Tell the story of a scar, whether a physical scar or emotional one. To be a writer, said Stephen King, “The only requirement is the ability to remember every scar.”
A group of children discover a dead body. Good writers don’t turn away from death, which is, after all, the universal human experience. Instead, they look it directly into its dark face and describe what they see on the page.
A young prodigy becomes orphaned. Orphans are uniquely vulnerable, and as such, they have the most potential for growth.
A middle-aged woman discovers a ghost. What do Edgar Allen Poe, Ron Weasley, King Saul from the Bible, Odysseus, and Ebeneezer Scrooge have in common? They all encountered ghosts!
A woman who is deeply in love is crushed when her fiancé breaks up with her. “In life every ending is just a new beginning,” says Dakota Fanning’s character in Uptown Girls.
A talented young man’s deepest fear is holding his life back. Your character’s biggest fear is your story’s secret weapon. Don’t run from it, write about it.
A poor young boy or girl comes into an unexpected fortune. Not all fortunes are good. Sometimes discovering a fortune will destroy your life.
A shy, young woman unexpectedly bumps into her soulmate (literally bumps into him). In film, this is called the “meet cute,” when the hero bumps into the heroine in the hallway, knocking her books to the floor, and forcing them into conversation.
A long journey is interrupted by a disaster. Who hasn’t been longing to get to a destination only to be delayed by something unexpected? This is the plot of Gravity, The Odyssey, and even Lord of the Rings.
A young couple run into the path of a psychopath. Monsters, whether people who do monstrous things or scaly beasts or a monster of a natural disaster, reveal what’s really inside a person. Let your character fall into the path of a monster and see how they handle themselves.
Rosa Rivera-Ortiz is an up-and-coming lawyer in a San Diego firm. Held back by her ethnicity and her gender, she works twice as hard as her colleagues, and she’s as surprised as anyone when she’s requested specifically for a high-profile case. Bron Welty, an A-list actor and action star, has been arrested for the murder of his live-in housekeeper. The cop heading the case is older, ex-military, a veteran of more than one war, and an occasional sufferer of PTSD. Rosa’s hired to defend the movie star; and it seems like an easy win until she uncovers some secrets that not only make her believe her client is guilty, but may be one of the worst serial killers in the past two decades… and he knows she found out.
Zion Jones is a police interrogator in Miami’s overburdened police department. He’s up to his eyeballs in paperwork and really doesn’t have time for another case, but when his best friend and fellow cop is shot in a burglary-gone-wrong, he’s willing to take on a few extra cases. The next interrogation was supposed to be routine: a murder, a suspect, a suspicious amount of transferred cash. But the moment he gets in the room, he knows something is wrong. This suspect isn’t scared. This suspect is laughing, and proceeds to tell Zion personal, too-intimate-to-be-hearsay details on cold case murders going back nearly a hundred years. It gets weirder: for reasons unknown, the digital recording came up blank, as if no conversation had taken place. Of course, everything Zion has to report is dismissed—it’s nonsense, nothing that can be proven, and it was just an attempt to mess with his head. Right? If that’s so, then why does Zion feel like someone’s watching him everywhere he goes, as if just waiting for him to make a move on the terrible details he’s been given?
It’s the Cold War. Sergei, a double-agent for the CIA working in Berlin, is about to retire when he’s given one final mission: he’s been asked to “defect” to the USSR to help find and assassinate a suspected double-agent for the Kremlin. Sergei is highly trusted, and he’s given to understand that this mission is need-to-know only between him and very few superior officers. But as he falls deeper into the folds of the Iron Curtain, he begins to suspect that his superior officer might just be the mole, and the mark Sergei’s been sent to kill is on the cusp of exposing the leak.
It’s 1952. A small town in the Midwest is rocked by the brutal murder of Mary, a “colored” eleven-year-old girl, who’s been bludgeoned until nearly unrecognizable. The sheriff, Joe Everyguy, is an upstanding and well-respected man who is determined to get to the bottom of what might be the grisliest case of his career. But as the crime unfolds, revealing prejudice, covered up abuse, and sexual philandering in and around the school, he begins to realize two things: one, there’s such a hotbed of crime and immorality in the heart of his small town that if he doesn’t root it out, it could destroy them all. And two, all the evidence points toward one suspect: his own daughter, Linda, Mary’s classmate and supposed friend. The town wants to hush this up, less concerned about a black girl’s death than about ruffling feathers. Sheriff Everyguy is terrified the truth will destroy his family if he keeps pushing for answers—he can’t uncover the cabal without exposing his daughter. If he quits now, he abandons a lifetime of intentional integrity and the town he loves as home. But if he keeps going, he might just be sacrificing his little girl’s life.
