100 Fantasy Writing Prompts

September 16, 2012

1. A fantasy in which no animal is the same as on Earth, but nor are they simply replacements with different names and designs.

2. A theology-focused fantasy in which the characters do logical debate about God and gods. By logical, I mean make all sides logical, not just the one you think is right.

3. A healing system where healing is possible, but the injury or sickness healed would be imposed on the healer forever. Bonus points: don’t make this one dark and depressing.

4. A fantasy world without humans. Bonus points if they’re not all furries.

5. A fantasy in which there are tens of contradicting and intertwining prophecies and no one knows which ones to believe.

6. A world where every aspect of the environment is different. For example, two blue suns rather than one yellow one, sentient plants, currency-growing trees, trees that grow downward.

7. A technologically-advanced society living literally on top of a medieval one, and a valid justification for why the medieval one doesn’t shape up and get techy.

8. The protagonist being a researcher or engineer whose conflict comes from which side of a war or political spectrum to give his creations first.

9. The protagonist being the world’s god. Making him or her interesting goes without saying.

10. A guard protagonist. Bonus points if this guard doesn’t end up joining some sort of rebellion and traveling the world in search of a McGuffin to destroy the Evil Overlord.

11. The Evil Overlord as a protagonist. Bonus points if his actions are justified enough to make him just as “good” as the rebels.

12. A story in which the protagonist’s parents, siblings, and love interest are all alive and not evil traitors in the end.

13. A protagonist who is not interested in romance to begin with and is still uninterested in the end.

14. A magic system subtle and discreet enough that 99% of the world doesn’t believe it exists. Bonus points if it’s not stupidly obvious.

15. A world made of water, water-faring races, and nothing else.

16. A musical protagonist whose music is not magical and whose music doesn’t stun everyone into silence or make everyone cry, but is still regarded as talented.

17. A world with gravity, breathable air, floating debris, races to inhabit it, and nothing else.

18. A fantasy in the gunpowder age.

19. The protagonist is a goblin. Bonus points if s/he’s not either the exact stereotype or the exact inversion of the stereotype.

20. A world in which a disease rendered 90% of the population mentally ill in some way or another.

21. The protagonist is the only mentally healthy person in the world.

22. A third-person limited fantasy that never strays from the protagonist’s viewpoint.

23. The protagonist develops the world’s first bladed weapons. Bonus points if you can figure out a justification for this not to be in the stone age.

24. A fantasy in which mind-control magic is so prevalent that at any given second, any given person is probably being controlled by someone else.

25. No magic at all.

26. A world in which magic was so powerful that it created an apocalypse, and now your protagonist is living in a non sci-fi post apocalypse.

27. A seafaring fantasy where your protagonist is not a pirate. Bonus points if s/he’s not in the navy, either.

28. An underwater fantasy where the primary race is an underwater race and not humans in air bubbles. Bonus points if they’re not mermaids or renamed mermaids.

29. A fantasy where research has advanced differently and computers exist, but not guns or much of anything else.

30. An astrology-based fantasy where astrology does not just mean star-based magic. Maybe your people have just discovered that their world is round.

31. Develop an entire new language and writing system, then base at least one society or way of life on the language itself.

32. A fantasy world that has developed electricity.

33. A gray versus gray war. No evil overlord. No chosen hero.

34. Write a story where a chosen hero is supposed to defeat an evil overlord. Then make the hero fail.

35. Write a scene where the hero holds a formal debate with the evil overlord. Bonus points if the overlord wins without cheating and without relying on the audience being corrupt.

36. Write a short fantasy that takes place within a single building.

37. A sky-faring fantasy where there is no such thing as ground.

38. A magic system where anything written in red ink becomes true. Bonus points if this magic is commonplace and the world isn’t destroyed.

39. Due to some kind of magic, the hero and evil overlord switch bodies and take each other’s place. Bonus points if you successfully use gray v. gray rather than good v. evil.

40. In a gray v. gray setup, the protagonist is darker gray than the antagonist.

41. Write a fantasy comedy that doesn’t rely on English wordplays and puns. Bonus points if it’s actually funny.

42. Write a scene or scenes where the hero defeats the evil overlord, but the people don’t accept him as the rightful king because he was an absolute jerk during his hero’s journey.

