A good friend of mine uses writing prompts for adults to get to sleep. I imagine that he uses them to relax. I’m not sure it would work for me. I’m more likely to go down the rabbit hole of — ”and then what?” and would keep myself up until 3 in the morning.
Take one of these writing prompts and spend fifteen to twenty minutes writing it into a scene. You can use this as a warm-up, to write a book about, or — like my friend Dave, to send yourself to sleep. 😉
Writing Prompts for Adults
All writing is essentially character writing, whether it’s overt or not. To develop your characters, it really helps to get to know them and see how they interact with the world around them.
Here are 37 writing prompts for character development
Try asking your character Arthur Aron’s 36 questions that lead to love. Working your way through these insightful questions in order will help you build a deeper understanding of your character. (And, if you ask them to a potential mate, could lead to the relationship that lasts a lifetime).
- 1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, who would you want as a dinner guest?
- 2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
- 3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
- 4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
- 5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
- 6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
- 7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
- 8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
- 9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
- 10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
- 11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
- 12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
- 1. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future, or anything else, what would you want to know?
- 2. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
- 3. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
- 4. What do you value most in a friendship?
- 5. What is your most treasured memory?
- 6. What is your most terrible memory?
- 7. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
- 8. What does friendship mean to you?
- 9. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
- 10. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
- 11. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
- 12. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
- 1. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling …”
- 2. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share …”
- 3. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
- 4. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.
- 5. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
- 6. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
- 7. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
- 8. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
- 9. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?
- 10. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?
- 11. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
- 12. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.
Action writing moves the reader through events or dialog at a fast pace. It favors active voice, short sentences, and characters pursuing their goals.
Here are 31 action writing prompts
- Write your story as a sensational tabloid headline e.g., ”Bank robbery results in a high-speed chase!”
- Write a story about a villain who has erased himself from history.
- Write about a person with a mysterious past.
- Write about someone who will do whatever it takes to get the job done.
- Write about someone who is Santa in a department store when a robbery takes place.
- Write about a secret agent who is forced to come out of early retirement to train another agent.
- Your character’s wife-to-be is killed on her wedding day, and her partner wants revenge.
- You character dropped the villain down a lift shaft to his death. He thinks it’s all over, but it’s only just begun.
- An unlikely hero finds himself tasked with saving the world. What do they do first?
- Your protagonist is involved in a plane crash, leaving him and a dozen others alone on a remote island. What happens next?
It all started when…
- An abandoned factory catches fire.
- Your character goes on a silent retreat to relax their mind.
- Your character mistakes someone else’s luggage for their own.
- Someone kidnaps the hero’s sister.
- A human-made creature (think Frankenstein or Jurassic Park) goes rogue.
- A top assassin is hired to kill her mentor.
- The alien life-form decided to destroy the space center.
- Best friends are pitted against each other. How do they convince everyone that one of them has died?
- Your hero thought that his nemesis had been dead for years when suddenly he starts getting strange messages from him.
- Your character has to kill someone to save someone else. Will they do it? Can they save them both?
Start from the middle:
- Your character is a getaway driver, and the robbery has just gone horribly wrong.
- Your character has just found an intricate bomb that only they can defuse.
- A secondary character throws a gun at the hero and says, “You’re going to need this. They’re coming.”
- An assistant passes your character a new gadget they’ve been working on. “I think you’re going to like this one,” he says with a wink.
- Your character realizes she needs to sacrifice herself to save everyone else.
- While on vacation, your heroine finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- Your protagonist must break out of jail before the villain claims their family fortune.
- Your protagonist suspects that the spy they are working with is a double agent.
- Your hero realizes that the only reason no one comes to visit him in hospital must mean that they’re all dead.
- The three warriors swear an oath under the cherry tree as the blossoms fall. What happens?
Contemporary Fiction Writing
In contemporary literature, you’ll find strong characters and a believable narrative set within a realistic environment. The appeal is escaping your own life for someone else’s. Fitzgerald and Hemingway are two well-known contemporary novelists.
