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Creative Writing Prompts

Instructor: Nicky Davis
Creative writing prompts can help get your imagination going, sparking new ideas to break a bout of writer's block. Read on to find writing prompts for fiction, non-fiction, poetry, playwriting and screenwriting.

Creative Writing Prompts

Below, find helpful and thought-provoking prompts in some major areas of creative writing.

Fiction Writing Prompts

Fiction writing generally refers to works of imagination that take the form of short stories, novels and novellas.

  • 5-Letter Limit: Write a scene or short story using only words that are five letters long or shorter.
  • Eavesdrop Headline: Write down an interesting snippet of conversation you hear out in the world. Take a sentence from what you overheard, and write a short story set on the day when that sentence is a front-page headline.
  • Fairytale Double Take: Reinvent a well-known fairytale or story. What if it didn't end with happily ever after? What if the characters weren't strictly good or evil? What if everything wasn't fated to fall into place? Maybe think about entering the story from the perspective of a secondary character, like one of the ugly stepsisters, or one of the seven dwarves.

Learn More About Fiction

Are you curious to find out more fiction and literature? Study.com has great resources to help you learn about and master prose, literary terminology, and composition.

Creative Non-Fiction Prompts

Creative non-fiction refers to biographies, memoirs, essays, and other works based on fact told with use of literary techniques employed in fiction, poetry, playwriting or other creative writing forms.

  • No Comfort Zone: On small pieces of paper, write down 3-4 stories from your own life that you're afraid to write about. Shuffle them up, and pick one. Write that story as honestly as you can. Sometimes for this prompt it helps to write in the 3rd person, to create some distance from the events.
  • This is the Place: Choose a specific place that is important to you. Write about this play, describing it through anecdotes and details for someone who has never been there before.
  • Dream Journal: Use a vivid dream you've had as a way into writing about an event or time in your life. Let the dream story serve as a framework to tell the true story.

Learn More About Non-Fiction

If you're interested in writing creative non-fiction, finding out more about the craft of the genre is essential. Check out these Study.com guides to non-fiction, and essay writing to start learning now.

Poetry Writing Prompts

Poetry writing relies on words, form, sound and rhythm to create meaning. These prompts include freestyle poetry prompts, as well as specific prompts for specific poetic forms.

  • Stolen Song: Choose a line or phrase from a song, and use it to begin a poem about something completely unrelated to the subject of the song.
  • Snap, Crackle, Pop: Write a poem that centers around onomatopoeias, such as boom, swish, zap, bang, etc.
  • Repeat After Me: Write a sestina using the following as the repeating words: porcelain, draft, veins, hairpin, galvanized, through.
  • My Verse: Write a poem about where you're from in blank verse. 'Where you're from' can be literal or figurative, whatever resonates with you.

Learn More About Poetry

A great way to build poetry-writing skill is by reading and studying the form. Study.com can help, with foundational course materials covering the various types of poetry, as well as more focused lessons in romantic poetry which will introduce you to some of the most influential and commonly referenced English poets and their work.

Playwriting Prompts

Playwriting is writing for live, on-stage performance, and is generally dialogue-based and character driven.

  • Frenemies: Create or choose two characters, your own or fictional characters you know, who would NEVER usually spend time together. Write a scene where these two are forced to work together on something.
  • Eavesdrop: Take note of snippets of conversation you hear out in the world. Write down two lines of dialogue you've overheard, and assign them each to a character. Write a scene between these two characters where both lines of dialogue are used.
  • Fill-in-the-Blanks: Try starting a scene or monologue with a sentence created by filling in the blanks in one of the prompts from the table below. These prompts can be helpful for all types of creative writing, not just playwriting. Below are a few examples of good fill-in-the-blank exercises.
    • Why would I want to…
    • I remember the way…
    • I've forgotten what it's like to…
    • Hope is irrational, the way I hope for…
    • The most ordinary thing I know is…

Screenwriting Prompts

Screenwriting is similar to playwriting in its formatting, but has more focus on the visual components of film. The prompts are designed to inspire cinematic storytelling.

  • Location, Location, Location: Choose three or four specific locations that you find particularly interesting. Write a script that jumps between these locations and links them together.
  • A Picture's Worth…: Choose a photograph - it can be a picture you took, a famous image, or a picture in a magazine or newspaper. Write the first scene of a movie that opens with that image.
  • Soundtrack: Choose a song that makes a strong statement. Write the first scene of a movie that has that song in it's opening credits.
  • Color Inside the Lines: Colors are so often associated with emotions, red is anger, yellow is joy, green is envy and so on. Write scenes for each color in the ROYGBIV rainbow, thinking of how to highlight each color in every piece of the scene, from the emotion of the dialogue, to the scenic elements and the soundtrack.

Learn More about Playwriting and Screenwriting

Whether for stage or screen, there are many elements to consider when writing a script. To learn the fundamentals, check out these Study.com course materials on drama and dramatic literature.

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