil war muskets, under the suppressive blasts of photon cannons, or in the ER of modern day Detroit, etc.) Make the action everpresent, put the feeling of running and rushing into the story, and try to capture the way that everything is frantically performed while still being powerful, exact and professional. Or, conversely, write about off-hour and try to capture the tense and lazy boredom experienced by people who know that at any minute, a dozen ambulances could cram into their doorways with payloads of patients in critical condition.
100. Write a story that you are several times removed from. Write a tale of an author, who’s writing a tale about an author, who is also writing a tale about an author. The challenge? Making it comprehensible, interesting, and just the right amount of complex to grab your reader and keep them reading.
101. Write your own writing prompt(s). Take the broken and basic ideas that come to you during the course of any given day and put them on paper as instructions for others (or yourself– at a later date) to follow. Be creative! Try new things, and urge others to do the same!
More by this Author
In all, it’s a magnificent piece, one that, while short, conveys some very important solutions for social problems that even members of modern society have difficulty dealing with. Cahan skillfully communicates...