Getting inspiration through writing topics and prompts is one way to find your next story idea. Here are 40 writing topics organized by genre plus ways to come up with your own:
1. Writing topics for fantasy writers
Think about elements of fantasy that make the genre identifiable. Magic. Other worlds. Arcane abilities. Mythical creatures. Supernatural phenomena. Here are 5 fantasy writing topics:
- A magician uses a forbidden spell with disastrous consequences. What is the spell, and what are the consequences?
- A mythical creature is found living in a small town’s lake. What is it and how does finding it change the local community, for better or worse?
- An apprentice gets a spell wrong in their final examination with unintended consequences. What are they? What will restore order?
- Human children find a portal to another world. Tell the story from the viewpoint of a character whom they encounter in this other world.
- Magical ability is available to a race when people turn a certain age. Yet they must make a major sacrifice to gain it. What is the sacrifice? Is it worth it in the end?
2. Writing ideas for romance writers
The central conflict in romance is often the thing keeping two lovers apart. Here are some ideas for romantic story topics:
- Two would-be lovers from different cultures are kept apart by cultural differences that make their families interfere. What are the differences and how will they overcome them to be together?
- A character falls in love with an artificially intelligent virtual companion. How does the connection develop and change how do other people react?
- Two people who’ve only been on one date together are forced to quarantine together for 3 months. Explore how their relationship developments (or falls apart) in this time.
- Two travelers are intercepted at a border and asked to prove their relationship. They share how they met and in doing so make up a lie they have to continue to forge.
- Write a riches to rags story where two people’s love for each other makes them poorer but their bond survives the challenges they face.
3. Writing subjects for sci-fi writers
We live in a time of rapid technological advancement that supplies plenty of fodder for interesting sci-fi stories. Here are 5 topics ideas:
- A robotics developer’s creation falls in love with her and becoms a stalker.
- Humans are able to upload their minds to complex AI systems to amplify their power. What dangers emerge?
- A woman’s scientific innovation revolutionises healthcare. Powerful people want to stop her at all costs. Who are they and how does the conflict play out?
- A private space company like SpaceX colonizes Mars successfully. Everything goes well, until the anniversary of their arrival. Then something catastrophic occurs. What happens?
- Scientists working on an important vaccine discover something completely new that completely changes the way the world views X. What is X, and how does the discovery change culture and society?
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4. Writing topics for thriller writers
A good thriller is full of suspense and simmering tension. Five thriller topic ideas:
- A criminal prosecutor is charged with first-degree murder, though they’re innocent. Why? And how do they overcome the situation?
- A strange YouTube video implying illicit government activity goes viral, then quickly disappears. What is the government up to, and who released the video and why?
- Two governments enter a dangerous game of one-upmanship after one accuses the other of manufacturing biological weapons.
- An abduction at a theme park by a human trafficking ring starts a time-sensitive manhunt. Where are the traffickers headed and who has the information to stop them?
- An intrepid reporter takes on a large corporation conducting a massive agricultural crime threatening global food security for individual profit. What happens?
5. Writing ideas for mystery writers
Gritty detective novels, cozy mysteries featuring amateur sleuths – whatever subgenre of mystery you enjoy, it’s fun piecing together clues for readers. Here are 5 mystery ideas:
- A man receives a pizza delivery intended for someone else and when he rings the number on the box finds the pizzeria doesn’t exist. Explore and explain the situation.
- A child is snatched from a seaside resort aged 5. But when they’re tracked down 25 years later, something doesn’t match up. What is it? What explains the discrepancy?
- A couple on a camping trip with 4 other couples vanishes with no trace and no clues. All 4 remaining couples claim innocence. Are they telling the truth, and what is the explanation?
- A woman hears mysterious voices that tell her to take actions that turn out to be life-saving. Where do the voices come from and what explains her imaginary world matching the real one?
- Three prisoners escape the highest security prison in the world. How do they achieve this without any assistance from wardens or others on the inside?
