What Is a Prompt in Writing? (Ultimate Guide + 200 Examples)

Ever stumbled upon a blank page and didn’t know where to start?

That’s where a writing prompt steps in, kicking your creativity into gear and guiding your pen (or cursor) in the right direction.

What is a prompt in writing?

A prompt in writing is a starting point designed to ignite creativity, guiding writers to explore themes, genres, or emotions. It can be a word, question, image, or scenario, aiding in overcoming writer’s block.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about prompts in writing.

What Is a Prompt in Writing (Long Description)?

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A writing prompt is essentially a starting point.

Think of it as a spark designed to ignite your creativity and guide your thoughts in a specific direction.

This little nudge can come in various forms – a word, a sentence, a question, or even a picture – and serves the purpose of inspiring you to write.

Whether you’re drafting a story, an essay, or just jotting down your thoughts, prompts help overcome the intimidation of a blank page.

It sets a predefined theme or direction for your writing.

They’re not just about what you write, but how you think and approach writing, encouraging you to explore new ideas, genres, and perspectives.

Here is a good video that explains prompts in writing:

YouTube Video by Writing Secrets (that’s me)– What Is a Prompt in Writing?

Types of Prompts in Writing

Now let’s go over different types of prompts in writing.

Common prompt types include:

  • The Story Starter
  • The Question Quest
  • Picture This
  • The First Line Frenzy

The Story Starter

The Story Starter is your classic nudge towards narrative creativity.

It’s a sentence or scenario meant to kick off your storytelling journey, helping you dive straight into the plot, characters, or setting.

This type of prompt is great for fiction writers looking for a jumping-off point to explore various themes or genres.

It can be as detailed or as open-ended as you like, providing just enough information to spark an idea without dictating the direction of your story.


  1. “When the clock struck midnight, she realized…”
  2. “Lost in the forest, he stumbled upon a hidden village…”
  3. “The last person on Earth sat alone in a room. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door…”
  4. “In a world where magic is real, a young apprentice discovers…”
  5. “The photograph in the old book revealed a secret that would change everything…”
  6. “Stranded on a desert island, they found a message in a bottle…”
  7. “On her hundredth birthday, she received a letter that took her back to her youth…”
  8. “The map led them to a place that wasn’t supposed to exist…”
  9. “In the midst of war, a forbidden love blossomed…”
  10. “He inherited an old mansion, not knowing the ancestors would still be around…”

The Question Quest

The Question Quest prompt type uses intriguing questions to push your thinking boundaries and explore ideas in depth.

It’s perfect for essays, reflective writing, or exploring complex themes and issues.

These prompts challenge you to consider different perspectives, analyze situations, and develop reasoned arguments or narratives based on the question posed.


  1. “What would you do if you could travel back in time?”
  2. “How would society change if humans lived to be 300 years old?”
  3. “Is it possible to live a completely ethical life in today’s world?”
  4. “What does true bravery look like?”
  5. “How would the discovery of extraterrestrial life impact humanity?”
  6. “What is the true cost of progress?”
  7. “Can happiness be measured?”
  8. “What role does fate play in our lives?”
  9. “Is technology bringing us closer together or driving us apart?”
  10. “What would you change if you were the leader of your country for a day?”

Picture This

Picture This prompts use images as the springboard for writing.

A photograph, painting, or even a random doodle can unlock a flood of creativity.

Which makes it an excellent tool for both fiction and non-fiction writers.

This visual cue encourages you to dive into descriptive writing, storytelling, or even analytical essays, exploring the emotions, stories, or ideas evoked by the image.


  1. A deserted street at dawn, with an old bicycle leaning against a lamppost.
  2. A vintage suitcase, open and filled with letters and photographs.
  3. A bustling market scene in a foreign country.
  4. A child gazing out of a rain-spattered window.
  5. A majestic mountain range under the stars.
  6. An abandoned house, its rooms still furnished but covered in dust.
  7. A close-up of a spider web with dewdrops.
  8. A lively street festival, with people dancing and musicians playing.
  9. An old, faded map with several places marked in red.
  10. A serene lake at sunset, with a lone boat tied to a wooden dock.

The First Line Frenzy

The First Line Frenzy is a thrilling way to dive into a story.

These prompts provide the opening sentence of your narrative, setting the tone and direction for everything that follows.

It’s a fantastic method for overcoming writer’s block and sparking your imagination, as the initial line can lead to unexpected and exciting story developments.


  1. “The day began with a mysterious package on my doorstep.”
  2. “I never believed in ghosts until I moved into the old Henderson house.”
  3. “The moment I heard the news, I knew my life would never be the same.”
  4. “Under the light of a full moon, the city revealed its true secrets.”
  5. “It was the kind of café you’d stumble upon once and never find again.”
  6. “With a deep breath, I stepped into the unknown.”
  7. “The letter, sealed with a wax emblem, contained a proposition I couldn’t refuse.”
  8. “As the train pulled away, she realized her mistake.”
  9. “In the heart of the ancient forest, a hidden path led to unexpected wonders.”
  10. “The discovery promised to rewrite history, but at what cost?”