Here are 31 contemporary writing prompts
- Write your story as a top ten list. For example, if we were to tell Wuthering Heights as a top ten, it might look like…
- Get adopted by a nice family
- Fall in love with your adopted sister
- Fall out with your adopted brother
- Run away from home
- Come into a vast and mysterious wealth
- Marry a wealthy man’s sister to inherit his money
- Abuse your pregnant wife
- Gain ownership of Wuthering Heights
- Try to dig up the love of your life from her grave
- Go for a very long walk in the rain
- Write a story about a character with a heightened sense of smell.
- Write a story where one of your main characters is an animal but can speak and interact with humans.
- Write about someone with a very poor memory who decides to move away from home.
- Write about a young boy who refuses to fit in.
- The problem isn’t that your character has writer’s block, it’s that they can’t stop writing. What happens?
- When a character moves to New York to gain experience in the restaurant industry, he finds himself learning about friendship, sexuality, and creativity.
- A games studio is on the verge of closing down. Your hero must turn its fate around or face firing his team.
- Write a short story that takes place entirely in a shopping mall.
- Obsessed with a singer/songwriter who mysteriously stopped writing in the 1990s, your character decides to go on a journey to find him and convince him to start working again.
It all started when…
- The Irish family moved in next door.
- Your character walks into a stationery shop.
- A mysterious black van started parking outside your character’s apartment.
- Your character’s girlfriend got the job of their dreams… 3000 miles away.
- Your hero tried doing hypnosis to make them more confident.
- Your protagonist turned 40 and started to change all of his habits.
- The bride decided that she needed ten bridesmaids, a cake to wow her guests, and a dress to bring her mother to tears.
- The hurricane that happened that night surprised them all.
- A young girl decides to learn about owls by keeping one of her own.
- A boy steals a valuable artifact from a museum.
Start from the middle:
- “What the hell is happening on the Kings Road?” she demanded.
- Your hero realizes that the funeral is the most fun he’s had in ages.
- Your heroine decides to leave her wealthy husband and start life again in a different country.
- Your hero decides it’s about time he found himself a husband. But how?
- Your protagonist decides that she needs to teach those inconsiderate neighbors a lesson. But how?
- The game of tag the four adults had been playing since they were children got out of hand.
- Your heroine, a busy career girl, struggles to get pregnant and decides to pursue it with every trick in the book.
- Your protagonist sits at the bed of his dying grandmother writing the story of her life.
- Two best friends are reunited after serving in different troops at war. What happens next?
- Your character becomes a millionaire and retires at 31. Now he’s bored.
Dystopian Fiction Writing
A dystopian novel depicts a society where there is great suffering or injustice. Good examples are George Orwell’s 1984, Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.
Here are 31 dystopian writing prompts
- Write your story as a letter to an advice columnist. What are the high stakes that you need to convey? What is the conflict that you can’t easily solve without their help?
- Write about when it is best to break to the rules of society.
- Not trusted with the power to censor things, a computer program starts cutting out communication between people.
- Social status defines how many children a person can have. Your character (a lowly housekeeper) finds out they are pregnant, and they’re determined to keep their child.
- The police have lost control, and society has crumbled. Crime, drugs, and violence are prevalent. What does your character do?
- When the snowstorms and the heatwaves make earth virtually uninhabitable, people take to living underground. What is life like for them?
- A devastating event destroys technology. Society rebuilds itself, returning to older ways of communication. What happens?
- After the nuclear fallout, your character is tasked with running a commune. What rules must they follow?
- The city looks like a utopia, but it feels like hell. All its inhabitants are mute and scared for their lives. How will your character break free?
- The government decides to wipe out any history of feminism. What does that mean for women?
It all started when…
- The head of a large company summons your hero to their office.
- Your character stepped out of their office cubicle, to find no one else in the building.
- One day a message is broadcast on every single device. What does it mean?
- A high school athlete decides to take down the corrupt government.
- A time traveler causes a tear in the space-time continuum. What event didn’t take place?
- Your hero wakes up in a hospital, following a nuclear explosion.
