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How to Use Creative Writing Prompts

Last Updated: October 21, 2021

wikiHow is a “wiki,” similar to Wikipedia, which means that many of our articles are co-written by multiple authors. To create this article, volunteer authors worked to edit and improve it over time. This article has been viewed 16,595 times.

Generally, staring at a blank page will not help you begin writing. Sometimes you need help getting over that first hump, as a blank page can be a bit scary. Writing prompts can be beneficial because they can get you started, giving you the inspiration you need. However, you should be aware of a few ground rules when you use them.

Getting Used to Working with a Prompt

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Dec 2, 2020

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Christopher Fielden

creative writing picture prompts

Writing Advice:

5 starts.

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Writing prompts.

Quick links on this page:

Below is a list of original, innovative writing prompts to help inspire stories, poems and all other forms of creative writing. Whether you want to get rid of writers block or just want to find some new inspirational ideas, this list is designed to help.

Dos Prompt

At the bottom of the page, you will find links to other lists of writing prompts, meaning there are thousands for you to look through.

Some of the prompts and ideas on this page have been provided by other writers. Those prompts are credited to them, below the prompt title.

If you would like to suggest a prompt to be added to the page, please click here . Over time, the idea is to build this into a large resource. I think having a list of prompts from lots of different writers gives more variety / value to the reader.

Writing Prompts Think

I decided to create this resource after a conversation with my friend Pauly who is a teacher at Becket Primary School in the UK. Sorry, I should probably refer to him as Mr Davis for the sake of his teaching reputation, but he will always be Pauly to me :-)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, he was looking for creative ideas to share with his class as part of their home learning. I shared some writing prompts that I'd originally written for Daily Prompt (a writing app) with him, and the writing challenges I run on my website.

Daily Prompt, Writing Prompt App

I thought it would be useful to share the prompts with my website users and invite contributions to make the resource more useful to Pauly Mr Davis and everyone else. So that is why this page exists.

A List of Inspirational Creative Writing Prompts

4x4 challenge.

Prompt by Chris Fielden

Take the 4th book from your bookshelf.

Open it on page 4.

Find the 4th sentence on the page and start a story using its first 4 words.

Optional word limits:

The children of Becket Primary School have used the '4x4 challenge' writing prompt as a school competition. You can see the results and read their stories here .

Prompt by Dave Langdale

A is the murder location. B is the murder weapon. C is your detective.

Acting On Impulse

Prompt by J. L. Harland

The estate agent's leaflet said it was 'an ideal first home'. Who is looking for a first home? Why are they likely to act on impulse when buying?

Write the estate agent's blurb and then a true description of the property using all your senses.

You now have your characters, motivation and setting.

Animal Encounter

Prompt by Sarah Doyle

Write a poem about an encounter that you have had with an animal (or animals), whether mammals, birds, insects, or fish.

Use sensory language to evoke the animal(s) in your poem – such as colour, smell, touch and texture, and sound. Think about small physical details – did the animal have eyelashes, what colour was the bird’s beak, was the insect shiny, was the fox’s fur sleek or rough, etc.?

If you didn’t get close enough to touch or smell the animal(s), imagine what that would have been like. How did the encounter make you feel, either about yourself or about humans in general? How do you think the animal(s) might have felt?

If you prefer, your poem can be about an imaginary encounter with an animal that you might or might not want to meet in real life.

After falling into a coma, you wake 1,000 years in the future. Someone has written a message on your arm in marker pen. It reads:

Find the Augury – she will help you.

Bad Hair Day

Prompt by Jude Higgins

Write down a memory of your worst haircut / style. And people's reaction to it. 10 mins, fast.

Now write a fiction where you give this haircut / style to a character of the opposite sex to you and twenty years older or younger. Make their life change drastically because of the change to their hair.

Prompt by Lesley Truchet

You have lived with your domineering mother for years, caring for her in her old age. She recently passed away, leaving you with mixed emotions and more time for yourself.