6. Writing subjects for historical fiction writers
History is full of dramatic lives and incidents and curious, colourful characters. Here are 5 topic ideas:
- Pick a famous composer and read through their Wikipedia. Pick a strange incident to be the focus of their story. (For example, the strange adventures of Haydn’s head.)
- Write about a famous historical figure from the viewpoint of their greatest rival.
- Go to history.com’s ‘This Day in History’ page. Find inspiration for a story from the day’s historical event.
- A famous monarch strikes up an unlikely friendship – bend the facts to suit the story.
- A child prodigy in the 1800s stows away on a ship and tours the world giving concerts. Write their fictional autobiography.
7. Writing topics for horror writers
Horror is full of supernatural chills, gory misadventures and things that go bump in the night. Here are 5 horror story ideas:
- A TV chef uses … unorthodox ingredients, and there’s a related spike in mysterious disappearances in town.
- Four childhood friends think the weird house on the corner is haunted. The reality is far worse and much more sinister. What is it?
- A teenaged boy who loves Marvel and DC comics wishes he had superpowers. Then he gets terrifying superpowers with grisly consequences.
- A zombie must deal with a horrifying and deadly plague of humans.
- In a sleepy, mundane suburb a mysterious drumming starts up each night at nightfall. Only the children can hear it. If you hear it you have to hide very well, or what?
8. Writing ideas for YA writers
Young Adult or YA novels are typically pitched at readers aged 12 to 18 (though many adults enjoy them). They often deal with the challenges and discoveries involved in coming of age. Here are 5 ideas:
- A middle-school kid is diagnosed with a rare condition and achieves their dreams despite it. What is the condition, what are their dreams, and how do they find a way through the obstacles they face?
- A kid with two moms of different ethnicities in a conservative town grapples with identity and overcomes prejudice as they grow up.
- A young musician must navigate a complicated, sometimes exploitative industry and find their voice.
- A girl’s family immigrates to a big city from abroad when she’s 12. She must overcome language barriers and other challenges and navigate multiple cultural expectations and pressures.
- Two teens meet in a juvenile detention facility and strike up a life-long friendship.
Find your own writing topics:
To find the best book topics:
- Search Google News for keywords to do with subjects that interest you (e.g. ‘music’, ‘romance’, ‘travel’, etc.) See if headlines inspire ideas
- Open a book to a random page and use the first sentence you read as the first sentence of a story (you can erase it and find a new one later)
- Read this list of fifteen ways to find story ideas
- Use Now Novel’s free ‘Central Idea’ tool to find and finesse a great story idea
- Get extra writing prompts via this Pinterest board (and follow us at pinterest.com/nownovel!)
Ready to find and develop a great story idea? Join Now Novel for story outlining tools, a supportive critique community and more.
5 replies on “40 writing topics to inspire your next story”
I have written a story about my life and it is stored on my computer and on a thumb drive. I want to publish my story but do not have the funds to do so. What should I do? My goal is to make copies for my 26 grandchildren and 6 children. I am contemplating making just one copy for now and more as I can afford it.
Hi Eddie, congratulations on finishing your life story. That would be a lovely gift to your children and grandchildren. If you don’t mind it not being a surprise, you could tell them you would like to turn your story into a book and have them club together for a birthday or other occasion? Printing can be expensive but a small run that looks fairly professional is possible if using a small press that specializes in this sort of thing (though so-called ‘vanity’ presses can be expensive since bulk printing works with the economy of scale). Other options include crowdfunding, if you intend to share your story with a wider audience.
Alternatively, a digital eBook would have lower costs as you wouldn’t need to cover the cost of printing, though it can never replace the pleasure of a tactile, tangible book, of course.
I self-published with Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing). It’s free and you get a few reduced-printing price copies. You can do ebook and/OR paperback. You actually set your own price, so you can set it to zero to make it available to family for the printing cost only. I made a book for the non-profit I work for and did that, essentially using Amazon as a printing company. Congrats and good luck!
Thanks so much for sharing this, Margriet!