- Schools started tracking every moment of their students’ lives.
- Your heroine is locked in a panopticon for a crime that they don’t remember committing.
- Pets are removed from society, one kitten at a time.
- Your character realizes that they’ve never left the borders of their town.
Start from the middle:
- A virus has wiped out everyone over the age of 60, and all the world’s governments. How does your character begin to put the world back together again?
- A secret society is operating under everyone’s noses. What is its goal?
- During a zombie apocalypse, your character takes on the role of chief protector.
- The game suddenly becomes much more complicated.
- The scientists had to use the seeds from the long-term storage facility.
- Natural farming doesn’t exist anymore, but your character has just found a real strawberry bush.
- A laser beam is ‘fired’ every night into the sky. Why?
- Your character learns that the media are lying to them. What are they trying to hide?
- Society has become very dependent on a drug that suppresses their emotions, but babies start to be born who are immune to its effects.
- When they realized that depression was airborne, Scientists worked to eradicate it.
Fantasy novels are often highly imaginative and unique. Great examples include Ursula Le Guin’s Tales from Earthsea, C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings.
Here are 31 fantasy writing prompts
- Write a book where magic is as unique to the character as their fingerprint.
- Write a book where your lead character is the therapist to superheroes.
- Write a book about a genie who goes rouge, granting wishes to whomever he wants.
- Create the smallest universe you can think of. So small it fits into a house. What problems would your characters encounter?
- Write a story about Gwyneth of a thousand swords. Who was she, and what did she accomplish?
- Write about a toymaker whose team of elf-helpers decide to rebel against him.
- Write about the owner of a hot-air balloon who discovers more than she bargains for when she sets sail with a group of seemingly ordinary tourists.
- Write about a character who discovers much to his surprise that he glows in the dark.
- Write a story about a group of children who meet an Irish Selkie that likes to tell secrets.
- Write a classic fairytale from the villain’s perspective.
It all started when…
- People’s shadows started to disappear.
- Your character notices more than one moon in the night sky.
- A wizard takes a young chef as an apprentice.
- The young boy opened the whisperglass.
- The princess boarded a ship to a newly discovered land.
- The council of gods elected a new ruler.
- Your character realized that they were immortal.
- Your character finds themselves in possession of an enchanted sword.
- Your character finds an unusual-looking egg in the forest.
- Your character realizes that they can teleport.
Start from the middle:
- The world has been reborn, but you remember what happened in the past. How does your character stop the mistakes from happening again?
- Your character has just found out that his wife is a Greek goddess.
- Your character has just read all the books in the British Library, making them more knowledgeable than any other woman in the world. What do they do next?
- A prophecy has come true: twins are born to a woman with no father in a time of great uncertainty. They are here to change everything forever.
- An extinct animal has been sighted walking casually about town, getting on the bus, and even making a phone call. What is going on?
- Your character takes a magical potion made especially for them.
- Your hero opened a door that went wherever they wanted it to go.
- The city’s walls are guards around the clock, but your hero plans to leave before dawn.
- Cerberus, the three-headed dog, opened his eyes and lazily scratched his ears.
- Your hero realized that their partner was a minor demon.
Narrative design combines storytelling with game mechanics. The hero in the game is always the player, and their experience is an interactive one. Great narrative games include Her Story, Alan Wake, and Chrono Trigger.
Here are 15 game writing prompts
An MMO about…
- Unicorns and lions
- Corgis and the fairies who ride them into war
- The Serengeti
- King Tut and the Egyptian pyramids
An RPG set in…
- Medieval England
- The human body
- Peru during Inca Times
- A zoo
A point and click adventure about…
- A character who has lost their memory and needs to find out who they are.
- A character who realizes they are stuck in a computer game.
- A young magician who has lost his dog.
- A chicken who wants to take over the world.
- A shipwrecked crew who land on a deserted island.
Historical Fiction Writing
In historical fiction, the plot takes place almost entirely in the past. As the character, setting, and dialog should all be authentic; writing historical fiction can involve a massive amount of research. Great examples include Robert Graves’s I Claudius, Phillipa Greggory’s The Other Boleyn Girl, and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.