You have little experience with love, but you are about to go on a blind date.

Prompt by Mary Fielden

You wake in the night to see a figure standing in front to your bookcase at the foot of your bed.  Alarmed, you shout out and the figure shatters into fragments and transforms into the books on your shelf. 

Who or what is the mysterious presence and what happens next?

Cast A Cloud

Prompt by Chris Deliso

Master character creation techniques by practicing on a random fictional character. Cast a cloud of the descriptors that immediately come to mind when thinking of a known character, then repeat the same method to a fictional character you are creating.

Example: Hercule Poirot

Cloud: precise, perturbed, quizzical; disparagingly, balding, cross.

Deep Sea Adventure

Prompt by Annette Taylor

A billionaire buys a personal submarine and hires your character/s for a secret mission.

A couple of years ago, you found a baby demon and decided to rear it.

Now it's fully grown, it's started causing you 'problems'.

Desert Island Disaster

Prompt by Mel Ciavucco

What would happen if you were stuck on a desert island with your family?

Consider making this a group exercise by asking all of your family to contribute ideas.

Did You Sleep Well?

You wake up after an afternoon nap and hear the question, "Did you sleep well?"

You live alone, so spin around quickly and see your pet, looking at you questioningly.

Different Perspectives

Prompt by Danny Shilling from Daily Prompt

Write a story from three different perspectives:

Each new paragraph / stanza should change the perspective.

Prompt by Mark Rutterford

E is in trouble – you decide what kind of trouble.

The combined efforts of M and C save E. Tell that story on one page.

Every Picture...

Prompt by K. J. Watson

Look at a favourite painting. Create a story by considering:

If you need a painting to spark your imagination, Google the name of an artist such as Salvador Dali, René Magritte and Leonora Carrington. Their work is often fun, weird and inspirational.

Fantastical Correspondence

Write a letter to a mythical creature:

First Lines

Prompt by Alex Anderson

Use one of the following lines to start a piece of creative writing and just go with the creative flow:

Start typing a question into Google and see what suggestions come up. Use one of the suggestions to inspire a story. Here are a few example questions to get you started:

You can also add each letter of the alphabet to the question opening to get more ideas. For example:

Why Does Google Search

The fact that these are the results most searched for on Google for questions starting 'why does' says a lot about the priorities of the human race and also explains why we don't have enough scientists... needless to say, this prompt is likely to waste a lot of your time and make you laugh :-)

He Said, She Said - Dialogue Only

Prompt by Penelope Hester

Write a short story in no more than 1,000 words using ONLY dialogue.

And NO speech tags, like 'he said menacingly'.  Make the dialogue indicate the characters attitudes. If time has to pass, find a way to do this with the conversation.

If The Cap Fits

Prompt by John Wheway

Find an unusual hat, or a hat substitute such as a waste paper basket, a pair of trousers, a lamb chop, something of that kind.

Write a 300 word story in the voice of a character who has always wanted to be seen in town wearing this item on his/her/their head.

I'm Not Eating That

You or your character develop a sudden dislike for a certain type of food and join a support group for adult picky eaters.

Your character has been unable to sleep for 2 days, leading them to make a terrible mistake.

Your favourite food isn't manufactured. It's either:

You're in charge of production. Write about it.

Prompt by Mike Scott Thomson

Write a short story (as long as it needs to be) where a jigsaw puzzle is solved, but the final picture is not what was on the box. It could be a case of:

Last Night, A DJ Saved My Writers' Block

Prompt by Neil Renton

Take a note of the next three songs that you listen to, then use those songs for inspiration.

You can be inspired by the lyrics, the song titles or a feeling the music gives you. This can trigger ideas for characters, settings or dialogue. Then develop those ideas into scenes or short stories.

Consider using music streaming services and random shuffles to keep you on your writing toes.

Leap Day Penalty

In some parts of the world, a man is expected to pay a penalty if he refuses a marriage proposal from a woman on Leap Day.

