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Examples Of Themes

Examples of themes.

Before you look at the examples of themes below it will help you to learn more about what theme is and how it affects our writing and our stories

A story without a theme is little more than a list of events.

The events themselves may be very interesting, or exciting, but without the universal human connection, they will not engage our attention in any real way.


Not only must the theme appeal to the reader, it must also appeal to you.

You must want to or even need to explore that particular theme for you to keep writing.

Many people tend to confuse the theme of a story with the plot.

To learn about the difference between theme and plot click here.


Theme is the pulse of the story and if you choose correctly you will feel compelled (in a good way) to complete your story.

If your theme is not compelling to you, it will certainly not be compelling to your readers.

So think very carefully, not just about your themes but about how you intend exploring them.

You might like to choose one of the following examples of themes – that appeals to you and try writing a story about it.

Alienation – The effects of, the loneliness of, to cure it.

Ambition – getting what you want, stunted by, thwarted.

Betrayal – the pain of, in love and friendship.

Coming of age  – loss of innocence.

Courage – the courage to deal with conflict, lack of, developing, conquering with.

Deception   – how to deceive, results of.

Discovery – what does it take to discover new places, inner meaning, strength, even treasure.

Escape – from life, routine, prison, family pressures.

Death – how to escape, facing, what happens after, consequences of.

Fear – driven by, dealing with, conquering.

Freedom – loss of, gaining, handling, fight for.

Good versus evil – survival of one despite the other, the triumph of one over the other.

Isolation – physical and emotional.

Jealousy – trouble caused by, denial of, driven by.

Justice – the fight for, injustice, truth versus justice.

Loss – of life, innocence, love, friends, to avoid.

Loneliness – no man is an island, or hell is other people.

Love – love fades, is blind, can overcome all obstacles, can

Lust – for power, for sex.

Power – the search for, the loss of, what we are willing to exchange for.

Prejudice – racism, bigotry, snobbery, dealing with.

Security – the loss of, the finding of the need for, how we act when security is shattered.

Spirituality and God – the struggle to find faith, live without faith etc.

Survival – man versus nature


  • Give a lot of thought to choosing your story theme. Remember you will need to be obsessed with your chosen theme to keep writing about it for long periods of time.
  • Being aware of your themes can help you sell your books.

For help choosing a theme click here .


We all approach our writing ideas differently. My own methods vary from time to time. Sometimes I decide I want to write about a particular theme and then find the story.

At other times I find the story first and the themes become apparent through the process of writing.

Whatever your approach, it is well worth putting some thought into it before you commit yourself to the hard work of writing out the story.


Undertaking this initial preparation will save you from having to put too many of those unfinished stories in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet.

I really hope these examples of themes help you.

If you have any questions or comments please use the comments box below and I will be happy to help.

Click here for Creative Writing Exercises to help kick-start your writing.

Best of luck with your writing.

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Hey Grace, For the longest time I’ve wanted to put my ideas to paper and write a fantasy novel and thanks to your website I think I finally have the tools and confidence to do it, thank you.

Hi Christopher, I am so glad to hear that and I hope it goes well for you – keep at it Grace

Me too! I have written many books and I have been having writers block . Thanks to this website I am able to continue!

Hi…am a young passionate writer but I don’t know how to go about it. Would you kindly help me develop it ?

HI Thomas If you are truly passionate about writing you will write at least 5 days a week. Start with short sessions of even 30 minutes, build up more time. Writing regularly is vital to your development.

Go here to start with https://www.practicalcreativewriting.com/creative-writing-exercises/

Best wishes

Did you write the novel?

Hey, I was looking for a list of themes to help give me motivation and creative guidance to make a school essay which is very important to me. I greatly appreciate this page and hope more people find it and I’m sure you yourself are a wonderful writer! Best wishes for the future! x 🙂

Hi I am so glad it helped you and I wish you all the best with your school essay and the rest of your school work. Keep in touch, Grace

hey grace, This was a very helpful page and I am so thankful for it. I have to write an essay for school soon and this website is really helping me out with my study. I hope more people will find this page in the future because it is so helpful. Thank you.

