Promptfest 2010: The 100th prompt! Write your own prompt, win some magazines, and get your response featured in Writer’s Digest.

As I gorge myself on digital cake and shield the WD staff from popping digital corks, here it is—the 100th writing prompt. 

Write your own writing prompt. 

Give it a shot by posting your response in the Comments section of the blog. We’ll pick one stellar prompt to run in the July/August Writer’s Digest magazine, and award its author a subscription to the magazine.

Here’s to everyone who has posted a story in the last nine or so months, and to the regulars who post on every prompt. You know who you are, and you rock.

And now, without further adieu, the other 24 prompts. Feel free to take the following prompts home or post your response to
any of them (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments
section below. By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our
occasional around-the-office swag drawings. If you’re having trouble
with the captcha code sticking, e-mail your story to me at, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll
make sure it gets up.

George Stojkovic)


Dining Room Enigmas

He takes his fifth drink and coughs. His companion takes his first and kisses a waitress on the cheek. Across the room, your associate’s palms sweat as she prepares to tell them the truth.


That Damn Cat

You could have done it. It all should have been simple. 
“If it hadn’t been for that damn cat …” he mumbles.



“It’s new, but it doesn’t look new.”

“It never did.”

“They never do.”


Up in the Air

A thud.

On the plane, everyone looks around.

Another thud.

And another.

Then, a knocking from below.


Literary Roadshow—J.D. Salinger Edition

(From Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye; write a story inspired by or including the following—)

“You’re sorry. You’re sorry. That’s very funny,” she said. She was still sort of crying, and all of a sudden I did feel sort of sorry I’d said it.

“C’mon, I’ll take ya home. No kidding.”

“I can go home by myself, thank you. If you think I’d let you take me home, you’re mad. No boy ever said that to me in my entire life.”


Literary Roadshow—J.D. Salinger Edition 2

(From Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye; write a story inspired by or including the following—)

“Daddy’s going to kill you. He’s going to kill you,” she said. 
I wasn’t listening, though. I was thinking about something else—something crazy.
“You know what I’d like to be?” I said. “You know what I’d like to be?”


The Man Who Speaks in Poems

Write a prose story about a man who speaks only in poems.


Reject a Hit! 

Humorously reject a hit book in 400 words or fewer and send your piece to with “InkWell: Reject a Hit” in the subject line, or post it here. Some of our favorites could appear in a future issue of WD. (For the background on this prompt, click here.)


The Wait is Over 

After a year’s wait, you finally strike—it’s yours. But once you get home, you discover that it’s nothing—nothing—like you thought it’d be.


Test Drive

You go on a test drive in a new car. With the dealership representative in the passenger seat, you pull to the side of the road, turn off the engine, and lock the doors. 
“There’s something I should tell you,” you say.


Plenty of Fish in the Digital Sea

You venture into the world of online dating. Browsing through profiles, you drop your coffee mug and it shatters on the ground—it can’t be.


Clash of the Characters

Create a scene using four characters: One based on yourself, one based on someone you personally know, one based on someone you heard about in the media, and one spawning strictly from the imagination. Make the media story the hook or reason they’re all together, and base the scene around that.


A Day of Valentines

Take your best–or worst–Valentine’s Day experience, and reveal it in scene.


A Second Day of Valentines

It was Valentine’s Day. You took your date to a movie–only it wasn’t the Valentine’s Day epic you had imagined, and what happened in the seat in front of you only reinforced that.


Stolen Dialogue 2 (from a café trek)

“Do you have anything real? I’m tired of all this fiction.”

“The comedian.”

“No. No way.”


Your Story No. 25

Two boys attempt to pull an April Fool’s Day joke on a female classmate, only to find out that she’s the one fooling them.


