"If you want to write and you want to get ideas, you have to be alert and open to everything.
Everything you read. Everything you listen to. You have to allow these things to inspire you."
What makes a good creative writing prompt?
These writing prompts are split into different sections for adults and teens and are designed to inspire you, help you write on specific topics and develop important skills you need as an author.
A good writing prompt will jump-start your creativity, help you come up with new ideas and may even give you the inspiration you need to write a full story. Dive straight in without too much thought. Simply choose the topic that appeals to you, pick one at random and start writing.
If you have a novel, screenplay, or other large project you're working on, I recommend using a writing prompt for 10 minutes before moving onto your main project. This will help get your creative juices flowing. If you don't have an existing project, spend as long as you want on a single prompt, or try a few different ones. Have fun, be free, and trust yourself.
The following prompts also include some for business writing, if you're looking for ideas to help with your content marketing or writing a blog.
Most of these prompts are written about 'you'. If you'd prefer to write them in third person, choose a name, and write them about a fictional character instead.
If you're looking to use these prompts as part of a class, or for a writing group, you might prefer to check out the Creative Writing Exercises for Adults and Teens instead. These include 26 group and solo exercises that are 10-15 minutes each, with more detailed instructions.
Choose the topic that fires your imagination
So you can plunge straight into the topic that most interests you, these writing prompts are split into the following categories:
- Overcoming writer's block
- Creative writing prompts for a young adult audience
- Creative writing prompts for adults
- Expressing emotion
- Fantasy and sci-fi prompts
- Visual prompts for world building
- Ideas to develop your online business writing
Overcoming writer's block
If you feel blocked, I recommend using one of the following prompts and writing for ten minutes in a stream of consciousness. In The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron recommends you write 3 pages every morning as your 'morning pages'. She calls this, "The bedrock tool of a creative recovery."
To write in a stream of consciousness while using a creative writing prompt, simply start writing and don't stop! If you don't know what will happen next, write, "I don't know what will happen next!" Then write what the options are, why one option might be better than another, etc. This kind of spontaneous creativity is an incredible tool to help move your writing forward and to overcome writer's block. If you read back over your stream of consciousness after just ten minutes, you'll find some nuggets of gold in your writing and may have resolved a difficult decision about a particular piece of text.
All authors face a challenge in getting in touch with their creativity from time to time, so don't feel that you're alone.
Here are the first set of prompts:
- You're on holiday in a new city and you were walking along talking to a friend, when you suddenly realise they're no longer with you. What happens next?
- You have invented a time machine and set off to the time you would most love to visit.
- Think of three conflicts - an internal conflict where the protagonist has doubts, an interpersonal conflict with another character, and an external conflict like a natural disaster, physical barrier, or bad weather. Now write a scene that encompasses all three.
- You are sitting, reading about writing prompts when your favourite character opens the door and looks at you. They say, "I've been looking for you."
- You are a security guard at a secret lair. It's a cold winter's night and there's a foot of snow. You notice a set of footprints leading straight to you, but you could have sworn that they weren't there a moment ago.
- What's a flaw that one of your friends has? Imagine if that flaw was exaggerated and create a character around that flaw.
- You get a newspaper delivered to your door every morning, then one day it's tomorrow's paper, telling you what will happen today.
- Think about a favourite book or movie. What was the character's main goal? Now give that character a different backstory that explains his/her goal.
- You are about to fly on a dragon for the very first time.
- Everyone has a superpower based on the topography of where they were born (i.e. mountains, deserts, etc.). You are the first person to be born in space.
(This prompt, copied from Reddit, was the inspiration for a novel, that then became the first in a successful book series).
Prompts to help you write for a young adult audience
These prompts are ideal for teen authors and for those looking to write for a Young Adult audience.
- You're at the best party you've ever been to, when your worst enemy walks through the door and heads straight towards you.
- One morning you wake up and you can see people's feelings as halos of colour around them. You discover that a friend has been hiding how they feel.
- You're playing with a toy car when it comes alive and starts driving around by itself. It can only make car sounds, but you have a feeling it wants you to follow it.
- Think of 3 animals. A creature has just entered your room that is a magical combination of these 3 animals.
- What's the most exotic place you've ever visited? Your adventure starts there.
- A genie grants you three wishes. You wish for an unlimited supply of your favourite food, then for an unlimited supply of your favourite toys. Instead of appearing next to you, they start falling out of the sky. You have one wish left.
- Imagine an ant is looking up at you. What would they see?
- You're dreaming of flying and when you wake up, you're hovering above your bed.
- The internet and all the mobile phones in the world stop working. Choose a character and give them a goal. What happens?
Writing prompts for adults
- You turn up for a job interview, but instead of being offered a job, you are invited to join an illegal activist group who are fighting to right the wrongs in the government.
- You have had a crush on Rowan for ages. One night your car breaks down. Cursing that your phone is out of charge, you hitch-hike home and a car pulls over to pick you up. Rowan's driving it and is alone. You get in feeling relieved and delighted, only to discover that Rowan isn't the person you thought.