Here are 31 historical writing prompts
- Write your story as a diary entry from a supporting character. What are the events as told through their eyes?
- Write about an explorer, famous or forgotten.
- Write about a time traveler who gets stuck in Shakespearean London.
- Write about a famous figure’s wife. What did she make of her husband’s remarkable deeds? Did things really happen as history portrays them?
- Take a trip to your local archives and research the history of your own town. What stories interest you that you could retell?
- Your protagonist is a young Mata Hari, living in Paris and about to embark on an intense affair with a Russian captain.
- Your protagonist is the acclaimed actor, Nell Gywnn, about to meet King Charles for the first time.
- Your hero is the silent movie actor, John Barrymore, nervous about your transition into the world of talkies.
- Your heroine is the paleontologist, Mary Anning, searching for fossils in Lyme Regis.
- Your hero is the chef, Francois Vatel, tasked with perfecting a banquet for 2000 guests in honor of King Louis XIV.
It all started when…
- Your lead character buys an old, French chateau.
- Your protagonist decides to found a home for foundlings.
- Your character is asked to join Charles Darwin on a journey.
- Your character got a job at a zoo when the first giraffe arrived there.
- Your character purchased tickets to America.
- Your character’s family decides to hide a Catholic priest in their house.
- Your character walks into a gin palace in the 1820s.
- Your protagonist runs a New York speakeasy during prohibition.
- Your protagonist learns to dance with Rudolf Nureyev.
- Your hero decides to build Canada’s first transcontinental railway.
Start in the middle:
- Your lead character is in the midst of a bloody battle, and their side is losing. How does your character survive, and what happens next?
- She walked through the halls of the high court, her gown sweeping the floors, and immediately she caught his eye.
- During a terrible storm, your character must help her father — a lighthouse keeper — prevent a terrible shipwreck.
- Your character witnesses the death of John Lennon.
- Your heroine’s father is appointed a government official in colonial india.
- Your hero is an orphaned child who meets a strange family in Big Sur in the 1960s.
- Your heroine decides to join the suffragettes on a protest in the 1900s.
- The bubonic plague has swept through your town, killing many, except your character.
- A Victorian family has just bought their first Christmas tree.
- Your character is one of the first to test a typewriter.
I started writing horror prompts and had to move my chair, so the back was against the wall in case anyone wanted to jump out at me. Obviously not the genre for me, but perhaps it’s for you?
Horror writing has its own challenges — how do you make something made up sound scary? The trick is to lean into your own fear, keep writing, and learn to fix it later.
Here are 31 horror writing prompts
- Write about a person who is hiding a terrible secret.
- Write about a hero who isn’t scared when almost everyone else would be.
- Write about a psychiatrist who is not to be trusted.
- Write about a painting that comes to life with alarming consequences.
- Write about a new employee who comes to the all-hands meeting with murder in mind.
- Write about a murderer who repairs watches.
- Tourists are dying in a beautiful holiday spot. Two murderers are on the loose.
- Supernatural events start happening in a school. The teachers are scared for their lives.
- Two hopeful parents adopt a newborn, only to realize that the child has been born before.
- A woman wakes up in an asylum, where the patients are dying one by one.
It all started when…
- The thick fog descended over the lake, making everything invisible.
- Your characters look for an old warehouse to use as a wedding venue.
- The phone started to ring.
- The shadows started to gather around the campfire.
- Your character starts to see their reflection move.
- The funeral director wanted to improve their customers’ experiences.
- Your character sits next to a peculiar woman on an airplane.
- One by one, the knives in the restaurant started to go missing.
- Your character goes to a confession box.
- Your character finds a random item in an antique store.
Start from the middle:
- Your character is trapped in an old recording studio, while a killer is on the loose in the building.
- Your character wakes up with no memory of the night before, but a gun in their jacket pocket, and a tattoo of a small bird on their neck.