It’s 3012 AD. The Earth has long been left behind as uninhabitable. Justice Jones, retired special forces (think MacGyver + Marines), enjoys his quiet new employment as art appraiser on Tethys, one of Saturn’s lovely terraformed moons. He’s a staunch agnostic, which makes him stand out; most of Tethys’ population ascribe to one of two religions: the Cats, who believe that mankind should stop exploring and be content with the two dozen or so moons and planets occupied, and the Dogs, who hold to a sort of demented Manifest Destiny that humankind should populate the whole universe. Justice ignores all of this ninety percent of the time; unfortunately, when he walks into the museum late one night to inspect a possible forgery of 1000-year-old Martian sculpture, he finds two dead bodies: the leaders of the Cats and Dogs, respectively. Each side blames the other for their leader’s death, and before long, the arguments erupt into violence. There are innocents on this small moon; there aren’t any major forms of government, or military presence. As the tensions grow thicker and the body count grows higher, Justice finds himself coming out of retirement to save the innocents on this moon who are about to be caught in the crossfire. The Cats and Dogs may be out for blood, but they’ve never encountered anything like Justice Jones.
It is 1800. A lighthouse on a barren cliff in Canada. Two lighthouse keepers, German immigrants, are alone for the winter and effectively cut off from the rest of the world until the ice thaws. Both Wilhelm and Matthias are settled in for the long haul with warm clothes, canned goods, and matches a-plenty. Then Wilhelm starts hearing voices. His personal belongings disappear from where he’d placed them, only to reappear in strange spots—like the catwalk, or dangling beneath the spiral stair knotted in brown twine. Matthias begs innocence. Little by little, Wilhelm grows convinced that Matthias is trying to convince him (Wilhelm) to kill himself. Is the insanity real, or is this really Matthias’ doing? And if it is real, what will he do to defend himself? There are so many months until spring…
It’s sometime in the future, and China has become a dystopian society, run with an iron fist by its government. The pollution is so bad that citizens almost never step outside, traveling instead via tubes between residence and work, or the small, expensive shops and home. Even the domiciles are all underground, small two-room apartments run completely by nano-bot technology and voice-command. In this grey and airless life, Bo and Lifen’s six-month-old son, Heng, is mysteriously kidnapped. Devastated, they survive a near-breakup of their marriage, Lifen’s failed suicide attempt, and Bo’s brief stint with alcoholism as they both tried to cope with their loss. Eventually, they manage to grieve together instead of apart, and rebuild their lives… but it all comes to a crashing halt when a stranger rings the doorbell. It is a young man who claims to be their son. Not only that, but he has a small thumb-drive hanging around his heck giving him legal claim to their tiny, one-door domicile and everything they own—which means that when he steps inside, his voice-command locks the door behind him… and it won’t unlock until he tells it to. In fact, he controls food. He controls the air supply. Little by little, he takes over their lives, forcing them both to quit their jobs and huddle in their cold and frightening home as they struggle to survive to this invasion of a so-called son who acts nothing like a son should. Why is he doing this? Is he really their son? And can they possibly fight him when the nano-bot run home obeys his every command?
Shah is the son of the Rajah of BahSeengSay, arguably the richest heir in the world, and dangerously bored. How does he fill his time? By thinking of himself as a detective and solving “mysteries” all around the palace. This means Shah gets into everybody’s business and makes up completely absurd tales about his adventures, but who’s going to argue? He’s the son of the rajah, and technically holds their lives in his hands. But don’t think Shah has no friends; his most faithful servant, Nainsuk, has raised Shah from an infant, and while he loves the boy as his own, Nainsuk isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. He believes Shah’s wild tales of night-escapes from demons and genius in solving unsolvable mysteries. So, when Nainsuk’s younger sister goes missing, he begs the prince for help. Shah, convinced of his own near-immortality, takes the case… but when he leaves the palace for the first time in his life, following clues, he discovers life on the outside is nowhere near as idyllic as life within. Religious factions struggle for supremacy, political groups jostle for influence and the Rajah’s ear, and the desperate poor and the greedy rich all fight, turning the city around the palace into a boiling mess of blood and sweat. In short order, Shah loses his money, his jeweled sword, and his beard—and without these things, the guards at the palace don’t recognize him, refusing to let him back inside. Shah’s only chance is to wait for Nainsuk to return in the morning, since surely his old caretaker will recognize him… but in order to do that, he has to survive the night in the crime-ridden streets of BahSeengSay. Roving gangs, packs of wild dogs, and desperate thugs who see him as an easy target are the least of his concerns. It turns out Nainsuk’s sister was kidnapped as a sacrifice to the goddess Kali, and he has until dawn to save her… and himself.