43. The evil overlord does the intelligent thing and kills the hero as a baby. Now what?

44. The evil overlord takes the baby hero and his family and brainwashes them all. What happens?

45. The protagonist is a troll. Bonus points if he’s not the stereotype or the inversion of the stereotype.

46. A group of races that have certain advantages and disadvantages over each other. Bonus points if the majority of them are not combat-related.

47. The hero overthrows the evil overlord without talking him into submission or beating him into submission.

48. Create a world where grass grows over a hundred feet tall within an hour of being planted. Plan societies and races around it.

49. A magic system that acts like computer programming. Mages write reusable programs and people buy them. Hint: learn at least one programming language in real life for research.

50. A magic system that works by hooking everyone in the world together like the Internet. Speeds vary by location.

51. A religion that worships technology.

52. Write at least ten physically distinct sentient races.

53. Your protagonist invents ice cream.

54. A world where gravity flips every night. Bonus points if you can explain it. Extra bonus points if you can explain it without infodumping.

55. A world in which there are two sentient races, one evolved from a single cell (where that cell came from is up to you), one created by God or gods.

56. A world where the sentient race(s) petition their god(s) to create certain things. And the gods listen. Catch: the god(s) will only create things. Not destroy them. Not change them.

57. A world consisting of islands floating in the sky. Bonus points if the people there don’t have wings, but have other methods with which to travel from island to island.

58. A world in which the magnetic poles shift frequently. Bonus points if the world’s magic system is based off magnetism.

59. A magic system that only works half the time and starts and stops in unpredictable patterns.

60. Technically a sci-fi, but future sentient races have created a world where fantasy conditions exist. Dragons, magic, evil overlords, and everything. Pick and choose, though.

61. A protagonist without arms or legs. Bonus points if magic doesn’t allow him or her to get nifty replacements.

62. A fantasy where artists can create something by drawing it from both sides, top and bottom, and front and back.

63. A fantasy where wars are settled by Olympic-style competitions rather than battle.

64. A world where people respawn after they die from anything but old age or a disease of your choice. Imagine how much more reckless people would be.

65. A fantasy world advanced enough to parallel Earth in 2012.

66. A magic system that could actually work in real life if one thing was changed. You’ll really have to study this one.

67. A magic system that only allows mages to change their appearance and nothing else.

69. A sentient race without mouths. Bonus points if said race is not telepathic.

70. A religion or race that considers speaking profane and thinks mouths are only there for eating. Hint: study sign language.

71. A math-based magic system.

72. A chemistry-based magic system. That makes it just chemistry, doesn’t it? I know. Run with it.

73. Your protagonist doesn’t get stronger with every battle, but weaker as his or her injuries pile up.

74. A magic system based on emotions, where an angry mob could set fire to a stick by looking at it or something like that. Catch: no one person could change much of anything.

75. A world shattered by earthquakes and a sentient race adapted to it. People would be really good at jumping, I think.

76. A fantasy where the world actually is flat, or at least a cube instead of a sphere. Bonus points if you can come up with a feasible reason for it.

77. A world where the primary race is mini-sized and insects are an actual difficult battle. Cats, dogs, horses, and elephants would be monstrous.

78. A world without magic suddenly gets magic.

79. A world with magic suddenly loses its magic.

80. The protagonist is an engineer. Yes, I’m still giving fantasy prompts. And yes, engineers should still exist in fantasy. They’re just people who use science to solve problems.

81. Death makes people into zombies of sorts who age backward, and once they’re infants again, they become human again and start aging normally.

82. Every fifty years, the magic system changes.

83. Every fifty years, a new sentient race is created.

84. A fantasy in which there’s a fantasy equivalent of K-12 education. And college, of course.

85. A fantasy where falcons or birds can’t be used for long-distance communications.

86. A fantasy where an underground (literally) communication network exists. If you don’t know where to start, try Minecraft.

87. Invent a new non-sentient race. Make it do something completely off the wall as its primary function (e.g. Minecraft’s creepers exploding), and then justify it.

88. A world where structures are built out of a material not found on Earth.

89. Structures on land are built using water.

90. A world of all men or all women, with no apparent means of reproduction. Bonus points if they can save themselves without blending into sci-fi or using deus ex machina.

