30 Creative Writing Prompts to Improve Your Craft

30 Creative Writing Prompts to Improve Your Craft

Person writing in a notebook

Use these exercises to awaken your creativity.

Throughout the month of October, a group of SCS creative writing instructors shared some of their favourite writing prompts and exercises with our creative writing community. 

The prompts were originally shared via the hashtag #SCSwritingprompts on Twitter. In case you missed them and are looking for some inspiration, we’ve collected all 30 prompts here to help you get writing! 

  1. Use a newspaper to find ideas for writing. Can a news item prompt a short story, an editorial prompt a rebuttal, a photo prompt a setting, the classifieds prompt a catalogue poem, or the headlines prompt a found poem?" – Patricia Westerhof
  2. Write about the first pair of shoes you ever loved, and the first day you wore them. What made them meaningful?" – Martha Batiz 
  3. Write a short dialogue between two characters every other line. Write what they are really thinking in italics between each line of dialogue." - Kim Echlin
  4. Close your eyes and take yourself back to the kitchen of your childhood. What is the first thing you smell? What is the most powerful smell from your childhood? Write about it, what it meant then, what it means now." – Beth Kaplan 
  5. Your character is at a train station. Their gaze falls on a person with whom they have a complicated relationship. There is no way for your character to avoid this person and this person spots them. What happens next?" – Natasha Deen 
  6. Pick a random news photo. Describe the scene with 5 words, then 10 words, then 20 and then 40. Reverse the process. What do you notice?" - Arif Anwar
  7. Write about a body of water." – Ranjini George 
  8. Put your character in bed falling asleep alone. Write every thought that passes through their mind. Do not punctuate or use full sentences; just describe what is drifting through their heads." - Kim Echlin
  9. Choose three recent Google searches, or three songs or photos that are meaningful to you. Then write one paragraph about each. Do any interesting connections emerge?" – Becky Blake 
  10. Write about your memories of Thanksgiving." – Ranjini George 
  11. Find a talisman, a special object from your life. Hold it with your eyes closed, feel it. What does it mean? What did it mean? Write about it. – Beth Kaplan 
  12. Set a timer to write! Giving yourself a goal to write for even 15 minutes a day will get you to the page. Write longer if you’re inspired. And those pages *will* add up." – Barbara Radecki 
  13. Your character steps into a grocery store to buy items for the evening’s event. At the produce aisle, they see a display of oranges. Your character comes from Florida & a fractured childhood. Oranges remind them of their past. What happens?" – Natasha Deen 
  14. Write about what stops you from writing." – Ranjini George 
  15. Write about a special object of your childhood that is now lost, but you'd like to recover. What was it? What would it mean for you to have it back?" – Martha Batiz 
  16. Write “I didn’t know…” over and over, ten times down the page. Then, without thinking, fill in the rest of the sentence. Pick one and unpack it." – Beth Kaplan 
  17. Take a prose fiction story you have already written, but which is not in its final form. Rewrite the same story, only this time change the gender of your protagonist. What, if anything, does that do to your plot? Dialogue? Central Theme?" - Elizabeth Ruth
  18. Describe a person you love without typical details such as hair colour or body shape. Instead describe how they move, how their expressions change, how they use their hands. Describe how they sound—their laugh, their favourite phrases." – Patricia Westerhof
  19. Remember that story your parent or grandparent used to tell over and over and over at every family gathering? That had meaning for them. Tell that story." - Michel Basilieres
  20. "Take the last line of any poem and make it your first. Write from there. Take the first line of a poem and make it your last. Write towards there." – Catherine Graham
  21. "Try writing a scene set twenty minutes before or twenty minutes after the expected scene. What’s happening before the trial, after the funeral, when everyone’s standing in the parking lot?" – Blair Hurley 
  22. “Write about a childhood home” - Ranjini George 
  23. "Look at every paragraph in your story draft and try cutting the weakest sentence from each one — the wordiest, the most ‘explainy’, the most expository." - Blair Hurley 
  24. "Give voice to an inanimate object. What might it say?" - Catherine Graham 
  25. "Write about what you can't forget." – Ranjini George
  26. "She was in that particular time of her life when every stranger she saw in the street reminded her of someone she had once loved/hated/lost. [Finish this paragraph, using your narrator to articulate the chosen emotion.]" - Dennis Bock
  27. "Go over to your bookshelf, close your eyes, and pick up the first book you touch. Open that book to a random page, read the first full sentence on that page, and use it as the inspiration for a scene." – Amy Jones
  28. "Use this 19th Century Character generator and start an argument over an inheritance between two of them: http://ow.ly/FJUh50GyO9k"  - Michel Basilieres
  29. "What I can't forget..." – Ranjini George 
  30. “I used to be …. but now I ….” – Beth Kaplan 

Need more guidance to get your creativity flowing or take your writing to the next level? Check out our whole suite of Creative Writing courses and certificates here: https://learn.utoronto.ca/programs-courses/creative-writing.  

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