It’s 1935. Germany’s government has been persecuting the Sinti people since long before the Nazis came to power, but the Third Reich has taken a particularly dim view: they claim that the Sinti (which you might know as “Gypsies”) are of mixed blood, and consequently both degenerate and criminal. Many are being forcibly sterilized. Ten-year-old Mirela is an orphan, and knows they’re looking for her—not just because her mother was Sinti, but also because of her dreams. Mirela has dreams of the future, and they always come true… and she’s had one three nights in a row about scary soldiers coming to the orphanage, taking away any child they deem not Aryan enough, and doing horrible things to them. Finally, she can take it no longer: she gathers together her six closest friends, and they leave in the dead of night, trying to sneak out of Berlin and toward the distant border of Austria. But Austria is over 400 miles away, and these seven children have no money. They also don’t have blond hair or typically Aryan features. They must avoid soldiers and anyone who still thinks Jewish blood and dark hair are responsible for Germany’s struggle. Mirela’s dreams help, but she has no powers of protection. What follows is a daring, heart-rending journey of many nights, of loss and tears and triumph, and in the end, none of them will really be children anymore.
Fourteen years ago, Stan cheated on his brand-new bride of four months. It was just a one-afternoon fling, a reaction to a silly fight he can no longer remember, and he gave the girl in the club a fake name, anyway, so who cares? Now, he’s general manager for a profitable beer company; his wife and four kids are well-provided-for, with college funds and all the amenities they could desire. Stan’s in line for CEO, if he can keep up his business ethic until old Paul retires, and he intends to… until she comes in for a job interview. Stan recognizes Delilah Bond, oh hell yes, he does, but she doesn’t seem to recognize him. Slightly shaken, he plays dumb, treats her with complete professional cool, and goes about his day. The next night, his youngest daughter waxes eloquent about her new music teacher, Ms. Bond… who matches the description of Stan’s fourteen-year-old mistake. He tries to ignore this until he sees her outside his window, trimming the hedges, wearing an ordinary landscaper’s uniform. And again, in his favorite bar, where she’s slinging drinks like a pro and conspicuously avoiding his eyes. In fact, he starts to see her everywhere, impossibly everywhere—touching the life of each of his children, involved with his wife (her new tennis partner), and hired at his company, though not in his division. Is he going crazy? No; it’s worse. Delilah Bond is one of four quadruplets, or she was. The girl Stan slept with fourteen years ago got pregnant, miscarried badly, and died. Her three sisters took a long time to figure out who’d taken their sister from them, and they have every intention of making him suffer the way they have… and they’ve had a really long time to plan.
A young couple run into the path of a psychopath. Monsters, whether people who do monstrous things or scaly beasts or a monster of a natural disaster, reveal what’s really inside a person. Let your character fall into the path of a monster and see how they handle themselves.
“Ever heard the phrase, ‘It is not who fired the shot but who paid for the bullet?’ This is a philosophy Tomoe Gozen lives by. Brave and clever, Tomoe follows clues until she learns who ordered the murder: Emperor Antoku himself. But why would the emperor of Japan want to kill a lowly soldier?” Click for the short story ideas.
“She’s a cop. He’s the owner of a jewelry store. A sudden rash of break-ins brings her to his store over and over and over again, until it becomes obvious that he might be tripping the alarm on purpose—just to see her. That’s illegal—but she’s kind of falling for him, too. Write the moment she realizes she has to do something about this crazy illicit courtship.” Click for the short story ideas.
Bored teenaged wizards throwing a graduation celebration. Uncomfortable wedding preparation between magic wielding family members and those more on the Muggle side of things. A fairy prince who decides to abandon his responsibilities to become a street musician. Just try to not have fun writing (or even just reading!) these fantasy stories ideas. Click for the short story ideas.
