Prompts To Write A Story – So you want to write a short story—and not just a mildly entertaining one, but one that your readers can’t put down until they finish it.
You want a story that elicits reactions like “Wow!” and “How did you do that?” and “Do you have anything else like this?”
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- 3 Back To School Writing Prompts
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- 6 Narrative Writing Prompts To Assign Your Students
Prompts To Write A Story
And because the stories are short, you have less time to wait for readers’ reactions—but also less time to grab their attention.
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This is why a great theme is worth its weight in gold when it comes to writing these little gems.
Despite the challenges of short story writing, you can probably finish a short story in much less time than a novel.
So you’ll be able to explore more story topics in less time than if you were writing longer articles.
But how do you generate story ideas that are worth the time you invest in creating a story your readers will love?
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If you’ve been writing long enough, you already know that good story ideas are everywhere, and you might even think of some as you read.
When it comes to generating new story ideas, you can take more than one approach. You can try these three:
Think back to your school days when your English teacher assigned an essay or asked you to write a paragraph on a question.
Maybe you only needed to write one complete sentence. Or maybe your teacher wanted a haiku—or a rhyming couplet.
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However, school is not the only place to practice writing. If you’ve ever joined a creative writing group, your leader may have encouraged you to spend some time each day freewriting or writing a character sketch.
The purpose of the writing exercises is to practice writing — or to practice a specific type of writing (voice diary, essays, persuasive advertising copy, song lyrics, etc.).
So whether it’s NaNoWriMo, the #VSS (Very Short Story) Twitter challenge, or writing sprints, the more time you invest in these exercises and the more open you are to constructive criticism, the faster your writing will improve.
The most effective writing prompts and writing exercises use topics that have engaged and inspired others in the past. Because of this, either can lead you to a story idea you’re dying to explore.
Short Story Prompts (genius Story Ideas For Writers)
Take one (or more) of these popular themes and combine them with a context that is unique and connects to it, and you have the formula for a compelling story idea.
Story writing ideas are usually more fully developed than quick writing. For example, it’s not uncommon to start with a writing prompt, develop it into a story idea, and then write the actual story.
And don’t beat yourself up if the first thought that comes to mind is a cliché. You are human, and come up with familiar ideas most easily. There is nothing wrong with that. A first idea is like a first draft because it gives you something to start with.
And don’t be afraid to mix it up—literally. Take one idea, mix it with another, and play with it for a while. Who knows how you can make your story idea come true without even trying?
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The best fantasy story ideas use timeless themes. You’ll find one or more of the ten themes that follow in most stories written, read, and shared over the centuries.
The story idea itself – in its simplest form – doesn’t necessarily have to be original, and in fact it doesn’t have to be. But the way you flesh out and develop that idea should surprise and evoke an emotional response from your readers.
But short story ideas will look different than new ideas—mainly because short stories need to have a big impact with fewer words. And because of this, the most powerful stories have what James Scott Bell describes as “one shattering moment.”
In his book How to Write Short Stories and Use Them to Advance Your Writing Career, Bell describes this moment as “something that happens to a character, an emotional explosion that they can’t ignore. It changes them, whether in big or subtle ways – in a way that cannot be ignored.”
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Any of the popular themes listed above can provide your main character with an earth-shattering moment that changes their life or perspective.
Check out the following creative story ideas, many of which combine two or more of the popular themes listed, and feel free to adapt any of them to create your next irresistible short story.
1. Your character’s loved one has died, and while going through his belongings, she learns that the loved one had a terrible secret that unsettlingly correlates to your character’s deepest fear.
The rest of the story explores your character’s reaction to this discovery and how it affects his/her relationships and decision-making.
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2. Your heroine married a man she saw as her “soul mate.” During their honeymoon, he shows her his list of goals for their first five years together, and they have their first real fight about one of those goals—which requires her to do something she never agreed to.
She suddenly remembers their first date and the moment she first decided he was the one, but now she sees it from his point of view and it changes everything.
3. Your orphaned character inherits a house and moves into it, only to find it already occupied—the ghosts of the character’s long-dead parents, who are nothing like the people described by other relatives.
4. Your character has trouble overcoming his anger at the wounds inflicted by those who raised him and those with whom he has had one failed relationship after another.
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After losing his job, he embarks on a journey to change the direction of his life, only to be interrupted by the death of one of his parents – the one who hurt him the most.
When his closest confidant gets fed up, exposes him and leaves the company they co-founded, your character finds himself disoriented by grief and does something else.
6. Your character is happy with his life, but suddenly inherits a large sum of money and a lavish estate on the East Coast.
She sees the inheritance as proof that the law of attraction works and invites family and a few close friends to move in and share the wealth. Someone dies on the first night of their stay.
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7. Your character’s snake-loving neighbor has just been discovered in the belly of her pet boa constrictor (which she swears is a better “pet” than her ex).
The ex shows up and is furious when he finds out that your neighbor left the house and everything in it on your character. He threatens to ruin her life if she doesn’t hand over the house to him.
8. Your character meets his soulmate on a flight that almost misses its destination; both respond to in-flight emergencies (one as a police officer and the other as a doctor).
Once at the airport, your character learns that this soul mate is already in a relationship with a famous philanthropist. But your character notices something strange and calls the philanthropist.
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9. Your character’s best friend has just announced the end of the relationship, and your character is surprised to find that the friend is in a celebratory state of mind (rather than heartbroken).
10. One of your character’s siblings is getting married, and during the wedding preparations, your character learns something they should never have known. This discovery changes her relationship with everyone.
11. The happy couple living next door to your character dies in a horrific accident, and when the parents show up at the funeral, you understand why the couple always changes the subject when you ask them about their families.
12. Your character starts receiving messages from someone who knows her deepest fears and intends to exploit them.
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At the same time, your character will discover a latent ability that relates to these fears, but can also help them overcome them. Or they could turn it into something the messenger never saw coming.
13. Your character meets a soulmate at a community grief group meeting and learns that this soulmate also attends AA meetings (like your mc) — albeit with a different group and with a friend who doesn’t exactly like your protagonist.
A surprising reason is revealed when your character goes on a first date with this soulmate. A soulmate friend swears they know your MC from another reality – the one they visit in their dreams.
14. Your character breaks out of a painful relationship and embarks on a journey to discover what she’s capable of. After volunteering at a nursing home—reading and writing letters to visually impaired residents—she agrees to personally deliver one of those letters to the resident’s estranged son.
Narrative Writing Prompts To Assign Your Students
15. After avoiding close relationships because of deep childhood scars, your protagonist learns something about one of his parents
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