Students of all ages can enjoy the freedom of writing fiction.

They might even be interested in specific genres due to the easily identifiable patterns and tropes that make up most of their entertainment.  If you’re leading a class, you want to ensure they’re able to reach their full potential; this is sometimes possible with only a simple short story prompt. With this in mind, here are six categories that you may group your students’ short stories into, with a handful of prompts that could inspire their creativity and help them to develop their writing skills further.

Education resources

-20% Off

1. Adventure story prompts

From their first foray into fiction to creative writing classes as adults, we rarely lose our appetite for compelling adventure stories. This broad category might cover anything – from action to globe-trotting spy thrillers, to time travel, to pirate stories. Adventure fiction is a chance for children to indulge their imagination, create rich worlds, or envision a compelling journey; one that may blend genres. It’s best to keep these prompts broad so as not to impose arbitrary limitations on their writing.

Examples of adventure short story prompt include:

  • Your search for a mythical city – but somebody else wants to take the treasures within.
  • A strange organization asks you for help in bringing time-traveling criminals to justice.
  • You and your family go on a cross-country road trip, but something derails the journey.
  • A prince must prove he’s ready to take the throne by defending his kingdom.
  • You wake up one day in a new world inhabited by wizards, monsters, and more.
  • A secret agent is hunted by his colleagues after a mission goes wrong.

2. Science fiction story prompts

Science fiction is similar to adventure fiction – offering children and other writers the chance to showcase their creativity. Many of these short stories might take the form of an adventure and heavily involve grand science-fiction concepts, such as a look at what the future might hold. The high popularity of superhero fiction can also significantly influence what they decide to write. Science fiction encompasses many sub-genres, themes, and topics, so make sure that your prompts can reflect this diversity.

Examples of science fiction short story prompt include:

  • 5% of the world wakes up with superpowers – and soon divides into heroes and villains.
  • In a world ruled by robots, you befriend one with a conscience who wants to fix things.
  • While listening to the radio, you learn aliens are watching the Earth like a reality show.
  • In 2122, you decide which animal’s abilities you want for your tenth birthday.
  • Explorers on Mars find a forbidden temple and accidentally unleash an ancient threat.
  • You stow away on an alien craft and explore its many rooms while avoiding detection.

3. Suspenseful story prompts

Suspense is a genre that invites intrigue, creating a mystery that draws the reader in. For short stories, this can be a challenge to measure a student’s writing abilities – it asks them to introduce and resolve a mystery within a specific word limit. There are many reasons we like reading suspense or thriller stories, which usually come down to wanting an explanation of the curious situations these texts present. Many seminal works of suspense involve murder, but try to think of prompts beyond this, especially for younger writers.

Examples of suspenseful short story prompt include:

  • You wake up one morning and discover that you might be the only person on Earth.
  • On an early summer morning, the sun doesn’t rise – leaving the country in darkness.
  • You find an envelope on the ground addressed to you that contains $10,000 in cash.
  • While looking at family photos from the 1960s, you spot yourself in the background.
  • Your best friend isn’t at school – but nobody in your class seems to remember them.
    Tomorrow’s paper comes in the post, and all the stories slowly happen over the day.

4. Fantasy story prompts

Fantasy is another genre that covers a lot of ground, especially as these works are usually set in another world, quite unlike ours. This could include many creatures, characters, and concepts – including magic, trolls, dragons, kingdoms, and more. A short story might not have enough words to create a lengthy quest, but this won’t stop your students from trying, and these constraints can make their stories even better. Make sure you use these prompts to show how varied works within this genre could be.

Examples of fantasy short story prompt include:

  • You go on a fun and compelling adventure with a fairy tale character of your choice.
  • Your town tasks you with slaying a monster – you end up befriending them instead.
  • You follow an online magic tutorial and end up able to perform magic spells.
  • The mythical “chosen one” is your brother, but how do you react to this?
  • Only one sibling gets the family’s magic, and the tournament decides who gets it.
  • You find a mirror at home that you’ve never noticed, leading to a fantasy world.

5. Funny story prompts

Children have a strong sense of humor, and asking them to write a funny story may help them to develop this further. This could be very helpful for children and allows them to escape whatever might be troubling them or to have fun. It’s possible to blend this theme with various genres, as some of the best comedy texts involve fantasy or science fiction elements. The world is often funny, and it’s always helpful to help children see the joy and humor surrounding us.

Examples of funny short story prompt include:

  • If you have a pet, what would your home look like if it was suddenly in charge?
  • You develop superpowers, but they might be the worst powers anyone could get.
  • Your parents ask your favorite celebrity to attend your birthday party; they turn up.
  • You walk under a ladder – and refuse to believe this would give you bad luck.
  • You wake up suddenly able to talk to animals and try to grant their deepest desires.
  • You and your best friend bet on who can go the longest without lying.

6. Scary story prompts

No genre experimentation would be complete without short stories that take a darker turn. Teaching children how to write scary stories has various benefits, such as allowing them to confront whatever scares them. Many horror writers today use this medium to deal with their fears and anxieties, which is precisely why the genre is so powerful in any format. When putting together scary short story prompts, make sure the level of scariness matches your students,

Examples of scary short story prompt include:

  • You spot a new spider in the house daily, and you swear they’re getting more significant.
  • You’re home alone for one night only – but spooky noises keep putting you on edge.
  • Write a story where you discover your family is a coven of vampires or werewolves.
  • You watch a scary movie while asleep and have a nightmare.
  • You and your friend go on a hiking trip but soon get lost along the way.
  • You transfer to a new school and become convinced the head teacher is secretly evil.

No matter the genre you ask your students to write, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of fun and exciting directions that they could take your story prompt. Many of their creations might blend genres, as it’s possible to have a scary science fiction story or suspenseful fantasy adventures. So long as they have a teacher ready to supply them with prompts, there might be no limit to their imagination.