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.
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:
If you can connect your story to the story you’re writing, you will not only be more motivated to 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.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
- Why all the great writers started with short stories, and why you should, too.
- How to build a platform 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.
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.