Story Starters: Creative Writing Prompt Ideas

Updated December 23, 2019
Story Starters: Creative Writing Prompt Ideas
    Vet examing horse with man
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If you feel like you have a story inside you but aren't sure where to start, look no further. Story starters are the springboard to success. With one creative writing prompt, those who have been itching to tell a tale can leap forward into fictional worlds full of adventure, love, triumph, and more.

Whether it's your personal goal to sit down and write or you'd like to inspire your kids or students to write, we have 25 story starters and creative writing prompt ideas for kids and adults alike that'll up the ante on your creative writing panache.

Adventure Story Starters

Longing to enter a land full of adventure and excitement? The adventure genre might be calling your name! Here are some ideas that'll take you on the carpet ride of your dreams:

  • A reclusive scientist spends his nights building a robot that can be his friend. One morning, he steps into the basement to see the robot has vanished. There's a note on the table that reads…
  • Leaving the bustle of Seattle behind, Amy set off on her hiking trip. It felt good to step into the quiet forest, full of swaying trees. Suddenly, from behind her, she thought she heard someone say, "Step into the light." As she whirled to see who it was, a tree branch reached down to tap her on the shoulder.
  • Steve opened the refrigerator and was shocked to see all the food was gone. Beyond the shelves, the back of the fridge was missing. It seemed to open into an alleyway lit by torches. He pulled out the shelves and stepped through.
  • She awoke in the night to check the Christmas tree. When she heard someone talking outside her window, she drew back the curtains to see who it was. Standing there in a jolly red suit, a large man said, "Melissa, want to come for a ride?"
  • He was bored, so Carter decided to watch the camera footage on his parents' WiFi camera. He turned it on and was amazed to see his dog open the front door with his paw and return hours later. Tomorrow, he was going to see where Rex went when he opened that door...

Some Visual Imagery Examples might help you flesh out more poignant scenes.


Fantasy Story Starters

While adventure stories keep at least one toe in reality, fantasy stories can dash into uncharted lands and far-away worlds. This can be a wonderful escape for both the writer and the reader. Pack your bags with these writing prompts:

  • The climber was lost atop a snow-covered mountain. All the paths were buried under a foot of snow, making it impossible to figure out which way to go. Just then, a white-winged horse swooped down to stand quietly by his side…
  • One of Mary's chores as a housesitter was to feed the horses in the paddock. While out in the pasture, she noticed a hole in the ground beside the weeping willow tree. Before she could step back, it opened wider and swallowed her whole.
  • James found an old brass key with a note that read, "For the painting." He looked over at his grandmother's painting of a woman holding a key. While holding the key, he reached out and touched the woman's hand as the painting slid to the side.
  • Selena was new in town and wanted to greet her neighbors. With a freshly baked cake, she started down the path to their house. Along the way, a small fairy dropped out of the clouds and asked her if she was interested in meeting her soul mate.
  • Jerome walked into the witch's library and noticed the table full of potions and tonics. He was a businessman, looking to fill the world with magic. The witch looked up from the table and said, "Pleasure to meet you, Jerome. Where shall we begin?"

To keep the adventure going learn more about plot development in Plot of a Story Examples. And be sure to include all the essential elements of a good story too.


Mystery Story Starters

Mysteries can take all sorts of twists and turns. You can dive into worlds full of thievery and murder or put on your detective hat to track down a lost treasure from the museum. Start to develop the next Sherlock Holmes with these story starters:

  • Lydia groggily awoke in a room she did not recognize. No one was there except a man in a dull, gray suit. He was looking down at his iPad as he said, "Ms. Windsor, do you know who I am?"
  • Ms. Gianno was always the first teacher to arrive at school each morning. On the eve of Halloween, she noticed an orange notecard on her desk. It read, "Whatever you do, do not go home tonight."
  • Every morning, Matt awoke on a park bench, still dressed in his pajamas. He knew he must be sleepwalking but couldn't remember anything past lying down in bed the night before. He called a local doctor to help him figure out where he goes at night.
  • It was the end of a long day. Sherri gladly opened her apartment door only to find an empty home. Everything was gone, from her TV to her sofa. In a burst of tears, she walked inside to call the police, only to step into a pool of crimson red blood.
  • Victor loved his evening walks with his dog. It was the best way to release the stress of the day. When he rounded the corner on 42nd Street, he noticed the living room window was broken on Mrs. Sherman's house as the curtains billowed in the breeze.