- Your character has just found words written on a wall, “the worst cruelty known to man is isolation.”
- Your character finds an old dollhouse in the cabin they are renting, and all the dolls inside are missing a particular feature.
- Your character has to make a stop at a gas station or convenience store.
- The hotel’s elevator breaks down with two people inside. One of them has a lust for blood.
- She told her son that monsters in the closet weren’t real… but soon realized they were.
- Your character returns to their hometown, only to find their own grave.
- It was clear that the blind date was going to end very badly for one of them.
- The vampire’s son didn’t just want blood; he wanted revenge.
Mystery narratives are focused on plot and involve drama, suspense, and the occasional red herring. Two things are for certain — everyone lies, and the author always knows who dunnit right from the beginning. Agatha Christie is, of course, a master of the craft, but J.K. Rowling (particularly in her guise as Robert Galbraith) is also an exceptional talent.
Here are 31 mystery writing prompts
- Write your mystery as a fortune cookie. How can you summarize your plot as a head-scratching riddle?
- Write about a character who shoots her husband, but has the perfect alibi — she works on the sixth floor and didn’t leave her office all day.
- Write about an animal psychic who gives your detective a valuable clue about the death of a beloved dog’s owner.
- Write about someone answering a personal ad for a detective agency.
- Write about someone with a very limited vocabulary who is the key witness to a crime.
- Write about a detective who is obsessed with Kit Kats and crossword puzzles.
- A thief is stealing jewels from old ladies in the retirement home. A seemingly easy case turns out to be much more than your detective gambled for.
- There are three dead women on a cruise ship. Your detective knows whodunnit, but they don’t know why.
- A university professor disappears without a trace during an important event. Who is connected to his disappearance, and why?
- A wedding is disrupted when two of the guests are found murdered. What clues are left? Is the bride really who she appears to be?
It all started when…
- Your character takes a train to Tuscaloosa.
- A black and white photograph fell out of a book.
- Your character gets a job at a newspaper.
- An artist’s muse is found dead in a wardrobe.
- One of the cakes at the village fete was poisoned.
- A murder victim was found drowned in maple syrup.
- A prize racehorse went missing right before race day.
- A young detective started investigating an unsolved murder.
- A series of cult-like activities started happening in a quiet village.
- A child goes missing despite never leaving school.
Start in the middle:
- Someone in town is killing ‘employees of the month.’
- Your character realizes they have been there before, but they don’t know why the door is locked.
- The mysterious person helping your detective may also have committed the crime.
- Someone has died on a flight between Japan and New York. The police suspect murder, but no one has seen a thing.
- Your character’s wife has gone missing. It’s up to him to put together her diary entries and find out where she is.
- Your character is the witness to the death of a man in a nightclub. Now they must work out what lead to his death.
- A crime has been committed, and the only clue left behind is an empty suitcase and a postcard.
- Your detective turns to a fortune teller for answers and is surprised by what is revealed.
- People are going missing. When they wake up, in their own beds, they have a mysterious tattoo.
- Your character returns home to find their house surrounded by police cars.
As a form, poetry has existed for centuries. If you enjoy playing with language and expressing yourself within a constrained form, writing poetry is for you. If you want to take these prompts to the next level, try combining them with different poetic forms, for example, sonnets, haiku, or a terza rima.
Here are 31 poetry writing prompts
Write a poem about…
- An object without naming what the object is. See if your friends can guess it.
- An insomniac and what it’s like to be haunted by a lack of sleep.
- What it’s like to be a poet.
- A superstition you have or used to have when you were younger.
- What you see when you look in the mirror.
- An unrequited love. Use words that persuade someone to love you.
- Something that you can’t possibly live without.
- A couple making eye contact for the first time.
- A piece of jewelry that you like to wear.
- The noises you can hear when you open your window.
Take inspiration from:
- The lyrics of a famous song.
- A painting or sculpture in a local or online gallery.
- A poem by a famous writer. Rewrite it in your own words, copying the style and structure.
- The main character in a film or television show.
- The last journey you took.