A Suitor for the Suitcase

A man enters your subway car with a small suitcase. He places it under a seat and gets off at the next stop. You eye the “LEAVE NO PACKAGES UNATTENEDED” sign. Another man boards the train, picks up the suitcase, takes something out of it, and moves it down a seat. At the next stop, he leaves and a woman enters, takes something out of it, moves it down a seat and exits. And then another. Finally, it’s placed under your seat.


Parting Words (courtesy of Brian A. Klems)

Write the last sentence to an unwritten novel or nonfiction book that’s so intriguing that others won’t help but want to read the rest of the text. [Feel free to include a paragraph or two leading up to it. And if you’re searching for character or subject fodder, how about the topic of the last phone call you placed today?]


Self-Destructive Actions

Take a short piece you’ve written (or whip up a new one), and hack the ending off. Then, write the most awesomely bad ending you can—and see how easily you can derail the piece. 


The Last Thing You Expected to See on the Menu

The waiter handed you a menu. Only what was written inside wasn’t merely a listing of food


The Chairman

Your father made the chair when he was a boy, and it’s gotten rickety. Preparing to finally throw it away, you flip it over to carry it to the trash, and notice a message etched in with a knife.


The Dirty Trick

(A Literary Roadshow bonus from William Golding’s Lord of the Flies; write a story inspired by or including the following—)

Unwillingly Ralph felt his lips twitch; he was angry with himself for giving way.

He muttered.

“That was a dirty trick.”

Jack broke out of his gyration and stood facing Ralph. His words came in a shout.

“All right, all right!” 
“I’m sorry. About the fire, I mean. There. I—”
 He drew himself up. 
“I apologize.”



(A Literary Roadshow bonus from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle; write a story inspired by or including the following—)

He had to bend down to her, she was so weak. She was pleading with him, in broken phrases, painfully uttered: “Have faith in me! Believe me!”

“Believe what?” he cried.

“Believe that I—that I know best—that I love you! And do not ask me—what you did.”


What Do You Have to Say for Yourself?

(A Literary Roadshow bonus from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle; write a story inspired by or including the following—)

“I hit him, sir,” said Jurgis. 

“Say ‘your Honor,’ ” said the officer, pinching his arm hard.

“Your Honor,” said Jurgis, obediently.

“You tried to choke him?”

“Yes, sir, your Honor.”

“Ever been arrested before?”

“No, sir, your honor.”

“What have you to say for yourself?”


Somebody Breathing

(A Literary Roadshow bonus from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar; write a story inspired by or including the following—)

I woke
to the sound of rain. 
It was pitch dark. After a while I deciphered the faint outlines of an unfamiliar window. Every so often a beam of light appeared out of thin air, traversed the wall like a ghostly, exploratory finger, and slid off into nothing again. 
Then I heard the sound of somebody breathing. 

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  7. Megan Shirley

    "Plenty of Fish in the Digital Sea"

    I always told my friends that if I was still single at age 30, I would become a slut. But by the time 30 rolled around, I realized that just wasn’t going to be an option for me. You see, I have intimacy anxiety. I don’t initiate hugs. I don’t initiate kisses. When the time comes for one or the other, I turn into a statue of awkwardness. The problem could’ve been fixed with alcohol, but I don’t drink. On my 21st birthday, I ordered a virgin drink.

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  8. Mark James

    Martha . . . good job.

    I’ll take "Faith!" for $1

    He had to bend down to her, she was so weak. She was pleading with him, in broken phrases, painfully uttered: “Have faith in me! Believe me!”

    “Believe what?” he cried.

    “Believe that I—that I know best—that I love you! And do not ask me—what you did.”

    He held her too, too warm head against the worn cotton of his thin trousers. “I won’t let him steal you from me. We said forever.”

    But she was already gone. He closed her eyes, moved her head to rest on the floor. Only then did he think to look around.

    “This mortal, is the other side of forever.”

    Tristan jumped to his feet, heart thudding.“You’re Death.”

    The figure nodded. “It’s my scythe isn’t it? Gives me away every time.”