- Write the names of 3 friends or family members who don't know each other. Now describe a scene where the 3 of them meet.
- You are a tree and are scared of losing all your leaves. Autumn is fast approaching.
- A rhinoceros is charging down a crowded city street.
- You have studied hard to be an opera singer. You are opening the show and forget your lines. In desperation, you sing the song to a different opera. The orchestra know it and play along with you. What happens next?
- Look at different clues for a murder mystery, then write a unique clue that could be the first hint to set your detective on the trail.
- Choose a sport you love and write a scene about a character starting where they are preparing to perform in the Olympics, or another major competition.
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart”
- Describe the emotion the woman in the above image is feeling.
- You are tired and arguing with your best friend over whose turn it is to wash the dishes. It gets out of hand.
- You receive a letter saying, "We would like to publish your novel." How do you react?
- What was the last strong emotion you felt? If this emotion was a type of weather, what weather would that be? Now place a character feeling the opposite emotion in those weather conditions.
- Your teenage daughter gets on the train to go to uni, you wave her off, then stand on the platform as the train pulls away.
- Think of an emotion. Now describe how your protagonist's body reacts when they feel this emotion.
- Your white friends have just left the supermarket and the security guard ignored them. You're black and as you leave, he demands to see your receipt.
- A beautiful rainbow shines in the distance, but the storm is headed your way and you're miles from cover.
Love comes in many forms and is written about in every genre. It goes beyond romantic love, though romance books are the best-selling genre. As so many people have written about love, it can be a challenge to describe love without sounding cliched.
Before we get to the prompts, here are some quotes about love to inspire you:
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
― Lao Tzu
“One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”
― William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream
Now the prompts themselves from 5 different genres. Choose whichever you feel inspired by!
- COMEDY - Choose 2 objects in your house. Write a love poem from one to the other.
- ROMANCE - Write a love poem to someone you love.
- SELF-REFLECTION - Write a poem to yourself when you were a child.
- SCI-FI - Write a poem from yourself 10 years from now to yourself today.
- ADVENTURE - Write a poem about an amazing adventure in a place you, or your character, loves.
All the above say 'poem', but if you'd prefer to write a letter or short story, go for it.
Fantasy and sci-fi prompts
- Bored with your immortal existence, you are gathered with your godly friends to create the ultimate virtual reality game ever. A game you have called 'Earth', but just as your first friend enters the game you realise that the game has a terrible flaw.
- You are an orc who wants to do good. You have fled your hometown and arrive at a human village wondering whether you will be welcome.
- You character is approaching a castle. What unusual reason do they have to be there? What do they say to the two guards standing outside it?
- Evil narcists rule the world, but a wizard is determined to stop them by wiping their memory and the memory of everyone who knew them. This allows them to safely re-enter society. You have just found one of your old diaries and discovered that you were once a warlord who commit terrible evil.
- A war between the vampires and werewolves has been going on for centuries in ancient Europe, but you have just found a way to turn the battle. If a werewolf eats garlic, they remain human. You're about to spread a false rumour that will change history and give vampires the advantage forever.
- You are an alien visiting Earth and chose to assume an anonymous form as a dog. Now someone wants to adopt you.
- Gravity has just reversed itself.
- A wish generator fulfils a wish every time you touch it, but the wish it fulfils isn't your own.
- Look around you and imagine that an object, plant or piece of furniture you can see is enormous. Decide what this object means to a character. Your character is walking towards it.
Visual writing prompts for world building
Sometimes an image can be more of a prompt than words. As it's a different medium, it allows you complete freedom to choose how to write about it. Here are 4 visual writing prompts to help with your world building, along with a suggestion of how to use them for each.
- You've entered this room for the first time. Decide what your purpose was in entering it, then start writing.
- Imagine a conversation is occurring here between people who work here all the time. Write the conversation, setting the room as the background.
- I find the following image so evocative, it shouldn't need a prompt to go with it!
- Who lives here? Write their story.
As well as visual writing prompts, there are musical writing prompts. Simply take the name of any song below and write a story from it. Focus on sounds in your writing.
Ideas to develop your online business writing
- Mix work and pleasure! Write about something you love to do as a hobby in the style of writing that you do for your work. A sales pitch about your favourite holiday destination, or an analysis of the last board game you played, for example.
- If you had to choose a single issue that determined how you would vote in every future election, what issue would it be? Why?
- Write a short review of your favourite movie and a movie you hated.
- Write a short autobiography of your life in the form of an interview, where paragraphs alternate between question and answer.
- Choose a random article on Wikipedia and write a press release to promote it.
- Search for a topic you're interested in on Google and look for the questions Google suggests. Choose one and write an article on this topic. You may have to try a handful of different searches to see suggested questions.
- What is your favourite book set in a fictional universe? Write a tourist's guide to one area of that universe.
- What was a favourite toy you had as a child? What appealed to you about it? Write a sales blurb for that product with you as the target audience.
To discover more creative writing prompts, please click the image below.