One-Word Writing Prompts: Dozens of Ideas to Get You Started

A lot of people tend to overthink writing. Especially those who have done much of their reading in a genre like literary fiction. A lot of books that fall under that very broad and fluid genre have flowery language, unclear character goals, and often don't follow the story structures that are popular with genre fiction, television shows, movies, and even comic books. That's why in this article, we're going to simplify things with one-word writing prompts. 

The idea behind these single-word writing prompts is twofold. Not only can they help strengthen your imagination and creativity muscles, but they can also illustrate how good stories don't have to be complex, convoluted, or complicated. Good stories can be birthed from a single word. Let's get to it. 

In this article, you will learn:
  1. How to use one-word writing prompts for ultimate effect.
  2. How to choose from the list of one-word writing prompts.
  3. What to do if you want to share your work with the world. 

Getting the Most Out of One-Word Writing Prompts

The benefit of using just a single word as a prompt for your short story, novella, or novel is simple: there's flexibility. Another prompt may turn you off because it describes a story or situation you don't like or know nothing about. (Don't even get me started on that old writing advice “write what you know.”) But a single word can be used in several ways, depending on the person reading it. Here are some ways you can use a single-word prompt below:

  • Have it be the first word a character speaks—or include it in the opening sentence. 
  • Expound on the emotions or images a word conjures in you. 
  • Challenge yourself to start and end the story with the word. 
  • Have the word describe one of the characters in the story. 
  • Relate your own experience with the word through fictional characters

Here's an example. Let's say you choose the word Manhood. What does that word mean to you? Is the concept of manhood in our society changing? If so, is it changing for the better or worse? What images does the word conjure? What emotions?

You can do the same thing for Womanhood, or Childhood. Or, if you feel so inclined, you could combine all three and write a story about how they're all interconnected. 

It may be the case that the word brings up something in your mind that really has nothing to do with the meaning of the word. That's okay. If you want to explore it, go ahead! What you end up with might be a thousand miles away from where you started. Let the story take you where it wants.

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Combine Two or More Words for a Challenge

While it's obvious that Manhood, Womanhood, and Childhood are all related, that doesn't mean you have to stick to that kind of story if you don't want to. If you don't feel any inspiration from a one-word writing prompt, then combine two or three (or even four) words and write a story that encompasses all of them. For more of a writing challenge, pick words that don't seem to have any connection at all. This will help strengthen your creative writing skills while getting your imagination fired up!

Less is More

While it's common to focus on daily word counts when writing a book, this can sometimes be detrimental to developing different writing skills. For these prompts, we suggest sticking with that oft-quoted writing suggestion: omit needless words. Whether you're a nonfiction or fiction writer—or both—these one-word writing prompts are a great exercise for paring down your words and keeping things concise. 

Not Just Fiction

So far, we've been discussing things in terms of fiction writing prompts. However, you can use them however you like. Try writing a piece of flash fiction, a poem, or a nonfiction essay. Maybe you need to overcome a case of writer's block or you want daily journal writing prompts. No matter the case, these free writing prompts can help! 

One-Word Writing Prompts

Whether you're looking to write nonfiction, poetry, or fiction, the prompts below can help. Choose a random word that sticks out to you and see where it takes you!

General One-Word Prompts

  • Deleterious
  • Supremacy
  • Sleep
  • Chimp
  • Irascible
  • Chime
  • Collective
  • Socialist
  • Crank
  • Regret
  • Ulterior
  • Simplistic
  • Students
  • Election
  • Inspiration
  • Peace
  • Silence
  • Illusory
  • Untouchable
  • Religious
  • Joyous
  • Paramount
  • Climate
  • Internet
  • Market
  • First
  • Money
  • Constructive
  • Country
  • Regard
  • Sully
  • Teach
  • Perform
  • Entertained
  • Chance
  • Devised
  • Anadromous
  • Established
  • Graduate
  • Clinch
  • Matriculate
  • Illustrated
  • Optical
  • Invention
  • Tricky
  • Misadvise
  • Opposite
  • Belonging
  • Frost

One-Word Mystery Writing Prompts

Whether you like mystery stories with an amateur sleuth or a grizzled detective, the prompts below can help you get your fictional character into some intriguing trouble. 

