Creative Writing Exercises for New Short Story Ideas

Looking Up a Dictionary
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Sometimes the hardest part of writing is figuring out what to do with that blank page. Coming up with new short story ideas doesn't have to be painful, however. These exercises are designed to get you writing -- and hopefully on your way to a new short story.


  • Freewriting

    At the very least, freewriting forces you to put words on the page (a good start toward curing writer's block). Ideally, however, you'll find yourself writing about ideas and situations worth greater exploration. Set your timer for 5 minutes and write without taking your pencil from the paper. Whatever comes to mind should be written. Once you are done, take a breath and see what you have written! Even a sentence fragment can be used to start a new short story!

  • Secrets

    This popular writing exercise for groups or pairs uses secrets to suggest plots and themes you might not write about normally. Your little secret could give someone big ideas.

  • Writing from Pictures

    Photographs or other images often suggest a narrative. Working alone, in pairs, or in groups, discover a story you wouldn't have thought of on your own. Check out the literary magazine and podcast People Holding, which assigns photos to authors to write about!

  • Dictionary Writing Prompts

    Sometimes simply using new words can inspire your writing to take a new direction. In this exercise, a few words chosen at random will provide a new focus for today's writing.

  • Idea Box

    Start collecting words, phrases, images, and objects that inspire you so that when writer's block strikes, you have a place to turn.

  • This is a list I compiled of writing prompts that I often use in my classes. I find that they work well to inspire my students. Often, if you give yourself a set amount of time with each prompt, the limitation can actually trick you into generating more writing. You might be surprised at how fast you are inspired when on the clock!

  • Memories

    Write down a list of memories. Try to be as specific as possible. Then go back and try to figure out why each memory is important. What did the moment mean, and why did it stay with you? Is there a secondary memory that goes along with it? Is there a way to see the situation differently now than when you experienced it?
    Try writing the memory from another character's Point-of-View. How do the two perspectives clash? What is the reasoning behind each of the actions? Is there a misunderstanding? Now write that story!

  • Eavesdrop

    Get out of your office (or bed) and go to a local coffee shop. Get a coffee and just listen. People talk loud enough for you to hear, and their words, out of context, can go anywhere you want them to. Collect random sentences from strangers and start a story with each one.
  • Recycle

    Oftentimes you will be inspired by just reading your old work, and can finish the original story you started, but if that doesn't work, go back to an old story you never finished, and randomly pick a line from it. Start a new story about something completely different, simply using that first line. Remember: save all your work! You never know when you will be inspired by a story you previously felt you could not finish.

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