Story starters and creative writing ideas for fiction

Looking for story starters and creative writing ideas? You've just struck gold. Here you'll find an endless supply of inspiration. Bye-bye, Writer's Block.

Take a moment to bookmark this page so that you can find it again whenever you need new ideas.

Also be sure to check out our free 3-day online creative writing course, Endless Story Ideas, which will show you techniques to come up with new fiction ideas whenever you need them.

Story Starters

Not sure what to write about? "44 Short Story Ideas" is a general list of writing topics with something for everyone.

Or get started with these Ideas for Characters, Ideas for Plots, and "What If" Story Starters. Also check out these Story Setting Ideas, Fiction Prompts about Siblings, Love Story Ideas, Mystery Writing Prompts and 4 New Year's Resolutions for Your Characters that you can use year-round!

Find out about two magic phrases that make it easy to come up with great story ideas.

Get 20 ideas that answer the question, "What happens next?"

Browse Story Prompts About Obsessions, Life Changes, Talents, Travel, Relationships, Difficult Decisions, Secrets, Surprising Discoveries, Mysterious Happenings, Mistakes, Communication, A Sudden Inheritance, Revenge, Houses, More Houses, and Habits.

Use our fun Story Ideas Kit to create mix-and-match story plots.

If you're looking for more detailed creative writing ideas, read on. The pages below are divided based on related topics in our free creative writing courses, but you can use these story starters any way you want.

Story Prompts (recommended for study of: Showing versus Telling and Specific Detail)

More Story Prompts (recommended for study of: Character Development)

Even More Writing Prompts (recommended for study of: Plot)

And Even More Writing Prompts (recommended for study of: Narrative Point of View)

And... Wait a Minute... More Writing Prompts (recommended for study of: Dialogue)

Turn those ideas into stories with our online course, Story Structure.

starburst-patterned lamp to illustrate story starters and creative writing ideas

Other Creative Writing Ideas

Still feeling blocked? Here are some other ways to keep the words flowing.

Re-imagine a real event

Think of something that happened to you, or someone you know, or someone in a news story, and ask yourself, "What if?"

What if you had picked up that hitchhiker, and she turned out to be a psychopath? What if you decided to get revenge on your evil coworker? What if your neighbor is really living a double life?

Come up with an interesting situation and try to imagine as realistically as possible how it would play out.


Break it down

Here's an exercise that will help you generate your own story starters.

  1. Think of a strong emotion (for example: rage).
  2. Quickly write a list of ten situations which would inspire that emotion (for example: when someone harms a family member).
  3. Choose some of those situations and make them more specific. Come up with several scenarios for each one. (Using the example of someone harming a family member, one version might be that someone mugs the character's grandmother. Another version might be that the character's mother is unfairly fired from her job).
  4. Now, take some of these scenarios, and make them even more specific. (Using the example of the character's mother getting fired: Maybe it is a case of sexual harassment. Or maybe an envious coworker is telling lies about her...)
  5. Keep going, getting more and more specific, until you find a story you want to write.

Tell it out loud

Having trouble writing? Fine. Don't. (For a while).

Instead, try this. Get a recording device (e.g., a voice recording app on your phone) and just talk to it. Describe the scene you wanted to write. Pretend you're talking to a friend, and record what you say.

Next, transcribe the recording. Just play the recording and write or type your words.

Now you no longer have to face a blank page. You have a written text that you can use as a starting point. Read what you have and decide what to add, to cut, to rearrange. Start building it into a draft of a story.

Build on a name

Go to a phone book, and pick a name at random. If you don't have a phone book handy, you can make up a name, or feel free use one of these: Hank Jenkins, Trevor Smythe-Hewitt, Tatiana Zeleny, Margaret Wintergreen, Mimi Howard, Jasper Krupp.

Try to picture how someone with this name might look. I imagine Tatiana Zeleny as in her early twenties with long dyed black hair, a round pasty face, ice blue eyes, crooked teeth, and elaborate silver jewelry. There is no right or wrong to this -- just try to form a mental image of a person.

Ask yourself more questions about this person. Does he/she have a job? A family or relationship? What are his/her dreams and fears? You can use our character questionnaire to develop a fictional character.

Present this character with a terrible problem. How will the character react? Start turning this into a story.


Go to a public place like a coffee house or a mall, and watch the people around you. Imagine what their lives might be like. Everyone has secrets -- guess at the secrets of the strangers you see. You can turn some of these people into characters for a story.

An added bonus: this exercise gets you away from your desk for a while. A change of scene may be just what you need to inject new energy into your writing.

Keep a journal

Keep a journal, where you describe the people, places, and events from your day. Describe the details of how things look, sound, smell, and feel. Try to capture the details that you couldn't have imagined if you hadn't observed them for yourself. If you use them in your fiction later, they will give it a texture of reality.

Whenever you're stuck for creative writing ideas, you'll be able to mine your journal for material.

Take a creative writing class

Writing is a solitary activity. Consider taking a course or joining a group to meet other writers and expose yourself to different creative approaches.

Short on money and time for a creative writing classes? No problem. Creative Writing Now offers free online writing courses.

Story Starters E-Book

Bryan Cohen has put together one of the largest collections of creative writing prompts around. His new e-book, 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, offers one thousand story starters on a wide range of topics. Check it out!

Creative Writing Ideas from Our Readers

Some of our visitors have shared their creativity tips and favorite story starters. Find out where other writers go for creative writing ideas, and inspire other writers with your own techniques.


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