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Writing Prompts: Creative Writing Inspiration

Here’s my selection of some of the best creative writing prompts I’ve come across in my career as a professional writer.

You might think writing gets easier when you’re a commercially published author, but that’s not true. We all need a bit of inspiration occasionally. Luckily, I’ve learnt some great creative writing exercises and now, I can share them with you!

Writing Prompts: An Image

Lost Horizon 1937 Movie Review

Take an image from this collection of images and write five hundred words inspired by the image.

Don’t just describe the image, consider what the image reminds you of and invent a story around it.

Writing Prompts: A Line of Dialogue

Open the nearest convenient novel. Take the first line of dialogue from page forty-five (or whichever other page you like). Write five hundred words that include that line.

Writing Prompts: An Opening Line

Alternatively, use this random first line generator to give you your first/last line. Write five hundred words that open or close with that line.

Writing Prompts: A Title

Take the title of a novel or short story on your bookshelf and write five hundred words of a completely different story which has that title.

Alternatively, use a title you have in your head, or use a random title generator.

Writing Prompts: A Newspaper Headline

Pick up the nearest newspaper, find a headline and write five hundred words based on it. Not based on the story, just the headline.

Alternatively, use this Random Headline Generator. It generates a lot of unusable headlines, so keep altering the sources and refreshing until something good comes up.

Writing Prompts: A Feeling

Use this random mood generator to generate a feeling. Write five hundred words showing a character with that feeling.

You may not directly say what the character’s mood is or use any of the words in the mood description, or synonyms for them. For example, if the mood is “Happy” you can’t write “happy”, “joyful” or another word that means “happy”—you must imply that the character is happy by showing them acting happily.

Writing Prompts: A Character Name

Use this character name generator to generate a name.

Write a backstory for your character. What do they look like? Where do they come from? What’s their family like? Where do they live? What are their opinions, likes and dislikes? Who are their friends and enemies? What are their goals? What do they keep secret about themselves?

Now write five hundred words where your character starts a normal day, but then gets news that may lead to their secret being revealed. Show how they react. Don’t explicitly say what the secret is, just imply it.

Writing Prompts: Objects

Use this random object generator to list ten objects. Choose five of the objects and write a five hundred word story that includes all five objects. If the story has to be surreal to get the disparate objects in, that’s fine.

Writing Prompts: A Location

Use this Random StreetView to find a place. Imagine your character passing through. What do they see? Write five hundred words describing the scene, explaining why your character is there and where they are going.

Writing Prompts: A Chain Story

Organise into groups of at least three. Each person gets a piece of paper. Choose one of the writing prompts above to start you off. Everyone writes for five minutes then passes the unfinished story on to the next person, who carries it on. Carry on until you’re back to the first person, who writes the ending.

You can either write ‘blind’ (fold the paper over so that all the next person sees is the last line) or read the existing story before continuing it.

At the end, you should have the first drafts of some short stories.

Writing Prompts: Memories

Write a list of ten events you remember from your childhood or adolescence. Write a five hundred word story based on one of those memories.

Editing Prompt: Cutting

Novel Editing - Grammar

Choose the first page of any chapter of a novel. Take that page and edit it down to tell the story in one-third fewer words. So, if the page has three hundred words, cut it down to two hundred words.

Don’t rewrite the story. Keep the sense whilst deleting words, phrases and sentences from the original.

Now take a page of your own story and do the same. Afterwards, compare the original and edited versions. What did you cut out? Why? Could the rest of your story benefit from this kind of tightening up? If a thirty percent cut seems too drastic, consider a twenty percent cut. If even that is too much, try a ten percent cut—almost any story can benefit from some focussing.

Editing Prompt: Genre

Choose a passage from your story. Rewrite it in a different style or genre. For example, if it is a thriller you could rewrite it as a comedy. If it’s a romance, you could rewrite it as horror. Etc.

Afterwards consider if the change of perspective adds any insights into your story. Could you incorporate any of the rewritten version? Do any of the characters reveal anything about themselves that you could use?

Editing Prompt: Point of View

Choose a passage from your story. Rewrite it from the point of view of a different character. For example, if the point of view is currently the protagonist you could rewrite it from the point of view of the antagonist or a neutral bystander.

As with the genre rewrite, afterwards consider if the change of perspective adds any insights into your story. Could you use any of the rewritten version? Do any of the characters reveal anything about themselves that you could use?

Got any more?

If you have any favourite creative writing prompts you’d like to share with me, please email me. Otherwise please feel free to share the article using the buttons below.