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Creative writing prompts drama

Forty-Four Short Story Ideas

Here are lots of short story ideas that you can use as writing prompts. Use these story starters on their own or to get ideas for the CWN online writing courses. You’ll also find links to more creative writing prompts at the bottom of the page.

Any of these ideas can be used either humorously or dramatically. or you can try both. Have fun!

Story ideas – three elements

Choose a set of three elements and write a story that contains all three of them!

  1. A stolen ring, fear of spiders, and a sinister stranger.
  2. A taxi, an old enemy, and Valentine’s Day.
  3. Identical twins, a party invitation, and a locked closet.
  4. A broken wristwatch, peppermints, and a hug that goes too far.
  5. Aerobics, a secret diary, and something unpleasant under the bed.
  6. An ex-boyfriend, a pair of binoculars, and a good-luck charm.
  7. An annoying boss, a bikini, and a fake illness.
  8. The first day of school, a love note, and a recipe with a significant mistake.
  9. A horoscope, makeup, and a missing tooth.
  10. A campfire, a scream, and a small lie that gets bigger and bigger.

More short story ideas

Challenge: 4 stories in 4 weeks using these short story ideas. Are you up to it?

  1. A babysitter is snooping around her employer’s house and finds a disturbing photograph.
  2. At a Chinese restaurant, your character opens his fortune cookie and reads the following message: “Your life is in danger. Say nothing to anyone. You must leave the city immediately and never return. Repeat: say nothing.”.
  3. Your character’s boss invites her and her husband to dinner. Your character wants to make a good impression, but her husband has a tendency to drink too much and say exactly what’s on his mind.
  4. It’s your character’s first day at a new school. He or she wants to get a fresh start, develop a new identity. But in his or her homeroom, your character encounters a kid he or she knows from summer camp.
  5. Your character has to tell his parents that he’s getting a divorce. He knows his parents will take his wife’s side, and he is right.
  6. At the airport, a stranger offers your character money to carry a mysterious package onto the plane. The stranger assures your character that it’s nothing illegal and points out that it has already been through the security check. Your character has serious doubts, but needs the money, and therefore agrees.
  7. Your character suspects her husband is having an affair and decides to spy on him. What she discovers is not what she was expecting.
  8. A man elbows your character in a crowd. After he is gone, she discovers her cell phone is too. She calls her own number, and the man answers. She explains that the cell phone has personal information on it and asks the man to send it back to her. He hangs up. Instead of going to the police, your character decides to take matters into her own hands.
  9. After your character loses his job, he is home during the day. That’s how he discovers that his teenage son has a small marijuana plantation behind the garage. Your character confronts his son, who, instead of acting repentant, explains to your character exactly how much money he is making from the marijuana and tries to persuade your character to join in the business.
  10. At a garage sale, your character buys an antique urn which she thinks will look nice decorating her bookcase. But when she gets home, she realizes there are someone’s ashes in it.

Even more short story ideas

  1. Your character starts receiving flowers and anonymous gifts. She doesn’t know who is sending them. Her husband is suspicious, and the gifts begin to get stranger.
  2. A missionary visits your character’s house and attempts to convert her to his religion. Your character is trying to get rid of him just as storm warning sirens go off. Your character feels she can’t send the missionary out into the storm, so she lets him come down into her basement with her. This is going to be a long storm.
  3. Your character is caught shoplifting. The shop owner says that she won’t call the police in exchange for a personal favor.
  4. Your character is visiting his parents over a holiday. He is returning some books to the library for his mother and is startled to notice that the librarian looks exactly like him, only about thirty years older. He immediately begins to suspect that his mother had an affair at one time and the librarian is his real father.
  5. Your character picks up a hitch-hiker on her way home from work. The hitch-hiker tries to persuade your character to leave everything and drive her across the country.
  6. Your character has to sell the house where she grew up. A potential buyer comes to look at it and begins to talk about all of the changes she would make to the place. This upsets your character, who decides she wants to find a buyer who will leave everything the way it has always been.
  7. A bat gets in the house. Your character’s husband becomes hysterical, frightened that it might be rabid. In his panic, he ends up shutting the bat in a room with your character while he calls an exterminator from a safe place in the house. His behavior makes your character see her husband in a new way.
  8. Your character changes jobs in order to have more time with his family. But his family doesn’t seem interested in having him around.
  9. Your character develops the idea that she can hear the voices of the dead on a certain radio channel. She decides to take advantage of this channel to find answers to some questions that are bothering her about her dead parents.
  10. Your character’s dream is to be a professional dancer. At a party, she mentions this dream to a stranger, who says that he has contacts in the dance world and gets her an audition for a prestigious dance troupe. One problem: your character doesn’t know how to dance. Your character decides to accept the audition anyway and look for a solution.

