Short Story Prompts

Here are some short story prompts that you can use for ideas. At the bottom of the page, you'll find links to hundreds of other story starters.

The prompts on this page were inspired by the idea of New Year's resolutions... but you can use them to write stories at any time of the year!

Twelve New Year's Resolutions for Your Characters

1) This year, your character resolves to get rid of his/her difficult roommate. But the roommate has no intention of going. And the situation escalates...

2) This year, your character resolves to get in shape, and s/he joins a gym. While s/he's lifting weights, s/he's approached by a muscular stranger, who says he trains and represents professional wrestlers. "I can tell you have potential, and I want to show you how to use it," the stranger says. Your character thinks he must be joking, but the stranger seems deadly serious and oddly determined...

3) This year, your character resolves to give up smoking and throws out all the cigarettes in the house. The craving is tremendous. Your character tries nicotine patches, chewing gum, and exercise, but nothing works. After a week of this, s/he can't stand it any longer and drives to the local convenience store for some cigarettes. S/he looks at the cigarette packs but resists the urge to buy one. Instead, s/he slips a candy bar into his/her pocket and walks out without paying. His/her heart is pumping fast; adrenaline is racing through his/her veins, and for the first time in a week, s/he isn't thinking about smoking. Thus begins your character's new addiction, to shoplifting... an addiction that will prove more dangerous than the one s/he gave up...

4) This year, your character resolves to get organized. While she is sorting through papers in her house, she discovers an expensive insurance policy that her husband has taken out on her life. Why has he done that? And why didn't he tell her about it? And why does he have a second cell phone hidden in the back of his desk drawer?

5) This year, your character resolves to publish her novel. She sends it to an agent, who almost immediately finds a potential publisher. The problem? The novel's protagonist is recognizably based your character's best friend, and the novel is based on the friend's secret love affair. When the book comes out, everyone in their small town will know the friend's secret. Is there a way for your character to publish the novel without ruining their friendship and her friend's life?

6) This year, your character resolves to get his driver's license. A week after he does, he is driving on a lonely road when a pedestrian suddenly walks in front of the car. Your character hits the person, then panics and drives off. Now, he's tormented by guilt. Has he killed someone? He can't find any information about the accident in the newspapers. He needs to discover the truth and, if possible, make amends. But he doesn't want to be arrested...

7) This year, your character resolves to save money. So, he is intrigued when he sees an ad online, offering a free bedroom in a shared apartment. The apartment's owner explains that s/he is lonely and just wants company. It sounds quite strange, but it could save your character a fortune in rent...

8) This year, your character resolves to learn a foreign language. S/he's heard that the neighbor in the adjoining apartment is a language teacher and signs up for private lessons, which are held in the neighbor's home. But soon, s/he begins to suspect that this neighbor is more than just a language teacher. S/he notices several unusual details in the neighbor's home, and the neighbor is highly secretive about his/her life. Now, if only your character could learn the language fast enough to understand those mysterious late night meetings s/he overhears through the apartments' shared wall...

9) Your character's New Year's resolution was to pursue his/her interest in photography, so s/he starts taking photographs of the neighborhood around the house. In one of these photographs, a face appears in the window of a house, a face your character recognizes from news stories about a local girl who's gone missing. Naturally, s/he takes the photograph straight to the police. A few days later, s/he follows up with the police, who tell her they've searched the house, and there's no one there. They say that the house is vacant, but your character sees lights in the windows at night and silhouettes moving behind the curtains. She decides that it's time to take matters into her own hands...

10) Your character's New Year's resolution is to get more sleep. S/he starts having strange and vivid dreams, which all take place in a large, palatial house that feels strangely familiar to your character. In these dreams, s/he always goes up the stairs to a bedroom with green wallpaper and taps three times on a certain brick in the fireplace. Your character becomes certain that these dreams are trying to tell him/her something...

11) Your character's New Year's resolution is to get into shape. The resolution is successful, and now that your character is looking better than ever, his/her coworker asks your character on a date. At first, your character is thrilled, since s/he's been secretly attracted to this coworker for a long time. But then s/he's bothered by the nagging thought that this coworker had never showed any interest in your character before s/he transformed his/her physical appearance. Are the coworker's feelings for your character so shallow? What will your character do?

12) Your character's New Year's resolution is to spend more time with his/her family, so s/he takes a leave of absence from work. But his/her family doesn't seem delighted that s/he's suddenly home all day. In fact, your character has the distinct impression that they're trying to hide something from him/her, a secret that they all share and that your character isn't supposed to find out...

13) Your character's New Year's resolution is to organize his/her house. S/he is cleaning out a cabinet, when s/he discovers an opened from a former lover who broke your character's heart years ago. Opening the letter, your character discovers that the ending of that relationship was all based on a misunderstanding. But since then your character has built a whole new life and is married to someone else (though s/he has never been able to love anyone else the way s/he loved the person who wrote that letter). What will your character do?

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