Stephen King prompt

The following is a synopsis on for one of his short stories:

Big Driver
Mystery writer, Tess, has been supplementing her writing income for years by doing speaking engagements with no problems. But following a last-minute invitation to a book club 60 miles away, she takes a shortcut home with dire consequences.

Write a story about a character who does something they would not usually do and runs into trouble.

Parents and children

The following brief synopsis of a Married With Children episode is from

In an attempt to spice up their marriage, Al and Peg check in at a hotel, while Steve and Marcy babysit Bud and Kelly.
The Rhoades learn that babysitting the young Bundys is a mistake when the kids turn their home into a rioting party.

Write a story about parents who go somewhere while their ckildren stay behind, or vice versa.

A character stepping out of their 'ordinary world'

The following excerpt, based on the famous Hero's Journey approach to story,is from Heroes: A Guide to Realising Your Dreams:

The ordinary world is the environment in which most people live. It is the place where people often feel most comfortable but is also a place where they feel their dreams can be drained out of them. While the ordinary world may be a great place to rest, it is a stifling place to live your dreams.

Write a story beginning with a character coming to feel stifled in their 'ordinary world' then deciding to take the first step toward something they consider more fulfilling.

An amateur detective

Acoording to H. Thomas Milhorn in Writing Genre Fiction: A Guide to the Craft:

Amatuer detective writers usually follow the model as laid down by Edgar Allen Poe. As a rule the protagonist has an independent income and tends to be eccentric in some way, such as Poe's C. Auguste Dupin, who disliked the light of day to the extent that he kept all the windows shuttered in his grotesque mansion.
Often the amateur detective has an encyclopedic mind. Sherlock holmes, for instance, knew all the treads for different bicycle tires. The amateur detective usually has a partner or confidant, such as Holmes's Dr. Watson.
The amateur detective pits his wits against the fiendish mind of the antagonist of the story, with the action tending to center on the attempts of the wily amateur detective to solve the crime.

Write a story about an amateur detective (or a character with a mystery to solve).

Struggling against the odds

According to Steve Kaplan in an article on

The paradigm of comedy is an ordinary guy or gal struggling against insurmountable odds without many of the required tools with which to win, yet never giving up hope.

Write a story about a character who struggles aginst the odds without the tools required to win, yet never gives up.

Characters on a journey

According to a post on

Not a boring Buddhist thriller, Saranyoo Jiralak’s debut feature 9 Wat starts off with a bang. It tells the story of a man named Nat whose quest is to correct his entire past mistakes in exactly seven days by visiting 9 temples. In 9 Wat three people are more or less willingly going on that journey to do good and return home cleansed and with a pure heart and mind. All three characters have different purposes for taking this trip. But later they discover that they were put together on this trip for an unforeseeable reason.

Write a story about characters who go on a journey together for a purpose which becomes evident toward the end of their journey.

Beginning a story with an argument

Nigerian author Ifesinachi began Every Wrinkle is a Story with:

“You are a fantabulous fool!” roared the man in the tattered suit. “Not just that, but a demonic quagmire among superordinate humans.”
Ashaka opened his mouth to retaliate but got confused. The torrent of words hailed at him like missiles. A stale fishy stench emanated from the man’s body causing Ashaka to lean back away from him. Ashaka raked his eyes from the forest-like head of his attacker, the shaggy beard to the rat-eaten tips of his shoes and was forced to look at himself. He looked no better donned in a stained thread-bare singlet and rolled up pants that he had tied around the waist to keep from falling off; the clothes seemed appropriate for his work as a bus conductor.
“Have you no decorous words of apology brimming in the oceanic saliva of your foul smelling mouth?” his attacker continued. The veins on his neck threatened to pop at any second.

Write a story that begins with an argument between two characters, which remains unresolved until later in the story.

Setting and characters

Johanna Spyri began her novel Heidi with:

From the old and pleasantly situated village of Mayenfeld, a footpath winds through green and shady meadows to the foot of the mountains, which on this side look down from their stern and lofty heights upon the valley below. The land grows gradually wilder as the path ascends, and the climber has not gone far before he begins to inhale the fragrance of the short grass and sturdy mountain-plants, for the way is steep and leads directly up to the summits above.

On a clear sunny morning in June two figures might be seen climbing the narrow mountain path; one, a tall strong-looking girl, the other a child whom she was leading by the hand, and whose little checks were so aglow with heat that the crimson color could be seen even through the dark, sunburnt skin. And this was hardly to be wondered at, for in spite of the hot June sun the child was clothed as if to keep off the bitterest frost.

Write a story beginning with a description of setting then adding characters to that setting.

A character who wants a friend

The synopsis on the back of the DVD for The Cable Guy reads:

Recently dumped by his girlfriend, Steven Kovacs thought he'd have plenty of time to watch TV... but that was before he met Chip Douglas.
He's a cable guy with a few loose wires in his brain and a knack for taking over people's lives. Worse still, Chip wants a friend... and he won't take no for an answer.

Write a story about a character who wants a friend and won't take no for an answer.

Australian writing prompt

Click on the link to Cinema and Fiction Australia Focus and use one of the posts as inspiration to write a story set in Australia.

Writing prompts combined

Combine the titles of two of the prompts in the column on the right and use them as inspiration to write a story in which one character helps another (adult) character solve a problem that has been an issue since their childhood.

