Creative writing prompts can plunge you into a plot. We writers search for story starters that will promote descriptive writing. Maybe we just want to put a new spin on something that’s been written before, but to say it our way.
The most rewarding activities that give my Muse a kick in the pants are my dreams or people and activity watching. For the time being, let’s focus on people and activities and what they can cause you to conjure.
While I’m breaking down the creative writing prompts given below into genres within the fiction category, be aware that many of the suggested prompts can also be categorized into “Realistic Fiction.” That is, it’s fiction, but it is a plot that could happen today.
Creative writing prompts in this genre can be sparked by everyday life. The newspaper headlines always trigger story starters for me. I usually take the facts and twist them till I’ve wrung out something totally different.
Yet, something always keeps them apart, maybe something neither can overcome. Then, despite all odds and after the story has played out, they find a way to be together.
How the story plays out depends on what you conjure to keep the two apart. That is a dilemma they must solve.
That’s romance. And believe me, when you write sizzling romance, because we are such human creatures, you will or should feel all of your characters emotions and feelings.
Do you harbor a secret crush on a certain actor or other person you know? Maybe you fantasize a little? A lot? How does it make you feel?
Those thoughts and feelings are the creative writing prompts you should be writing about in romance stories. They are story starters that you embellish. Romantic experiences from your private inner world are gems.
Check out these romance story starters:
~ When was the last time you looked into someone’s gorgeous eyes? Maybe they were sea green and seemed to have all the secrets of the world behind them? What would happen if you had a chance to know this person intimately?
Here’s a simple creative writing prompt that you can complicate:
~ Girl meets guy and they fall in love, only to learn that he is still seeing his former love interest because she’s strung out on drugs and threatening suicide. Guy doesn’t want to be the cause of that happening.
Another creative writing prompt in the romance genre is how people overcome prejudice. Yes, you can make a statement in your stories, if you stick to the story and not worry about the message. If you’ve employed descriptive writing and there’s to be a message, it will shine through.
~ Guy goes to a third world country where he’s inherited a large tract of land. He finds the property inhabited by caretakers who have an incredibly beautiful daughter, not to mention, she has brains. (Maybe she’s only plain looking but super intelligent.) Her family wants someone to take her to a better life.
The above plot could be reversed in several ways. Here’s one:
~ Girl comes from a third world country when she finds she’s inherited a large tract of land in (any town). She finds the property has been rented for years to a family fairly high up the social ladder and who wish to purchase what they refer to as “their home.” The family has a gorgeous bachelor son. Girl and guy fall in love.
A tragic romance must have a redeeming quality that lingers in the minds of the readers.
Plots for these stories are usually realistic and contain a mysterious event or one that is illusive and on going. While someone tries to sort out the events, the crime is not solved till the end of the story.
Again, use newspaper and other headlines to find creative writing prompts and use descriptive writing to change the story and take the story where you want it to go.
True, you can make the simplest story exciting by the way you create the action and suspense. But real mystery/thriller readers don’t want mild stories with great action.
They want non-stop thrills.
~ A fledgling police officer wants to make a reputation for herself. She’s heard about people disappearing into manholes that haven’t been opened for decades. People report hearing tortured cries and wails, as if those below were living in hell fire.
~ A man realizes a crazed woman stalks him. She turns out to be someone from his college days who had a ferocious crush on him. But since college, she’s been in and out of mental institutions.
~ He’s your everyday neighbor, much loved by your family and friends. He is a cop who flies over the area in a helicopter using a heat-seeking device while searching for a suspect. He concentrates on the area around his house to assure his family's safety.
Science Fiction / Fantasy
I don’t read Science Fiction, and not much fantasy. No amount of creative writing prompts or descriptive writing could help me in this area, but here is some help:
Wikipedia defines Science Fiction as "...a genre of fiction dealing with the impact of imagined innovations in science or technology, often in a futuristic setting. It differs from fantasy in that, within the context of the story, its imaginary elements are largely possible within scientifically established or scientifically postulated laws of nature. Science fiction is largely based on writing rationally about alternative possibilities. The settings for science fiction are often contrary to known reality, but the majority of science fiction relies on a considerable degree of suspension of disbelief provided by potential scientific explanations to various fictional elements."
Wikipedia defines Fantasy as "...a genre that uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, and/or setting. Many works within the genre take place in fictional worlds where magic is common. Fantasy is generally distinguished from science fiction in that it does not provide a logical (or pseudo logical) explanation for the scientifically impossible events that occur, though there is a great deal of overlap between the two (both are sub-genres of speculative fiction)."
Here are some creative writing prompts for this genre:
~ You inherit a rambling old hotel with dark secrets. (This won’t be an Agatha Christie.) Once taking up residence in the decrepit structure, it’s like pulling the servant’s teeth to clarify some rumors. Finally, a child helps you.
~ A person with whom you’ve become close friends always seems to disappear. You look away and when you look back, and he’s gone. Later, he has a flimsy excuse for his absence. As this happens more and more, you pay closer attention and, out of the corner of your eye, finally see him disappear as if vaporized.
