Fiction Prompts

#1. Write a vignette/story in the voice (or from the perspective) of an actual person who’s had a role—however minor—in an actual historical event. Those are the only requirements. Be creative. Write fiction.

#2. Go in search of a place on campus where you can look out on the city. Write a complete vignette/story in which the scene before you plays a central role.

#3. Write a present-day allegory in first person revolving around a character named Mal and his girlfriend, Angel.

#4. Write a story/vignette using (or tweaking) one of the following opening lines:

  • Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.
  • It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
  • Call me Ishmael.
  • If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
  • It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
  • Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

[Note: Those are all famous first lines, but we’re not telling you where they came from. Look it up! As a sidenote, it’d be really clever if you did, in fact, look the line up. That way you’d know the source and could use it as an allusion.]

#5. Take a walk. Notice something that’s out of place and use it to spur a story/vignette.

#6. Write a story/vignette in the form of a letter.

#7. Write a story/vignette that ends with an explosion.

#8. Write a story/vignette that starts with an explosion.

#9. Start your story with a line of dialogue.

#10. Write a story that centers around something shiny, round, and blue. Perhaps a character has lost this shiny, round, blue thing. Or perhaps he or she covets it.

#11. Write a story that is based, in part, on something that actually happened to you. Change the outcome. Add an important character who wasn’t involved in real life.

#12. Random Dictionary Word Prompt: Flip open a dictionary and point to a random word. Read the definition, even if you think you know what the word means. Use it in the first sentence (or somewhere else) in your story. If you don’t like the first word you flip to, flip to another page and point to another random work. Use that word instead.

#13. Remember that shiny, round, blue thing from #10 above? It just won’t go away. This time cut it in half with one half going to a character you’ve already established and the other going to a character you introduce in this story.

#14. Tell a story from the perspective of someone your age or younger.

#15. Random Dictionary Word Prompt: I just flipped open the dictionary and pointed to a random word. That word is…Inordinate. Look it up. Use it in the first sentence (or somewhere else) of your story.

#16. Shiny, round, blue thing that won’t go away: This time have someone throw it away.

#17. Tell a story from the perspective of someone over the age of 85.

#18. Write a story backwards. That is to say, disclose the climax in the first paragraph and proceed from there.

#19. Write a story in which the following three settings feature prominently: a barbershop, a convenience store, and a temple.

#20. Write a story in which triangles (literally, figuratively) feature prominently. Include the language of geometry. Perhaps also Euclid (this Euclid and/or maybe this one) makes a cameo?

#21. Write a story in which the following three settings feature prominently: a parking deck, a shopping mall, and a field.

#22. Start a story or a scene with a meticulous description of someone cooking something simple for themselves to eat.

#23. Write a “flash fiction” of at least 250 words without using ANY adjectives or adverbs.

#24. Write a story called “Push.”

#25. In the 1600s, a guy called Archbishop Ussher posited that the world was created on October 23 in the year 4004 BC. But lots of other important stuff has happened on October 23  in the subsequent 6000 years or so (give or take a few billion years)! Use one of them as the spark of a story. Or write your own creation myth. You decide.

#26. Set a story or scene in the year of your birth in the city or town where your mother either A) was born, B) graduated from high school, C) married your father. (Keep in mind: you and/or your mom need not have any direct role in the story!) Be sure to write something that could have happened in no other place, at no other time. Write in third-person POV, using past tense. Write at least 300 words.

#27. Write a story that focuses on a child and a parent. Write it in first person POV from the perspective of the child. The parent’s work features prominently in the story. Set it in the present day in a city or town you know well. Feature at least two settings. Aim for 1000 words or more.

#28. Write a few scenes or a whole story that focus(es) on a character’s preparation for an important event or arrival. Is it a beginning or an ending? Both? Think about the balance between establishing and upending expectations. Aim for 1,000 words.

#29. It’s Thanksgiving night. The guests have gone home. The house is quiet. Find the story.

#30. Write a scene or a story that starts and ends with a character waiting. In a check-out aisle, a drive-thru, a health department. Whatever. Something relatively mundane. Though the character’s exterior circumstances haven’t changed from beginning to end — they’re still waiting for the groceries, the cheeseburger, the results — have the character undergo some sort of important interior change. Try to find something plausible but unexpected to spark this change.

#31. Write a story in exactly 250 words. Include a piece of candy or gum. Use a line of dialogue as the climax. Set it here.


Wholly re-see (i.e., revise: [Origin: 1560–70; revīsere to look back at, revisit, freq. of revidére to see again;]) something that you’ve written during this semester using one (or all) of the following strategies:

  • Flesh out one of vignettes or scenes you’ve written in response to one of the prompts above. Turn it into a full-length short story.
  • Start with a climax you already have and write a new story. For instance, if you were Flannery O’Connor and you wanted to apply this strategy to “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” you would start your new story with the grandmother meeting her demise at the hands of the Misfit. In that case, the whole focus of the story would probably have to shift to the Misfit and his crew. (Of course, the mark of a great climax — like O’Connor’s in “A Good Man” — is that it feels so final. The idea of “what happens next?” is a moot point. The trick here will be to find a climax that feels a little squishy to you.)
  • Change the point of view — from first person to third person or vice versa. Or if you’re feeling crazy, change the POV to second person.
  • Condense the action so it all takes place in the space of a day. Or less. Don’t be afraid to cut characters and settings.
  • In fact, that’s a whole strategy all to itself: cut one important character from your story.
  • Change the setting of the story to Birmingham, Alabama, in the present day. Which is to say: expressly and conspicuously put the story in a place and time you know like the back of your hand.
  • Count the words. Divide by two. Cut the number of words in the story by that number. (E.g., 2,500 words divided by 2 = 1,250 words.)
  • Count the words. Multiply by two. Add that number of words to the story.
  • Tack 500 new words onto the very end of the story. What happens? Do you have to keep going? Do you have to cut something? Do what you have to do.
  • Write the story again, this time from the perspective of a minor character.
  • Eliminate all adverbs and adjectives. By “all,” I mean ALL. Replace abstractions with concrete nouns and verbs. Things and actions. Try to eliminate any instance of any form of the verb to be. Use third person, past tense. No sentences longer than fifteen words long. No punctuation other than periods and commas. (You can use up to two question marks, but only in dialogue.)