Some of my favorite teaching moments come from a unit that culminated with my students writing an original short story. When given the freedom to write fiction, so many of my students came alive. They wanted to write suspense, mystery, horror, or romance. They wanted their characters to feel like real people. Suddenly, after weeks of ignoring my helpfully provided feedback, they were crowding my desk to ask me to read their work. It was glorious. Narrative writing is a wonderful way to allow every student to use the skills they’ve practiced in class to create something new. Getting started, however, can often be tricky. This is where I’ve found short story prompts to be so helpful. Give your students the following list of intriguing short story prompts and watch what they create.
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Suspenseful Short Story Prompts
- The tombstones in the town’s cemetery are going missing.
- You discover the new student at school looks exactly like you.
- There are muddy footprints leading up to the front door of the house … but it hasn’t rained for days.
- An obscure relative passes away and leaves you $500,000 in their will under the condition that you move into their 100-year-old house immediately. Alone.
- A new app promises to help you get your life together, and it works! If you follow everything it tells you to do, you have an awesome day. If you don’t follow it exactly …
Adventurous Short Story Prompts
- You are obsessed with the ancient Aztecs. When a mysterious corporation that claims to have mastered time travel recruits you to travel back to the 15th century to learn more about what life was like for Aztec children, you agree almost immediately. Will you regret your decision?
- The school field trip was supposed to be fun. Then, the natural disaster hit.
- You and your friends decide to hike the Appalachian Trail for the summer.
- You just found out that your mother/father is a spy for the CIA. In addition to that crazy realization, they tell you they need your help for one very important mission.
- You lose a bet with your most adventurous friend and for one day have to say “yes” to whatever crazy activities they choose.
Science Fiction Short Story Prompts
- In the future, students go to school virtually. You’ve done this since kindergarten, but a new law is passed stating that virtual school is unhealthy and, next year, all students will go to school in person. You will be meeting friends you’ve known since kindergarten for the first time in real life.
- Scientists have solved all the world’s problems, and we now live in a utopia … or do we?
- Your family has been selected to join 24 other families colonizing Mars. At the first meeting, you realize that the kid who has bullied you since elementary school is also on the mission.
- Due to a computer virus, all social media disappears overnight. It might not ever come back. How does it change things?
- Like every other kid in the year 2122, you were given your very own robot best friend when you were little, and they’ve grown up with you. One day, your robot friend tells you that the robots are planning on taking over the world and imprisoning the humans.
Scary Short Story Prompts
- While camping on a school field trip, the chaperones all get sick/injured. You and your best friend are the two students chosen to hike back in the dark for help.
- You were born and raised in a house that’s over one hundred years old and never found it a bit spooky. But when you return home after suffering a concussion during a soccer game, you start to notice shadows that seem to move on their own and the sounds of people walking in empty rooms.
- You’ve finally convinced your parents to let you stay home alone, but now it’s dark out, and your dog won’t stop growling at the back door, even though no one’s out there.
- While on vacation, you bought an antique locket from a weird little store you found while sightseeing. Whenever you put it on, it makes you feel more confident and powerful … and angry.
- The teens didn’t believe in Ouija boards until the things it told them started coming true.
Funny Short Story Prompts
- One day, we woke up, and all of the animals could talk.
- The teacher had to leave class due to an emergency and left you in charge. That was two weeks ago. The teacher never returned, and the principal hasn’t come in to check on you. How are things going?
- Your best friend bets you $100 that you can’t make it an entire school day without telling a single lie.
- Your imaginary friend never went away and pops up at unexpected times to ask you to play, but you are still the only one who can see them.
- The class realizes the substitute teacher has a phobia of school supplies.
Fantasy Short Story Prompts
- Rewrite your favorite fairy tale, but make it take place today in your town.
- Due to a magic spell gone wrong, the young wizard and the dragon have switched bodies. How well will the dragon do at pretending to be a human wizard? How will the wizard figure out how to be a dragon?
- After watching a video about it on YouTube, you teach yourself how to shape-shift.
- You are given a ring on your birthday. It allows you to control the weather.
- You forgot your backpack and run back to get it, only to witness your teacher using magic to tidy up the classroom. She tells you that all teachers can secretly do magic.
Get a PPT or Google Slides version of these short stories.
Looking for more short story prompts?
These sites have tons of great ideas. Give your students time to scroll and jot down ideas that inspire them.