I’ve always been a fan of challenges. If someone tells me to walk to the corner store (for some reason) I’ll procrastinate and only eventually get around to it once I’ve finished colour-coding my socks and other such vital tasks. However, if they told me to get there without anyone seeing me, I’ll immediately have Mission Impossible music going in my head while I duck behind trees and wheelie bins on my epic ninja quest for the shops.
This love of challenges extends to my writing. Given a bit of spare time and the instruction to ‘WRITE! GOGOGOGOGO!’ it’s most likely that I’ll find some new and fascinating way to waste my time and have nothing to show for it afterwards. Which is why I love writing prompts. They provide a challenge, a framework to begin your story and for your imagination to leap from. Working with a challenge can lead to a burst of creativity you never knew you had in you.
A while ago, I talked about how to write without any inspiration. One of my solutions was consulting lists of writing prompts: lists of words and themes that are designed to provide a challenge and get the creative juices flowing.
However, I’ve never found quite what I need in those lists. Sometimes the concepts are too abstract, sometimes too specific. Sometimes there’s simply nothing there to grab me.
So I thought I’d try my hand at creating my own list of prompts and challenges. A list of ideas that, if given some time and love, could become great stories. Feel free to use any of them or to contribute your own. Though, if you do use any, please post a link in the comments. I want to read them.
1. A dragon is afraid of princesses
2. It’s the future and the government is trying to take away our jetpacks
3. The adventures of a seeing-eye dog
4. There’s no way out
5. The robots have become sentient and now they just want to go back to how it was before
6. It’s too late now
7. Boy meets girl. Boy’s family are the defenders of the tooth fairy realm and he’s, like, so embarrassed by it
9. Your protagonist goes to the lemon tree in the make garden when they’re upset. Then they make lemonade.
10. Things never turn out the way you expect them to
11. In order to become a wizard, all apprentices must go on a quest to find their wand. That quest involves at least one mishap with the portable cauldron they packed ‘just-in-case’
12. WWII Germany and your protagonist is in love with a Nazi
13. Reversing the irreversible
14. Vampires. Except knee-height
15. Your protagonist agrees to take a bribe.
16. Giving up your dream for someone else’s only for them to fail.
18. A trapeze artist is afraid of heights
19. Your protagonist receives an expensive present from their stalker.
20. Lovers must choose to be apart to prevent the apocalypse
21. A psychopath on the loose. They target women with long hair. Everyone starts getting haircuts.
22. Your protagonist keeps having great, innovative ideas a few days after someone else
23. Sometimes life really is simple
24. Waiting for the sky to fall to complete the worst day ever
25. Your protagonist is imprisoned by people they trusted.
26. A story that begins with a ten word sentence then reduces each sentence by one word (a nine word sentence, then an eight word one etc) until you hit one. Then restarts.
27. An unrepentant assassin kills the wrong person.
28. Friendly aliens accidently introduce a disease that is wiping out the human race
29. Living in fear
31. Your protagonist discovers they have an evil twin and switches places with them.
32. An evil overlord wants to quit being evil but doesn’t know how.
33. You were never meant to find this
34. Falling in love is hard when everyone around you is terrible.
35. Your characters are aware they are in a story and use that knowledge to get what they want by exploiting the common tropes and themes of their genre.
Is your next story in that list? Do you have some of your own ideas to contribute? I’d love to hear them. Let’s create a giant list of ideas so people have no choice but to leave feeling inspired and itching to write.