Dialogue Driven

Dialogue Driven prompts center around a snippet of conversation, offering a dynamic entry point into your writing.

This approach is particularly effective for character development and exploring relationships through direct speech.

It can set the scene, reveal personalities, and drive the plot forward, all through the power of dialogue.


  1. “Did you really think I wouldn’t find out?” “I was hoping.”
  2. “Why is this door always locked?” “You’re not ready to know what’s behind it.”
  3. “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” “That’s where you’re wrong.”
  4. “The stars look different here.” “Everything does.”
  5. “I wish I could stay.” “Then why are you leaving?”
  6. “It’s not about what I want anymore.” “Then what’s it about?”
  7. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” “And you never will again.”
  8. “Can you keep a secret?” “Depends on the secret.”
  9. “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” “We’re not even on the same planet.”
  10. “It was supposed to be a simple plan.” “Since when does anything go according to plan?”

The Sensory Dive

The Sensory Dive prompts are designed to immerse you and your reader in vivid, sensory-rich experiences.

These prompts encourage descriptive writing that appeals to the senses, painting a scene so tangible that readers feel they can touch, taste, hear, see, and smell it.

It’s a powerful tool for creating immersive worlds and experiences.


  1. Describe the cacophony of a bustling city market at noon.
  2. The taste of the first snowflake of winter.
  3. The scent of old books in a forgotten library.
  4. The feeling of sand between your toes as waves crash on the shore.
  5. The sight of a landscape transformed by autumn’s touch.
  6. The sound of a distant thunderstorm approaching.
  7. The warmth of a crackling fire on a cold night.
  8. The chill of walking through a foggy graveyard at dusk.
  9. The texture of an ancient, carved stone.
  10. The silence of a snow-covered forest.

The What-If Wonder

The What-If Wonder prompts take you on a journey of imagination, exploring alternate realities and scenarios.

These prompts ask you to consider how different choices, events, or conditions might alter the world, characters, or story.

It’s an excellent way to delve into speculative fiction, science fiction, and fantasy, pushing the boundaries of reality.


  1. What if humans had the ability to communicate telepathically?
  2. What if gravity suddenly became a variable force on Earth?
  3. What if you woke up 100 years in the past with your current memories intact?
  4. What if plants were the dominant intelligent species on the planet?
  5. What if you could see the future but only 24 hours ahead?
  6. What if water was as rare as gold?
  7. What if everyone had their lifespan displayed above their heads?
  8. What if you found a door that could take you to parallel universes?
  9. What if animals could petition for their rights?
  10. What if dreams were actually glimpses into alternate realities?

The Emotional Rollercoaster

The Emotional Rollercoaster prompt is all about exploring the depths of human emotion, challenging you to convey complex feelings and reactions.

These prompts are perfect for delving into character development, interpersonal relationships, and personal reflection.

By focusing on the emotional landscape, writers can create compelling narratives that resonate with readers on a deeply personal level.


  1. The moment you realized you were in love.
  2. Feeling utterly lost in a place you once called home.
  3. The bitter sweetness of a farewell.
  4. Overcoming a fear that once held you back.
  5. The complex emotions of reuniting with someone after many years.
  6. The guilt of a lie that spiraled out of control.
  7. The rush of achieving something you thought was impossible.
  8. The profound sadness of losing a cherished memory to time.
  9. The unexpected joy found in a simple act of kindness.
  10. The peace of accepting things you cannot change.

The Genre Blender

The Genre Blender prompts encourage you to mix elements from different genres, creating unique and innovative narratives.

These prompts are excellent for writers looking to break the mold and experiment with their storytelling.

Whether it’s combining science fiction with historical fiction or fantasy with mystery, the possibilities are endless.


  1. A detective in a dystopian future solving a crime that could change the course of history.
  2. A romance blossoming in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.
  3. A fantasy world where magic is dying, and technology is on the rise.
  4. A historical drama set in ancient Rome, but with a twist of time travel.
  5. A horror story set in space, aboard a ship with a mysterious alien artifact.
  6. A western where the frontier towns are protected by wizards instead of gunslingers.
  7. A cyberpunk thriller featuring a heist in a virtual reality world.
  8. A mystery set in a magical school where the students must uncover a dark secret.
  9. A superhero story grounded in the real-world challenges of modern society.
  10. An adventure tale that blends deep-sea exploration with ancient mythology.

The Time Traveler’s Gateway

The Time Traveler’s Gateway prompts explore the intricacies of time travel, its implications, and its paradoxes.

This type of prompt is perfect for science fiction and speculative fiction writers, offering a playground for the imagination that challenges our understanding of time, history, and causality.


  1. Discovering a time machine in your backyard and deciding where to go first.
  2. A message from the future warning of an impending disaster.
  3. The consequences of changing a small event in the past.
  4. A society where time travel is common, but strictly regulated.
  5. An ancient civilization that had advanced time travel technology.
  6. Meeting your ancestors and learning their secrets.
  7. The ethical dilemmas of using time travel for personal gain.
  8. A love story that transcends time barriers.
  9. The discovery that history is a construct, shaped by time travelers.
  10. A time loop where the protagonist must solve a puzzle to escape.