A close call

The following is an excerpt from Archie Oliver's adapted retelling of Richard Blackmore's novel Lorna Doone:

He was a huge man, wearing a broad-brimmed hat, a leather jacket and breeches. His boots came up to his thighs. He was carrying a musket.
I squeezed back into the bower and held my breath. He came closer and closer. I thought my lungs would burst.
His brutal face turned my stomach. He had cruel eyes and his black beard tumbled below his chin. Carver also had thin, mean lips.
He had no idea I was there and walked away, though not before taking the eggs that I had left for Lorna a few moments earlier.

Write a story which begins with a character narrowly avoiding being discovered by another character.

Using poetry as a writing prompt

Thomas Eliot, in his poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, wrote:

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question.
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.

Write a story which begins with a narrator inviting the reader to come on a journey to discover something.

Character with difficulties

The following is a short plot synopsis of James Patterson's novel Fang on

Maximum Ride has survived some terrible experiences. Her life started as a lab experiment, she's been on the run for years, and scarcely a day goes by without someone trying to kill her. Nonetheless, her life manages to hit a new low when she hears a dire prediction - Fang, her best friend and co-flock leader, is going to die. Soon.

Write a story about a character who has difficulties and then hits a new low due to a change of circumstances.

Nick hornby writing prompt

Nick Hornby began chapter 14 of his novel High Fidelity with:

Ever since I've had the shop, we've been trying to flog a record by a group called the Sid James Experience. Usually we get rid of stuff we can't shift - reduce it to 10p, or throw it away - but Barry loves this album (he's got two copies of his own, just in case sombody borrows one and fails to return it), and he says it's rare, that someday we'll make somebody very happy. It's become a bit of a joke, really. Regular customers ask after its health, and give it a friendly pat when they're browsing, and sometimes they bring the sleeve up to the counter as if they're going to buy it, and then they say 'Just Kidding!', and put it back where they found it.
Anyway, on Friday morning, this guy I've never seen before starts flicking through the 'British Pop S-Z section', lets out a gasp of amazement and rushes up to the counter...

Use the above as inspiration to write a story which begins in a second-hand store.

Plans and expectations

Archie Oliver began chapter 17 of his adaptation Tales of Robinhood:

When news of the wedding incident got about Nottingham Town, the Sheriff knew he had once again been made to look like a fool by Robin and his Merry Men. Ever since he had been robbed of three hundred pounds for his supper in Sherwood Forest, he had banned any mention of Robin Hood's name in his presence. Yet he knew the townsfolk whispered about Robin.
Now he was unsure what to do about the great Nottingham Fair that was normally held every year. An archery contest was always the main attraction. Archers from across the whole country would come to show off their skills.
The Sheriff well remembered how Robin had come in disguise and won the last great archery tournament. But then he realized people might think he was scared of Robin Hood. What he decided to do was to hold the event, but offer an archery prize so valueless that Robin couldn't be bothered to come.

Write a story which begins with a character who makes a plan which comes undone when another character does not act how the first character hoped they would.

Characters meet at a conference

Andrew Collier has written:

I once attended a conference of literary critics at which one speaker was talking about Jean-Paul Sartre’s account of his own childhood. A deconstructionist asked her, in a pained and patronizing tone, whether she was claiming that there really had existed such a person as Jean-Paul Sartre, independently of what we may say of him. When she said yes, she at once lost the attention of the deconstructionist contingent. Now had I been rude enough to suggest that, while I agreed that Jean-Paul Sartre had most likely existed, I was not at all sure that there was anything that the deconstructionists were saying, I suspect they would have been upset. They were naïve realists about their own discourse, naïve idealists about dead French philosophers.

Write a story about characters who meet at a conference.

Writing about adventure

According to a post on

After conquering the highest peak of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, actress Jessica Beil has now set her sights on Mount Everest.

Write a story about a group of people on an adventure.

Film review titles as prompts

Click on the link to the Japan Times Online film review page and use one of the film review titles as inspiration to write a story.

Beginning with a character description

Esther Forbes started chapter 5 of her novel Johnny Tremain with:

Mr Justice Dana was a stout and florid man, dressed in a black silk robe and a great wooly white wig.
Johnny sat close to Mr. Quincy, watching the Justice's nervous, taut hands, listening to his 'What have we heres' and quick questions to the men and women shoved up before him. Some people he dismissed, some he ordered fined, or whipped, or set in the stocks, or held for a higher court. Johnny knew when his own case would be called because he heard the justice tell a beadle to run down to Long Wharf and tell Merchant Lyte to present himself in half an hour.

Write a story beginning with a description of a character.

Themed writing

Click on the link to a post on, select one of the themes stated in the post (in large bold writing) and use it as inspiration to write a story on that theme, its opposite or something similar.

Characters attributing roles and 'social identities' to other characters

Have you ever heard or read a statement that something was "not morally innocent" or "not politically innocent" and wondered what supposedly made it guilty (or why the person making the statement wants to portray it as 'morally or politically guilty')? Most Humanities uni students will probably have come across such statements.

The following excerpt by Terry Breverton about Jean Jacques Rousseau may help you with some answers:

Rousseau believed that it was impossible to return to the innocence of the 'noble savage' [an idea that people are naturally good until corrupted by interacting with other people] so individuals would have to contract with each other to enter society. From the isolated selves of individuals a collective entity is therefore formed which can both legislate for and embody its individual members. The nature of freedom is changed by the act of contract. Before contracting, man's freedom lies in pursuing his individual interests, but afterwards freedom consists in obeying 'the general will.' Rousseau fled from France (helped by David Hume) and settled in Switzerland, but he continued to find difficulties with the authorities and quarrel with friends. The end of his life was marked in large part by his growing paranoia and his continued attempts to justify his life and his work. His writings inspired many of the leaders of the French revolution, leading Napoleon to comment at Rousseau's tomb: 'Maybe it would have been better if neither of us had been born.'