It is 1800. A lighthouse on a barren cliff in Canada. Two lighthouse keepers, German immigrants, are alone for the winter and effectively cut off from the rest of the world until the ice thaws. Both Wilhelm and Matthias are settled in for the long haul with warm clothes, canned goods, and matches a-plenty. Then Wilhelm starts hearing voices. His personal belongings disappear from where he’d placed them, only to reappear in strange spots—like the catwalk, or dangling beneath the spiral stair knotted in brown twine. Matthias begs innocence. Little by little, Wilhelm grows convinced that Matthias is trying to convince him (Wilhelm) to kill himself. Is the insanity real, or is this really Matthias’ doing? And if it is real, what will he do to defend himself? There are so many months until spring… (Bonus: this prompt works from Matthias’ point of view, too, since he’d find himself locked in a lighthouse with a crazy guy.)
Charles McDougall, Scotland Yard’s best Inspector, is laid up in the hospital with a badly broken leg, but that doesn’t mean he’s off the clock! An online news headline describing a tragic gas leak/explosion catches his eye. Four people died: a housewife, a minor politician, a young chemist, and the daughter of a local mobster. Somehow, using only clues from the internet (and what he can worm out of his coworkers), he has to figure out which of those people was the actual target, and why.
Agatha Christoph (get it?) is a retired schoolteacher in a beautiful little town in New England. She never married and has no children, so her friends are everything to her. That’s why when her best friend, Martha, is blackmailed with vague threats about some risqué photos from Martha’s youth, Agatha jumps to the rescue. But Martha’s youth was a LONG time ago. Who could have those photos? And what could they possibly want?
Mars is colonized, though there’s no air outside the domes. Travel from dome to dome is by train. The Eberswalde Express is the “luxury” locomotive, filled with old-timey elegance and charm. It takes a day and a half between stops to give wealthy patrons full time to enjoy the amenities. AND WOULDN’T YOU KNOW IT…THERE’S A MURDER! Weirdly, this murder mimics the plotline of The Orient Express, and Elsa, a librarian and mystery buff, recognizes the details. With a murderer on board and nowhere to go, everyone is in danger. Can Elsa solve this murder before the killer strikes again?
Ever heard the phrase, “It is not who fired the shot but who paid for the bullet”? This is a philosophy Tomoe Gozen lives by. Tomoe (who, by the way, was a real female Samurai) serves her general well, but when a fellow soldier dies mysteriously one night after a game of Chō-Han, she can’t simply accept that the death had no meaning. Brave and clever, Tomoe follows clues until she learns who ordered the murder: Emperor Antoku himself. But why would the emperor of Japan want to kill a lowly soldier? And why the subterfuge?
Medieval France. Fourteen-year-old Amée is a servant girl with a genius IQ stuck as a scullery maid in her fief lord’s castle. She leads a lonely life, with plenty of time to think and analyze, though—and this is important—she can’t read. But something strange is happening here. The fief lord keeps bringing new brides home… and within two weeks, those brides disappear. A new one—nearly Amée’s age—has just been brought to the castle, and Amée knows the clock for survival has already begun to tick. She has time to figure this out. Will she before it’s too late?
Omar Yehia is a colonel in Cairo’s police department. The government is unstable, and the people are unhappy; he has his hands full with violent cases all the time. Unfortunately, one day, a slain prostitute turns out to have something on her person that no one in Egypt should have at all: Queen Mary’s Crown. How on earth did she get that? More importantly, what will Omar do with the 48 hours his superiors give him to crack this case before they report this to foreign authorities?
Sandra is a mystery-lover. She sees mysteries and hidden conspiracies everywhere they aren’t, and her sister Carrie laughs this off as a silly quirk… until Carrie is framed for the murder of the man in the next apartment. Carrie’s DNA is somehow all over the place, though she swears she’s never even been in that apartment before. No one thinks Carrie is innocent but Sandra… and she has a limited amount of time to prove her sister is innocent.
Twelve-year-old Alexandra is a leader. She runs her school’s newspaper, manages three after-school clubs (the book club, the fencing club, and the junior stamp-collector club), and doesn’t have time for nonsense. Which is why when she sees a man dressed all in black carrying a manilla folder as he climbs out of her principal’s window, her determination to get to the bottom of it knows no bounds. Look out, data-thief. Here comes Alexandra!
David is a senior software engineer for a major tech company, and he spends most days knee-deep in other people’s databases, trying to figure out what they did wrong. One day, he happens across a piece of malicious code designed to steal financial information. He reports it and deletes it, but he comes across that same code again—in the database of a completely different company. He finds it again; and again. And the fifth time around, his manager drops a hint that the higher-ups think he’s the best person to figure out who’s planting it. Undercover, they send him to each of the company’s data centers: one in London, one in Boston, one in Dallas, and one in Seattle. It’s going to be his job—socially anxious as he is—to interview everyone and find out who’s planting that code and why.
