One of the reasons stories of all kinds are so popular — and have been for thousands of years — is that they help us process real-world emotions. We'll all have to deal with grief, sadness, heartache, depression, and negative thoughts at some point in our lives. And sometimes, one thing that can help us get through tough times is a story where fictional characters go through something similar.
That's why we've developed this list of sad writing prompts for your next journal entry, short story, or novel idea.
- Sad Book Genres
- Tips for Writing a Sad Story
- Sad Writing Prompts
Table of contents
Where Do Sad Stories Fit?
One of the things we talk about here at Kindlepreneur is writing to market. That is, writing something you want to write that also intersects with an existing market. Preferably one with hungry readers. And as you surely know, there's no such thing as a “Sad” book genre. But that doesn't mean that sad books don't fit nicely into some existing genres. They do. And here are a couple to keep in mind:
- Literary Fiction – These kinds of books don't fit neatly into other popular fiction categories like mystery or romance. This is where you'll often find books of a sad nature, dealing with loss, depression, interpersonal relationships, and overwhelming feelings.
- Romance – There are often some seriously strong emotions in romance stories. And sadness is chief among them. But the thing to remember about the romance genre is readers expect a happy ending. So, not too much sadness!
- Drama – There's not really an official drama category in most bookstores. Amazon certainly doesn't have a drama category for Kindle books. But thinking about sad, dramatic films is a good way to categorize your story, at least in your own head.
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Tips to Help Your Sad Writing
If you can write a book or story that evokes strong emotions from your readers, then you'll likely have a good career as an author. Provided, of course, those strong emotions are the ones you intended to evoke. No matter the genre, a good story relies on character development, conflict, and rising stakes. For this reason, there’s really only a handful of story structures out there. And if you familiarize yourself with these story structures, you can write a compelling story that people will enjoy.
The big difference between most popular fiction genres and a sad book in a genre like literary fiction is the type of stakes. In a thriller, the stakes may be death. Maybe for the character. Maybe for the whole world.
In a dramatic book, the stakes will be mostly emotional. Often love or enlightenment. If your main character doesn't get what she seeks, she'll remain lost in her life. Or he'll break down and will no longer be able to function. Or the love of her life will slip away forever.
So as you write, keep the stakes in mind. And try to keep raising the stakes as you move toward the climax. This is what readers expect. And while there's a little bit of leeway in the literary fiction genre, the climactic story structure is so ingrained in our cultural psyche that you ignore it at your peril.
Now, on to the creative writing prompts!
Sad Writing Prompts
The following writing ideas can be used as a jumping-off point or merely for inspiration. If you like a story starter as it is, start writing and see where it takes you. Or change the writing prompt however you see fit and let the inspiration take over!
1. Write about a mental health professional who is afraid one of her patients may hurt himself.
2. Write about the grief a young character experiences when he loses a close friend.
3. Explore how social media negatively affects one young person's view of the world. Write it from the young person's perspective using first person POV.
4. Write about a young woman reading a love letter and crying. What's in the letter that's making her cry?
5. Write about two characters who speak different languages coming into conflict with each other because of their language barrier.
6. Write about a character who receives a terminal diagnosis. What does he do with the time he has left?
7. There's something wrong with your main character's sister. She begins acting erratically and saying very strange things.
8. Write about an unlikely friendship that develops between a hospice worker and a patient.
9. One high school is thrown into turmoil after a terrible bus accident takes the lives of many students.
10. Start your story as a diary entry written by a character who's contemplating suicide.
11. Think about your happiest childhood memory. Identify a few things that helped you feel that happiness. Now write a story about a character who never had those things in her life.
12. Write a story from the perspective of someone battling depression and overcoming anxiety.
13. Start a story in which one character lets anger take control. He says or does things that he'll find hard to take back when he calms down.
14. Write a story in which a small town or village is destroyed by deforestation or another environmentally questionable practice.
15. Write a story in which a woman gets convicted of a crime she didn't commit.
16. Detail one family's struggle to survive during a catastrophic natural disaster.
17. Explore the feelings of a young character dealing with rejection.
18. Write about a character who is orphaned when he loses his only family member. Will he find a new family?
19. Explore the terrible things that can happen when a loved one is afflicted with a drug problem.
20. Have a character look back on something bad that happened to their younger self. Have them use that incident to overcome their biggest challenge as an adult.
