100 Story ideas Categorized by Theme
Here are 100 story ideas categorized by theme every writer should write. Why should every writer write these particular story ideas? These are the basics. I’ve been teaching writing for a long time, and I’ve worked with writer’s groups and workshops for over 20 years. These ideas always get writers writing, and sometimes it’s worth a lot just to get writing again. It’s nice to be inspired.
These ideas I’ve kept purposefully vague. I hate it when you read good story ideas (like other lists like this on the web) that are so specific if you actually use them and write a great story, the person who wrote the story idea can go around the web claiming he “is responsible” for the story being written. It’s nice not to do any work and then claim you are responsible for something. Also, you will never have people saying they read the idea for your great story on the web. If you look at these story ideas you will see that many famous works have grown out of them, and if you are stuck in your writing, these story ideas are for you.
I hope these story ideas help you. I hope you write a great story or novel. I hope you publish it. As always I wish you the very best of luck in your writing.
These are story ideas that appeal to our primal nature. These things I believe are deep in our brain, and when they are challenged, generally, I’ve found that they inspire creativity better than you any other story idea. The man character in these ideas should be you! Even if you turn yourself into a character.
- Write a sex scene with someone that you would never find attractive.
- Write a sex scene with concerning someone who is different from your orientation. If you straight write a homosexual sex scene. If you are homosexual write a straight scene.
- Write a story where you have gone crazy, you have lost touch with reality.
- Write a blasphemy. Something that is counter from your deepest belief (racism, god, cultural believes).
- Write about becoming like someone you hate. You have to become just like them. The person that you hate most, you end up just like. Why? What causes this?
- You only have all the foods you hate left in the world to eat.
- You are turned into an alien. Describe the process. \
- You find out your husband or wife is cheating on you.
- You find out your child is doing drugs, stealing, is not the person you thought he/she was.
- The person you are closest to dies.
- Tell a lie about who you are, your life that is the exact opposite of your real life. If you are rich, be poor, if you nice, be mean….
- You wake up and find that you have had a sex change.
The Macabre is the theme here more or less, genre of horror, but I titled this: 100 Story ideas Categorized by theme, so what are you gonna do? These are just a few of our horror ideas. They are very basic, but they will get you writing. I’ve tried to stay close to those things that appeal to your primitive fears. I once saw an interview with Wes Craven talking about why he gave Freddy a claw. Craven said he believed that one of our most primal fears was to have our insides opened to the world, like by a bear claw or a lion claw. I’m bring these I hope each of these are of that same ideology. I hope they go to the heart of fear. RIP Mr. Craven.
- There is someone hiding in your backseat on a long highway.
- A vampire is in seducing your wife/husband.
- You have a disease that is highly contagious.
- Someone you love comes back from the dead. They are trying to kill you.
- The world has ended you are the last one to survive.
- There is a ghost who comes at 3:17 every morning and stands at the foot of your bed.
- You are on death row for killing someone you love.
Human vs Nature is a one of the oldest themes. So many great novels, stories and poems have grown out of this classic, even ancient, pairing
- You are out on a small boat when a massive storm hits you. You have your young children with you.
- You are lost in the snow. You can’t find your car. You and your children are wet from hiking trying to find your way. Night is coming.
- You are trapped in a cave. One of your arms, you are sure, has gangrene on it. It stinks like cheese and the pain is going away.
- Describe what it would be like to go without water in the desert.
Coming of age
Most of the great short story writers, like Hemingway, Faulkner, Carver, Cheever, Updike have all written the coming of age theme. It’s a convention of the short story genre, and once you start looking for it, you’ll see it everywhere.
- It is the first time you realize that your father is cheating or your mother (or vice versa). You any age under 18.
- Tell the story of the first time you had sex.
- Tell the story of the first time you got drunk/drugs/stole.
- Tell the story of the first time you hated your toys, or were embarrassed playing with toys.
- First time you were embarrassed of your parents.
- Story of the first time you defied a parent.
- First time you realized that you were going to die.
- First time you lived away from home
- First time you were in love with someone you shouldn’t have been.
A great short story writer that I was studying under once told me, never write your life story, it kills your drive to write. I don’t know is she was right or not, but so many writers do this. Many times it the first and last great novel or story a young writer writes. On the other hand, some writers do this over and over again and make a good living off it. I won’t say the person’s name, but I know a few people in a university who hate one of today’s very famous short story writers. She wrote a book and stories about the people she worked with, and the characters depicted on the front of the book look a lot like her co-workers…..works for some people, though you may have to switch jobs after your book or story is published.
- Tell the story of your home town from the founding all the way until you moved away or grew up.
- Tell the story of your family, start with all the bad things (maybe the few or the many who did not fit into society).
- Tell your worst high school story, the day you were saddest/most outcast/disconnected.
- Tell your story through the eyes of someone who didn’t have any friends.
- Tell the story of someone who you knew who committed suicide, and explain how they saw you.
- Tell the story of the meanest thing you ever did to anyone.
Some people love these. Some people hate them. The idea of having all your fantasies come true, for some writers, thrills them and pushes them to write. I see at least of couple of these people every time I teach a class.
- Write the story of winning the lottery.
- Write your story about being the most attractive/promiscuous (get any gal girl you want).
- Write a story about being a rock star.
- Write a story about being an astronaut who saves your ship.
- Write a story about saving the world. You are a superhero. You just get lucky or you are just that good.
- Write a story about destroying the world.