Write a story about a man who receives a proposal on Leap Day from a woman he doesn't want to marry.

Prompt by John Holland

Write about an obsession. It can be anything at all, so long as it's out of control.

If you don't know enough about your chosen subject, research it and note down amusing, scary or inspiring things about it.

Don't just write about how it affects your main character. Also write about how it impacts others.

Olympic Gold

The Olympics includes a new sport. You're about to go for gold in... what?

Will all your training pay off?

One Word: Today

Prompt by Michael Rumsey

Your story starts with one word: Today.

But what happened today?

A crew cleans out the garage of a deceased loner and discover a stash of:

Property Purge

Write an advert to sell an unusual property:

Reach For The Stars

Prompt by Allen Ashley

Imagine that you are running a futuristic travel agency and are drumming up some business. Where can you take your clients? What delights might you offer?

Here are some examples or starters:

Now sell me your own space holiday!

Reverse Chronology

Write a story backwards. Start with the final paragraph and work your way towards the beginning, by going back in time with each paragraph you write.

Script By Six

Below you will find 3 different options of varying difficulty, all regarding the number 6.

Secret Santa

Someone has left a large package on your doorstep. You open it and find...

Sense Outside

Prompt by Mark Fielden

You're told to stay indoors during a pandemic. That means there's no one around; few vehicles to pollute with noise and fumes, so you can see, hear and smell a lot more.

Go into your garden, onto your balcony; stand in your doorway or by an open window.

Look up, look down, look from side to side.

Let your senses absorb our quieter world.

Sounds Like Greek To Me

Your main character recovers from a head injury and is diagnosed with Foreign Accent Syndrome.

Spitting Image

Write about an art lover who visits a museum and becomes fascinated by a portrait of an Italian noble they resemble.


You wake up to find you have a superpower.

At first it seems useless, but as the day progresses, you realise its potential.

Tantalising Tune Titles

Prompt by Ville Nummenpää

Pick a song title and write a story based on it. Never mind the lyrics, let the title fuel your imagination.

So much to choose from... here are a few ideas to start you off:

Teashop Trio

Prompt by Sue Johnson

Choose a character from three different fairytales or nursery rhymes.

Have them meet for afternoon tea:

Think Outside The Box... By Thinking What's In The Box

Prompt by Lynda Nash

Susie receives a parcel. Write a list of 20 possible things that could be inside it.

Don't be afraid to be absurd. Read through your list and discard all the 'normal' or clichéd suggestions, leaving the more unusual items. Choose one.

Now consider these questions:

Unbelievable Statements

Prompt by A.H. Creed

There is no such thing as colour (as unbelievable as it seems, this is true).

Create your own unbelievable statement. Then create a character who believes it or a world in which it could be true.

What if things were different and not as we expect them to be?

Take something normal from everyday life and apply some 'what if' imagination to it.

For example, what if...

Where Did It Go?

Write a complaint to your local town council because a local landmark has disappeared.

Wish You Were Here

Prompt by Steph Minns

Do a search for images of postcards on the internet.

Look for postcards with people on them. Use one of these people to inspire a character who goes on an adventure.

Look for postcards of places. Set a story in this location.

You've Always Been Here

You're interviewing for a new job. Walking into the boardroom, you're greeted by the manager.

You mention how nice it is to be there and the manager looks at you with a puzzled expression. 'What do you mean?' they say. 'You've always been here.'

You’ve Been Sentenced to 100

Write a story that comprises 1 sentence that is exactly 100 words in length.

ZY Challenge

Write about a character whose names ends in 'zy'. It could be their real name, or not:

How did your character get this name? What is its significance on their life?

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Other Lists of Writing Prompts

Below you will find details of other websites that provide lists of inspirational creative writing prompts:

Suggest A Prompt

Do you have a creative writing prompt that you think might inspire other writers? If so, please contact me or just fill in the comment form below.