Write a story in which one character insists that another character is involved in a specific sort of 'social contract' (and maybe insists the character is guilty of breaching it) but the other character disagrees, leading to problems between the characters.

What characters think about themself and each other

The following quote is attributed to Isaac Newton:

I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

His epitaph, composed by Alexander Pope, read:

Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night: God said "Let Newton be!" and all was light.

Use the above two quotes as inspiration to write a story about a character who makes a claim like Newton's and another character who makes a claim like Pope's about the first character.

Inspiration from Fred Nwonwu

Fred Nwonwu began his story Taming of the Plains Lion with:

The lion was born without fur; her white skin glittered in the morning light, as naked as a human baby. The sun had not yet risen and the cold wind that travelled across the night still blew from down the valley making her shiver and her vocal cords opened up wide to allow for the passage of a shrill cry that rents the morning’s ambiance. It was a cry that conveyed distress enough to break many a heart, filled with longings and pleading for care, but it moved not the birth mother.
That great lioness was deaf to her child’s call. She only managed, once, to pad over and sniff at her like she had done before, right after the cub was born, before rejecting her all over again, choosing rather to pay heed to her other cubs who appear whole.

Use the above as inspiration to write a story about human characters.

A synopsis as inspiration

Cynthia Voigt's novel On Fortune's Wheel, set in a medieval-Europe-like Kingdom, is summed up in the book blurb as follows:

Birle has agreed to be wed to the huntsman Muir as an escape from the drudgery of life at her father's inn - but the moment she looks into the bellflower blue eyes of the man she comes upon stealing one of her father's boats, Birle knows she cannot marry Muir. Even after she discovers the mysterious stranger is Orien, a Lord and as unreachable to an innkeeper's daughter as a star, Birle is determined to travel with him as far as he will allow.
Their travels take Birle to a world far from home, a world where Lords may become slaves, where Princes rule by fear, and where Fortune's Wheel turns more swiftly and dangerously than Birle ever could have imagined.

Use the above synopsis as inspiration to write a story.

Using sound in cinema and fiction

Jane Knowles Marshall, in an article on, has written:

Though we might think of film as an essentially visual experience, we really cannot afford to underestimate the importance of film sound. A meaningful sound track is often as complicated as the image on the screen. The entire sound track is comprised of three essential ingredients:
- the human voice
- sound effects
- music

Write a scene for cinema or fiction with emphasis on using the human voice, sound effects and music together in the scene.

Writing a character with a new lifestyle

The synopsis of the movie A Simple Plan, on the back of the DVD cover reads:

The lives of three small town people are turned upside down when they discover a small plane concealed by snow in the mountains. Inside the plane could be the only way out of their insufficient lives, in the form of a duffel bag containing four million in cash next to the dead pilot. Two of the men, Jacob and Lou, are eager to keep the money but have a hard time convincing Jacob's brother, Hank, not to turn it in. Hank agrees, but on one condition, he will hold the cash until it is safe to keep. It's a simple plan and all goes well until Jacob overreacts to an untimely visit by a neighbour and the plan begins to unravel. With loyalties frayed each person involved must decide how far they are willing to go to cling to their ill-gotten fortune.

Use the above as inspiration to write a story about a character who finds a way out an insufficient life not by finding money, but by finding a new way of behaving.

Characters learning lessons

Kristin Thompson has written the following about the movie Groundhog Day:

The film's trajectory is a bit like that of Tootsie, where the actor Michael had to learn how to be decent to women. At the start of Groundhog Day, however, Phil is much worse than Michael ever was, insulting everyone around him. It is almost as if Tootsie had been made with the goal of reforming not Michael but Ron, the TV director. Michael had to learn his lesson by fairly extreme means - posing as a woman - but Phil's transformation will require even more. Indeed, such a drastic character change is unusual for a classical narrative. Still, as I will show, a great deal of motivating material is provided.

Choose a story and develop a basic idea about what a major character learned throughout the story. Imagine how the story might be different if one of the other characters learned a similar lesson and use that as inspiration to write a story.

Writing about people skills

In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie wrote:

Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain - and most fools do.

Write a story about a character who criticizes, condemns and complains and how they overcome these habits.

Combining prompts

Select the titles of two Daily Writing Prompts from the right-hand column and combine them however you like as inspiration to write a story about someone seeking a new start in a new place.

What happens beyond unaided human sight

According to a post on about the BBC documentary series Life:

An early voiceover from the "Insects" episode [says]: "Because they are so small, we rarely see how extraordinary they really are." With insects, the issue is scale, not time, and it is macrophotography, rather than time-lapse, that allows us to "enter their world." In both instances, though, Life claims to offer unique access to nature through its innovative use of technology, to reveal behavior that is invisible to the human eye.

Write a story that involves seeing things that are not discernible to human sight without the aid of extra equipment.

Storytelling through action and dialogue

The following quote from Akira Kurosawa has been used in an article on

It’s easy to explain the psychological state of a character at a particular moment, but it’s very difficult to describe it through the delicate nuances of action and dialogue. Yet it is not impossible. A great deal about this can be learned from the study of the great plays, and I believe the “hard-boiled” detective novels can also be very instructive.

