Are you ready to write a short story, but not sure where to start? Get some new ideas today with these diverse and engaging short story ideas.
Though I’ve broken them up into subcategories, don’t feel limited by the headings. Feel free to add some romance to a supernatural story, or frame a family tale in a historical or dystopian setting.
The key to using these short story ideas is an open, flexible mind. Use these prompts as springboards, and then follow your inspiration.
The first half of these short story ideas are general categories — Humor, Family, Power, Plot Twist — while the second half offers story ideas in specific genres — Fantasy, Horror, Dystopian, Crime, Sci-Fi, Romance.
And when you’re ready to write a novel, I have resources for you, too. This thorough guide to novel writing will give you all the tools and techniques you need to write an exquisite novel.
- Substitute teachers are sick of not being taken seriously, so they form a secret society: Subperior.
- Tell the tall tale of a high-fashion penguin who goes shopping for a tuxedo and gets into the modeling industry. Make as many crossovers between fashion and bird life as possible.
- An Elvis impersonator books a concert that is so good, people believe the real Elvis has come back to life. Next thing he knows, he is the leader of a superstitious Elvis cult.
- After a religious cult takes over the government, caffeine is outlawed. Tell the story of a brave and coffee-loving family who opens a #CaffeineSpeakeasy.
- Everyone confuses Fabio the Frog for a toad because of his warts. Explore the struggle.
2 Characters or Less
- Tammy has been in solitary confinement for 2 years and hasn’t experienced any human contact, not even letters, at least until she starts receiving mysterious notes under her door.
- Tired of working as a corporate robot, Gerald uses all of his sick days to spend a week alone hiking in the Appalachian Mountains. Everything seems fine until a blizzard hits.
- A shy web designer thinks he has found the man of his dreams online. It turns out he is being catfished by the member of a competing company who is probing him for information.
- Brenna and James work for two neighboring fast food companies and always take their lunch breaks on the sidewalk bench at the same time. Are they brave enough to pursue something more from this newfound friendship?
- A traveling make-up artist named Brenda and a purse-sized dog go on a cross-country trip to a funeral that Brenda does not want to attend. Tell the story from both Brenda’s and the dog’s point of view.
- Homeschooled Adam has just finished high school and is planning to start college close to his town when suddenly, an attack on his isolated hometown means he is drafted into the army. Even though he is away from the first time and terrified, he doesn’t just survive — he becomes a key strategist thanks to his scientific insight.
- Traveling nature photographer Lindsay happens upon a group of indigenous people who may have found the cure to cancer in a rare, local plant.
- Portuguese foreign exchange student Gabriela’s host parents aren’t as innocent as they seem. Before she knows it, these undercover mob members kidnap her as part of an international conspiracy theory. Halfway across the world and alone, how can she escape and uncover the truth?
- An American actor is cast as the star of a movie about a multi-lingual travel agent. Instead of buying Rosetta Stone, he packs his bags and decides to travel to four different countries across the world, but he doesn’t expect to fall in love with his guide.
- A boy steals a jet packet that can help him fly, and he gets adopted by a flock of birds as they migrate south for winter. Show how his relationship with them evolves until hunters try to kill the birds and shuttle him back home.
And if you’re ready to move from short story writing to bigger writing (NOVELS!), I also have a wonderful resource for you.
Read this comprehensive post on how to write your novel, including ideas on outlining, writing a series, and using the snowflake method.
- When 14-year-old Oliver learns that he is the only adopted child of his eight-person family, he feels betrayed and runs away to find his birth parents. However, after 2 months alone on the road, he runs out of money and still has not succeeded. Does he keep looking or go home?
- An unlikely friendship between the 6-year-old sons of feuding parents leads to an unexpected and tense reunion at a playdate. Is this the beginning of a reconciliation, or is it just added fuel to the fire?
- Two childhood friends stopped talking after a high school feud, until they find themselves on the same international flight five years later. What conversations unfold over the next 12 hours, and do they keep in touch, or go their separate ways forever?
- A set of 12-year-old identical twins have gotten away with switching places in class since one is good at math and the other is good at English. They switch outfits at lunch and come back to each other’s desk to find their very strict and observant mom is the substitute teacher.
- When Ali, a Muslim man, falls in love with Rachel, a Jewish girl, both of their families are appalled. What do their families do to keep them apart?
