I think it’s fair to say that the writing process looks quite different from person to person. For some, writing in a coffee shop is when they will feel most inspired. For others, writing at night with light background music is what works best for them. Although the relationship every writer has with their craft is different, one thing many writers share in common is the frustration that comes with feeling uninspired.

Writing is cognitively tasking and takes a lot out of you. It requires creativity, dedication, vulnerability, and consistent hard work. It’s completely normal to occasionally feel drained of ideas, frustrated or stuck, especially when you’ve been writing consistently for a long period of time. 

Since you’re already reading this article, you’ve already taken action toward fixing the decline in creativity you’ve been experiencing. I’ve written the following short story prompts in the hopes that one of them will inspire you to write you’re next story. Feel free to comment down below which prompts were your favorite! 

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What is a short story? 

As the name suggests, a short story is significantly less lengthy than your typical novel. This type of story will usually only cover one main event and have a limited number of characters. A short story can also simply convey a specific mood or feeling without there being an actual plot.  Many people have differing opinions on the ideal word count of a short story but it tends to average between 3000 and 7000 words. There are different types of short stories including the classic short story, the Vignette, and the anecdote. 

The classic short story will often be similar in structure and form to a novel. It should include an exposition, a rising action, a climax, a falling action, and a resolution. The vignette is less characterized by its plot and more so focused on description. It is meant to give you a visual snapshot of a certain moment in time. Vignettes describe brief episodes where the central focus could be a place, an occasion, or a character. The anecdote is typically written in a more conversational style. This type of short story often has a more playful tone to it and will often involve the recounting of a singular event. 

Short stories can come in many different shapes and sizes. They can be written in many different genres and even combine genres that are typically not seen together. With a short story, you’re able to explore different writing styles, characters, and plots without the commitment that a novel requires. The most important characteristic that defines the short story is its ability to leave an impact on readers despite its brevity. 

Short Story Prompts in the Psychological Thriller genre

The psychological thriller is an exciting genre to write about. It is a subgenre of thriller that focuses on exploring the twisted and unstable minds of its characters. This genre will tend to emphasize the relationships between the characters and how they develop and change over time. Psychological thrillers will often include obsessive, paranoid, or delusional characters. This genre incorporates drama, action, and sometimes horror in order to create a riveting story that will keep your readers on their toes. 

  • The Saviors: Write about a small group of friends living in a suburban town. One day, out of boredom, the group decides to play truth or dare. One of the members is dared to create a fake religious group on Facebook and to make it as believable as possible. The friend accepts the dare and calls the imaginary religious group The Saviors. After a while, people from their town start to actually respond and participate in this invented religion. The friend group decides to keep the dare going and pretend to be a part of this new religion. However, things start to get out of control, and soon, a cult is formed. 
  • They deserved it: A teenage girl from the city moves into a small town with her family. When she starts attending the local high school everyone immediately notices her. Not only was she new, but she wasn’t very pretty and had a strange personality. She starts getting bullied by a group of girls. In an attempt to stop the bullying, her parents decide to throw a party at their house and invite all the kids from her class. However, things take a dark turn once the kids realize that the new family in town is not only strange but that they are out for revenge.  
  • Trust the process: Write about a pastor who becomes paranoid and obsessive with his work. He starts to see things that he interprets as direct signs from God. During one of his sermons, he decides to lock up the church and hire bodyguards to not let anyone leave. He tells his fellow religious brothers that it is god’s wish for them to create more children and threatens them with a gun if they refuse to rape the women. 
  • The Devil’s song: Write about a kind-hearted man who recently discovered that he has an alter ego that he cannot control. Every time he hears a particular song play, his alter ego wakes and commits horrific crimes and he has no control over it. 
  • The archer: Write about a middle-aged man who has always been a socially awkward loner. Although he is now in his forties, he is still just as passionate about superheroes as he was in his childhood. He starts taking arching classes in order to become one. One day, he comes across his childhood bullies and the encounter proved to be very unpleasant for him. So, in a fit of rage, he decides to put on his superhero costume, takes his bow and arrow, and goes hunting for his ex-bullies. 