Write a story about a character who earns the trust of another character through their integrity, told through action and dialogue (that is, no 'internal dialogue,' description of character thoughts and feelings, description of memories and backstory etc).

Using Daily Australia Focus as a prompt

Click on the link to Cinema and Fiction Daily Australia Focus, select one of the posts and use part or all of it as inspiration to write a story.

Inspiration from a synopsis

Click the link to, click on one of the movies on the first page and use the synopsis as inspiration to write a story set in your local area.

Using a biography as a writing prompt

Stephen King started his book On Writing with:

I was stunned by Mary Karr's memoir The Liars' Club. Not just by its ferocity, its beauty, and by its totality - she is a woman who remembers everything about her early years.
I'm not that way. I lived an odd herky-jerky childhood raised by a single parent who moved around a lot in my earliest years and who - I am not completely sure of this - may have farmed my brother nad me out to one of her sisters for awhile because she was economically or emotionally unable to cope with us for a time.

Find an autobiography or think of a person, develop a basic idea about that person's approach to life and write a story that starts with a first person narrator comparing your idea of someone's approach to life with their own.

Writing an animal perspective

Japanese professor Soshichi Uchii has a simple story on his website told from the perspective of his cat. It begins:

Once upon a time ....
I was a stray cat, I had no name, and I don't know who threw me aside.
All I remember is that I had a mother. I still miss her milk!

Write a story with a first-person narrator that is an animal, other than a human.

Afterward, you could use that story as inspiration to write a story about a human in the same setting as the animal story.

Using story beats for inspiration

Click on the link to and use one or more of the story beats for How To Train Your Dragon as inspiration to write a story.

Writing about a dramatic performance

According to the blurb of Pauline Kiernan's Shakespeare's Theory of Drama:

Kiernan examines work from different stages in the canon to show that far from being restricted by the 'limitations' of drama, Shakespeare consciously exploits its capacity to accomodate temporality and change, and its reliance on the physical presence of the actor.

Write a story involving the staging of a dramatic performance.

Writing about childhood boundaries

Shel Silverstein started the poem Where the Sidewalk Ends with:

And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Write a story in which a sidewalk marks the boundary of where your children characters are allowed to go in their neighbourhood and about what happens when they cross it.

Writing theme via a question

Karl Iglesias has written:

The easiest way to reveal theme is to put it in the form of a question rather than a statement or premise, as most have done since reading Lajo Egri's classic book The Art of Dramatic Writing. For instance, rather than state the premise for Romeo and Juliet as "Great love defies even death," you could ask, "What does great love defy?" or "Can love survive even death?" and let your story provide us with the answer by experiencing it emotionally.

Write a story with the aim of posing and answering a question.

Some clear examples of this are When Harry Met Sally: Can people of the opposite sex be just friends?, The Last Kiss: Should a partner who cheats be given a second chance?, and Liar Liar and Slackers: Is honesty the best policy?

The answer can relate to the instance of your fictional story without being a judgment about all similar cases in real life.

Writing to a premise

Lajo Egri has written that "A good premise a thumbnail synopsis of your plot." One example he has provided of a premise is:

Egotism leads to loss of friends.

Write a story in which the above premise applies to either the whole story or to the beginning of the story.

Writing set in a hypothetical future

The following is from a article paraphrasing K Radhakrishnan, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO):

In 2013, ahead of India's human space flight planned for 2015-16, ISRO plans to put an unmanned crew module on board a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, Radhakrishnan said.

He also said ISRO is working on a mission to Mars, adding that advanced space-faring nations like US and Russia are eyeing human habitation in Mars from 2030 onwards.

Write a story set in a hypothetical future in which many countries carry out regular space travel.

Writing about adventure

A synopsis for the documentary Off the Edge, on, begins:

Off the Edge is director Michael Firth's ode to the exhilaration of adventuring on the spine of NZ's Southern Alps. Something of a snowy Endless Summer, Firth follows an American and a Canadian as they ski, hang-glide, walk, climb and delve beneath glaciers, over nine months in the Aoraki-Mt Cook area.

Use the quote above and/or the video below however you like as inspiration to write a story about adventure and how an adventure changes your character's life.

Main plot and subplot

The beginning of Family Guy episode, Brian Wallows and Peter's Swallows, has been summed up as follows:

After another unsuccessful date, Brian is depressed about his romantic prospects. Lois encourages Peter to take Brian with him and the guys to the laser rock show, but when Brian notices that nearly everyone at the show as a mate but him, he just gets more depressed and drinks. On their way home, Brian is pulled over by Joe, who arrests him for driving under the influence. Meanwhile Peter decides to grow a beard.

Write a story with a serious main plot and a subplot that provides comic relief.

Writing on friendship, inspired by an image

Click on the link to and use one of the images in the picture gallery as inspiration to write a story using the keyword friendship.

Daily Science Focus as a writing prompt

Click on the link to Cinema and Fiction Daily Science Focus and use one of the latest news story snippets from the blogroll in the right-hand column as inspiration to write a story using the key word family.

Writing about jealousy, passion and misplaced trust

Shakespeare's Othello features jealousy, passion and misplaced trust.

Write your own story that features jealousy, passion and misplaced trust.

Using a song for inspiration

Use the following music video, 2010 by Sound Sultan (featuring M.I.), as inspiration to write a story.

