Writing fantasy is freeing and exhilarating. You get to break the rules of normal life, create new worlds, or add strangeness to everyday experiences. But rather than giving you hundreds of ideas, that much freedom can have the opposite effect on your creativity. There’s just too much to choose from.
Creative writing prompts are a useful way to get that initial spark and move past the blank page feeling. They work regardless of the type of writing you produce and can give you the push you need to get pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard!)
Writing prompts are particularly useful for free writing activities. Use a prompt and just start writing whatever comes into your head. Avoid self-editing as you write, just let the ideas flow. In amongst lots of rubbish, there’s bound to be a few gems you can take further.
We’ve got 20 great prompts for you, organized into categories. Each one offers many possibilities to take your story in different directions. Then keep reading to find out a little trick that will give you over 200 more exciting ideas.
Prompts 1–4: Scenarios
Familiar situations are a great way to find inspiration. Take a typical scenario and twist it. Make something wrong with the familiar set up.
For example, a man walks into a bar and… does anything except have a drink. Everyone knows if you’re in a haunted house, you’ll end up in the cellar, so try twisting the old clichés to create the unexpected.
1. An Important Meeting
The town leaders are suddenly and unexpectedly called together to discuss important news. What is the news and how will they react to it? What are the implications for the town?
2. Lost in the Woods
Take this tired cliché and turn it on its head. What’s in the woods to be found? What will happen to the person who finds it? Will they want to make it home, or stay in the woods forever?
3. Overhearing a Secret
As Benjamin Franklin said, “Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.” Your protagonist overhears something they shouldn’t. What do they hear? What are the ramifications if they tell?
4. A Journey
Your character leaves suddenly on a journey. Where are they going? What do they take? Who wins if they never arrive?
Prompts 5–8: Historical Events
Plenty of fantasy writing takes inspiration from actual events in history. You don’t need the knowledge of a historical expert, simply use key moments from history to inspire you to create something new.
5. Civil War Breaks Out
Who are the major players? What do they have to win and lose from this war? What could drive them to turn against their own people?
6. Royal Abdication
Take inspiration from the real events of Edward VIII’s abdication in the United Kingdom. Why would someone choose to give up their throne? For love? Or what about something far darker?
7. Empire Building
What happens when one land isn’t enough for a ruler? Where do they go to expand their empire? What happens to those in power, and those they enslave?
8. Space Exploration
Get inspired by the USSR/US space race. Two countries will stop at nothing to be first to travel to a new location. What will they gain from being the victor? How can they gain advantage?
Prompts 9–12: Interesting Characters
An interesting protagonist makes an ideal starting point for fantasy writing. Think about what makes them different from everyday people. How do they behave? What do other people think of them?
9. The Opposite to Your Expectations
Take a traditional view of a character type and invert it. An honest thief, a gentle ogre, an educated soldier. How do they fit in (or not) in a world where everyone expects them to play to type? Why can’t they find peace?
10. The Strange Child
Children make great protagonists. After all, there’s nothing more innocent than a child, is there? What can this child do that others don’t? What makes them wise beyond their years, and why do people fear them?
11. The New Species
A robot that moves beyond AI into humanity. A human that’s evolved into something different. New life discovered on another planet. How is this character different from everyday people? What will they teach us, and will we be willing to listen?
12. Supernatural Characters
Witches, ghosts, and zombies blur the worlds of fantasy and horror. Do they want to fit in or are they born to stand out? What risk do they pose to the surrounding people? What lengths might they go to just to be normal?
Prompts 13–16: Special Objects
High fantasy loves using special items, think of cursed wands, magical objects, and spell books. Special items are a useful starting point for a new adventure.
13. An Inheritance Piece
Passed down the generations from parent to child and opened on their birthday. A hidden secret or proud moment they’ve anticipated all their life? When it’s seen, everything changes. How will your character feel when they receive it?
14. A Magic Weapon
More than just your usual sword or spear, this weapon has secret powers that makes its owner invincible. It can start a war—or end it. How will your character use it, and what are their intentions?
15. A Spell Book
It’s not just anyone who can recite a spell and achieve success. So, what happens when the wrong person finds it? Are they in control of the book, or is the book controlling them?
16. A Camera
A camera captures more than just a picture. When your protagonist looks at the image, what do they see? Is there any way to prevent the picture coming true?
Prompts 17–20: Maps/World-Building
Maps offer great inspiration for a new piece of fantasy. Think about the physical geography of the terrain, human settlements, and man-made changes. Where is there tension? What problems arise?
17. Create a New World
Have you seen the amazing world-builder websites and apps you can use to create a new world? They offer great inspiration for fantasy writing.
Here are four sites you’ll love:
ProWritingAid are hosting a World Anvil walkthrough as part of Fantasy Writer’s Week. Sign up to the conference to take part.
18. Fictional Map Books
Rather than creating a new map yourself, take inspiration from famous worlds in literature and newly imagined places.
Here are four of our favorites:
- Archipelago: An Atlas of Imagined Islands
- The Writer’s Map: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands
- Literary Wonderlands: A Journey Through the Greatest Fictional Worlds Ever Created
- Booked: A Traveler’s Guide to Literary Locations Around the World
19. Google Earth and Google Maps
You don’t need new worlds to get inspired. Check out the many mysterious, fantastical, and downright strange locations around our world using the power of Google Maps and Google Earth.
20. Inspiring Landscapes
Check out this stunning picture of a mysterious stone archway. Where does it lead to? Is it natural or man-made? When your character walks through it, they’ll change forever.
Bonus: Adding Elements Together
If those 20 prompts weren’t enough, there’s a simple way to generate lots of new ideas for fantasy writing. Inspiration strikes when unexpected connections are made, so list different possibilities in categories and match them together. For this example, I went with six characters, six objects, and six situations. Why choose six? That way a simple roll of the dice adds random luck into the mix.
That’s right. Just thinking of three sets of six choices gives you over 200 great prompts for fantasy writing. Choose your favorite combination, or risk your luck, and let three rolls of a dice decide.
An example grid:
Using a dice stops us from taking the obvious route and using clichés. It forces you to take a risk. For example, rolling a 3, 2, and 5 gives you a witch, wand, and revenge. Roll 4, 3, and 1 and you’ve got a child, ancient tree, and a race against time. Sometimes you’ll hit a bad combination, but don’t immediately dismiss a strange mix. After all, fantasy writing should push us out of our comfort zone.
Fantasy writing lets us travel far beyond everyday experiences, but it’s hard to just think of wonderful new ideas on demand. If you’re looking for daily inspiration, want to join other writers like yourself, or fancy entering a contest, check out Reedsy Prompts for daily prompts and a weekly writing competition using them.
Prompts are a great source of ideas when you’re trying to think of something new. But don’t feel trapped. Your writing may move far away from the original idea you’ve chosen. Prompts should inspire, not be a stranglehold on your creativity.