For more on the interesting people you can find in books, read our article about all the Types of Characters in Fiction.


Romance Story Starters

Rom-coms will always dominate the film and publishing industry. They're a feel-good escape, often filled with roller coaster rides full of emotion and intrigue. If this is your calling, consider marrying fate to intrigue with these ideas:

  • A hipstery guy sat down in the plane seat beside Bea and gave her a wink. Bea rolled her eyes and offered him a weak smile. When he opened his laptop, she noticed he was preparing a slideshow on her dream destination, Samoa. Maybe he wasn't so cliché after all.
  • They lived in a crummy apartment complex with units that shared a communal bathroom. One evening, with her bathroom caddy in hand, Mary stepped into the bathroom to find her landlord lying on the floor. Seamus heard her scream and came running down the hall.
  • Today was Shannon's first day as a volunteer at Horse Haven. Her manager met her at the stables and introduced her to Eric, her trainer for the day. She shook his hand and noticed he was wearing the same kind of red flannel shirt her father always favored.
  • Matthew couldn't help staring at the woman from across the hospital waiting room. She kept tapping her leg as she obviously fought off the urge to cry. Finally, he walked over to her and asked, "Ma'am, are you okay?" "No," she said. "I'm not sure he's going to make it."
  • When Lexi got the call from the detective to come down to the station, she knew he had more on her best friend's disappearance. Lexi hopped on her Harley, sped down to the station, and all but bumped into Sgt. Willis as she rushed into the lobby.

To create a full sketch of each of your characters, check out these Character Trait Examples.


Scary Story Starters

If there's one way to escape from the mundane and into a different realm, it's with a good horror book or film. Consider how Stephen King knows how to bring the slime and sludge into people's reading chairs all across the globe. See if you can rain down the terror with any of these fearsome story springboards:

  • June was awoken by the sound of her grandmother's old music box coming from the other room. How could that be playing at three o'clock in the morning? When she tried to turn the handle on her bedroom door, it just kept spinning. It was then that she felt a whoosh of air flash past her head. She dropped to the floor, head spinning, fear welling up.
  • On the anniversary of his brother's death, Jim walked into the graveyard and saw a raven perched on one of the ancient headstones. It stared at him through eyes as dark as night before it swooped down at him. As he lurched backward, a black bag came down over his face and he fell to the ground.
  • Sheila hated camping and was already regretting joining her brother on this trip. The sounds that came from the forest made her think of the book she'd been reading about Jack the Ripper. When she heard something scrape past her tent, she quietly opened the zipper an inch, only to see her brother carrying a knife in his left hand and what seemed to be a heart in his right hand!
  • The gargoyles of Notre Dame fascinated Jaime. From high up in the sky, it looked as though they were peering into your soul. On the way home from dinner, she stopped before the cathedral to admire them when one suddenly swooped down in her direction.
  • It was midnight, and so quiet by the vending machines you could almost imagine the hospital was empty. So when he stood up with the bag of chips in his hand, John was jolted to find a man standing behind him, blood pouring out of his eyes. "We're all dying," he groaned. "And, now, you're about to die too."

To continue your journey into all the different types of stories, consider these Examples of Genres.


Pick Your Genre and Go

Fantasies can enter into reality with just a handful of lines. From your desk, you can dive into worlds filled with reclusive scientists, portals to new worlds, or romance that blossoms out of a tedious waiting room.

Once you have the right idea in your grasp, check out Get Creative: How to Write a Short Story. It'll help you shape all those story ideas running around in your head into well-crafted tales that your readers will want to dive into time and time again.