Playful Holiday Writing Prompts to Challenge and Inspire You

by Jeff Elkins | 20 comments

‘Tis the season of holiday parties, children’s winter concerts, filling our schedules to the brim, visiting with family, eating too much, and drinking more than we should. With all of that going on, it can be difficult to stick to our writing regimen. Some holiday writing prompts might be just the thing.

Title 2 Playful Holiday Prompts in white on brown paper background

When we are tired, inspiration feels like a mirage. We feel as though it is just a little bit ahead of us, but with each step we take, it takes a step away. Writing during the holidays can be tough.

Sometimes, the thing we need to get our juices going is a writing challenge.

Holiday Writing Prompts

In order to help get our writing motors running, today I bring you two writing challenges. These holiday writing prompts are intended to push your creativity and get you writing even if you are still a little hung over from the spiked eggnog you had last night.

What I love most about writing challenges is the result. Three of my four novels and both the novellas I’ve published were all in some way inspired by writing challenges. Even if the exercise seems silly, if you take it seriously, you might be surprised by the result.

1. The Beginning and the End

Below I’ve provided twelve opening lines and ten closing lines that you can combine to form your writing prompt.  Here's how to choose:

  1. Your opening line is your birthday month, e.g. April is 4, October is 10.
  2. Your closing line is your birthday day, divided by 3 and rounded up, e.g. 26 / 3 = 8.66 rounded to 9 (I know the math is tough, so feel free to use a calculator!).

Use the opening line that corresponds to the month of your birthday. To find your closing line, take the day of your birthday and divide it by three, then round to the nearest number.

Opening Line:

  1. Never before had Andy seen such bright lights.
  2. The street was darker and quieter than Marge remembered.
  3. “I don’t care what he thinks,” Susa said as she climbed the stairs to her office  party. “I can wear whatever I want to the party.”
  4. While Bennie didn’t dislike ducks, he wasn’t sure how he felt about this one.
  5. The snow crunched under Susan’s feet as she looked left and right down the unfamiliar street.
  6. Horace the Christmas Elf could feel it in the air. Today was the day that he would save Christmas.
  7. Amanda watched with bated breath as her mom opened the package, knowing that once the contents of the box were revealed, everything would be different.
  8. Anderson couldn’t wait to see the expression on Carol’s face when she saw what he’d brought to the party.
  9. As the front door opened, Tommy was astounded by what his son was wearing.
  10. James had heard the expression “deck the halls,” but he hadn’t know what it meant until now.
  11. As Tucker waited in line to see Santa, he whispered to himself, “Just sit on his lap, tell him what Jaime did, and then he will make everything okay.”
  12. Carol removed the Christmas goose from the over and thought to herself, “Is it supposed to be that color?”

Closing Line:

  1. And that is how the Smiths' party was ruined for the tenth time in ten years.
  2. Laying his head down that night, he laughed at all the things he’d set in motion.
  3. Never before had the guests tasted such a feast.
  4. Everyone agreed that her present would be the one whispered about for years to come.
  5. While what happened to the tree was tragic, she thought that at least everyone left the party with a good story to tell.
  6. And that was the last time they ever had Holiday dinner at Grandma’s house.
  7. “Peace on earth, and goodwill toward men,” he said with a grin.
  8. And that is why the family cow took up permanent residence in the backyard.
  9. Everyone agreed that they would never again experience such an incredible party.
  10. “No,” he said as he slammed the door behind him.

2. Starting With a Title

If you have dice near you, roll three numbers. (If you don’t have dice, ask someone near you to give you a three digit number, or use an online dice roller.) Using the numbers, take a phrase from each group below, put them together, and use the new phrase as the title of your short story.

Group A: Your Setting

  1. The Night That
  2. The Morning After
  3. The Party at Which
  4. The Holiday When
  5. The Day Before
  6. The Snowstorm When

Group B: Your Heroes

  1. The Duck
  2. Billy and Bonnie
  3. Horace the Elf
  4. The Holiday Hog
  5. The Man and His Umbrella
  6. The Mashed Potatoes

Group C: Your Sticky Situation

  1. Saved the Office
  2. Spiked the Punch
  3. Ate the Goose
  4. Ruined Christmas
  5. Pilfered the Presents
  6. Found True Love

The Magic of Holiday Writing Prompts

Sometimes all we need to write a great story is a starting point. I hope these challenges help you overcome any holiday slump you might be experiencing.

How do you find the creative energy to write during the holidays? Let us know in the comments.