General March hires Detective Thomas to try to find the person who’s been blackmailing March for the past twenty years. Thomas tracks the miscreant down, but finds that the man behind the threats has been dead for the past ten years. So who’s carrying on the blackmailing? And is the secret that’s held March prisoner this long something that should stay a secret?
Defense attorney Bob Larson enjoys his job. He likes justice; he likes being right. Usually, he thinks right and wrong are really easy to spot. Then he ends up representing a young Navy Seal who shot and killed an elderly woman—and claims it was in self-defense. Who’s really the bad guy?
Samuel sleepwalks. He also thinks he loves another man’s wife. He’s more surprised than anyone when he’s arrested for that man’s murder. Did he do it? Or is he being set up to take the fall?
Mystery writer Dan Rodriguez takes the subway every day. Every day, nothing happens. He wears earbuds and a hoodie; he’s ignored, and he ignores. Then one evening, on his way home from a stressful meeting with his publisher, Dan is startled out of his funk when a frantic Middle-Eastern man knocks him over at a dead run, then races up the stairs—pursued by several other mysterious looking thugs. The Middle-Eastern man is shot; and Dan discovers a small, wrapped package in the front pocket of his hoodie. What’s inside, and what does he need to do to survive the answer?
Wealthy, unmarried Anne Lamont is murdered, and she leaves her entire fortune to a man she met two weeks before, putting suspicion squarely on him. Detective Arnold thinks the man is innocent. He has a week to make his case before this goes before a jury. But when he digs into Anne’s background, he finds the sweet old matron wasn’t at all what she seemed.
A headless corpse is found in a freshly-dug grave in Arkansas. The local police chief, Arley Socket, has never had to deal with more than missing gas cans and treed cats. His exploration of this weird murder digs up a mystery older than the 100-year-old town of Jericho that harkens all the way back to a European blood-feud.
Someone is murdering homeless people in Phoenix, Arizona. Detective Sally Fortnight is determined to get to the bottom of it… but what she uncovers may be more deadly than she could ever guess.
On the Lovely Lady riverboat in 1900’s Louisiana, professional gambler Lacroix is just doing his thing when a scream startles him and the other players from the poker table. It turns out the captain of the steamboat has been murdered, and only someone on the boat could’ve pulled it off. Lacroix already has a record. In two days, the Lady will pull into Shreveport, where he stands a good chance of being arrested… unless he can suss out the killer first.
Detective Donna Madison is on a completely routine case (bootleg watches, just so you know) when she stumbles across a ring of jewel thieves. Two murders, a clever fortune-teller, and a stuffed cat filled with clues later, and Donna finds herself uncovering a far bigger mystery than where stolen watches go.
It is the Cold War era. Private Eye Charles Nick searches for a missing cryptanalyst, all the while dodging an obsessed FBI agent who thinks Nick is a communist spy. The cryptanalyst, by the way, went missing for a good reason: he might have cracked the latest Russian spy code, and he’s running for his life.
1850’s England: elderly Doris and her six young wards are caught in a storm and forced to ask for shelter at an enormous manor deep in the English countryside. But all is not well in this home, and before long, Doris faces a bizarre problem: the manor’s lord, Sir Geoffrey, claims his estranged wife Alice is going to murder him that evening. Alice, meanwhile, claims that Geoffrey is going to murder her. After dinner, both are found dead, in the library, seated as if having a rational discussion, but dead as mice. There is no obvious murder weapon, and quite possibly, the murderer is loose in the manor. Doris is no detective, but she might as well figure this out. Given that storm, help won’t be coming until it’s too late.
She’s a cop. He’s the owner of a jewelry store. A sudden rash of break-ins brings her to his store over and over and over again, until it becomes obvious that he might be tripping the alarm on purpose—just to see her. That’s illegal—but she’s kind of falling for him, too. Write the moment she realizes she has to do something about this crazy illicit courtship.
Two dirt-poor art students survive by sharing a nasty little apartment above a bodega. They struggle through four years, barely making ends meet, comforting one another through tragedies and triumph, but never openly admit how they feel about each other…until they graduate, and one of them gets a job in another city. Is it too late to confess their love?
Colorado Animal Rescue has never been more challenging than after that zoo caught on fire. Sally Cougar (no jokes on the name, or she’ll kill you) tracks down three missing tiger cubs, only to find they’ve been adopted by millionaire Bryce Champion. Thanks to an antiquated law on the books, he legally has the right to keep them. It’s going to take everything Sally has to get those tiger cubs back.