This music video can also be found on the We Are Jos blog, where it is dedicated to those people of Jos in central Nigeria who have lost their life to violence.

Background details on this issue can be gained by reading this BBC news article or watching this CNN report.

Using an image to inspire writing

Click on the link to a post on and use the image as inspiration to write a story.

If you get stuck for ideas, use the song lyrics below the image for further inspiration.

Writing about sacrifice

JKS Makokha began his short story A Minor Mishap with:

On that night, the family of Papa 33 had to sleep in the damp cassava plantation near the stream behind their congested wattle huts. There was no choice. Zero. The issue at hand demanded it. It had to be done.

Use the excerpt above as inspiration to write a story about sacrifice and why that sacrifice has been made.

Writing inspired by cinema history

Click on this link to, pick a moment from the timeline of developments in cinema history and write a story about a character present at that moment or an activity in some way similar to it.

Writing about motivation fueled by scientific accomplishments

Astronaut Ron Garan has written, in his essay The Importance of Returning to the Moon:

Our children are our best investment for the future, and our space program is a tremendous motivator. Our Nation has seen a steady decline in the number of students studying math and science. The space program can help turn this trend around. I can personally attest to the ability of the space program to encourage students based on the fact that I enrolled in math and science courses and began the pursuit of an engineering degree the day after the first space shuttle mission landed. The creation of a permanent lunar base will inspire millions of young people toward higher education and help maintain our Nation’s technological leadership.

Write a story about a character who becomes motivated by a specific scientific accomplishment and, upon finishing university, gets headhunted for an important position only to discover that there is more to the situation than your character first thought.

Writing about your narrator's past

Read the following quote from an article on Horror Movie A Day and use it as inspiration for the beginning of a story told by someone in the present about their past, changing the name of the film or making it something other than a film being reminisced about.

I still remember begging my mom to take me to see Nightmare on Elm St 4: The Dream Master in theaters, but it was not to be - not only was it too nice out (I asked while we were in Maine at a summer campground/resort - I think sitting on the beach or by the lake would be far more preferable than driving 30 miles to the nearest theater for a movie called Nightmare on Elm St 4: The Dream Master), but at that point she was not taking me to R rated films. She’d rent them though, and thus like all good moms, rented the film for me when it hit VHS six months later (you see kids, back in my day, we’d have to WAIT to see a movie on video if we missed it in theaters, whereas nowadays anything over 3 months after its theatrical release is considered “too long").

Using Cinema and Fiction blogsearch results as inspiration

Go to the Cinema and Fiction Links page, type a word into the searchbox on the right and use one of the results as inspiration to write a story.

Search for whatever word you like. Some suggestions are elation, sorrow and motivated.

Writing to probe moral dilemmas

Mean Creek, set in a small US town near a river, has been described on the DVD blurb as "a chilling story that probes the moral dilemmas teens face in the pressure cooker of 21st century society."

Write a story which fits that description, set at a specific time and place.

Writing about possible worlds

Marie-Laure Ryan has written, about her article From Parallel Universes to Possible Worlds : Ontological Pluralism in Physics, Narratology and Narrative:

This essay explores how theoretical physics, narratology and narrative itself deal with the idea that reality consists of a plurality of worlds. In physics, the existence of parallel universes has been postulated on the cosmic level to describe what lies on the other side of black holes, and on the level of subatomic particles to avoid the paradoxes of quantum mechanics. In narratology, the philosophical idea of a plurality of possible worlds and the contrast between the actual and the possible provides a model of the cognitive pattern into which readers organize information in order to interpret it as a story. But the many-worlds interpretation of physics and the possible worlds (PW) model of narrative differ in their conception of the ontological status of the multiple worlds: in physics they are all actual, while narrative theory stresses the contrast between actuality and mere possibility.

Write a story using multiple 'possible worlds' to contrast different character choices or different versions of events told by characters.

Writing about psychological development

Virginia Axline, in her child therapy book Dibs in Search of Self, began the introduction with:

This is the story of the emergence of a strong, healthy personality in a previously deeply disturbed child.

Write a story which fits that description.

Writing about misunderstanding

Christopher Collins, in Poetry of the Mind's Eye: Literature and the Psychology of Imagination, wrote about a distinction between images a person can physically see and images in the mind such as a mental image developed while reading. He emphasised the need to separate and clarify such multiple meanings of words if they are to be used with precision, rather than be confounded by major ambiguity and miscommunications.

Write a story in which such lack of clarity leads to a misunderstanding that causes a problem between two characters.

Writing about reality

Bruno Latour, in Pandora's Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies, has written:

There is no natural situation on earth in which someone could be asked this strangest of all questions: "Do you believe in reality?" To ask such a question one has to become so distant from reality that the fear of losing it entirely becomes plausible...

Write a story about a character who believes in reality and a character that doesn't, and how one character becomes convinced that the other is right.

Writing about being useful

Alethea Lewis began her novel Things by Their Right Names with:

Philosophers have said, and poets have sung, that every individual of the human race is distinguished by a leading passion peculiar to himself. Now, I have not been so neglected by Nature, as to be left without this appropriate mark of humanity. I too, like the rest of my species, have my ruling passion; and this passion is, the desire to be useful.
Of the means to attain this end, money, talents, and leisure, are the most powerful. Of talents I must not boast, of money I have not any, of leisure I have a great deal. It is my leisure, then, that I must dedicate to my fellow creatures.

