Story Starters

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Ray Bradbury once suggested this plan for becoming a writer:

"Write a short story every week. It's not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row."  

Are you up for the challenge? Here are 52 writing prompts—one for every week in a year.

WEEK 1: 

Your character rents a furnished apartment. When they move the furniture around, they discover that a heavy cabinet is hiding a door to a room they didn't know anything about. That door has been bolted shut. What's behind it?

WEEK 2: 

Write about a reader of romance novels who wants to live a love story of their own, or a reader of mystery novels who wants to solve a crime...

WEEK 3: 

Your character 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, your character 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 them something...


Write a story with this beginning: Unfortunately, the tombstone...


Write a story that contains these three elements: a family vacation, an old secret, and a dangerous animal.


Every evening, when she goes to the parking garage of her office building, your character finds a new love note tucked under the windshield wipers of her car. These love notes are very beautiful and fill your character with powerful emotions. But they are all addressed to "Caroline". Your character's name is Melissa...

house with lit windows


When your character's family gets together for the holidays, one of their brothers seems different in a way that your character can't quite pinpoint. Your character has the weirdest feeling that he's not really their brother, but someone who looks exactly like him pretending to be him...


Your character takes a course in hypnosis, then decides to use their new skills to (you choose: succeed at a job interview, commit a crime, make someone fall in love with them)...


Write a story with this beginning: "Don't move," she whispered.

WEEK 10:

Your character never used to believe in love at first sight, but the stranger sharing their train car inspires a powerful emotion that your character is convinced must be love. Your character doesn't know what to do or what to say, but when the stranger gets off at an unfamiliar stop, your character feels compelled to follow...

WEEK 11:

After a neighbor is murdered, the police talk to your character and his wife, asking if they heard anything suspicious. Your character's wife answers the police's questions as if she had been home the evening the crime occurred, when your character knows she was out until very late that night...

WEEK 12:

Your character gets a new roommate. This roommate is always complimenting your character and seems to admire her a lot. But your character starts to get the creeps when the roommate begins to dress exactly like her, gets her hair cut like your character's, starts reading your character's books and quoting things that your character has said. Your character has the strange feeling that the roommate wants to BE her. And then the roommate starts making excuses to spend time with your character's boyfriend...

WEEK 13:

Write a story with this beginning: If it hadn't rained that night, everything would have turned out differently.

WEEK 14:

Write a story that contains these three elements: a bathing suit, a hair salon, and an amazing rumor that turns out to be true.

WEEK 15:

A man elbows your character in a crowd. After he is gone, she discovers her cell phone is too. She calls her own number, and the man answers. She explains that the cell phone has personal information on it and asks the man to send it back to her. He hangs up. Instead of going to the police, your character decides to take matters into her own hands...

WEEK 16:

After breaking up with their boyfriend/girlfriend, your character realizes that they left something important in the boyfriend's/girlfriend's home. Your character has no desire to see the boyfriend/girlfriend again, so they decide to sneak into the boyfriend's/girlfriend's house when they believe no one will be home. Things don't go as planned...

WEEK 17:

Write a story with this beginning: At the center of the maze...

WEEK 18:

Your character is staying in a small hotel during a hurricane. Trapped indoors, the hotel guests gather in the living room to try to pass the time. One of the guests offers to tell a ghost story. But as the story unfolds, it begins to feel disturbingly familiar and real...

kitchen window with clock, fruit, and dried flowers

WEEK 19:

Write a story that contains these three elements: a magic trick, an engagement ring, and a missing friend.

WEEK 20:

A stranger in a bar challenges your character to a game of pool and proposes an unusual bet... If your character loses, they have to marry this stranger. Your character happens to be a great pool player, so they recklessly accept the bet. Then, your character loses the game...

WEEK 21:

Your character and their identical twin were adopted by different families. When they meet as adults, each of them envies the other one's life. They decide to trade identities...

WEEK 22:

Write a story with this beginning: It was no ordinary garden...

WEEK 23:

Write a story that contains these three elements: a creepy house, a map, and a music box.

WEEK 24:

Years ago, your character ended a relationship for reasons that they now believe were a terrible mistake. After this happened, they tried to get back together, but the other person refused to even talk to your character. Now, by a lucky coincidence, your character has been seated on an airplane next to their ex. This flight might be your character's one chance to recover what they've lost...

WEEK 25:

Write a story with this beginning: Unlike her mother...

WEEK 26:

Your character discovers a mysterious package at their doorstep containing an expensive-looking necklace. The following day, they find another package, this time with a jeweled ring. Over the next few days, several more packages arrive, each filled with valuable jewelry. Both curious and concerned about the origin of these gifts, your character decides to stay home from work to see who is leaving them.

WEEK 27:

Your character wakes up in an unfamiliar room with no memory of how they got there...