91. A society where people don’t have names. Bonus points if you don’t take the obvious route of making it a pseudo-communist individualism-hating thing.

92. A world where raw ideas are actually worth something–where the people generally act on their ideas, and where ideas can literally be stolen from people’s heads.

93. A world where the god or gods made a mistake in their creation. What that mistake is and what it does, I’ll leave up to you.

94. Write about the very beginning of your fantasy world. Bonus points if you don’t infodump. Extra bonus points if you don’t just re-write Genesis.

95. Fish can swim through land. Sharks can, too.

96. Trees don’t fall down. They uproot and disappear into the sky.

97. Your protagonist has some sort of mental disorder that fantasy people have no idea how to cope with.

98. People are walking bombs, and when their hearts stop, they explode.

99. Everyone in the world operates with a different magic system.

100. Go ahead and write 100 of your own ideas/prompts. This will help you get your creative gears going, as you’ll inevitably think in some depth about each item.

-

That was fun. I think I’ll do it again sometime.

35 Responses to “100 Fantasy Writing Prompts”

  1. [...] article was originally written September 16, 2012 at Matt’s blog and is re-posted here with permission. Thanks [...]

  2. I stumbled across your blog completely by accident, searching for writing prompts to help me get my daily 1000 words, but you can be certain I’ll be following quite avidly from now own.

    Reading the blogs of other writers somehow gives me the inspiration do my own writing. I’ve already starting using your writing prompts.

    • Jo said

      These are AWESOME! Does it count as fantasy if its set in this world, but still with dwarves, elves, witches, goblins and everything. And an evil overlord of sorts.

      • Of course it still counts. Fantasy is, after all, fantasy. It doesn’t have to conform to anyone’s likes or dislikes except the writer’s (and perhaps the publisher’s).

  3. Jo said

    Thanks for the confidence boost!!! My story’s coming along great. It’s called The Utalentia Chronicles, but I’m afraid you can’t read it, since I don’t have a blog or anything to post it on. Plus its probably way too big anyhow. I’ve done about 170 pages, and I’m ultra proud of it. Still not done, though. It’s based on my classmates, since I wrote it for them, and my teacher is my spoilt little elfin sister.

  4. Jo said

    Also, i’m trying some more…norm fantasy. Only i’m stuck for mostly the names! Argh!!!

  5. Anonymous said

    Thank you for the idea. I’m writing a fantasy where a deseise speards around the world. it takes place in the future

  6. Jo said

    Can you please do a post about how to build believable bad guys? I’m really stuck at the minute.

  7. Samantha said

    Every thing in this world can be made into a story
    we just half to write them our selves or they’ll never
    be noticed everyone is good at some thing it just might
    take a while to find out what it is until then I’m going
    To continue writting until everything id discovered
    You guys should to

  8. Thank you so much!

    I have had an idea floating in my head for a while now and number 26 jumped out and smacked me upside the head. In a fantasy world where the overuse of magic caused an worldwide apocalypse…What if they had just discovered machinary when it happened? And what if there was still some magic left that could heal the world? Think Wildwest Steampunk with dragons and a woman with a special gift.

    Oh yeah creative juices are flowing now!

  9. glmorrison said

    Reblogged this on Lesbian Writers and commented:
    These are some interesting (and some impossible) prompts. I’ll have revamp them with the 101 lesbianic fantasy prompts.

  10. kattli said

    These are some great prompts, but one thing: where are the fantasy characters? Like mermaids, faieries, wolfs, gnomes, etc. Just a tip. Also i am writing a story called the Outcasts, about a overuling company who takes over the human population. All except for one little boy, who finds the Outcasts, a group of unwanted people who want to rebell. They combine forces to take down the company, and save the human race. Is it any good?

    • My dictionary defines “fantasy” as a work of fiction with a lot of imagination in it. If every fantasy writer wrote mermaids, fairies, wolves, gnomes, etc., then fantasy wouldn’t be so imaginative anymore.

      That’s not to say those things are bad, they’re just done to death and back. If you want to create an interesting mermaid character, for instance, you’ll have to let her do things mermaids usually don’t in fantasy stories. And of course, giving her a unique personality and deep characterization works just as well. Preferably break cliches and give her character.