Write a story about a character who desires to be useful and has an idea on how they will go about fulfilling that desire.

Starting a story amidst a crisis

Nkem Ivara began the short story Double Trouble on with:

"Koko, are you listening to me?" asked Atim as she realized that her cousin had not responded to anything she had said to her in the last few minutes. Looking up she noticed the faraway look in Koko's eyes and panicked "Koko, is it the baby? Are you in pain?" she questioned as she grabbed her cousin's hand and shook it. "Say something, anything. Oh! Abasi mbok"* she cried in Efik as she threw up her hands towards the sky.

Write a story that begins amidst a moment of crisis.

Writing about leadership

Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood, in Leadership Brand, have written:

We believe that individual leaders need to role model the brand they advocate to others. We observe what others do more than what they say. If a leader espouses one set of actions and does another, the ensuing hypocrisy undermines the leader's credibility. Leaders who build a brand but act in ways opposed to the brand will not be believable. Aligning personal brand to leadership brand authenticates and embeds the leadership brand.

Write a story about a character running an unusual business who sets out to align their personal life and their business life with a combined 'leadership brand'.

Writing a story synopsis

The first paragraph of a three paragraph synopsis for The Simpsons episode, The Boy Who Knew Too Much is:

Bart forges a note from Marge that excuses him early from school for a dental appointment. Principal Skinner reads the note and is suspicious. He tracks Bart through town. Bart escapes by jumping inside the passing car of Freddy Quimby, the Mayor's 18 year old nephew. Arriving at Freddy Quimby's birthday party, he hides beneath a table and witnesses an altercation between Freddy and a waiter.

Write a story synopsis in three paragraphs.
Use the first paragraph to set up a problem, the second to develop that problem and complications associated with it, and the third to resolve the problem in a satifying way.

Writing about a committed character with a mentor

F.X. Toole started his short story Million Dollar Baby with:

"Boxing is an unnatural act" whispered the voice. "Understand me on this, kid. In boxing everything is backwards to life. You want to move to the left, you don't step left, you push on the right toe, like this. To move right, you use the left toe, see?"
The old white man didn't look into your eyes, he looked clear through your eyes, to the inside of the back of your head.

Write a story about a mentor with specialised knowledge to impart and a character who wants this knowledge to help them achieve a goal they are firmly committed to.

Writing about creativity and curiosity

Ryan Niemiec and Danny Wedding, in Positive Psychology at the Movies, have written:

Creativity and curiosity are important cognitive strengths of character under the virtue of wisdom and knowledge. There is a clear mutually beneficial link between these two strengths: Curiosity is one ingredient of creativity, while a good strategy to build creativity is to be curious about one's environment. A number of high-quality American, independent, and international films depict characters who embody these strengths, face adversity by tapping into these resources, and build upon and improve these strengths as the film progresses.

Write a story in which a character shows curiosity about their environment, faces adversity through acting on this curosity, and builds upon and improves their creativity and curiosity as the story progresses.
Try focusing the character's curiosity and creativity on an area that is NOT creative arts.

Writing subtext

Pauline Kiernan, on her site Unique Screenwriting, has written:

The effect on an audience of all that is going on under the surface action is that it gets us intrigued. We have to do some work. We have to enter into an imaginative engagement with the story. It brings us close to the feelings of the characters and into the heart of their journey.

Write a story that begins with a scene in which the characters' goals and feelings are not stated but are conveyed through subtext.

Combining Cinema and Fiction writing prompts for inspiration

Select any two titles of writing prompts listed on the right side of this page and combine them in any way you like to provide inspiration for a story.

Writing about a character with a secret

Click on the link to the trailer for the film Dark Woods and use the trailer as inspiration to write a story about a character with a secret to hide and why they are hiding it.

Writing about a character with a pivotal role in events that effect many

In an article in Rorotoko, Kenneth Pinnow has written:

Suicide unsettled the Soviets because it raised practical and theoretical questions about the individual and challenged the regime’s transformational aspirations. To them it represented unbridled individualism and a remnant of bourgeois life whose continued presence threatened the revolutionary project. To contain and eventually eliminate this social disease the Soviet state sanctioned a variety of scientific and political efforts that sought to clarify, categorize, and control self-destruction. These included forensic-medical investigations into the body, nationwide statistical mappings of society, and a distinctive set of political practices that treated suicide as a sickness that was above all ideological.

Write a story about a character whose government has escalated attempts to control specific behaviours of citizens and the key role that your character plays in whether the policy is successfully implemented or not.

Writing comedic scenes

Click on the link to a post on Lee Goldberg's blog and use it as an example of a scene with a comedic back-and-forth dynamic to inspire your own story composed of such scenes.

Writing about abandonment

Cynthia Voigt started her novel Homecoming with:

The woman put her sad moon-face in at the window of the car. "You be good," she said. "You hear me? You little ones, mind what Dicey tells you. You hear?"
"Yes, momma" they said.
"That's all right then." She slung her purse over her shoulder and walked away, her stride made uneven by broken sandal thongs, thin elbows showing through holes in the oversized sweater, her jeans faded and baggy.

The woman has just left her children in a car park and does not come back.
Write a story that starts with a character in a position of responsibility leaving and, by doing so, causes your main characters an ongoing problem that they had not been prepared for.