Ever heard of Balkan Sworn Virgins? Let’s take that concept further. Unspecified ancient times; matriarchal society. Only a queen may ascend to the throne, and only daughters have been born to the royal family for generations—but to everyone’s amazement, this royal couple had a son. To avoid some unpleasant relative taking over, the prince must become a princess in appearance, dress, and behavior—which makes things REALLY awkward because “she” has been betrothed to a neighboring prince before he—er, she—was born.
She’s a nurse trying to work her way through both her massive student debt and the everyday living expenses of Boston. Desperate for cash, she takes a job as a model for a late-night sculpting workshop, and initially doesn’t question why the workshop organizer keeps paying her more than agreed. Or keeps insisting on ordering delivery so she goes home with food. Or keeps making sure she gets the job even though several other people are trying for it. Initially, she doesn’t question anything; when she finally does, how will she handle this attention? Is it adorable or terrifying?
Horticulture…in space! It’s “the future,” and humans are in communication with an interdimensional alien species—but the only way they CAN communicate is telepathically via a certain type of plant. Elizabeth, the top human horticulturist, has been navigating these odd waters with the alien’s top horticulturist for the past ten years. Whether she admits it or not, this being she’s never seen is her closest friend and confidante. When the door between dimensions finally opens and she meets her counterpart, she’s in for two surprises: one, he’s tall, green, and gorgeous; and two, he thinks they’ve been courting all this time—and expects her to drop everything and marry him at once. How does she respond?
He’s a museum curator with a fetish for perfection. No one’s ever gotten close to him; how could they? They’re never as perfect as the portraits, the sculptures, the art that never changes. Then one day, an intern is hired on—a young, messy, disorganized intern, whose hair and desk are in a constant state of disarray. The curator is going half-mad with this walking embodiment of chaos; so why can’t the he stand the thought of the intern leaving at the end of their assistantship?
Yalena used to breed greyhounds; now, she rescues them. But one of the most powerful magnates in the racing industry takes issue with her efforts, and sends a professional saboteur to infiltrate her grassroots organization and undo it from within. Unfortunately, that saboteur quickly finds Yalena’s spirit and determination irresistible (not to mention her perky smile and gorgeous eyes). Failure isn’t an option; what’s a formerly heartless corporate terrorist to do?
He’s a cop—one of the good ones—and when an undercover bust went bad ten years ago, his wife and small child were killed. He swore he’d never love again. Then his old partner retires, only to be replaced by a wide-eyed, spunky rookie, whose seemingly impossible innocence and joie de vivre remind him life is worth living again. This could only end in disaster…right? Dare he make the first move?
She’s working her way to the top the only way a woman can in this business: by being absolutely ruthless, heartless, and six times as tough as the men. But when one of those men, an underling, begins to soften her heart, she panics. Will she take their relationship off the books? Or take the “safe” path and send him away?
80% of Soviet males born in 1923 didn’t survive World War II. Describe a young Russian widow, alone now on her family’s farm, who finds love again in the most unexpected of places: the ostler hired to care for the horses.
Fun fact: There was a remarkable cat in World War II named Unsinkable Sam, who survived the sinking of not one, not two, but THREE vessels in the war. No, I’m not making this up. This is so marvelous that we’re going to go in two different directions with it: First, write from the perspective of Sam the magical cat, whose job is overseeing burgeoning romance among humans. Describe his frustration over the fact that every time he’s just about got the right couple together, SOMEBODY has to go and sink the boat. Again.
Now, write from the perspective of Martha, the widow who adopts Sam after the war. This kitty (the animal, not the woman) has been through a lot, and Martha takes him to the local vet, who happens to be single, lonely, and continually inventing reasons for her to bring the cat back in for more appointments. (“I need you to bring the cat in, Mrs. Smith. There’s a possibility he contracted Saline Fever/Gooshy Madness/Purr Dementia/The Whiskered Moist.”)
After a horrible car accident, Charlene struggles through years of physical therapy to regain her mobility. Her PT (physical therapist) is a young man she initially assumes is gay, which is upsetting because she falls in love with him. Describe her reaction the day she realizes she was wrong.
The werewolves and vampires (all of whom are, naturally, ridiculously sexy) have been at war for centuries. Unfortunately, the crown vampire prince and the chief werewolf’s daughter have been meeting in secret to fight and show off and act out their people’s aggression. In the process, their little rivalry turns into something a lot more heated.
