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.