And still more short story ideas

  1. Your character thinks her boss is looking for an excuse to fire her. She decides to fight back.
  2. Your character goes out for dinner on a date and becomes attracted to the waiter or waitress.
  3. Your character notices that a stranger is following her. She pretends not to notice. The stranger follows her home and watches her go inside. Then when he leaves, your character turns the tables and starts to follow him.
  4. A child moves into a new house and finds out that the other kids in town think it’s haunted. She begins to invent ghost stories to tell at school in order to get attention. But the more stories she tells, the more frightened she becomes of the house.
  5. Your elderly character escapes from the retirement home where his or her children have placed him or her.
  6. Your character gets cosmetic surgery in an attempt to make her boyfriend love her more. But then she worries he only loves her for her looks.
  7. Your character is a writer. But his new neighbors are so noisy that he can neither work nor sleep. He decides to take action.
  8. Your character’s mother-in-law comes to visit for a week, and your character suspects she is trying to poison him. He shares his suspicion with his wife, who says he’s always hated her mother but this accusation is going too far. Meanwhile, your character has stomach cramps, and his mother-in-law is downstairs making breakfast again.
  9. It’s a freezing cold night. Your character finds a homeless family on his doorstep and invites them into his home to sleep. But in the morning, the family doesn’t leave.
  10. Your character has recently married a man with two teenage children. The children resent her, and she tries to avoid them altogether. Then her new husband (their father) disappears suddenly, leaving only a short good-bye note.

Story ideas: personal creative writing challenges

  1. Make a list of five things you’re afraid of happening to you. Then write a story in which one of them happens to your character..
  2. Think of a big problem that one of your friends had to face. Then write a story in which your character battles with that problem..
  3. What is one of your bad habits? Invent a character who has the bad habit, but a much worse case of it than you have. Write a story where this habit gets your character into trouble.
  4. What is one of your greatest strengths? Invent a character who doesn’t have this strength. Create a situation in which having this strength is very important for your character. What does your character do? Write the story.

Photo credit: Pascal van de Vendel

Keep the short story ideas flowing

  • Looking for more detailed short story ideas? Find them here.
  • Use our free worksheet to develop your story plot. for a list of CWN pages with creative writing prompts and short story ideas.

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Join (probably?) the world’s largest writing contest. Flex those creative muscles with weekly writing prompts.

Showing 98 prompts reset

It’s Called Fashion, Look it Up


They blew the dust off an album and sat down to look at pictures they had not seen in decades.

A mother and daughter sit silently at a table, the tension thick enough to cut with a knife.

You work as a host at a restaurant when someone comes in and says they have a reservation. You look it up to find that the reservation was booked 40 years ago.

You come home to find all of your possessions on your front lawn and the locks have been changed. You ring the doorbell and a stranger comes to the door and casually says, Hello, how may I help you?

Your whole life had been building up to this moment.

Your character has made a terrible mistake in his/her life and is living with the consequences, at least a decade later.

Your cat (who you called Curious) hasn’t come home for a week.

You’re given the choice to decide what happens to you after you die.

You’re about to deliver the play’s pivotal monologue when something in the audience catches your eye.

You’re a janitor at the oldest theatre in town.

You work the graveyard shift. at a graveyard for notable figures.

You uncover a time capsule in your backyard that’s a century old.

You spot a shooting star and making a wish. Only the star looks like it’s getting bigger and bigger. Suddenly you realize it’s actually falling straight to earth.

You realize your life is a TV show and you are the protagonist.

You overhear someone having a breakdown in a changing room.

You know a friend is hiding something and you need to find out what it is before it puts you in danger. How do you find out what their secret is?

You find a $100 bill on the street. A few blocks later, you find another. A few blocks later, another..

You fell asleep in the desert, wondering how you would survive the next day.