      Obligatory disclaimer: any idea or concept can be fleshed out to be good, bad, or somewhere in between (usually somewhere in between). However, corporations don’t tend to make interesting antagonists because they’re nebulous and inhuman. If you want to keep the corporation angle, I recommend making the company’s CEO the antagonist, not the corporation itself. Give him a goal beyond “wants to enslave humans” and a reason beyond “control” or “power” or “religion” (these are things that more interesting, complex reasons boil down to). The more justifiable his reasons, the more interesting he’ll generally be. Either that or play the Joker angle and give him the smallest hinges on sanity, but let his insanity be understandable and eyebrow-raising, like “wow, this lunatic might actually be onto something.”

      Furthermore, consider what “saving the human race” means. What are they being saved from? Do they want to be saved? If so, what makes them worth saving, why haven’t they risen up, and are they in the right to rise against their oppressors, if the oppressors truly are oppressing them? Play with technicalities — sometimes, the difference between good and evil boils down to semantics.

      In short, as long as it’s interesting and entertaining, it’s good.

  11. Raylynn said

    These are great. i have a prompt.
    You are the blood of royalty. Only not pureblood. You have been cast out into the street. You have heard of prophecies about someone like you. You believe you are the prophesized one. The prophet. You go on a long journey through all 8 kingdom to find out you are not the prophesized but play a roll in the prophecy. The prophet is actually your younger brother/sister.

  12. Anonymous said

    Some of these were already done by DR who like the fish swimming through air…

  13. Sadie said

    I think maybe they meant DW… as in Doctor Who (the TV show) It’s more sci-fi, but definitely has some aspects of fantasy

  14. Arayvek said

    Number 72 sounds a lot like Full Metal Alchemist. They transmute things and it’s pretty much chemistry based magic. I’m not saying you copied though.

  15. bdaubs04 said

    Very nice. Although I should probably stop reading people’s blogs and get back to writing..

  16. Reblogged this on eleven22 and commented:
    I’m going to have to go through these and find some I really like. I’ve been unmotivated in writing fun short stories lately!

  17. Lisa said

    Great post! I was looking for inspiration and it really helped me. I knew I wanted to add a fantasy aspect to my story, probably magic. I just didn’t like the idea of some secret organisation hiding the truth from everyone all this time and now someone finds out, it seemed too cliche. So I decided to go with your prompt about a world without magic suddenly getting magic.

    I’d also love to one day write about number 39: Due to some kind of magic, the hero and evil overlord switch bodies and take each other’s place. It would be a comedy of course. Though it might not be fit for a book. Maybe a script? It could be a good concept for a comic, if I didn’t have the drawing ability of a toddler.

    Some of these concepts have been done really well by Japanese manga artists (and have been turned into anime’s). Darker than Black being one of my favorites where suddenly a few people gain paranormal abilities at the cost of their humanity known as Contractors. They have to ‘pay the price’ for using their ability in way that is extremely unpleasant for them personally (definitely not as cliche as it may sound). Then there is The Irregular at Magic High School, where magic is much like computer programming.

    • When you finish your story, feel free to link me it. I read everything I’m sent, and starting either today or tomorrow, I’ll have an optional spot on the site to put user stories.

      If you actually want to draw a comic, don’t worry about having bad art. XKCD is literally just stick figures and simple line drawings, and it’s one of the most well-respected webcomics on the Internet.

      I loved reading manga all through my teenage years, so I have no doubt that several of these prompts are influenced by it. Most recently, Attack on Titan probably worked its way in somewhere.

  18. #4: My story use to be about a reptilian race (the Gecku, clever.. ik), but I changed it recently to a human-based story to appeal to readers.

    • If you still want to go with the reptilians, try writing the first few chapters with only loose hints at the characters’ species or race. Follow their interactions and mindsets without even mentioning their appearance. Your readers will relate before they get the impression that the characters are too alien to relate to.

      When a species is entirely different from humans in both mind and body (mostly mind), people have trouble relating, which generally isn’t too good for a protagonist, but is fine for other characters.

      (Don’t worry about what to call them. I saw a pretty well-written South American fantasy not too long ago where there was a lizard-like race called the lagarto — which quite literally translates to “lizard” from Spanish. If it’s functional and makes sense in-universe, it’s probably fine.)

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