    “I crossed the bridge? I’m in Hell?”

    “I am Thanatos.” The figure seemed to draw himself up. “This is not Hell.”

    “But my wife, she was good, she was going to Heaven.”

    “She was,” Thanatos said, “until your mortal selfishness weighed her down and brought you both here.”

    “No.” Tristan shrank from the shadows all around. “She has to go on. Send me back.”

    Thanatos bowed his head. “I cannot keep live souls against their will.” He spread his arms. “Michael, my brother, I summon thee.”

    Light exploded through the gloom, as though lightening had struck. A figure stepped from the light, carried it with him.

    “What?” Michael said. “I’m busy.”

    “This soul is unwilling to stay,” Thanatos said.

    “What am I now? Chariot service for you?”

    “With your constant wars, Charon is quite busy.”

    Michel turned his gold eyes on Tristan. “Fine. Sign your soul over to Lucifer, you go back and live a life of torment and guilt and she goes to Heaven and plays harps, or whatever transformed souls do over there.”

    “You could be more subtle, brother,” Thanatos said.

    “Subtle? I got mountain warlords fighting village warlords, mortal troops too stupid to dodge bullets and He won’t let me strike down politicians.”

    “And when I die?” Tristan said.

    Michael glanced at him. “You messed with Him. You go to Hell.”

    “Give him the other choice,” Thanatos said.

    Michael’s eternally beautiful face twisted into a grimace. “Are you listening? Think I need a newbie wet behind the wings to train?”

    Thanatos unrolled a black scroll and began to read. “And it is written, that those who – – ”

    “Stop. You know I hate hearing all those laws.” Michael turned to Tristan. “Your other choice is you die now, become part of my host of angels and fight for good till the end of time.”

    Tristan, who’d never looked at a man when he was earthbound, fell to his knees, gazed up at Michael’s unspeakable beauty. “I would follow you anywhere.”

    Thanatos chuckled. “You see, brother? Yet another convert.”

    Michael shot him a look that would have struck a mortal dead. “Done. You’re mine forever and a day,” he said to Tristan. “And your wife goes to Heaven.”

    “I look forward to seeing you again, brother,” Thanatos said.

    “I bet my wings you do.” Michael pulled Tristan to his feet. “You kneel to my Dad, not me. Let’s go.”

    The Arc Angel rose, carrying two souls, one bound for Heaven, the other soul, bound to fight eternally at Michael’s side, slowly changed as he rose from an adoring mortal, to an immortal warrior.

  9. Khara E. House

    You walk into your apartment just in time to catch your cat on the phone saying, "Dude, it’s gonna be WILD!" The cat looks at you. You look at your cat. And then the cat says, "So I guess we’d better talk."

  10. Martha W

    Zac… so many to choose from… I’ll take *Somebody breathing* for $1


    Dan woke to rain drumming down on him in the pitch dark.

    The fog in his brain cleared enough for him to decipher the faint outline of an unfamiliar building. Every so often a shadow traversed the chipped brick wall like a ghostly, exploratory finger, and slid off into nothing again.

    Then he heard the sound of soft footsteps.

    "He couldn’t have gotten far." The low voice barely reached him but it undeniably belonged to Arik.

    Another voice joined in; one Dan didn’t recognize. "Are you sure you hit him?"

    A low growl crawled across Dan’s skin, made him want to jump and run. But he stayed put. If they hadn’t seen him yet, they wouldn’t.

    "Yes, damn it." Arik swiped a hand across his face. "What the hell is with this rain?"

    "Probably your girlfriend."

    Arik laughed. "She never had that much control."

    Dan clamped his lips tight. The guy hadn’t done his homework then.

    "Let’s head inside. We’ll find him in the morning." Arik squeezed the water from his hair. "Maybe I’ll call her. Now that she’s free."

    Letting them pass proved harder than he thought but after their backs were to him, he rose to his feet, hugged the wall. Before he could take a step in their direction, the wind changed.