Short Story Prompts: Romance gone wrong 

Love is a beautiful thing to experience. It’s an intense feeling of attraction that most people express through kind romantic gestures. It is no surprise that many stories have been and will continue to be written about love and romance. However, what happens when this feeling brings out the worst in us? Although love can be experienced as a beautiful thing, it can also consume our thoughts and our lives so entirely that it ultimately leads to our downfall. Exploring the darker side of love can help you write an emotional and intriguing short story. 

  • An unexpected friend: Write about a love triangle between two girls and a man. Although both girls are undeniably in love with the same man, over time, they have also become great friends. How do they navigate their friendship and the intense envy that they feel for each other?
  • The Widow: In your short story, describe the feelings of a widow who recently lost the love of her life. How is she coping with this loss? What are the thoughts going through her mind? Does she believe that she’ll ever be able to love someone like that again?
  • A call for help: Write about a couple in an extremely toxic relationship. One person has been planning on breaking up for the past couple of weeks. From their perspective, describe what the relationship felt like from beginning to end. What are the events leading up to them wanting to break up?
  • The woman in the window: Write about an old lonely woman who lives across the street from a gorgeous young man who resembles her late husband. Describe how she feels as she observes the young man from her window.
  • My other half: Write about a man whose obsessed with his neighbor. He has been in love with this woman for as long as he can remember and truly believes that she is his better half. One day, his friend comes over to his house and asks if he could meet this mysterious woman. When the man points toward the house she supposedly lives in, his friend notices that it has been abandoned for many years. Has the man been hallucinating his neighbor this entire time? Does she actually exist?

Short Story Prompts: Fantasy

Fantasy is typically set in a fictional world and supernatural elements such as magic and fictional creatures. Fantasy writers will often be inspired by mythology and folklore in order to develop their stories. The beauty of fantasy is that it lets you unleash your creativity and create new species, new worlds, or even entire universes. However, because you are writing a short story, you most likely won’t have the space to really engage in intense worldbuilding but you can still include some fantasy elements to enhance your story. 

  • The monster’s nightmare: Write about a creature who has a frightening appearance and a heart of gold. He lives in an abandoned house at the very edge of a town that fears him. However, nobody knows that he is the one being chased by real monsters. When he goes into town to ask for help, he is met with cold shoulders and horrified looks. 
  • Holding my breath: A girl is being chased in the forest by a man intent on killing her. She has always been deeply afraid of drowning and has never learned how to swim. The man, aware of this fear of hers, catches up to the girl and attempts to drown her. After struggling underwater for a couple of minutes, she finally accepts her fate and takes a breath expecting the water to fill in her lungs. However, she finds out that she can actually breathe underwater. 
  • A drop of blood:  Write about a witchhunt that is happening in a town where there are two different creatures living side by side. One group, feeling threatened by the other, is intent on committing genocide. However, both creatures are so similar that the only way they can distinguish between themselves is by the color of their blood. 
  • Home: Write a story about an old man who was chased from his hometown due to his special abilities. He hasn’t been back since he was a young boy and when he sees the state of his childhood home, it devastates him. 
  • When power corrupts: In a society where those with special abilities are admired and idolized, a man who climbed his way up to power, seeks to make superhumans a superior class. 

Short story prompts: New Adult Fiction

New adult fiction is typically targeted toward an older audience and includes protagonists from their early to late twenties. This genre usually includes events that young adults experience when they are exploring their newfound independence. This includes things like exploring one’s sexuality, moving out for the first time, exploring new career choices, etc.  

  • I made you who you are: Write about a self-made woman who had her ideas stolen by someone else. That other person became extremely successful and now she is not only bitter and angry but out for revenge. 
  • Dried tears: Write about a cancer patient coming to terms with their diagnosis and being at peace with the idea of dying soon. What feelings do they experience at that moment? What made them come to terms with everything? How are their family and friends reacting to this? 
  • Grief that never ends: Write about a man who recently lost his parents after he moved out of their house and stopped spending time with them. Describe the emotions he is feeling. Does he feel guilty because he stopped seeing them? Describe his thought process. 
  • Achilles heel: Write about a man unable to get over his ex. He has always had a soft spot for her and now that they have gone their separate ways, he feels like he could never love someone the same way he loved her. Describe why he feels this way. 
  • My dear daughter: Write a short story in the form of a letter. The letter is from a mother writing to her future daughter. The mother has not had the best childhood experiences and promised herself that her children would not grow up the same way she did. What does the letter include? What emotions are being conveyed by this letter? 

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