For the next fifteen minutes, take on one of these holiday writing challenges. Use your birthday to find your first and last line, or roll some dice to create your title. For an extra challenge, use both prompts for the same story!

Once you’ve written your story, post it in the Pro Practice Workshop, so we can all enjoy it. And don't forget to leave feedback for your fellow holiday writers!


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Jeff Elkins is a writer who lives Baltimore with his wife and five kids. If you enjoy his writing, he'd be honored if you would subscribe to his free monthly newsletter. All subscribers receive a free copy of Jeff's urban fantasy novella "The Window Washing Boy."


  1. Evelyn Sinclair

    The snow crunched under Susan’s feet as she looked left and right down the unfamiliar street. She was looking for house number 13. In parts the street was icy and without proper winter treads on her shoes she was slipping and sliding all over the place. She felt rather stupid having accepted this invitation to a party via a friend of a friend of a friend. Should she be coming or not? However she kept going – cautiously – and eventually she spotted the house she was looking for. She could see a disco light rotating in the fron room and there were some people there too. She approached the house and rang the doorbell. James opened the door and said how delighted he was that she had come. James was one of Susan’s close friends,but was surprised that this was his house and his party. She was beginning to smell a rat.t When she entered the room where others were she could not believe her eyes. Her parents, sisters, brother and cousins were all there and greeted her by singing “Happy Birthday”. What a pleasant surprise, and what a great party it turned out to be. James had gone to a lot of trouble sourcing information about all Susan’s relatives and their whereabouts. He knew Susan had been having a rough time recently and he had decided she needed something special to cheer her up. Laying his head down that night, he laughed at all the things he’d set in motion.

    • Jeff Elkins

      Love this short. Nice job.

    • Evelyn Sinclair

      Thanks Jeff. Good prompts = easy writing

  2. Danny

    holiday is Special for Family and Friends why it is do you think about Christmas Day to you my day is care of family and Friend or my job tell you about something how Successful Think and Grow where are live right now and I am in Raleigh right now and I live with my Family I have two Sister is Nikki and Brianne they are good today my sister is Nikki she liv in Michigan right now with her boyfriend they are teacher for School

    • Evelyn Sinclair

      Interesting to hear about your family Danny. I too have family in Michigan – many of them.

  3. Danielle

    Fantastic prompts! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  4. Veronika Jordan

    As Tucker waited in line to see Santa, he whispered to himself, “Just sit on his lap, tell him what Jamie did, and then he will make everything okay.”
    But that was not quite how it happened.
    ‘Ho ho ho,’ began Santa. ‘And what would you like for Christmas little boy.’
    ‘I’m not little,’ Tucker was seething. ‘I’m eight and a half.’
    ‘Ok then eight-and-a-half-year-old. What would you like for Christmas.’
    ‘I want you to get rid of Jamie.’
    ‘And who is Jamie? Your dog? Your teddy?’
    ‘Don’t be silly. I love my dog and I’M TOO OLD FOR TEDDIES. Jamie is my little brother.’
    ‘Ho ho ho. And why would I want to do that?’ Santa wasn’t quite sure how to deal with this awkward situation.
    ‘Because he took everything from me. Now my parents love him more than me. I want you to take him away. Send him back.’
    ‘I can’t really do that. I’m here to give presents to good girls and boys.’
    ‘Ha!’ Tucker was scowling at Santa.
    ‘I had a little brother once. I hated him when he came along. I was so jealous. Until that day I had everything to myself. Mummy, Daddy, my grandparents. Everything and everyone.’
    ‘So did you send him away?’
    ‘No he became my best friend. But one day he died and I realised how much I missed him. When you understand that a little brother or sister is a gift to be treasured, Jamie will become your best friend.’’
    “No never,” Tucker said as he slammed the door behind him. ‘Over my dead body.’ And yours he whispered.

    • Evelyn Sinclair

      Santa can be a difficult concept for children. I can see Tucker in so many families I’m acquaited with. Sibling rivalry – aaaarrrrrggggghhhhh!

    • Sasha Zatz

      Great story!

  5. Evelyn Sinclair

    Please get well soon. Missing you on comments.

  6. Irene Joseph

    The Day Before The Man and his Umbrella Pilfered the Presents

    “Yes, I see what you’re saying Harrington, but we cannot possibly do what you are proposing to do. It would be prepostorous. Harrington, please stop going on about it. If we did what you are suggesting we do, we could be in very serious trouble.”

    Passers by looked at the little old man peering into the festively dressed window of Hamleys. He was admiring the variety of toys and wrapped presents, all on the theme of The Nutcracker. But what was strange was that he was talking to his bright yellow umbrella, he held above his head to protect his white, balding head from the shimmering snowflakes.