Writing about a life-changing meeting

The blurb of Myne Whitman's novel, A Heart to Mend begins:

Gladys moves to live with an estranged aunt in Lagos and to continue her search for a job. Before long she lands the job of her dreams with the foremost oil company in the city and makes several new friends. She also gradually resolves the mystery of why her aunt previously cut all ties with their family. But the best part about her new life is meeting Edward Bestman.

Write a story that begins with a character who moves to a new place (long-term or short-term), solves a small initial mystery and meets a character who will change their life.

Writing with and about excitement

Ray Bradbury has written that "if you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer. It means you are so busy keeping one eye on the market, or one ear peeled for the avant-garde coterie, that you are not being yourself. You don't even know yourself. For the first thing a writer should be is - excited."

Write a story about a character, who is anything except a writer, and who lacks the kind of excitement mentioned above then discovers it. Add a strong extended conflict before or after the character develops this excitement.

Writing about ambition inspired by a play synopsis

Click on the link to, read a synopsis for one of the stage plays and use it as inspiration to write a story using the key word "ambition".

Writing about 'social construction'... of what?

Many people have made claims that various things are 'socially constructed.' Ian Hacking, in his book The Social Construction of What?, has asked what these things are supposedly constructed of.

Write a story about two characters; one who claims something is 'socially constructed' and the other who doesn't hold this opinion.

Writing inspired by Isaac Newton

Newton's fourth rule for reasoning in natural philosophy has been translated as:

In experimental philosophy we are to look upon propositions collected by general induction from phenomena as accurately or very nearly true, notwithstanding any contrary hypotheses that may be imagined, till such time as other phaenomena occur, by which they may either be made more accurate, or liable to exceptions.

Write a story based on conflict between two characters; one who agrees with Newton above and one who does not.

Searching for inspiration

Go to the Cinema and Fiction Links page, use the blogsearch box on the right to search for a key word of your choice and use one of the results as inspiration for a story.

If you're stuck for a key word, try belonging, amazing or crisis.

Writing inspired by flash fiction

Click the link to and use one of the flash fiction stories as inspiration to write your own original story using the key word "friendship".

Writing interesting dialogue scenes

According to Jennifer van Sijll:

Character-driven movies often fail to enlist cinematic tools defaulting to dialog instead. The scripts appear more like "radio plays" or what Hitchcock has called "talking photographs." But there are many character-driven films like The Piano, American Beauty, and Time of the Gypsies that succeed beautifully. These films, like Charlie Kaufman's Adaptation, use the full complement of cinematic tools available.

Write a major dramatic scene involving dialogue that also makes ample use of non-dialogue cinematic or literary techniques.

If you're stuck for ideas, you could use a scene from the screenplay of one of the films mentioned above (or another film) as a guide. Screenplays are available to read free on sites like

Writing about breaking a habit

Stephen Kosslyn and Robin Rosenberg have described a habit as:

A well-learned response that is carried out automatically (without conscious thought) when the appropriate stimulus is present.

Write a story about a character who has a habit that they come to consider as bad, and how they break that habit.

Writing about a character and some intrigue

A synopsis of Nikki Gemmell's novel Cleave reads:

Snip Freeman is a painter with a waitressing problem, a wanderer in search of her past. She'll visit a place, find a man and a studio and a scrap job, until the zing of uncertainty pulls her on. She is anchored nowhere, touches the earth lightly. Then she turns her back on a drowning man. And suddenly she has a reason to stay put...

Write a short synopsis that sets up a character and some intrigue, then write a story based on it.

Writing prompt inspired by Elizabeth Inchbald

Elizabeth Inchbald started her novel Nature and Art with:

At a time when the nobility of Britain were said, by the Poet Laureate, to admire and protect the arts, and were known by the whole nation to be the patrons of music - William and Henry, youths under twenty years of age, brothers, and the sons of a country shopkeeper who had lately died insolvent, set out on foot for London, in the hope of procuring by their industry a scanty subsistence.
As they walked out of their native town, each with a small bundle at his back, each observed the other drop several tears: but, upon the sudden meeting of their eyes, they both smiled with a degree of disdain at the weakness in which they had been caught.

Use the above as inspiration to write a story about two characters who begin with a shared circumstance before diverging and coming into conflict with one another.

Using setting as metaphor for the lives of your characters

Lorraine Hansberry's play A Raisin in the Sun starts off with the paragraph:

The younger living room would be a comfortable and well-ordered room if it were not for a number of indestructible contradictions to this state of being. Its furnishings are typical and undistinguished and their primary feature now is that they have clearly had to accomodate the living of too many people for too many years - and they are tired. Still, we can see that at some time, a time probably no longer remembered by the family (except perhaps for MAMA), the furnishings of this room were actually selected with care and love and even hope - and brought to this apartment and arranged with taste and pride.

This paragraph can be thought of in terms of the setting being a metaphor for the lives of characters in the story.

Write a story beginning with a metaphorical comparison between the setting and the life of one or more characters in the story. The comparison could be made by a narrator, a character, implied by the choice of words and writing style, etc.

Writing inspired by a TV storyline

Click on the link to, select one of the shows displayed and use an episode synopsis for that show as inspiration for a story.

Writing about courage

Click on the link to the Japan Times Film Review page.

Select one of the film review titles and use it as inspiration to write a story about a character who learns to be courageous.

Writing prompt from Euripides

The following quote has been attributed to Euripides:

Events will take their course, it is no good of being angry at them; he is happiest who wisely turns them to the best account.

Use this quote as inspiration to write a story.