You are stranded on a winter hike when you come across a little cottage.

You are an explorer who’s just discovered a new island.

Win $250 in our short story competition

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Join (probably?) the world’s largest writing contest. Flex those creative muscles with weekly writing prompts.

Showing 98 prompts reset

It’s Called Fashion, Look it Up


Write a story that spans a month during which everything changes.

Dramatic – 134 stories

Write about someone who grew up in a bunker, and lockdown life is all they’ve ever known.

Dramatic – 87 stories

Write about someone who books a bargain vacation, only to be told when they arrive that they need to share a hotel suite with a stranger.

Dramatic – 151 stories

Start your story with a major news event breaking — one that will change the world forever.

Dramatic – 160 stories

Write about a child witnessing a major historical event.

Dramatic – 246 stories

Write about someone who discovers the only family member they have left has just betrayed them.

Dramatic – 163 stories

Your main character is approached by their long-estranged parent who wants to reconnect. How do they react?

Dramatic – 202 stories

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Write about someone who decides it’s time to cut ties with a family member.

Dramatic – 277 stories

Write about two people who just can’t seem to understand each other, no matter how clearly they think they’re speaking.

Dramatic – 81 stories

Write about someone hosting a cookie exchange as a cover to hide the true reason for inviting one of their guests.

Dramatic – 149 stories

Write about a character who’s so afraid of making the wrong choice that their indecision ruins the very thing they were hoping to keep safe.

Dramatic – 87 stories

Write about someone who’s so obsessed with a goal that it leads to the destruction of their closest relationship.

Dramatic – 163 stories

Write about someone telling their family they won’t be continuing the long-standing family business.

Dramatic – 181 stories

Start your story with the line, “This was supposed to be the happiest day of their lives,” and end it with, “By then it was too late.”

Dramatic – 133 stories

Start your story with someone robbing a bank and end it with two people driving on an interstate.

Dramatic – 90 stories

Start your story with someone admitting a secret and end it with someone telling a lie.

Dramatic – 187 stories

Write a story where one character needs to betray the other, but isn’t sure if they can.

Dramatic – 180 stories

Write about a character who’s finally on the verge of achieving their lifelong dream.

Dramatic – 144 stories

Write about a family attempting to hide their secrets from someone new.

Dramatic – 126 stories

Write about two characters on the verge of a life-changing event, but one has rigged the outcome.

Dramatic – 92 stories

Win $250 in our short story competition

We’ll send you 5 prompts each week. Respond with your short story and you could win $250!

Contest #145 LIVE

Enter our weekly contest!

This week’s theme: It’s Called Fashion, Look it Up

Prize money
Contest entries
Closes at 23:59 – May 13, 2022 EST
Recent contests ✍️
Recent winners

Tired of MS Word?

Join the revolution and write your book in a tool designed for authors.

Includes FREE typesetting to print-ready PDF & EPUB files, track changes and collaborative editing.

The term “dramatic” can feel fairly vague. In this case, we use the term to describe fiction that’s intense, powerful, and exciting. The Reedsy team has put together this list of creative writing prompts in the hopes of inspiring authors to write stories that leave readers wondering: what will happen next?

Here are a few tips for helping you achieve that:

  • StartIn Media Res — latin for “into the middle of things,” In Media Res is a narrative structure that starts midway through the story.
  • Give you character ample motivation — character motivation is the reason behind a character’s behaviors and actions in a given scene or throughout a story. This motivation is at the heart of character profiles and is necessary if your goal is to write believable and compelling characters.
  • Kick up the dramatic irony — this occurs when readers are informed of significant information that key characters are unaware of. Tension rises between the point of revelation (when the reader first receives the secret insight) and recognition (when the characters are finally brought into the loop).
  • Don’t be afraid of conflict — it goes without saying that your conflict will affect not only your plot, but also almost every other important element of your story: your characters, theme, tone, and setting. In that sense, figuring out your central conflict is one of the most important things you’ll do as a writer.

Want more help learning how to write a dramatic story? Check out How to Write a Short Story That Gets Published — a free, ten day course by Laura Mae Isaacman, a full-time editor who runs a book editing company in Brooklyn.

Have a story you’re ready to start submitting? Check out our list of writing contests or our directory of literary magazines.

Find the perfect editor for your next book

Over 1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy, come meet them.