- Federal investigations into an ongoing murder investigation discover that a dangerous coalition of police officers were behind the crime.
- A famous gymnast is under fire for using performance-enhancing steroids. It turns out that she’s the one who leaked the story to detract attention from the fact that she is a drug lord selling a highly addictive and eventually deadly new substance.
- A young television actor is hailed as one of the best of his time. While reporters call him “method” for only interviewing in character, it’s because he doesn’t have an identity outside of his famous characters, three of whom he switches between due to Dissociative Identity Disorder.
- Jenna is backstage at graduation about to make her valedictorian speech when she hears a gunshot in the crowd. Write an account of the next 10 minutes from her perspective.
- An elderly couple keeps all of their money at home between the pages of their books. They’re ready to gather it all and start looking for a retirement home when a fire burns down their house and their cash.
- After only a year in office, Governor Li finds himself tempted by a corrupt organization who wants him to sabotage a public transportation project in exchange for funding his entire reelection.
- Principal Watkins wants to take the promotion to district director, but she knows the new principal will slash all of the arts programs. How does she decide between the promotion that will help her send her kids to college and saving the arts programs she loves so much?
- When General Adams finds that the opposing army will surrender if she hands herself over, does she prioritize her own safety, or sacrifice herself, even if it means torture?
- A successful lawyer knows that his client is guilty of murder, but he can easily lie and win the case, which is getting significant media coverage and would surely guarantee that he would be made a partner at his firm.
- Yvonne has worked hard to build her successful real estate company, and she loves her work. But when a competing realtor starts stealing all of her clients, she has to fight back in unusual ways to keep her business alive.
- On his 16th birthday, Christopher miraculously survives a head-on car crash without a scratch. A week later when he scrapes his knee playing basketball, it heals within minutes. Where did this power come from, and what can he do with it?
- The Elite Education Society, or EES, is giving out pills to gifted students that give them the power to stay awake for 48 hours and record everything they see, hear, and feel in their minds as if in a notebook. But little do they know, the side effects that appear two weeks later will cause a disaster.
- 63-year-old Emerald is the only member of her family without a superpower. However, when the local police force who relies on superhero power fails to catch a murderer, her down-to-earth perspective ends up being the key to solving the crime.
- After his concussion, Jamal Winston finds he has no control over recurring and vivid dream of his accident. However, while awake, he is able to project images in his mind into the room and change the world around him. Too bad the doctors think it is all in his head, and continuously sedate him. Can he fight the power of a medically induced coma?
- What happens when technology gives animals the power to speak?
- Rachel, a successful defense attorney who was just made a partner at her firm, is working on one of the biggest murder cases in Boston’s history. When she realizes she’s developing feelings for the prosecutor, it’s too late to back out. What’s more important: stay true to her work values, or take a chance at love?
- Jordan’s just a lonely college guy swiping through Tinder when he finds his favorite actress, Geena Davis, has liked him back. But when they meet up, he realizes they have no connection. Rather, it’s her assistant who catches his eye.
- When Alexandra and Amber’s yearlong secret relationship is discovered, they’re expelled from their all-girls high school and forced to attend separate public schools. How to they keep their love alive under the watchful eyes of their judgmental community?
- Two painters have been married for 5 years. How does their relationship change when one of them suddenly goes blind?
- This short love story between an asexual boy and girl will contain three distinct scenes: a cute meeting, a first date, and the first time the two say “I love you.” The challenge is to build romantic tension without any sexual tension whatsoever.
- When the long-running secret order of magicians is discovered, it’s time to fight. But what’s stronger: ancient magic, or advanced, current technology?
- The Pineshore National Forest is home to more than just evergreen trees. It is a haven for werewolves, and though they only come out at night, the fleas that cling to their skin crawl into the lake and transmit the werewolf virus through the town’s water supply — the only people it doesn’t affect are those under 14.
- Vampires and Robots that run on human blood fight over the limited human blood supply in an epic war of the supernatural versus the machines.
- A seemingly ordinary horse is visited by a mystical presence that promises to make her a unicorn, but she must face the dangers of escaping her stable if she wants access to this new and mysterious world.
- A spaceship that can surpass the speed of light allows some humans to escape our solar system with its dying sun. How will humanity decide who gets to be a passenger?
- A special computer virus is engineered by a rogue Apple employee to control human desires and impulses.