The Aztec warrior prince Matlal can’t be beaten. By the time he’s twenty, he’s stronger, faster, and a better fighter than anyone in his kingdom, and one might say it’s given him a big head. When he first encounters Chinese explorers (China very likely reached South America in the 1500s, just FYI), he thinks these strangers are just another chance for him to prove his prowess…and REALLY does not expect the diminutive captain to somehow spin him around and beat him most thoroughly via martial arts. Bad: the captain is short and looks weak. Even worse: the captain is a woman. What happens next?
For her graduate thesis, a young woman attending the University of Cape Town is doing a study on the folklore of Anansi the trickster and how he shaped various cultures throughout western Africa. Exhausted and overworked, even she can’t help but notice that the professor seems too interested in what she finds…and more than that, seems to resemble the subject of her research a little too closely for comfort. Against all reason, she suspects he might be THE Anansi—which is more than a little terrifying. Is he playing with her, or is he actually falling in love? And even if he is, would she dare respond?
There are many ancient tales about love and desire in Hindu mythology. Write from the perspective of young adults in modern-day Dehli who’ve only met online, and are convinced they are the reincarnation of ill-fated lovers, Moomal and Mahendra (spellings vary). They believe they’re supposed to be together, but equally afraid a misunderstanding will lead to more tragedy and death. Remember, they’ve never met: write out one of their instant messenger conversations as they try to figure out what they ought to do.
There’s an ancient Blackfoot legend about Feather Woman and the Morning Star. Let’s mess with that a bit. One day, the Morning Star fell in love with a young secretary working in Detroit. But there’s a problem; in order to come to earth and express his love, he has to pass a test: he has to show up on her doorstep without his powers, perhaps even without clothes, and convince her to take him in. How does THAT conversation go?
It’s 1700s provincial France. Sixteen-year-old Beau a clever young man who’s too curious for his own good. One day, he decides to go poking around the abandoned castle-that-you-should-never-go-near, and in the process, disturbs the hideous female creature who lives there. She captures him… and promptly explains that to break her curse, he must fall in love with her. In exchange, she promises tons of gold for Beau’s family. Like a business arrangement, right? Write what happens next.
Aliens who only communicate with sign language invade. To avoid war, our governments must engage a vastly marginalized portion of the human population: the hearing-impaired.
A rogue planet with strange properties collides with our sun, and after it’s all over, worldwide temperature falls forty degrees. Write from the perspective of a someone trying to keep his tropical fruit trees alive.
Ever read about the world’s loneliest whale? Write a story in which he’s actually the survivor of an aquatic alien species which crashed here eons ago, and he’s trying very hard to learn the “local” whale language so he can fit in. Write from his perspective the first time he makes contact.
An alien planet starts receiving bizarre audio transmissions from another world (spoiler: they’re from Earth). What does it mean? Are they under attack? Some think so…until classic rock ‘n’ roll hits the airwaves, and these aliens discover dancing. Write from the perspective of the teenaged alien who first figures it out.
Take anything we find normal today (shopping malls, infomercials, products to remove facial hair, etc.) and write a story from the perspective of an archeologist five thousand years in the future who just unearthed this stuff, has NO idea what any of it was for, and has to give a speech in an hour explaining the historical/religious/sociological significance.
Housecats are aliens who have succeeded in their plan to rule the world.
A highschooler from fifteen hundred years in our future is assigned a one-page writing project on a twenty-first century person’s life based entirely on TV commercials. Write the beginning of the essay.
Timetravel works, but only once in a person’s life. Write from the perspective of someone who chooses to go back in time, knowing they can never return. Where do they go and why?
So yeah, ancient Egypt really was “all that” after all, and the pyramids turn out to be fully functional spaceships (the limestone was to preserve the electronics hidden inside). Write from the perspective of the tourist who accidentally turns one on.
The remarkable San people of South Africa are widely considered the most ancient race of human beings on the planet. Write a story in which their unique genetic structure has been preserved by the thousands-of-years-ago creation of nanobots.
Take this set of fascinating facts from Chinese history and write a story about the “fortune-teller” (translation: con-artist who knows science) who invented the compass before selling it to the explorer and mapmaker, Zheng He.
Ten years from now, scientists figure out how to stop human aging and extend life indefinitely—but every time someone qualifies for that boost, someone else has to die to keep the surplus population in check. Oh, it’s all very humane; one’s descendants get a huge paycheck. Write from the perspective of someone who just got a letter in the mail saying they’re the one who has to die.
