Do you want to write but just need a great story idea? Or perhaps you have too many ideas and can’t choose the best one? Well, good news. We’ve got you covered. Below are one hundred short story ideas for all your favorite genres. You can use them as writing prompts for writing contests, for stories to publish in literary magazines, or just for fun!
Get started writing with one of these short story ideas today.
How to Write a Short Story
But before we get to the 100 story ideas, let’s review how to write a great short story.
- First, read short stories. If you’ve never read a short story, you’re going to have a hard time writing one. Where do you find great short stories? There are a lot of places, but check out our list of 46 Literary Magazines we’ve curated over here.
- Write your story in a single sitting. Write the first draft of your story in as short a time as possible, and if you’re writing a short story, try to write it in one sitting. People hate being interrupted when they’re telling a story, and the same is true when you’re writing one.
- Read your draft. Read your story through once, without changing anything, to get a sense of what work it needs going forward.
- Write a premise. After reading your first draft, get your head around the main idea behind your story (your story’s premise) by using a screenwriting trick called a “logline.” Here’s the formula for a great logline: your character + a descriptor,followed by an event, followed by a conflict or villain. Here’s an example of a premise from “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner: A lonely, Southern woman is found dead and decaying in her home after being abandoned by her lover.
- Write, edit, write, and edit. Good writing is rewriting. Use your second draft to fill in the plot holes and cut out the extraneous scenes and characters you discovered when you read the first draft in step #2. Then, polish up your final draft on the next round of edits.
- Submit! Real writers don’t keep their writing all to themselves. They share it. Submit your story to a literary magazine, enter it into a writing contest, or even share it with a small group of friends. And if it gets rejected, don’t feel bad. You’ll be in good company.
Want to know more? Learn more about how to write a great short story here.
Our 100 Best Short Story Ideas
Ready to get writing? Here are our 100 best short story ideas to kickstart your writing. Enjoy!
10 General Short Story Ideas
Our first batch of story ideas are for any kind of story, whether a spy thriller or a memoir of your personal life. These 10 short story ideas are posted in more detail here.
- Tell the story of a scar, whether a physical scar or emotional one. To be a writer, said Stephen King, “The only requirement is the ability to remember every scar.”
- A group of children discover a dead body. Good writers don’t turn away from death, which is, after all, the universal human experience. Instead, they look it directly into its dark face and describe what they see on the page.
- A young prodigy becomes orphaned. Orphans are uniquely vulnerable, and as such, they have the most potential for growth.
- A middle-aged woman discovers a ghost. What do Edgar Allen Poe, Ron Weasley, King Saul from the Bible, Odysseus, and Ebeneezer Scrooge have in common? They all encountered ghosts!
- A woman who is deeply in love is crushed when her fiancé breaks up with her. “In life every ending is just a new beginning,” says Dakota Fanning’s character in Uptown Girls.
- A talented young man’s deepest fear is holding his life back. Your character’s biggest fear is your story’s secret weapon. Don’t run from it, write about it.
- A poor young boy or girl comes into an unexpected fortune. Not all fortunes are good. Sometimes discovering a fortune will destroy your life.
- A shy, young woman unexpectedly bumps into her soulmate (literally bumps into him). In film, this is called the “meet cute,” when the hero bumps into the heroine in the hallway, knocking her books to the floor, and forcing them into conversation.
- A long journey is interrupted by a disaster. Who hasn’t been longing to get to a destination only to be delayed by something unexpected? This is the plot of Gravity, The Odyssey, and even Lord of the Rings.
- A young couple run into the path of a psychopath. Monsters, whether people who do monstrous things or scaly beasts or a monster of a natural disaster, reveal what’s really inside a person. Let your character fall into the path of a monster and see how they handle themselves.
Ready to write your short story? Get Let’s Write a Short Story, the only guide that will walk you through the writing, submitting, and publishing process for your next short story. You can get the step-by-step short story guide here on Amazon.
More Short Story Ideas Based on Genre
Need more ideas? Here are ideas based on whichever literary genre you write:
10 Thriller Story Ideas. A thriller is any story that “thrills” the reader—i.e., gets adrenaline pumping, the heart racing, and the emotions piqued. Thrillers come in all shapes and forms, dipping freely into other genres. In other words, expect the unexpected! Click for the short story ideas.
20 Mystery Story Ideas. Enjoy a good whodunit? Then you’ll love these. My favorite: “Ever heard the phrase, ‘It is not who fired the shot but who paid for the bullet?’ This is a philosophy Tomoe Gozen lives by. Brave and clever, Tomoe follows clues until she learns who ordered the murder: Emperor Antoku himself. But why would the emperor of Japan want to kill a lowly soldier?” Click for the short story ideas.