- A dream you had recently. Use a dream dictionary to help you explore the theme.
- A dictionary or encyclopedia. Try choosing a word at random, or navigate to a page in Wikipedia that interests you.
- A conversation that you overheard in a public place.
- A person you admire, famous or important to you
- An article in the newspaper. Take words from the article — use either online or cut and paste from a magazine.
Using or based on the metaphor…
- The snow is a white blanket.
- The wind was a howling wolf.
- You are my sunshine
- She was a dragon.
- She was drowning in a sea of grief.
- He was a walking encyclopedia.
- They were peas in a pod.
- The lake was a mirror.
- His smelt of infidelity.
- Her heart was made of glass.
One of the most popular forms of fiction, romance novels are widely enjoyed. It may seem like the easiest genre to write, but it involves tried and true formulas, obligatory scenes, and believable plot and characters. Well-known romance novelists include Sophie Kinsella, Nicholas Sparks, and Jojo Moyes.
Here are 31 romance writing prompts
- Write your story as a horoscope, “Put the champagne on ice, Virgo. Today, you will encounter a lover who will turn your world around and turn you into jelly.”
- Write about a radio talk show host who falls in love with a caller.
- Write about an owner of a pet shop who swipes right on an attractive beekeeper.
- Write about a missed connection. Look in a local newspaper or search online for inspiration.
- Ask your grandparents how they met, then retell the story as a modern day romance.
- Write a modern retelling of a classic romance — Romeo and Juliet, Rick and Isla, Ross and Rachel.
- Write about a character who is reunited with an old flame, only to find themselves falling in love all over again.
- Write about what happens when a character who works at a Sperm Bank falls in love with a donor.
- Your lovers fall in love but are separated, only to be reborn in a different lifetime — time and time again. How do they break the cycle?
- Your hero tells nothing but lies until the girl of his dreams learns the truth. How can he turn his fate around and win her back?
It all started when…
- Your character started to take swimming lessons.
- Your character walked into a garden center.
- Your character takes a vacation to a remote location.
- Your character takes life drawing lessons.
- They ran into each other on the train station platform.
- They found themselves looking at the same painting.
- Your character receives a package from a secret admirer.
- Your character goes to Ireland to take part in a love-matching festival.
- Your character meets the person least likely to be a love-match.
- Your character hired their divorce lawyer.
Start from the middle:
- Your character has been taken away on a romantic break to Rome.
- Bored with her husband, your heroine falls in love with a pirate.
- Your heroine watches the hero, handling a delicate object, like a vase.
- To prove their love, your character must fight their object of desire’s past lovers.
- Your injured hero falls in love with his nurse.
- Your character is on a blind date set up by her daughter.
- When disaster strikes, the plumber turns out to be more than just good with his hands.
- She hadn’t meant to fall in love with him. He was a client, and what’s more, she was a wedding planner.
- Your heroine starts to dream about an old lover calling out her name.
- Engaged to the perfect partner, your character finds themselves falls in love with someone imperfect in every single way.
For the reader, Sci-fi writing is about escapism. For the writer, it’s all about effective and imaginative world-building. If you’re willing to take on this challenge, then you may want to check out The KU Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction.
Here are 31 sci-fi writing prompts
- Write about an alien who is trying to fit in on earth, but whose inappropriate behavior makes them stand out like a sore thumb.
- Write about a person who believes in fairies and who knows exactly where to find them.
- Write about someone who has been locked out of their space station.
- Write about a space alien who is lightyears away from home.
- Describe the city known as Balthazar’s Peak.
- Imagine the pyramids weren’t built during 2630 BC by Egyptians, but many many years before by a different race. Who were they and what purpose did they initially serve?
- Your character decided to be cryogenically frozen in the year 2004. Now it’s 2080, and someone has just decided to turn off the deep freeze.
- The human race has moved to Kepler 22b. What is life like there? What has become of the home they left behind?
- When the government realizes the full damage that technology is doing to the human race, it outlaws the use of every mobile phone and every computer. Your character finds an old laptop. What does she do?