  • Weapon
  • Question
  • Suspicion
  • Gripping
  • Gritty
  • Thug
  • Poison
  • Baking
  • Pets
  • Entrance
  • Killer
  • Disembark
  • Mandible
  • Strike
  • Excavation
  • Evidence
  • Caliber
  • Federal
  • Defy
  • Subdue

One-Word Romance Writing Prompts

Romance is a varied genre with plenty of room for creative inspiration. The words below should help you spark a line of dialogue or a general idea for your romantic story

  • Smile
  • Lovingly
  • Electric
  • Happiness
  • Passion
  • Soulful
  • Heart
  • Swell
  • Sin
  • Punish
  • Guarded
  • Pursue
  • Widower
  • Children
  • Marriage
  • Friends
  • Always
  • Eccentric
  • Ring
  • Cottage
  • Unexpected
  • Together
  • Heartfelt
  • Redemptive
  • Embrace

One-Word Thriller Writing Prompts

Action and intrigue, revenge and justice. The following thriller creative writing prompts can help you get your story writing started.

  • Illicit
  • Dosier
  • Assassin
  • Deadly
  • Explosion
  • Gunfight
  • Nemesis
  • Twist
  • Collapse
  • Lawyer
  • Free
  • Morals
  • Military
  • Undercover
  • Enrichment
  • Irascible
  • Protect
  • Eyewitness
  • War
  • Sacrifice

One-Word Horror Writing Prompts

Horror is a lot of fun to write, and it works well for stories of all lengths. Choose a one-word creative writing prompt below and pit your main character against a gruesome evil. 

  • Slither
  • Creep
  • Slasher
  • Haunted
  • Cabin
  • Darkness
  • Nightmare
  • Dying
  • Malevolence 
  • Howl
  • Creak
  • Ghoulish
  • Supernatural
  • Demon
  • Hateful
  • Apparition
  • Wraith
  • Agonizing
  • Dreadful
  • Morbid

One-Word Sci-Fi Writing Prompts

Struggling with a story idea for your science fiction tale? Choose a one-word story prompt from the list below and let the words flow!

  • Futuristic
  • Android
  • Hypersleep
  • Cyberpunk
  • Extraterrestrial
  • Radiation
  • Cluster
  • Comet
  • Gravity
  • Hydroponics
  • Neutrino
  • Orbit
  • Rocket
  • Satellite
  • Velocity
  • Wavelength
  • Vacuum
  • Replicant
  • Dystopia
  • Blaster
  • Continuum
  • Gravitate
  • Eradicate
  • Nanotech
  • Jovian

One-Word Fantasy Writing Prompts

Get your creative juices flowing with these story-starter writing prompts for fantasy tales

  • Transmogrify
  • Sorcery
  • Wizard
  • Elven
  • Journey
  • Changeling
  • Alchemy
  • Castle
  • Curse
  • Dragon
  • Talisman
  • Necromancer
  • Fable
  • Elf
  • Lore
  • Enchanted
  • Guild
  • Goblin
  • Enchanted
  • Ranger

Ready to Share Your Story With the World?

While practicing your craft with these one-word prompts is a worthy time investment, you may have an idea for a full-length novel. If so, it's best to do a bit of research to ensure that the idea is commercially viable. And the easiest way to do this is with Publisher Rocket.

You can think of the information you get from Publisher Rocket as the foundation for your writing career. You get insights directly from Amazon on:

Keywords – Metadata to position your book on Amazon.

Competition – Allowing you to see what's selling and how stiff the competition is.

Categories – So you know where people who are looking for books like yours go to find them.

Amazon Ads – Helps you quickly configure a list of profitable keywords for running ads. Check out Publisher Rocket here to get started.

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