21. Sometimes what seems like the worst thing in the world can actually be a good thing. Write about how good things come from unlikely places.
22. Write about a character who has a hard time dealing with emotion. When things are bottled up, they can often come out in other ways.
23. Write about an old married couple who thinks they can no longer stay together. What are their final days before the divorce like? Do they end up falling back in love?
24. Abuse comes in all shapes and sizes. Write a story about a character finally getting out of an abusive relationship.
25. Write about how the world always seems to take the good ones away first.
26. Explore a character who ventures to meet her biological mother for the first time. The meeting is nothing like what she expected.
27. Explore the struggles families go through when dealing with a family member with a mental health problem.
28. She always wanted a child. But now that she has one, she feels like something is missing.
29. The grass always seems greener on the other side. But when you get over there, it rarely is. Write about a character who seems to burn every bridge in search of greener grass.
30. Write about a character learning to live again after suffering a debilitating injury.
31. People express their feelings in different ways. Explore a character who expresses her feelings in a way that makes people think she's abrasive.
32. Hate is a strong emotion. But so is love. Explore two characters learning how to stop hating and start loving.
33. “All I want is to find something to fill that hole inside me. But I don't think it exists.”
34. She just left the bathroom for a minute to answer the phone. There were only a few inches of water in the tub…
35. He could still feel the painful wound in his hand. This time, he managed to look into the mirror without punching it.
36. She tried to see the beauty in everything. But after the funeral, it seemed impossible. She thought all the beauty had been sucked out of the world.
37. He watched the storm coming slowly closer. The sky looked exactly like this when his life was torn apart.
38. Explore how one seemingly insignificant choice can change a life for the worst.
39. He saw the homeless man every day on the way to work. One day, he decided to call in sick and help the man.
40. Write a story about a character who must deal with a narcissistic and extremely manipulative father.
41. It feels too good to be true. Has she finally found love, or is she being manipulated?
42. He's the most in-demand actor in Hollywood. So why does he feel so empty inside?
43. Write about a character who has a bad day and is rude to someone at a coffee shop. They feel bad, but soon find out the person they were rude to is out for revenge.
44. The new marriage is exciting, but something isn't quite right. Could it be that the perfect relationship is anything but?
45. She's poor until she receives a large inheritance. But with the money comes a whole new set of problems.
46. His brother has always been a lot to handle. But on this trip back home, the sibling does something truly terrible.
47. Her favorite thing in the world is her music. But a freak accident causes her to go deaf.
48. As a writer prepares to take his final breaths before his assisted suicide, he laments those things he didn't do in his life.
49. When a young man experiences some bullying at his new school, he's heartbroken. But he could never have guessed what would happen to his bully. Or why everyone would suspect him.
50. As a godmother to her best friend's child, she never thought she'd actually have to raise the kid. But a horrible accident makes her an adoptive mother.
Whether you use one of these sad writing prompts as a story starter or a journal prompt doesn't matter much. What matters is you sharpen your story-writing skills with practice. Whether the story is novel-length or simply a short story, you'll still enjoy the practice that comes with executing a character-driven plot.
But what if you've written a sad book and you'd like to put it out in the world to make some money from it? If that's your goal, then it's good to have a plan.
Planning for Publishing Success
The most successful indie authors have a plan in place before publishing their books. And part of that plan means looking at the market to find readers who are interested in their books. There’s more than one way to go about this, but only one way that doesn’t take hours of mind-numbing research.
With Publisher Rocket, you can get data in seconds that would otherwise take you hours if you were to comb through Amazon yourself. The main PR tools allow you to:
- Learn what keywords Amazon customers use to search for books like yours — and how many searches a given keyword (or phrase) receives per month.
- See what's working for other authors in your genre with data on book price, monthly sales, ranking, and book cover styles.
- Find niche categories with the right amount of demand and competition for your books.
- Gather keywords to use in your Amazon Ad campaigns.
Check out Publisher Rocket here to learn more.