I’ve been up for days, anxious and paranoid, because I’m excited about a new tool I found on Reddit and immediately reached out to buy. I’ve been thinking about making a “magic 8-ball” tool to generate writing prompts for years so this one caught my eye.
The prompts are fun, clever and creative, and there are over 2 billion potential combinations (yay!)
I redesigned it a bit, and it currently looks like this:
Writing Prompt Generator + Story Expander
It’s divided into 5 separate sections by color, so it could be useful for learning English grammar as well. The topics are random enough to be interesting, and get you thinking about new story ideas. The topics are probably PG-13 or so. Interesting enough for all ages, but also with the potential for deeper, more serious writing.
Creative writing prompts and story ideas
Sometimes, you want to write but are feeling stuck. I feel like I said this recently, but it’s always fun to start a new story. The ideation and inspiration, that’s the exciting part. It’s easy to get frustrated or bored with the hard work of actually writing it all down and editing it so that it works.
And they’re hard to come up with by yourself. That’s why searching for “writing prompts” is so popular. People want to get unstuck and just have fun again. They’re also really useful for creative writing classes, or busy teachers who need to assign topics when kids ask “what should I write about?”
But adult authors need this too! Writing prompts are a great way to shake your brain a bit and regain some of that initial enthusiasm you feel you’re losing. We chase plot bunnies to procrastinate and start new books because finishing is hard.
I think my new writing prompts generator is pretty great. It’s a silly and fun tool, that will boost your creativity immediately. But it’s a novelty… for now.
What if AI could write the story for you?
After playing with the new GPT-3 AI writing tools, I realized it would be amazing if you could just click “write my story” and it would automatically take your unique writing prompt and actually write a short story for you, that could serve as an actual book idea.
Because while writing prompts are fun for beginners, most authors have no shortage of ideas. Creativity is an engine that’s hard to turn off. The hard part is picking something and sticking with it.
I was paralyzed for days* trying to come up with the perfect domain name for my new tool. I posted it on Twitter and got this response from an author friend, which I feel is a common challenge:
I don’t know what a writing prompt generator is. Is it something that gives you ideas? Got plenty of those. What I need is a writing completion completer please and thank you 😁— Joanne Macgregor (Author) (@JoanneMacg) December 3, 2022
There’s been a flurry of discussion about AI and what it means for authors and writers over the last few months. Most people think AI writers are still a dystopian future, but they are right now (this month!) becoming good enough to be scary… and they’ll get better super fast.
Editing tools will get smarter, so you can clean up and improve your writing easily. AI can already tell a decent short story in a variety of styles, so I’m adding it to my writing prompts generator – mostly for fun. So when people ask you if you’re afraid you’ll be replaced by robots, or you’re discussing how good the current tools are (or aren’t) you can bring up a quick, simple example.
Most people have never even seen technology like this before, and it’s hypnotizing to watch a story being written out of thin air, based a prompt you spun with a virtual roll of the dice. So I hope it’ll be pleasant, as a momentary distraction, conversation piece or shared novelty; a game you can play with your family while marveling over the tech and agonizing about the fate of humanity.
But here’s the big secret…
It won’t be obvious to everyone, but I’m setting it up so you can also EDIT those five fields and write your own custom prompts. And that’s when the tool gets really powerful. If you tell it to “write a story” you’ll get one – a short story that wraps up tidily. But ask it for a thrilling hook and first chapter opener, for a paranormal romance novel about a vampire and a fae, and the results are different.
I’m kind of a professional writer with nearly 100K books sold, but I still have trouble with blurbs, hooks and openers. The robots write it better, and that’s a thrilling admission.
Story Structure Plot Outlines
This is where I’m supposed to say, AI writing might be fine but it can’t keep track of a whole story, the complexity of all the threads, making it emotionally satisfying. That’s why you should definitely grab my 24 chapter story outline template.
BUT… it’s also true that if you ask chatGPT3 to just write a 24 chapter outline for you… it’ll do a pretty good job! I predict there will be a bunch of new tools soon that make it much easier for writers to brainstorm their ideas.
