Writing Prompts

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182 articles found

Masters of writing

Drawing from the lives of actual writers can add intrigue to a story. For instance: Raymond Carver, Marilynne Robinson, Frank Conroy, and Paul Harding have all passed through the Iowa Writers’ Workshop either as students or teachers. Imagine a scene in which this group – or other real-life writers in an academic setting – reveal …

Published: September 30, 2016

Think small

Write a short story or poem told from the perspective of this ant.   For more inspiration, visit our database of writing prompts.

Published: September 23, 2016

Dangerous dish

  Write a story that begins with a neighborhood or family potluck. What dish does each person bring? What does the food selection reveal about the individual? What underlying or external conflicts arise during the get-together? Add taste, sound, colors, and climate to the picture.   For more inspiration, visit our database of writing prompts.

Published: September 16, 2016

First day of school

The first day of school. We’ve all gone through it – getting lost in a new building, trouble with a locker combination, bad outfits, summer dreams coming to fruition (or not), new friends, horror stories. Write a first-person account of your most memorable first day of school, maintaining the innocence, naivety, wisdom and mind-set of …

Published: September 9, 2016

The core of the matter

“With an apple I will astonish Paris.” —Paul Cezanne Post-impressionist painter Paul Cezanne transformed the 20th century art world by making simple objects extraordinary. Write a scene or short story in which an ordinary object such as an apple or clothespin plays an astonishing role in your character’s future. How can you transform something conventional …

Published: September 1, 2016

1,000 words: Mannequin mania

  Our “1,000 Words” writing prompts take a picture – beautiful, wacky, abstract, or otherwise – and ask the writer to write whatever comes to mind. Fiction? Poetry? Essay? The choice is yours, scribes. Just start writing. For more inspiration, visit our database of writing prompts.  

Published: August 19, 2016


  Much of who we later become is formed in adolescence, and the lessons we learn in the school yard often stick with us for the rest of our lives. What was your main character like in elementary school? How did they adjust to high school? How did they handle their newfound freedom in college? …

Published: August 12, 2016


Every piece of writing contains golden nuggets – moments or phrases that make the story special. Go through some of your favorite texts to find the golden nuggets within. What makes them stand out? Why do they work? Next, do the same with your own work. How many golden nuggets do you have in one …

Published: August 5, 2016

Fly on the wall

  Part of being a good writer – and especially of being a good humor writer – is being an eavesdropper. So much inspiration can be found in real life, as has been proved countless times by stand-up comedians. The next time you are in a crowded place – on a train, in a mall, …

Published: July 29, 2016

Last summer

  “I love writing about the summer between high school and college. It’s the last gasp of really being a teen.” —Sarah Dessen   Craft a fictional story about a teen’s final summer before heading to college; alternatively, write a nonfiction retelling of your own final summer. What are the stakes? What emotions does a …

Published: July 22, 2016