20 Romance Story Ideas. Hint: When it comes to romance, a sense of humor is always a good idea. Have fun! Here’s one of my favorites from this list: “She’s a cop. He’s the owner of a jewelry store. A sudden rash of break-ins brings her to his store over and over and over again, until it becomes obvious that he might be tripping the alarm on purpose—just to see her. That’s illegal—but she’s kind of falling for him, too. Write the moment she realizes she has to do something about this crazy illicit courtship.” Click for the short story ideas.
20 Sci-Fi Story Ideas. From the minimum-wage-earning, ancient-artifact-hunting time traveller to the space-exploring, sentient dinosaurs, these sci-fi story ideas will get you set loose your inner nerd. Click for the short story ideas.
20 Fantasy Story Ideas. Bored teenaged wizards throwing a graduation celebration. Uncomfortable wedding preparation between magic wielding family members and those more on the Muggle side of things. A fairy prince who decides to abandon his responsibilities to become a street musician. Just try to not have fun writing (or even just reading!) these fantasy stories ideas. Click for the short story ideas.
What Makes Stories Stand Out
Stories, more than any other artistic expression, have the power to make people care. Stories have the ability to change people’s lives.
But to write a great story, a life-changing story, don’t just write about what your characters did, said, and saw. Ask yourself, “Where do I fit in to this story? What is my personal connection to this story?”
Robert Frost said this:
No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader. Robert Frost
If you can connect your story to the story you’re writing, you will not only be more motivatedto finish your story, you might just be able to change the lives of your readers.
Next Step: Get Published
Getting published can be a long, difficult ordeal.
But if you want to get published sooner, writing short stories can be a much faster road to publication.
Traditionally, short stories were the training grounds for writers learning the craft. Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway, and Mark Twain didn’t begin their careers writing novels. They learned the art of fiction by writing short stories.
Short stories can help you become a writer faster.
Learn more about how to write great short stories, and get published, with the book Let’s Write a Short Story.
You can purchase the short story guide here on Amazon.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
- Why all the great writers started with short stories, and why you should, too.
- How to build aplatform with short stories
- How short stories are structured differently than novels.
- How to get your stories published in literary magazines
Let’s Write a Short Story!will help take your dreams of a writing career and turn them into practical steps toward achieving those dreams. If you’ve ever wanted to see your name in print, this book will help you.
Get started writing and publishing short stories here.
Have a great short story idea? We’d love to hear it. Share it in the comments!
Choose one of these ideas and write a short story in one sitting (aim for 1,000 words or less!). When you’re finished, share your story in the comments section (or our latest writing contest) for feedback from the community. And if you share, please be sure to comment on a few stories by other writers.
Most writers have too many short story ideas, not too few. However, therein lies the problem, because the more ideas you have, the harder it can be to choose the best one.
Here’s my advice: If you’re in the mood to begin a new short story, stop trying to find the best short story idea. In an interview with Rolling Stone, George R.R. Martin said, “Ideas are cheap. I have more ideas now than I could ever write up. To my mind, it’s the execution that is all-important.”
The best short story idea in the world won’t help you if you don’t write it, and a mediocre idea can be made into an award winning story if it’s written well. Stop worrying about finding the best idea and choose one that’s good enough (or even an idea you’ve already started). Your goal isn’t to have the best ideas, it’s to have the best short stories.
That’s why this list is so short. Some websites give 44 story ideas, 100 ideas, or even 1,000, and while that can be fun, it kind of defeats the purpose. More ideas won’t help you if you don’t write them, and they might just distract you from your true purpose.
Short Story Ideas
With that in mind, why not use these ten short story ideas to write your first ten stories, one per week, over the next ten weeks? I promise you, your life will look totally different if you do it.
Here are the short story ideas:
1. Tell the story of a scar, whether a physical scar or emotional one.
To be a writer, said Stephen King, “The only requirement is the ability to remember every scar.”
Good writers don’t cover up their wounds, they glorify them. Think for a few moments about a moment in your life when you were wounded, whether physically or emotionally. Then, write a story, true or fictional, involving that wound.
2. Your character discovers a dead body OR witnesses a death.
In 2011, 20 short stories were published in Best American Short Stories. Half of them involved a character dying. That same year, all 13 of the novels shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize involved the theme of death.
Think about your favorite films or novels. How many of them either show a character die or have the character’s dealing with the death of another.
Good writers don’t turn away from death, which is, after all, the universal human experience. Instead, they look it directly into it’s dark face and describe what they see on the page.
3. Your character is orphaned.
Pop quiz: What do Harry Potter, Superman, Cosette from Les Miserables, Bambi, David Copperfield, Frodo Baggins, Tom Sawyer, Santiago from The Alchemist, Arya Stark, and Ram Mohammed Thomas from Slumdog Millionaire have in common? Beside the fact that they are characters in some of the bestselling stories of all time?