WEEK 28:

Your character goes to talk to her fiancé's estranged father, to try to convince him to come to the wedding. Your character's fiancé and the father haven't spoken in years, and your character is hoping to patch things up between them. But after hearing the father's side of the story, your character begins to think about calling the wedding off...

WEEK 29:

Write a story that contains these three elements: a surprise visit, a bad habit, and a local legend that might be true...

WEEK 30:

Your character has a crush on a coworker but is too shy to speak to him. Your character's friend offers them a recipe for a love potion, which your character decides to try. First, your character will need to obtain three of the coworker's hairs...

cat in window of house

WEEK 31:

Write a story with this beginning: Behind her mask...

WEEK 32:

Write a story that contains these three elements: a stuck elevator, a pickpocket, and a promise.

WEEK 33:

Your character has secretly developed romantic feelings for their best friend. Afraid of ruining their friendship, your character keeps these feelings hidden. However, when the best friend reveals they're considering dating someone else, your character decides it’s time to express their feelings—before it’s too late...

WEEK 34:

One of your character's sisters claims to be receiving ghostly messages from your character's deceased mother. The mother, your character's sister warns, wants everyone in the family to make specific changes in their lives...

WEEK 35:

Write a story with this beginning: I hurled my phone into the lake...

WEEK 36:

Write a story that contains these three elements: an annoying neighbor, a first date, and poisonous mushrooms.

WEEK 37:

Write a story that takes place entirely in the dark.

WEEK 38:

Your character is in the middle of a messy divorce. Her divorce lawyer has advised your character not to move out of the house because doing so could negatively affect her divorce settlement. Her spouse likewise refuses to move out, so the two are still living together. When your character starts a new romantic relationship, this complicated arrangement becomes even more complicated...

WEEK 39:

Your character must escape from... (you choose: an overprotective parent, a locked hospital ward, a cult, a strict boarding school...)

WEEK 40:

Write a story with this beginning: Hidden under the loose floor board...

WEEK 42:

Write a story that contains these three elements: a feather boa, a phobia, and a family fight.

WEEK 43:

Your character has been kidnapped and locked in an attic. The attic has a small window overlooking the garden of a neighbor's house, where your character sometimes sees children playing. Your character doesn't dare shout out the window because the kidnapper might hear. They need to find a way to signal for help without the kidnapper discovering what they're doing, and without endangering the children...

house at night

WEEK 44:

Write a story with this beginning: "Sorry, I don't speak Swedish..."

WEEK 45:

Write a story that contains these three elements: a taxi driver, fake tears, and a treasure map...

WEEK 46:

One night, your character goes with his wife to his in-laws' house. When he's in the bathroom, he overhears a conversation between his wife and her parents. "Don't worry," his wife says. "As soon as I get rid of him, everything will be fine." Could she be talking about your character? What's going on?

WEEK 47:

Your character's brother needs an expensive operation that the family can't afford. Your character is determined to get the money, even if that means breaking the law...

WEEK 48:

Your character meets a stranger in an airport who tries to convince your character to abandon her life and travel the world with him.

WEEK 49:

Your character feels a strong attraction to their new neighbor. They invent excuses to talk to this person, and with every interaction, the attraction grows... But one night, your character glimpses something through the neighbor's lighted window that makes them wonder who this person really is...

WEEK 50:

Write a story that contains all three of these elements: a sports car, a rubber snake, and an obnoxious ex-girlfriend.

WEEK 51:

Your character has always wanted a child. When they sees their neighbors mistreating their little boy, your character decides to steal him...

WEEK 52:

Your character suspects that their new stepparent is actually a... (pick one: con artist/werewolf/spy/demon/witch/serial killer/extraterrestrial).

Learn how to shape ideas into gripping stories in our eight-week course, Story Structure!

More Story Starters

Mystery writing prompts

44 short story ideas

Ideas for characters

Setting ideas

"What if" story starters

Story prompts: "A Change of Plans" and more

Romance writing prompts

20 answers to the question, "What happens next?"

Story starters about obsessions and more

Story starters about life changes and more

Story starters about houses, transportation, and more

Story starters about mysterious events

Story starters about holidays and more

Love story ideas

Story prompts about talents and more

Story prompts about relationships and more

Story prompts about difficult decisions and more

Story starters about secrets and more

Story starters about surprising discoveries and more

Story prompts about mistakes and more

Story prompts about communication and more

Story ideas: "A Sudden Inheritance"

Story ideas about revenge and more

Story ideas about houses and more

Mix-and-match story ideas

Prompts to practice "showing" versus "telling" and specific detail

Prompts to practice character development

Prompts to practice plot structure

Prompts to practice narrative point of view

Prompts to practice writing dialogue

Online course on character development

Happy writing!

closeup of cat in window