    “Oh okay, Harrington. You win. Let’s go inside and come up with a strategic plan. We can map out the area and then send in the troops. Oh, you will have to go undercover. If you are detected it could bring us bad luck.”

    With that, the little old man closed his umbrella – or Harrington – and strode into the big department store as quick as his little legs could carry him.

    The same passers by were now peering into the window looking at the strange sight of the little old man, talking to his umbrella, examining the presents in the window and re-arranging them, completely oblivious to the increasing audience. Then, he simply walked out of the shop and put his umbrella back up again.

    Moving to the window to admire his handiwork, he said: “Okay Harrington. Our work here is done for now. We shall carry out our strategic operation as planned at exactly 13 hundred hours.”

    The next evening, the little old man sat in his arm chair looking at the wrapped boxes under his mini Christmas tree.

    “Well that was a successful operation wasn’t it Harrington? Merry Christmas! I do hope you like your presents.” He looked over to where Harrington was propped amongst the wrapped, empty boxes.

    • Evelyn Sinclair

      Irene, I liked your surprise? ending, as well as someone having a converstion with his umbrella. I’m still smiling about it.

    • Sasha Zatz

      loved it!

    • Veronika Jordan

      Love that the umbrella is called Harrington.

  7. Sasha Zatz

    The Morning After Horace the Elf Spiked the Punch
    While Bennie didn’t dislike ducks, he wasn’t sure how he felt about this one. It sat watching him from the window ledge, head cocked. “I’m calling you Luke.” Bennie declared “Because you like to look. Get it?” he laughed. Merry Christmas, Bennie. You get a duck. Lucky you. Then Bennie had an idea. “Luke.” He addressed the duck solemnly. “I’m afraid this is the end of our friendship. In the absence of money to buy another duck, turkey or chicken, I am going to eat you for Christmas.” Luke blinked.
    Bennie stepped forward to claim his Christmas Gift from God, and Luke flew away. Bennie waved at him. There goes my only company for Christmas. And my dinner.
    Perhaps this whole conversation was one sided.
    It wasn’t Bennie’s fault, though. In fact, if it was anyone it was Horace’s. He had been the one to add whisky to Bennie’s punch, and the reason Bennie had a hangover, and was perhaps not in his best state.
    Then again, perhaps it wasn’t Horace’s fault. The only reason he was dancing around in an Elf costume and spiking people’s punch was the fact that a friend of his, Lari, had recently got a job, and was treating all his mates to a drink. Lari may have bought Horace a few too many….
    But let’s not blame it on Lari, who is currently asleep on his sofa, drool falling from his mouth, let’s blame it on his new boss, for giving him the job.
    Except that it wasn’t Gerald’s fault that a place came up. One of his employees, Sam, quit her job. Blame it on Sam.
    No, don’t. She is moving to France to live with her sister because her sister (Carmen) just had a baby and needs the support.
    So blame it on Carmen.
    No, don’t.
    So blame it on the baby.
    No, poor sweet thing.
    Blame it on whoever you like; Bennie will still have been talking to a now-flown-away duck.
    You can’t reverse it.
    But, instead, let’s watch Bennie go back inside his house, a long sad look given to his fence, where a duck had sat so recently, so ready to be eaten.
    Bennie’s phone was sitting on the top of the couch, and now it began to ring. Bennie picked it up.
    “Hey, Kali. What’s up?” Kali was Bennie’s younger sister, who led a successful life as a secretary and loved to tease her beloved brother, Benjamin, or, as we know him, Bennie.
    “Ben. Farmer Orwin is selling Butternut’s field. I’m looking for somewhere else to keep Butternut, but for now the poor cow has nowhere to live. Any ideas?”
    Despite her general sensibleness, Kali had a cow called Butternut (short for Butternut Squash Lavender IV), who currently had no home.
    “Yep!” Said Bennie, in his after-duck state still wanting company desperately.
    And Butternut was so very friendly. Bennie fell in love…..
    And that is why the family cow took up permanent residence in the backyard.

    • Veronika Jordan

      Love it. Very funny. At least he didn’t eat Butternut…

    • Sasha Zatz

      Thanks. I’m glad you liked it..

    • Sasha Zatz

      I liked yours too. I found it funny how you said “And yours…” I was like “DIE SANTA!”
      The reason he didn’t eat Butternut is because he was in love… also, the female members of his family are rather fierce and Kali may have eaten him. (Or at least threatened to)

  8. Sasha Zatz

    Thanks for these prompts.



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