They’re all orphans.
Writers love orphans, and statistically they appear in stories far more often than in the world. Orphans are uniquely vulnerable, and as such, they have the most potential for growth. It’s time for you to write a story about one.
Read more about why you should be writing stories about orphans here.
4. Your character discovers a ghost.
One more pop quiz: What do Edgar Allen Poe, Ron Weasley, King Saul from the Bible, Odysseus, and Ebeneezer Scrooge have in common?
Each of these characters* from literary classics saw ghosts!
Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, they make great stories. Have your character find one.
Need more reasons to write about ghosts? Check out our article, 3 reasons to write about ghosts.
*Edgar Allen Poe was not exactly a character, but he was the narrator of “The Raven.”
5. Your character’s relationship ends.
Whether it’s a friendship or a romantic relationship or even the relationship between a parent and his or her child, write about the end of a character’s relationship.
As you write, be sure to keep this in mind:
“Every story has an end, but in life every ending is just a new beginning,” says Dakota Fanning’s character in Uptown Girls.
While it might feel like you’re writing an ending, remember that this end is the opportunity for a new beginning, both for your character and your story.
More Short Story Ideas
Ready to get writing? Get our workbook 15 Days to Write and Submit a Short Story for a step-by-step guide through the process.
6. Your character’s deepest fear is holding his or her relationship OR career back.
“Why bats, Master Wayne?” asks Alfred in Batman Begins.
“Bats frighten me,” Bruce answers. “It’s time my enemies shared my dread.”
We all have pieces of ourselves we’re trying to hide. You do, and so do the characters in your short stories. However, your characters’ secret fears and insecurities are actually the source of their power. Dive into them and you’ll unlock a captivating story.
For more, read our article When You Don’t Know What to Write, Write About Your Insecurities.
7. A character living in poverty comes into an unexpected fortune.
This storyline is one of the seven basic plots, and it describes the plot of some of our favorites stories, including Cinderella, Aladdin, Great Expectations, several of the parables of Jesus, and even Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
However, not all fortunes are good. As Tolstoy’s short story How Much Land Does a Man Need?and John Steinbeck’s novella The Pearl illustrate, sometimes discovering a fortune will destroy your life.
8. A character unexpectedly bumps into his or her soulmate, literally.
In film, it’s called the meet cute, when the hero bumps into the heroine in the hallway, knocking her books to the floor, and forcing them into conversation. In another story, they meet on a bus and her broach gets stuck on his coat. In another, they both reach for the last pair of gloves at the department store.
What happens next is an awkward, endearing conversation between the future lovers.
First, setup the collision. Then, let us see how they handle it.
9. Your character is on a journey. However, they are interrupted by a natural disaster OR an accident.
This is the plot of Gravity, The Odyssey, and Lord of the Rings. It’s fun because who hasn’t been longing to get to a destination only to be delayed by something unexpected.
10. Your character runs into the path of a monster.
In Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” a family is on a road trip to Florida when they get into an accident beside the hideout of a murderer who had just escaped from prison. What happens next is one of the most famous encounters with a monstrous criminal in short fiction.
Monsters, whether people who do monstrous things or scaly beasts or a monster of a natural disaster, reveal what’s really inside a person. Let your character fall into the path of a monster and see how they handle themselves.
Want more story ideas? Want to learn how to execute those ideas better, and get your short stories published? Check out this book Let’s Write a Short Story, a guide that will get you started writing and publishing short stories. Get it here.
Testing Your Short Story Ideas
Spend a few minutes today thinking about these 10 story ideas and coming up with a few of your own.
But before you start writing, try testing out your idea by sharing it with a friend, your writer’s group, or even our online community Becoming Writer.
If the people you share it with aren’t very excited about your idea, consider reworking it or even starting over. If they start getting visibly excited about the story, on the other hand, then you know you’re onto something.
I recently combined idea #7, the unexpected fortune, along with idea #5, end of a relationship, to create this idea:
A writer who is inexperienced with women suddenly gets the courage to date not one but two women—the old friend who had twice rejected him and a barista he’s long been attracted to—but after several months of balancing them, both relationships end leaving him alone.
I then posted the idea for feedback in Becoming Writer. And the feedback I got not only helped me see I had a promising idea, I got more ideas from members of the community about how to make the story even better.
As I wrote the story, I was more confident because of the feedback I had gotten, and when I finished, the story turned great.
Once you have your idea, join Becoming Writer to test them out. Oh, and if you join, here’s the link to mine if you want to share your feedback! I’ll be there ready to check it out.
How about you? Do you have any short story ideas? Share them with us in the comments section!
About Joe Bunting
Joe is a ghostwriter, editor, and author. He writes and edits books that change lives. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.