PS. story structure is really important. It’s the easiest way to improve as a writer and finish some books. But it doesn’t work for everyone. And even if you’re a tight outliner, it doesn’t mean your books will be good (lots of stuff can happen, without the story being impactful and compelling.) There’s a way to reveal plot events without making it boring. That’s what I teach in my writing courses.
17 creative writing prompt story ideas
Still here, and looking for writing prompts? I spent 60 seconds with the Promptoria tool and made all these as as example:
writing prompt #1: Write a story about the diary of a grouchy ancient god who wakes up locked in a high school bathroom without getting caught.
writing prompt #2: Write a story about the diary of a blonde runner who spends a week inside a Taco Bell refrigerator to prevent an ancient prophecy from being fulfilled.
writing prompt #3: Write a story about a car accident caused by a far-left sewer troll who impulsively starts the wave at sport games with the help of an imaginary friend.
writing prompt #4: Write a story about your ancestor, the mentally-unstable wizard who builds houses for the homeless to get intelligence for a foreign military.
writing prompt #5: Write a story about your run-in with a peaceful grandma who kills their neighbor to win back their true love.
writing prompt #6: Write a story about your cousin, the mentally-unstable talking horse who climbs Mount Everest every year despite everyone telling them not to.
writing prompt #7: Write a story about a cool, terrified cyclops who lives an entire day in reverse even though they have a cold.
writing prompt #8: Write a story about the career failure of a bigoted lifestyle blogger who turns an old closet into an interdimensional portal for a tax write-off.
writing prompt #9: Write a story about a famous, poor soldier who hijacks a public bus and blames it on a mid-life crisis.
writing prompt #10: Write a story about a bitter, grouchy kidnapper who vandalizes a famous painting because of a bet placed years ago.
writing prompt #11: Write a story about an undercover, fashionable journalist who starts a job making potato chips after winning the lottery.
writing prompt #12: Write a story about a futuristic hideous secretary who turns an old closet into an interdimensional portal with ulterior motives.
writing prompt #13: Write a story about a spy posing as a gunslinging superhero who forms an addiction to online shopping because of scheduling conflicts.
writing prompt #14: Write a story about how you used to be a mentally-unwell priest who drops out of a GED prep class due to an interplanetary disturbance.
writing prompt #15: Write a story about the diary of a wounded football player who discovers their enemy turned them into a rabbit out of an abundance of caution.
writing prompt #16: Write a story about the career failure of a world-champion singer-songwriter who gets out of jail while screaming obscenities.
writing prompt #17: Write a story about an extremely sheepish ancient god who sues the pizza delivery company to fix their bad credit score.
But you should go make your own!
40 more creative writing prompts
In case you’re just looking for some quick creative writing prompts, here’s a list of 40 fun ideas. You can copy/paste this list and print it out, use it in class or cut them up into slips of paper and draw one out randomly.
- Write a story about a person who discovers a hidden room in their house.
- Write a story about a character who wakes up with no memory of their past life.
- Write a story about a time traveler who accidentally ends up in the wrong era.
- Write a story about a person who can talk to animals.
- Write a story about a person who wakes up with a superpower.
- Write a story about a group of people who are stranded on a deserted island.
- Write a story about a person who can hear other people’s thoughts.
- Write a story about a person who discovers a portal to another world.
- Write a story about a person who can see the future.
- Write a story about a person who must save the world from a deadly virus.
- Write a story about a person who must solve a mystery in a haunted house.
- Write a story about a person who finds a genie in a lamp.
- Write a story about a person who discovers they are a long-lost heir to a fortune.
- Write a story about a person who wakes up in a world where everyone speaks a different language.
- Write a story about a person who must escape from a maximum-security prison.
- Write a story about a person who discovers a magical object that can grant wishes.
- Write a story about a person who must survive in a post-apocalyptic world.
- Write a story about a person who discovers a secret society.
- Write a story about a person who must solve a murder mystery.
- Write a story about a person who must overcome their fear of something.
- Write a story about a person who can time-travel only through their dreams.
- Write a story about a person who wakes up one day with the ability to switch bodies with anyone they touch.
- Write a story about a person who is forced to live in a world where music is forbidden.
- Write a story about a person who is a detective, but also happens to be a vampire.
- Write a story about a person who is the only survivor of a plane crash in a remote wilderness.
- Write a story about a person who discovers that they have been living in a simulated reality.