    The steady rain became a downpour, droplets of water turned to pellets, stung Dan’s skin. She was here.

    But why?

    The two demons halted only feet from him. Arik turned in a circle, took his time scouring the area.

    Dan held his breath. Was he far enough in the shadows?

    A crash of thunder signaled her appearance. Dan’s gaze lingered on her, took in the pale yellow shirt soaked by rain, the denim plastered to her legs. He rolled his eyes. No shoes.

    "What do you think you’re doing?" Her voice shook, a gust of wind sent Arik’s friend sprawling into the grass.

    Arik stood rock steady. "Hello, lover. Again we meet under the stars."

    Dan felt his anger build. There were times, like this, he wished like hell he wasn’t a healer.

    "You and I haven’t met under the stars in a very long time, Arik." She leaned back against the lamp post, feet flat to the ground, arms loose at her sides, fingers slightly curled.

    Arik lashed out at her. Lightening bridged from the sky to the ground at her feet.

    Without even a flinch, she merely swept her hand to the side, brushed the energy away. "Is that your best tonight?"

    He snarled, stepped forward only to meet resistance. "Let down this damn barrier and I’ll show you my best."

    She shrugged. "Not mine to take down."

    Arik took a jilted step in retreat. His brows knit in confusion.

    Dan moved out of the shadows, crossed to her. He leaned in and grazed her cheek with his lips, keeping his eyes on Arik, speaking to him. "Forget about me? Or did you think I was just another mortal?"

  11. Martha W

    Yeah, I kinda like this too… but how the heck do you do this three times per week??


    The combination of stale air spiked with a jolt of eucalyptus greeted her nose. "Is this it?"

    "Yes, ma’am."

    She sighed and sank to the floor. This couldn’t be it.

  12. Nathan Honoré

    You are 22 years old and have just graduated college with no job prospects. Over the last semester you discovered your true passion in another major. It is too late to turn back and you are now out of money. The only jobs available are those in retail, fast-food, and manual labor. A Bachelor’s degree just isn’t enough anymore.

  13. Mark James

    Zac, this making up prompts is fun stuff. . . .

    "If the lion’s sleeping tonight, and the moon’s in Aquarius, that must mean you’re here to . . . "


    You’re Satan’s confessor. Write his first confession in a thousand years.

  14. Paula

    A little girl was walking down the street, wearing a red dress, and looking for something. She asked the first person that she met, "Have you seen my _______?"

  15. Kim Kennedy

    Seamus O’ Hanrahan stood on the deck of his ship and looked out over the water, watching as the orange fingers of flame turned to red in the darkening twilight. They navigated by the path of the sun during the day, and by the stars at night, but sunrise and sunset were outside of time. They spoke of the eternal, the never ending, the time and place outside of time and place. These were the times when seafaring men knew the size and strength of the vast ocean.

  16. Temira

    100th prompt:

    You’re walking quickly along a busy sidewalk, dodging people, late for work, when you pass through a slow moving crowd; all eyeing a homeless man who is passionately shouting and kicking a parking meter. You roll your eyes, attempting to push past when the man shouts your name. You turn to see that he is merely addressing the meter, but something in the way he spoke your name makes you stop. "So this is what has become of my Ex-husband," you think to yourself.

  17. Katrina

    Okay, I have a weird one for you:

    Womb dreams are the best. Well, I don’t have anything with which to compare them, but from what the Caregivers say, they are sublimely better than postnatal dreams.

  18. Alex

    My contribution:

    Earth is rocked to its core by an onslaught of pounding thunder. Bolts of lightning rain down from the skies, illuminating the darkest of nights. Storm clouds blot out any and all traces of the stars.
    Zeus is angry.

  19. HiDee

    My contribution:

    You’re on an elevator that suddenly shudders to a stop between floors. In the elevator with you are the UPS man, a young man with glasses dressed in a business suit, and a very pregnant lady.