- A pet store with an overflow of cats sells them at a very low price. However, what seemed to be normal kittens were actually the offspring of an alien that can body jump from human host to human host, causing each of their hosts to commit suicide after 24 hours.
- A live TV special about the White House has a microphone malfunction that ends up broadcasting a top-secret meeting about an impending alien invasion to the whole nation.
- Scientists develop a new brain scanning device that can read thoughts. Who should have access to this technology? Before they have time to decide, someone has hacked into their computer system and stolen it.
- It’s Halloween, and ghost hunting teenagers wander into an infamous haunted house near a local graveyard, only to find that it’s not ghosts they need to fear, but a poisonous gas that warps their memories and puts them at the hands of the delusional and twisted man who lives upstairs.
- When a disease similar to chicken pox breaks out in a local preschool, it leads to a quarantine. Though it seems harmless at first, it turns out that its symptoms include violent outbreaks that cause the children to break loose and terrorize the town.
- What seems like an ordinary meditation seminar turns out to be the recruiting ground for an extremist cult that hypnotizes members to commit acts of violence. No one is immune, except Margaret Bradshaw.
- Nothing can wake Keith up from his night terrors, which cause him to attack anyone who comes near him, as he cannot distinguish those he loves from the villains he sees in his head.
- JJ has to scuba dive 300 feet down through a genetically modified shark breeding ground in order to rescue his girlfriend in a broken submersible, but a horrifying surprise awaits him in the depths.
- After he discovers another man’s clothes tucked in the back of his girlfriend’s closet, Brad plans a fishing trip to get her far away for the weekend and teach her a lesson.
- The Smithsonian Slasher has caused panic throughout DC. With a new victim every other day within 500 feet of one of the museums, he must have a motive and a method, but how are the police to find him when he has destroyed all of the cameras and keeps escaping?
- A shoplifting dare turns into a case of mistaken identity, and next thing she knows, college junior Amanda is on trial for murder.
- Officer Turner is three years sober and dedicated to getting his life back on track. That is, until he is called to the scene of what he thought was a theft, but turns out to be a high-profile drug bust. Can he suppress his urges around the mountains of cocaine, especially since he is in charge of collecting evidence?
- What happens when a set of identical twin men commit countless murders that they plan together, but continuously use each other as an alibi?
- In 2150, Aliya becomes pregnant with twins and, in an overpopulated country with an authoritarian government, has to make a choice of which one to keep and which to kill when they are born. Instead, she sets out to escape across the border with her husband.
- When NASA scientist Jose discovers that there is an impending alien attack that is sure to destroy Earth within the month, he becomes the reluctant leader of an uprising and the coordinator of an international planet evacuation.
- When California breaks off of North America and declares independence, it sparks the second US Civil War.
- It turns out the iPhone 26 has been hacked and can be remotely detonated. Key political leaders across the globe are assassinated on the same morning, and the world descends into chaos.
- 20-pound dachshund Kevin stands out among his border collie siblings and is bullied for being different. He is set out to prove that not only can he herd sheep, but befriend them as equals.
- 8-year-old Tanner has been working hard all year to keep his grades up so that he can participate in the annual Teacher-For-A-Day extravaganza.
- What happens when a normal girl discovers a teleportation device in the park across from her house that only she knows how to use?
- An elementary-aged child has a unique talent for understanding animals, so much so that they end up helping out trainers, veterinarians, and wildlife researchers. Work in some animal facts!
If you’re writing a children’s book, then read my post, “12 Steps to Writing a Children’s Book.”
- It’s 1955. After Rosa Parks is arrested for sitting in the white section of the bus, a group of Civil Rights Activists of all races come together to start a nonprofit bus business.
- Write a first-person narrative of an Ancient Roman Colosseum showdown between a criminal and a lion.
- World War II is brewing, and Brian wants nothing more than to fight for the Allies, but to do so, he’ll have to make sure no one finds out that he was assigned female at birth.
- Who was Abraham Lincoln without his famous top hat? Write an account of its transformations through the years, paralleling its life with that of the 16th US President.
- It’s love at first sight for a lucky young couple as soon as the Berlin Wall crashes to the ground, but in the days that follow, their parents aren’t so excited.
For advice on writing a historical novel, you should definitely check out 7 Steps to Writing Historical Fiction.
I hope these short story ideas have generated some good stories for you! Leave a note in the comments if a particular short story writing prompt worked well for you.