- Write a story about a person who must escape from a city under siege.
- Write a story about a person who finds a cursed object and must find a way to break the curse.
- Write a story about a person who is a member of a space exploration team that discovers a new planet with a thriving civilization.
- Write a story about a person who is a time-traveling detective who must solve a crime in medieval times.
- Write a story about a person who is the only survivor of a shipwreck and must find a way to survive on a deserted island.
- Write a story about a person who is a spy and must go undercover in a high-security prison.
- Write a story about a person who is a detective investigating a series of supernatural murders.
- Write a story about a person who is a time traveler who accidentally goes back in time and changes history.
- Write a story about a person who must survive a zombie apocalypse.
- Write a story about a person who is a member of a team sent to explore a new planet that turns out to be inhabited by intelligent life.
- Write a story about a person who is a detective trying to solve a crime in a small town where everyone knows each other.
- Write a story about a person who is a scientist who accidentally creates a monster.
- Write a story about a person who is a time traveler who must prevent a disaster in the future.
- Write a story about a person who is the only survivor of a plane crash in the middle of the ocean.
Creative writing prompts for kids & teens
- Write a story about a group of talking animals who go on a quest to save their home.
- Write a story about a superhero who has a unique and unusual superpower.
- Write a story about a kid who discovers a secret underground world.
- Write a story about a kid who goes on a camping trip and ends up encountering a magical creature.
- Write a story about a group of friends who start a detective agency.
- Write a story about a kid who is a famous inventor and creates a machine that can do amazing things.
- Write a story about a kid who is transported to a different planet and must find their way home.
- Write a story about a kid who wakes up one day with the ability to talk to plants.
- Write a story about a kid who is a time traveler and goes back to the time of the dinosaurs.
- Write a story about a group of kids who have to save their town from a group of aliens.
- Write a story about a kid who discovers a mysterious book that leads them on a wild adventure.
- Write a story about a kid who finds a hidden door in their house that leads to a magical world.
- Write a story about a kid who is a ghost hunter and has to solve a mystery in a haunted house.
- Write a story about a kid who is a wizard and attends a school for magic.
- Write a story about a group of kids who start a secret club with a hidden treehouse as their headquarters.
- Write a story about a kid who wakes up with the ability to fly.
- Write a story about a kid who is a pirate and goes on a treasure hunt.
- Write a story about a kid who has to save their town from a giant monster.
- Write a story about a kid who is a secret agent and has to save the world from a villainous organization.
- Write a story about a kid who is a spy and has to go on a mission to a foreign country.
50 more writing topics and ideas
- Write a short story based on a random word generator.
- Write a letter to your future self.
- Describe a vivid dream you had recently.
- Write a personal essay about a challenge you overcame.
- Write a poem about a place that inspires you.
- Create a character and write a story about their day.
- Write a letter to someone who has influenced you.
- Write about a moment in your life that you’ll never forget.
- Write a memoir about a significant event in your life.
- Write a script for a short film.
- Write a review of a book you’ve recently read.
- Write a travelogue about a place you’ve visited.
- Write a guide on how to do something you’re an expert at.
- Write a letter to your younger self.
- Write a horror story set in a small town.
- Write a romance story about two people who meet on a train.
- Write a profile on an interesting person you know.
- Write about a historical event that fascinates you.
- Write a blog post about a topic you’re passionate about.
- Write a children’s story about a talking animal.
- Write a science fiction story set in the future.
- Write a story about someone who discovers a hidden talent.
- Write a memoir about your childhood.
- Write a detective story about a crime that takes place in your hometown.
- Write a poem about the changing seasons.
- Write a profile on a local business.
- Write a story about a group of friends who go on a road trip.
- Write a script for a TV show pilot.
- Write about a time you took a risk.
- Write a letter to a loved one who has passed away.
- Write a story about a person who goes on a spiritual journey.
- Write a profile on a historical figure.
- Write about a time you faced your fear.
- Write a story about a person who finds love later in life.
- Write a poem about the ocean.
- Write a memoir about your experiences with mental health.
- Write a profile on a musician you admire.
- Write a story about someone who finds redemption.
- Write a science fiction story about a person who wakes up in a different body.
