Types of Writing Prompts: Creative vs Journaling
Not all writing prompts are created equal. I see people writing about writing prompts on the web, and there needs to be clear distinctions between different writing prompts. I’m writing to put us all on the same page and clear up the madness.
There are two kinds of writing prompts, and no one seems to ever acknowledge their existence or that there is a distinction. The two prompts have many subcategories, but only two main types exist. First, you have Creative Writing prompts. These prompts are meant to inspire creative writing. It can be in fiction or non-fiction, but they are intended to encourage creative endeavors. The second type of writing prompt is a Journaling writing prompt. These are meant to be journal entries, not clever, something personal to the writer. We have over 3000 writing prompts on our site!
Creative writing prompts
There are many kinds of creative writing prompts. I don’t mean genres; I mean subtypes. So these are like Descriptive Creative writing prompts. There are different kinds of Creative writing prompts (and there may be more), but here are some examples:
Begin a story with a compelling opening line or paragraph that the writer must build on. For example: “The envelope was heavy, too heavy to contain a simple letter.”
Generate a random noun, verb, adjective, scenario, etc., and have writers craft a story around it. For example: “Raspberry, daydreaming, telescope.”
Provide an image and have writers write a story inspired by it. You can use art, photographs, magazine clippings, etc.
Present a unique object or describe an unusual character and have writers write about how they came to be.
Give a scenario and have writers build a story around it. For example: “You wake up one morning to discover your room has been frozen in ice blocks.”
Provide an inspirational quote or curious lyric line and prompt writing based on it.
Give prompts tailor-made for specific fictional genres like romance, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, etc.
Prompt writers to write fiction starring or inspired by favorite characters from literature, film, or pop culture.
Have writers rewrite or add to a scene from an existing story from a new perspective.
Point of view prompts
Provide a scenario and have writers write about it from a specific first or third-person perspective.
Challenge writers to write for a set period without stopping, editing, etc. Great practice for brainstorming ideas.
Journaling prompts are precisely that. They inspire writers or writers to journal personally or about the world. They are usually non-fiction, but get you writing. Journaling prompts are good for students of writing. They do not generally add to creative works. The following are good examples of Journaling Prompts.
- Ask the writer to describe a meaningful experience, event from childhood, or essential memory. This allows them to practice storytelling and reflective writing.
- Prompt the writer to describe a person, place, object, or moment in intricate sensory detail. This engages their creativity.
- Ask s to write from the perspective of a historical figure, fictional character, or object. This sparks imagination.
- Prompt the writer to state their opinion on a topic and back it up with reasoning and examples. This builds critical thinking.
- Ask writers to write about their values, goals, strengths and weaknesses, fears, or growth areas. This develops self-awareness.
- Present a short story, poem, film clip, or painting and prompt analysis about themes, literary devices, sociohistorical context, etc.
- Pose an issue or challenge and ask writers to develop solutions, considering pros/cons, resources needed, potential obstacles, etc.
- Prompt writers to research both sides of a debate, social issue, historical event, or scientific concept. This builds research skills.
- Prompt creative writing in genres like poetry, song lyrics, or short fiction using story starters, vocabulary words, etc. This sparks creativity.
I hear you! Yes, this might not be ALL of the possible writing prompt types. Agreeing on the distinction between Journaling and Creative could help everyone better understand what they are getting. Are you here so you can give your students prompts for bell work? Are you here as a writer stuck on your manuscript, looking for scenarios to put your characters through? There is a big difference between these two, and it’s frustrating to look for student prompts but find prompts for your novel. To that end, we can agree this little distinction could be helpful. In the meantime, if you are looking for writing prompts:
Lastly, I know the list above could be more comprehensive. Our readers are lovely and helpful, and I know I’ll hear from you that I still need to remember some subsections. I’m always open to suggestions, so please leave it in the comments below. Also, if you think of a good writing prompt you love, write that in the comment below. It’ll help others, and that’s why we are all here. We have many other writing prompts on our site.