The World Builder’s Dream

The World Builder’s Dream prompts invite you to create entire worlds from scratch.

This type of prompt is a boon for fantasy and science fiction writers, offering the freedom to craft unique settings, cultures, laws of nature, and societies.

It’s an opportunity to let your imagination run wild and establish the groundwork for epic tales.


  1. A planet where the seasons last for decades.
  2. A city built entirely on the back of a giant, wandering creature.
  3. A society where people’s roles are determined by their innate magical abilities.
  4. An underwater civilization that has never seen the surface.
  5. A world where dreams can be entered and manipulated.
  6. A floating island nation that travels the skies.
  7. A dystopian future where memories can be bought and sold.
  8. A kingdom where music is the source of all magic.
  9. A realm where the night lasts half the year.
  10. An alternate Earth where the continents never split apart.

The Unseen Perspective

The Unseen Perspective prompts challenge you to write from the viewpoint of non-human characters or entities.

This approach forces you to step outside the human experience and consider the world from a completely different angle.

It’s a fantastic way to explore themes of consciousness, nature, and the interconnectedness of life.


  1. The life of a tree over centuries, witnessing the changes in the world.
  2. A day in the life of a household pet during a major family event.
  3. The thoughts of a spaceship AI as it travels through the cosmos.
  4. The experiences of a ghost haunting an old mansion.
  5. A story told from the perspective of a river, from source to sea.
  6. The journey of a single leaf from sprout to falling to the ground.
  7. The collective consciousness of a hive of bees facing environmental challenges.
  8. The ancient spirit of a mountain overseeing its surroundings.
  9. The adventures of a book as it passes from reader to reader, experiencing different interpretations and emotions.
  10. The perspective of a city as it grows and evolves over centuries, through peace and conflict.

The Emotional Journey

The Emotional Journey prompts focus on the internal growth and transformation of characters.

It invites writers to delve into personal development, self-discovery, and the overcoming of obstacles.

This type of prompt is ideal for character-driven narratives, where the emphasis is on emotional depth and the evolution of the protagonist’s inner self.


  1. A character grappling with the loss of a loved one and finding a way to move forward.
  2. The journey of self-acceptance for someone who feels out of place in their world.
  3. A hero facing their darkest fears in order to save what they cherish most.
  4. A villain’s realization of the impact of their actions and their quest for redemption.
  5. A young adult’s transition into independence and the challenges they face along the way.
  6. The transformation of a skeptic into a believer through a series of unexplainable events.
  7. The struggle of a character to forgive themselves and others for past mistakes.
  8. The process of rebuilding one’s life after a catastrophic event.
  9. A character’s journey from indifference to passionate advocacy for a cause.
  10. The evolving relationship between two characters who start as rivals and become allies.

The Moral Dilemma

The Moral Dilemma prompts put characters in situations where they must make difficult choices, often between two equally undesirable options.

These prompts are great for exploring ethical questions, character morality, and the complexity of human nature.

They challenge writers to think deeply about what it means to make a “right” decision.


  1. Choosing between saving a loved one or a group of strangers from danger.
  2. Deciding whether to expose a painful truth that could destroy a friend’s happiness.
  3. The choice of upholding the law or doing what is morally right in a corrupt society.
  4. A character must decide whether to seek revenge or forgive an unforgivable act.
  5. The dilemma of sacrificing personal dreams for the greater good.
  6. Deciding whether to keep a secret that protects one person but harms others.
  7. A leader’s choice between peace at the cost of justice or war for the sake of freedom.
  8. The ethical implications of using advanced technology to alter human nature.
  9. A scientist faces a moral conflict over a discovery that could change the world but has dangerous implications.
  10. The struggle of a character who finds out that their entire life is based on a lie and must choose how to react.

The Creative Challenge

The Creative Challenge prompts are designed to push the boundaries of conventional storytelling.

It encourages experimentation with narrative structure, style, and content.

These prompts invite writers to play with unconventional formats, such as a story told in reverse, a narrative composed entirely of dialogue, or a tale that weaves multiple perspectives into a cohesive whole.


  1. A story told through a series of diary entries, each revealing a piece of the puzzle.
  2. A narrative structured as a series of text messages between characters.
  3. A tale that begins with its conclusion and works backward to the start.
  4. A story where each chapter is from the perspective of a different character, all revolving around a single event.
  5. A narrative composed entirely of letters sent between two characters.
  6. A story told through the lens of an inanimate object witnessing events unfold.
  7. A tale that intertwines the past and present, revealing how they mirror and affect each other.
  8. A narrative that challenges the concept of linear time, mixing moments from various points in the characters’ lives.
  9. A story where the setting changes in each chapter, influencing the plot and characters in unique ways.
  10. A narrative that plays with genre conventions, blending elements from different genres in unexpected ways.

Final Thoughts: What Is a Prompt in Writing?

I hope this guide “prompts” you to understanding, creativity, and motivation to write.

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