- Write a letter to someone you’ve lost touch with.
- Write a profile on a politician.
- Write a romance story about two people who reconnect after years apart.
- Write a poem about the stars.
- Write a memoir about your experiences with grief.
- Write a story about someone who learns to love themselves.
- Write a profile on a scientist.
- Write about a time you made a mistake.
- Write a story about a person who overcomes addiction.
- Write a science fiction story about a person who discovers time travel.
- Write a letter to your best friend.
Other ways to get unstuck
Writing is hard, and there’s a lot to keep track of. There are some writing apps and software that make it easier. But as a former fine-artist, I also love visuals. My first guide to writing, The Plot Dot, encouraged authors to sketch out their scenes in a visual way. But this has gotten way easier with AI text to image generators like Midjourney. I spend a ton of time making character references and scenes, so I can see it, and then imagine it more clearly when I’m writing.
*If you want to learn how to make images like these, check out my post on AI art for book cover design.
What’s in a name-generator?
I started this post when I was sleep deprived and obsessed with picking the perfect name, so I could get started and share it. And besides posting polls on twitter and facebook, I even used GPT-3 to help make a list of “100 cool name ideas for a writing prompts generator.” None of them were perfect though, and I found some alternatives.
This is a useful discussion because writers often get stuck with name ideas, for characters or book titles. And while it can feel critically important (and sometimes is!) it’s also just another way to procrastinate. If you get stuck, name them Jack and Jill and use find and replace later. Or use my tool (I think) to generate names for you, with a prompt like “write a list of 100 mongolian girl names from the 17th century.”
Anyway, here’s a case study about launching something new.
Frankenstory and ThePromptWriter were the two domains I found for sale. I could just start fresh with something new but I like to buy domains with a little history.
FRANKENSTORY sounds cool and fun. It’s easy to share and talk about. It stands out. But it’s unclear, and doesn’t help with SEO or keyword ranking (this is a writing prompt tool, so I want it to show up when people search for that). But it also sounds a bit childish, and serious writers might ignore it. It might be great for kids and fantasy writers but may feel uncomfortable for elitists and literary snobs.
Which shouldn’t matter, except *if* I use AI tools so that you can type a prompt and generate a few pages (and I will!) you could use my 24 chapter plot outlines and write a whole rough draft in a day. It could be a serious, amazing writing tool (not just a fun toy).
THEPROMPTWRITER is specific, but forgettable, and clumsy to say in a conversation. But, it can kind of mean “the thing that writes prompts” and also “a writer who writes quickly” – and it will literally be writing your prompts AND expanding your prompts into a full story. So it’s clear and obvious, which is usually the safest choice, unless something cool like frankenstory just goes viral because it’s awesome (I got a bit of feedback on facebook and that seems to be the preferred choice).
That’s usually the conundrum with all creative businesses.
It’s better to be clear and obvious. Unless there’s a big added benefit to being clever (there usually isn’t). It’s a painful lesson for creatives to learn, but having a unique fun brand – or what I call “gimmick marketing” – rarely works as well as something straightforward. Similarly, most authors write “creative” literary collections that don’t fit into any genre and then have trouble selling it.
This decision was made even more painful because I’m really excited about everything.
Imagine a tool where you could write a sentence or two about a scene and it would just write the scene for you, and actually be pretty good? Imagine if you could add a couple pages of your chapter and it would just keep the story flowing, make your characters talk to each other, even introduce plot twists, plans, story events and surprises?
That’s totally possible. But what should we call it?
I picked Promptoria, for now. Mostly because it was available and affordable, but also because it won my social media polls. It’s probably a safe middle choice between the two above, though I’m not super thrilled by the name, it works.
You *should* very soon be able to edit the prompt on top and use it for just about anything. It’s basically a straight hack into openAI’s latest GPT-3…. for free. But it’s not a big, serious writing tool. It’s a conversation piece. I’m already a little disappointed because I’m investing an embarrassing amount to get it up and working, but I’m confident in a month or two there will be better, more robust tools.
So if you like it, please share it or link back. You can tweet your prompts to social or write an article on your blog about fun new writing tools. Or just share it with anyone who needs a dopamine boost and is interested in tech and writing.
psst – Need a penname generator?
I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.