Whether you're having trouble thinking of short story ideas, or you find yourself returning to similar plots and themes, these exercises and prompts will help you take new directions with your writing. Use them to unlock your subconscious, explore new territory, and have fun.
And for more sources of inspiration, books such as The Right to Write and 52 Projects provide a wealth of prompts and exercises.
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One of the easiest ways to generate new short story ideas, freewriting is often overlooked outside of the classroom. These guidelines provide structure to make it effective while working on your own. (If you're unsure what the results of freewriting should look like, link to the step-by-step example at the end.)
Secrets naturally inspire the storytelling impulse. This lighthearted writing exercise essentially prompts groups or pairs of writers to provide each other with random stories while helping the group to bond.
Discover the story implicit in a photograph or snapshot -- or use the image to start off a round of freewriting -- with this exercise for individuals, pairs, or groups. This is also a useful prompt to awaken your narrative powers, and remind you that writing is a compelling visual exercise. Both stories and book chapters can be reorganized visually into scenes.
A few words chosen at random can lead you in a whole new direction in this creative writing exercise that turns the dictionary into a writing prompt generator.
This exercise for your imagination, inspired by one in Julia Cameron's The Right to Write,
teaches writers to listen for short story ideas.
If you think you don't have time to write, think again. See what you can produce with a simple set of writing prompts and 10 minutes of your time with this creative writing exercise.
These story starters, meant to be the opening phrase of a story, were offered by readers as their favorites. The phrase might give you an entire story, or you might spend a half hour freewriting, and there find the story you really want to tell. The important thing is to spend time writing, whatever the result.
Keeping an idea box is a fun way to ensure that you always have a place to turn for inspiration. It doesn't have to be elaborate. Just having a place where you keep ideas will cause your mind to look out for them.
Look through previous monthly writing challenge posts and reader responses on the Fiction Writing About.com site to get ideas for new writing prompts and exercises. The responses also provide examples of how the exercise might be approached.
Robert McKee, in his book, Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting, has this tip for testing out a new plot.
Find more creative writing prompts.