You can also reverse some plot settings:
~ A man has an idyllic life in a world so advanced that every desire is gratified. Though the lifestyle is far advanced and futuristic, it is near militaristic. It’s the one thing he has promised himself to improve. However, he has an innate fear that all will end prematurely and his knowledge will be wasted.
~ A man goes into the hospital for a check up since he’s been feeling out of sorts for a long time.
Historical fiction stories take place in the past and usually focuses on a specific time period. Make the setting as real and true to historical accounts. Except, the characters will be fictional. In this genre, you can mix your modern-day fiction characters with the ancients.
Historical fiction (and Fantasy) is a great place to use the form of writing known as “slipstream.” That’s translated almost literally. Something happens and the person “slips” into another reality. Slipstream is where you can use a great amount of descriptive writing.
Here’s a simple historical fiction creative writing prompt that can be written a thousand different ways…
~ A person acquires an object with magical powers. Maybe it’s a relic, an antique, a gemstone, or any item to fit the story. The person is thrown back in time to experience a slice of history involving the object.
Horror / Dark Side
I’ve only written one horror short story and can’t get it accepted anywhere. That says a lot about me staying out of the genre.
I had thought my writing was descriptive enough. Since editors usually do not tell why they are rejecting, the only conclusion I can come to would be that the story is not horrific enough for the dark side.
The horror genre is any story that evokes a painful and intense fear or dread in the reader. Think about some of Stephen King’s stories.
Other creative writing prompts:
~ Two guys who are real buddies share a secret about why their friends go missing if they try to horn in on the two guys’ girlfriends.
~ After snaring a police detective into her supernatural antics, a woman says she will release him if she can drink his blood.
- A woman moves to an idyllic setting in the country. She purchases eggs from the local market. Strangely, the eggs are differing shades of browns and whites. She shrugs it off. They are country eggs. She hard boils a couple and eats one with lunch while reading an engrossing book.
Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, and Tall Tales
Fairy Tales are for very young children. Descriptive writing is utilized in the language of the age group for whom the stories are written. Usually a moral is included in these stories that teach children how to be good people.
~ A good story starter is to use the child’s own toys and belongings. Write about something that toy or article could teach the child.
Folk Tales are stories that are passed from generation to generation with no known author. Sometimes the tales consist of both real and fictional people.
Tall Tales contain a character that is larger than life, not only in morality, but in size and stature too. They can be human or near human. I can think of many creative writing prompts for tall tales.
Here’s one example…
~ Create a special person who helps get the job done.
You might want to read my dark tall tale, The Swimmer, which includes a swimmer with a tail.
I honestly can't say how I found creative writing prompts for that story. I was more focused on the dialogue requirements at the time.
Myth stories are fiction and usually involve some sort of God, Goddess, or other supernatural entity. These stories abound in New Age literature and in many cultures throughout history.
~ Create a goddess child who must learn to be one before she will be allowed to grow up.
Exercise Your Muse
Here is a unique way to find story unique creative writing prompts. It’s a mental exercise.
Usually writers already know the genre because of what they like to read. But in case you haven’t selected your genre, here’s a technique that could help.
When you’ve cleared your mind and are ready to proceed, imagine a series of doorways nearby in your peaceful setting. Embellish the doorways as only your mind can do. Make them all different.
Visually study those doors. Know that behind each of is one or more creative writing prompts in the category labeled on the door.
As you study each doorway, decide which one has the strongest pull, inviting you to enter. Your mind has created each doorway with a certain charm, ambiance, or invitational aura.
Then pay attention to what you find behind the doorway, what you perceive with all your senses. Take the time to observe only, without interacting. You are an unseen visitor.
When ready, relax again into your quiet setting, and begin to write everything that you perceived inside that doorway. It will be one or more creative writing prompts.
So, let’s say you already know that you wish to write romances. You see a single doorway in your quiet area. The sign says “Romance.”
Write your notes.
Some final thoughts....
I hope you can understand the potential for finding creative writing prompts from the varying suggestions I’ve given above. Story starters abound. None of these suggestions I had thought of before writing this article. All you need do is let your mind wander.
Creative writing prompts are everywhere. You’ve only to free your Muse. Have no fear, you’ve thought about things that you might have turned into great plots, but maybe you doubted your ability and shut down your creativity.
Even if you write nonfiction, any incident or snippet of conversation can become a creative writing prompt in that genre.
When writing nonfiction, you may hear of an incidence, perhaps with great moral value about which you’d like to tell the world. Voila! A story starter.
Or you hear about someone not receiving the recognition they so richly deserve for their charity work. That’s one of many great nonfiction creative writing prompts. Story starters can be found throughout your community. No doubt, the process works for nonfiction too.
When searching out creative writing prompts, first look around you and at what’s happening in your own world. Read newspaper headlines.
Another source of good story starters are the advice columns. Many of the questions asked of the advice givers trigger creative writing prompts for me.
Whatever technique you employ to search for story starters, know that your Muse is waiting behind every door, behind every thought, waiting to jump-start your plot. Your Muse will also supply the descriptive writing needed.
Begin to make a list of creative writing prompts you notice. When ready, choose one, and begin to write.