In the future, neural implants translate music into physical pleasure, and earphones (“jacking in”) are now the drug of choice. Write either from the perspective of a music addict, OR the Sonforce agent (sonance + enforcer) who has the job of cracking down.
It’s the year 5000. Our planet was wrecked in the great Crisis of 3500, and remaining human civilization survives only in a half dozen giant domed cities. There are two unbreakable rules: strict adherence to Life Quality (recycling doesn’t even begin to cover these laws), and a complete ban on reproduction (only the “worthy” are permitted to create new humans). Write from the perspective of a young woman who just discovered she’s been chosen to reproduce—but she has no interest in being a mother.
In the nineteenth century, there’s a thriving trade in stolen archeological artifacts. Write a story from the perspective of an annoyed, minimum-wage employee whose job is traveling back in time to obtain otherwise unobtainable artifacts, then has to bring them back to the present (the 1800s, that is) and artificially age them before they will sell.
Steampunk! Write a story from the perspective of a hot air balloon operator who caters to folks who like a little thrill… which means she spends half her time in the air shooting down pterodactyls before the paying customers get TOO scared.
Human genetic modification has gone too far, and the biggest trend for teenagers is to BECOME their favorite fictional character. Describe the scene from a bored security guard’s point of view as he has to break up a fight between an anime character (I dare you to use Goku from Dragonball Z) and a Brony.
It is the Edo period in Japan (1603-1868), and the practice of Sakoku is in full effect, completely closing off the country to Western influence. The reason, however, is not to eschew Western culture, but instead to protect the aliens that landed in the middle of Kyoto and are trying desperately to repair their ship and get home. Write from the perspective of one of the few remaining Samurai assigned to protect and keep these aliens a secret.
Creation myth! Write from the perspective of a crazy scientist in the year 28,000 who, determined to discover how the universe began, rigs up a malfunctioning time machine, goes to the “beginning” of the universe, and ends up being the reason for the Big Bang. (Logic? Causal effect? Pfft. Hush, it’s time-travel, and that was never logical.)
It turns out dinosaurs were completely sentient creatures, thank you very much, and most of them actually left the planet in their gigantic and REALLY WEIRD spaceship when they realized an asteroid was coming. They’ve decided that enough time has passed and the Earth has probably recovered by now, so today, at twelve noon, they’re coming home.
A dragon drops in for the opening day celebration of a new local health food store (let’s call it Hale Feeds). P. S: No one knew dragons were real.
There’s a snail orchestra. They decide to put on a concert for the gardener who has (unwittingly) fed them for years.
Bored high school wizards decide to throw a party to celebrate tomorrow’s graduation. Nothing could possibly go wrong.
Weddings are stressful. They’re especially tricky when one family is magical and the other hates spells, and both mothers want to control the celebration.
A bored housewife wakes one day to find all her dishes are singing Hey, Jude. (Alternatively, if you want to make this a darker story, have them sing The Sound of Silence.)
A witch living secretly in suburbia casts a spell to speed up the laundry, but it backfires—just in time for trick-or-treaters to deal with dancing underwear.
Capitol Hill wakes one day to find thousands of fairies protesting for better media representation. Unfortunately, no one can understand what they’re saying.
A fed-up genie, sick of being over-sexualized and paid in wishes, throws a magical tantrum which turns everyone in the world into the opposite gender.
One bright morning in May, all domestic pets start talking.
Eating food turns one’s skin the same color as one’s last ingested item, which makes cheating on diets a challenge of strategy as well as taste.
Giants are REALLY into reality TV, and one day stomp down from their hidden mountain homes to convince Hollywood to create a show about them.
Mythological creatures, tired of being portrayed as Caucasian gym rats, confront their creators on a popular combative talk show.
Tinnitus is actually the result of pissed-off pixies, who haven’t been properly fed in a couple of centuries (hint: it involves sugar and rum).
Tomorrow morning, all kings, queens, dictators, presidents, and politicians are suddenly replaced by talking dogs.
What would you do if every tree you passed began whispering your name?
Medieval Italy’s most powerful wizard presents a challenge to his pupils: they must compete to prepare a delicious meal without using any magic at all.
“Life got you down? Become a Centaur…today!”
Mermaids attempt to install a democratic form of government, but the cephalopods are causing trouble.
A young Fey prince runs away from responsibility to start a career as a street musician. (I admit I’ve used this one already, and it’s wicked fun.)
Boot-wearing cats are the secret rulers of the world. The twist: their superiority is being challenged by a rising cabal of top-hatted stoats.

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