Writing in sequences

Click on this link to an article by Chris Fujiwara on the life of Japanese actress Kinuyo Tanaka.

Read the first paragraph for context. Then take the first sentence of each of the eight remaining paragraphs, rephrase them to apply to a fictional character of your own and use each sentence as the basis for a sequence in an eight-sequence story.

A character overcoming a flaw with a strength

According to H. Thomas Milhorn in Writing Genre Fiction, a protagonist should have three attributes:

1) a need or want which translates into a story goal the character is willing to fight for (such as to gain possession of something,to get relief from something, to prevent something, or to get revenge for something
2) a strong point (such as courage, wisdom, persistence, or kindness) which confers on the character potential for triumph; and
3) a character flaw (such as alcoholism, prejudice, greed, gullibility, fear of heights, or fear of authority) that unless overcome may lead to the character's downfall.

Write a story in which your character has a need or want that develops into an active goal requiring them to overcome a major flaw using a major strong point.

Fusing inner experience with outer environment

Siegfried Kracauer has written:

Alfred Hitchcock [...] has set a grand pattern for thrillers indulging in sleuthing. What distinguishes him from the rest of film directors is not his superior know-how but, more, his unrivalled flair for psychophysical correspondences. Nobody is so completely at home in the dim border region where inner and outer events intermingle and fuse with each other.

Write a story in which a character has a mystery to solve, told in a way that explores 'the dim border region where inner and outer events intermingle and fuse with each other.'
Some stylistic possibilities include first-person distortion of environment in the telling, non-realistic comedic farce, or allegoric fantasy with a symbolic relation between character and setting.

Writing to an abstract theme

Ayn Rand has written:

A novel's theme is the general abstraction in relation to which the events serve as the concretes.
For instance, the theme of Gone With the Wind is: the impact of the Civil War on the South - the destruction of the Southern way of life, which vanished with the wind. The theme of Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt is the characterization of an average American small businessman.

Write a story in which the events serve as concretes for the theme "the impact on a 7 year year old boy of his dog going missing." Set the story in your nearest capital city.

Writing about teamwork

Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith have written, about business teams:

All effective teams develop rules of conduct at the outset to help them achieve their purpose and performance goals. The most crucial initial rules pertain to attendance (for example, "no interruptions to take phone calls"), discussion ("no sacred cows"), confidentiality ("the only things to leave this room are what we agree on"), analytic approach ("facts are friendly"), end-product orientation ("everyone gets assignments and does them"), constructive confrontation ("no finger pointing"), and, often the most important, contributions ("everyone does real work").

Write a story about a team in which one or more characters break one or more of the above rules, which has a negative effect on another member of the team.

Emphasising visual storytelling in your writing

Abby Finer & Deborah Pearlman have written, in regard to screenwriting:

Often, writers are so busy focusing on all of the other important elements that they tend to overlook what the audience might be watching while the dialogue is being spoken. Making a scene visually interesting will make your script look very polished. Place the characters in interesting situations while they engage in conversation.

Write a dialogue scene (prose or screenwriting) in which you engage the reader with visual description between the dialogue.

If you'd like to write a screenplay scene but don't know how to format it, you can download free screenwriting software from, or a free trial version of Final Draft at

Writing about remorse for a mistake

The following video poem,10,992 (posted on a Facebook group by Deangelo Whyms), is "a poem about mistakes." Part of it reads:

How true is it when I confess that I was mortally blessed by the manifestation of your presence,
and the luck to land in it,
the honor to stand in it,
and ironically when it came to your last breath,
the disgrace of having a hand in it?
I wonder if you could ever forgive a man for murder?


Write a story about a character who has made a mistake and, as much as they want to, they can't reverse it.

Writing about conflicting goals

Karl Iglesias has written:

Conflict is the essence of a dramatic scene. Without conflict, or the promise of conflict through anticipation and tension, a scene will be expository. This is fine if it's the type of scene you want to write, but it can't be a dramatic scene without conflict. Make sure the conflict is internal, external, or interpersonal rather than the superficial argumentative conflict, where two characters simply disagree, as in "Yes, no, yes, no, is so, is not, etc." Real conflict is not static argument. It's a clear obstacle to a goal with a smooth progression from beat to beat towards a climax.

Write a scene in which one character has a goal that they can't tell the other character about, and the other character has a goal which conflicts with the first character's and doesn't understand why the first character is raising obstacles against their goal.

Writing an implying paragraph

Mary Shelley began chapter 10 of Frankenstein with the following paragraph:

I spent the day roaming through the valley. I stood beside the sources of the Arveiron, which take their rise in a glacier, that with slow pace is advancing down from the summit of the hills, to barricade the valley. The abrupt sides of vast mountains were before me; the icy wall of the glacier overhung me; a few shattered pines were scattered around; and the solemn silence of this glorious presence-chamber of imperial Nature was broken only by brawling waves, or the fall of some vast fragment, the thunder sound of the avalanche, or the cracking reverberated along the mountains of the accumulated ice, which, through the silent working of immutable laws, was ever and anon rent and torn, as if it had been but a plaything in their hands. These sublime and magnificent scenes afforded me the greatest consolation that I was capable of receiving. They elevated me from all littleness of feeling and although they did not remove my grief, they subdued and tranquilized it. In some degree, also, they diverted my mind from the thoughts over which it had brooded for the last month.

Write a paragraph that implies events prior to the paragraph and introduces a character with an unsolved problem. Then write a point form outline of how the paragraph fits into a larger story.