Again, a theme I see drive many writers is their love for writing unsavory characters. I have come to believe that some writers only start writing so they can torture their characters (and sometimes their readers). The great film critic Roger Ebert once said that a hero movie is only as good as its bad guy. I completely agree.
- Write a story about when you were betrayed by someone you deeply trusted.
- Write a story about someone who ruined your life. He or she spread rumors, ruined your business or just ruined your best moment.
- Write story about someone taking the love of your life away, right as they are falling in love with you.
- Write a story about someone you love dating someone who dies.
- Write a story about your worst enemy being horrible and much more successful than you will ever be.
- Write a story where you tell lies to ruin someone’s life.
Sex and disease go hand in…. It’s a bad joke. A lot of people spend a good amount of time worrying about their health. I don’t know if this is about death or a fear of living. I saw a famous speaker (famous locally) talk about how at once time he wanted to be sick because being sick and dying was easier than living. Either way, the theme of your body or your health hits very close to home for some people.
- Write a story about being very overweight or very skinny (opposite of what you actually are).
- Write a story about yourself having a disfigured face. You are very ugly.
- Write a story about being blind and having a baby to take care of.
- Write a story about being deaf and having a small child to take care of.
- Write a story about not having any legs, or not being able to walk.
- Write a story about being bed ridden and knowing you are going to live for a very long time.
- Write a story about winning the love of your life over, and then being disfigured so much she/he leave you.
The afterlife is one of those things that always comes back to haunt you. Some people can’t resist writing about this “theme.”
- Write a story about being a ghost and finding out everyone in your life was lying to you. Your wife/husband was cheating, your boss hated you, your friends disliked you….
- You have just died. You are looking at your body. You find out there is a hell.
- You wake up late at night, and a person’s face is very close to yours. You know the person. You were close to them. They died years ago.
- Someone you loved dearly comes back for a chat to tell you and hear all the things that were never said.
- Your child is possessed by a demon.
- A demon is haunting your house.
- You are in an accident and now you can see and talk to ghosts.
- You are dead and have no idea you are a ghost.
- You just emailed everyone in your company a love letter you and your boss were writing to each other. You spouse is included on the list.
- You just texted messaged a picture of yourself “playing with sex toys to your mother.
- You just hit a small child with your car going over 40 miles an hour.
- Your house is on fire. Your children are inside.
- You open the door to your house, because of a loud noise, and a plane crashes on your street.
- You are in an airplane and you are going down.
- Your car just flew off the highway and is going end over end. Your children are in the back seat.
- You answer your phone, and the voice on the other end says that they have been watching you for a long time.
- You find out someone has 100,000$ in credit cards taken out in your name.
- You are in a prison camp. They tell you to go left and your family to go right.
What you don’t know (Mystery)
- You are living a lie. Tell the story of how you began living a double life.
- Everyone around you have been lying to you for a very long time. Today you find out.
- Tell the story of when once found out something about someone that broke your heart.
- You have been sleeping the whole time. You wake up and find out it was all, your whole life, was a dream.
- Every night when you go to sleep. You get out of bed and live a different life. You have raped and killed 10 people. Tonight you wake up while driving the van.
Best and Worst
These are story that really happened. Write them as true as you can. They are simple, but for many people, for some reason, the memories of these things are so strong, they easily write them.
- Write the story of the best day of your life.
- Write the story of the worst day of your life.
- Write the story of the day you had your biggest accomplishment/win.
- Write the story when you were the hero.
- Write the story of the day you were close to killing yourself.
- Write the story about the person who you saved your life.
- Write the story of a day when you were happy that someone died. Someone you loved.
Dreams and nightmares
Some times a dream, especally a recurring dream, can be a powerful way to get people to write. It’s the emotion that comes with the dream I think. You are the only one who can really write the story. It feels so real for you, try to make it real for your readers.
- Write about a recurring dream you have coming true.
- Write about realizing that you are suddenly in the place where your recurring nightmare takes place.
- You have stopped being able to distinguish dreams from reality.
The intruder story is a convention of short story writing that really came into it’s own in the 80s and 90s. The idea is basically someone comes into your life, usually unwanted, and every thing changes.
- Someone annoying has just started living with you. The person is the exact opposite of everything you are.
- A waiter at the restaurant sits down at your table he or she is flirting with your spouse. They are now coming over to your house to hang out.
- Someone you are attached to keeps showing up in your life. He or she lives by you. He or she works in the same building. You see them over and over again. You are at a coffee shop alone, they come in and sit down at your table.
- You are locked in a jail cell with someone who will not stop talking.
Grow it in a character (Character driven or No Theme)
Seinfeld popularized this idea in the 90s, but short stories and great writers have been doing it for generations. Seinfeld isn’t a show about nothing. It’s a show about characters and what those characters do. It’s called a character-driven story. It’s the idea that you have a character who you know, as the writer, and you put them in situations that bring out the worst, the best, the funniest part of them.
- Write a juxtaposition of 2 phoebes. Your character is afraid of heights, he is stuck on the edge of a building. Agoraphobia in a meteor shower….if you think of more list the in the comments.
- Write a story about nothing.
- Your character is the most honest person in the world. He or she works for the mob.
- Your character is immune to felling love due to a brain injury. The person has a spouse and children.
- The most famous person in the world wakes up to find they are completely alone on Earth.
- Your character is an artist. Whatever sense they use most has just been taken from them. If they are a musician they go deaf, a painter goes blind….
If you teach writing, and you know of story ideas that inspire your students or your writing groups, please post them in the comments below. More story ideas are always welcome.