- The next generation grows up with the internet, AI, translation tools, and the ability to colonize new planets. What do they do first?
It all started when…
- Your character started asking the universe questions… and it started answering them.
- Your character tried on the new shoes for the first time.
- Your heroine is born to two loving parents and has an unremarkable birth, apart from the hour in which she goes missing and is found, with no explanation on a different ward.
- Your character decided to steal a spaceship.
- The crystal began to shine colors that weren’t even on the spectrum.
- A human and an alien fall in love and decide to start a new, powerful race.
- Your character realizes that they can bend time and space.
- Your character takes part in an experiment where he learns he has unexpected psychic powers.
- An underground oceanic city is discovered — and it’s wholly inhabited.
- A young boy starts to have recurring dreams about a different planet.
Start from the middle:
- You just woke up on another planet. You don’t know how you got there, or whether or not you’ll be able to survive.
- A man says in a low voice, “We must break the cycle. You’ll need to take the lead.”
- An archeologist, 3000 years in the future unearths a mobile phone, an espresso machine, and a set of keys. He has no context as to what these items are. Explain them from his eyes.
- A time traveler has just trapped herself in another dimension, with no means of easy return.
- You realize the voice in your head is not your conscience; it’s an operating program. And you don’t have to listen to it anymore.
- You simultaneously spawn somewhere. Where and what are you?
- A time traveler tries for the 105th time to stop the oncoming apocalypse.
- Your character sits next to an alien in a bar. They strike up a conversation.
- Your character begins to suspect that their pilates teacher is actually a cyborg.
- Your character wakes up and realizes that they’re not in their own body.
YA fiction covers readers who are 12-18 years old. Although it’s targeted to teenagers, almost half of the people buying YA fiction are actually adults. Why? Because it often includes relatable themes, emotional truth, and a healthy dash of pop culture.
Here are 31 YA writing prompts
- Tell your story as a school newspaper article. Lead with a strong headline that draws the reader in, summarize the events in the opening paragraph and then add the details. What would a school newspaper sensationalize? What details would it find mundane?
- Write a story as an ex-superhero, who is either retired or quit saving people.
- Write about someone who shouldn’t be in charge.
- Your character dreads spending the summer with her aunt in Ireland, but it turns out to be the best of her life.
- When a school exchange happens, a French teenager comes to stay at your character’s house.
- Your character has to move from the city to a remote Canadian town, with unexpected results.
- Three children find a map that leads to buried treasure and scary challenges.
- A group of children with astonishingly high IQs is brought together at an academy for gifted students.
- On winter break, twins are excited to learn that they are going skiing for the first time. There is action, mystery, and maybe even romance…
- An orphan is given a talisman that belonged to his late mother. It changes his life forever. How?
It all started when…
- Your character spilled the coffee he was carrying to table 7.
- Your character’s horoscope said, “Find a party or a gathering and go work your magic!“
- Your character started keeping a diary.
- Your character went to watch a sports game — baseball, football, rugby — take your pick!
- Your character answered an advertisement.
- Your character started cloud watching.
- Strange things started to happen in a seaside town.
- Your character discovers a secret passageway underneath her house.
- Your character forms an unlikely bond with an animal.
- Three teenagers ditch class for a day they’ll never forget.
Start in the middle:
- Your character is caught red-handed doing something they shouldn’t.
- Your character realizes that they can transform into a mermaid.
- Your character has a hopeless crush on a boy at school.
- A boy who wants to pursue a career in music is offered the chance to tour with a rock band.
- Stones are being thrown at your character’s window. Who is throwing them and why?
- A random act of kindness leads to unexpected results.
- A girl takes it into her own hands to teach the star quarterback a lesson.
- A young hockey player, struggling with depression, decides to pursue happiness.
- Jenny is afraid of two things — good looking boys and things that go buzz. Help her overcome her fear.
- A new teacher starts at school and changes her pupil’s lives forever.
Good luck with your writing! Let me know if you use any of these writing prompts to tell a story — and if you have any ideas to add to this list.