Please be sure to include:

If your prompt is published as part of the list above, you will be credited for thinking it up :-)

No more than 5 prompts per author please. This is just to help keep the ideas shared on this page as varied as possible.

This page may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy .

Leave your comments

Please use the form below to leave your comments. All comments will be reviewed so won't appear on the page instantly. I will not share your details with anyone else. Most recent comments appear at the bottom of the page, oldest at the top.

Your Details:

Please prove you're a human by entering the security code in the box below: 7072, your comments:.

Hullabaloo 22 Thanks so much for compiling this list. Great variety to the prompts - definitely something for everyone!

Chris Fielden Thank you, H22 :-)

Sylvie S Thanks, the prompts look really useful. I have also forwarded them to my 15 year old grand-daughter as she enjoys writing.

Chris Fielden No problem, thanks Sylvie. And thank you for sharing with your grand-daughter too – very much appreciated. I hope she finds them useful :-)

Alan D Very many thanks for this – almost makes a 'structurally adventurous' story on its own! Now, there’s an idea!

Chris Fielden Hi Alan. Good to hear from you. LOL, very true – great idea :-)

Alex A As I see it, the moodier the prompt the more it leads you to start thinking and, if you are in the mood, just go with your creative 'flow'.

For example, 'I am coming home' became the title and starting point of 23 lines of poetry (3 x 5 line verses and an 8 line one). When done, I saw a sailing ship and coloured the base into this wood brown and thought it could be a wall hung framed piece of work. From a distance, you see the ship and that it is made up of words, so maybe you'll step closer to read the work.

Do these not feel like prompts that let you choose where and how far you take them?

NOTE: You can see Alex's prompts in the list above, under the title 'First Lines'.

Chris Fielden Thanks for sharing this, Alex. It’s interesting to see how different writers are inspired. It seems you prefer a ‘less is more’ approach.

I agree, the ideas you included are interesting and inspiring. They are like first lines of a story, which is a great way to get the creative juices flowing. Therefore, I have included them in the list above. Cheers.

Alex A Cheers to you too. I only came up with the idea because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Isolation means I can't get to a writing group (or friends) so I wondered if we could meet on laptops and challenge each other by thinking up prompts and being a group (electronically) without breaking isolation.

I like the challenge to make 'unlikely heroes' that make readers think they could/would like to be that hero.

Have a great day.

Chris Fielden I think that’s a good idea, Alex – good luck with your virtual writing group. My writing group are doing the same. We'll be trying a Zoom meeting, I think.

I like the unlikely hero idea. It sounds very similar to an anti-hero, but with more scope I guess :-)

Annette T Nest Egg: Aging and poor European aristocrat decides to sell his title to make money to live out old age in comfort.

Chris Fielden Hi Annette. Thanks for submitting again. This one reads more like a one-line synopsis - you have a definite character and premise. I think it's better if the prompts are a bit more open.

For any future prompt submissions, please keep this in mind :-)

Klaus G Hi Chris, I like the prompts, a true treasure trove for years! How do I go about submitting my writing? Do I email it to you? How many words?

Chris Fielden Hi Klaus, thanks for your message.

Do you mean you want to submit a prompt for inclusion on the page? If so, there is no word limit, but a concise prompt is best please. Full details of how to submit a prompt can be found here .

Or do you mean how do you submit writing inspired by a prompt? I'm afraid I'm not requesting submissions. The prompts are simply supplied to inspire writers. If you do write a story, you would have to find a potential market and submit to it like normal. Sorry about that, but it would be too much work to publish every story inspired by these prompts. I hope you understand :-)

Klaus G OK, thanks Chris. Cheers, Klaus.

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Creative writing picture prompts first grade - Writing Prompts

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If you could ask your picture one grade creative themselves, what would it be and why? Pretend it is your birthday and the postman has delivered a box first big to fit in the grade. Write creative what might be in the box. Picture yourself in a gloomy prompt, exploring it with two click.

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