Hi Brooke I am glad it helped you with your essay and best of luck with your studies. Grace

How does your overall story goal affect your characters? What I mean to say is, if my overall goal is isolation, my character obviously wants to change this, by running away from it, etc. How does this originate? From the start of the book to the end, what makes the reader believe my character’s goal is this, and how is it shown? Is it shown subtly throughout the book? Is it spoken? (Question overload, sorry.) Lastly, what leads up to this goal being achieved? As in, what kind of inciting incidents that more or less throw the book forwards into action and new experiences. What makes this character’s thoughts consciously or no, become a reality when blah, blah, blah.. happens. (Once again, so sorry this is about a mile long. Just a question I’ve been wondering about for a long time. No one else has been able to answer this plainly enough for me to understand and/or put into action myself. )

Hi Krishna, I am not sure I am clear what your question is. Are you perhaps confusing story goal with character goal? Your goal as a writer may be to write a story about a man who wants to become President but who fails at this and instead decides to become an actor. Your characters goal might be to become president but your story goal takes him away from his goal to where you as the writer decide he should go. Sometimes writers can over think – maybe you should write your story and see where it takes you? Best of luck with your work.

Hi Krishna,

I actually have an answer for you:

The theme of your story ends up being what your character will realize in the end to conquer. It’s the backbone of your story regardless of character goals. For instance, your character goal might be to get away from being rejected (by getting a new boyfriend or sacrificing morals, etc) but the theme of the story might be that you need to accept yourself before others will accept you.

In the story, the theme is usually shown early on in the story – the first 4k if it’s a standard novel – and it’s often something mentioned by a confidante – a piece of wisdom or a question posed in a conversational way. For example, in Frozen the troll tells the royal family that “the heart is not easiliy changed, but the head can be pursuaded”. At the end, when Anna sacrifices herself, Elsa realizes that true love comes from within and it’s that love that will allow her to rule her powers. Elsa’s personal goal was to save everyone from herself.

Other examples are Man of Steel where Jonathan Kent tells young Clark that he needs to decide what kind of man he will be – in the end that allows him to save the world. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s theme comes out when she sings ‘somewhere over the rainbow’ – will she ever find a place where she belongs? A place to call home?

Once you’ve stated your theme (subtly) in conversation with another character, your main character goes through the story trying to fight it out and figure out how to reach their goal. Finally, after going through everything, they realize the theme and it helps them reach their goal.

In other words – THEME is the key to reaching CHARACTER GOAL. How do you accept love from others? Love yourself, first. How do you overcome childhood failure? Forive yourself. How do you save the world? Realize you’re worthy despite your shortcomings. You get the idea.

I hope this helps. It’s one of the most challenging parts of writing, I find, and the most important. It’s one of the first things I work on before I decide on my ending.

Hi Talea, Thanks for adding this wonderful answer and perspective on theme from the writer’s point of view. We writers have many challenges and theme is so crucial. Best of luck with your writing. Grace

Can you give me an example of a theme

choose death you can write stories about death (//death//)

An example of a theme relates to what your trying to express in a story, essay, etc. One example would be “Don’t give up on your dreams” It s an obvious theme although you can write multiple things about it.

Hi Genesis, Thanks for the comment and a great example. You’re right, there are so many great stories about people who follow their dreams and the stories can be as diverse as the imagination allows. Thanks Grace

Thank you so much for your unique post on Themes. It truly helped me understand character goals better and realize that the story goal may be different than the characters. I agree Theme really is the backbone of a story.

Grace, This website helped me with my short story theme for English. Thanks! -Jean

You are welcome. Grace

Thx this really helped with my homework

I’m so grateful to have found this page. Not many others were this helpful, this page was just what I needed. Thank you so much

So glad it helped. Best wishes Grace

Hey thanks for creating this website it helps me a alot when iam doing an essay. Thanks ☺

Hi Rosa, Thanks for commenting. Best of luck with your essays. Grace

Dear grace, Before reading this page on theme i was dumbstruck, i had no idea what any of it meant. now that i have read this i completely understand !!! thank you so much !!!!!

Glad it helped. Best wishes Grace

This page really helped my with my English essay’s . Thanks a ton! -Hunter

Glad to hear it Hunter – good luck with your work. Grace

Thank you very much grace this helped me alot.

I could not think of an idea to do my L.A. short story about and when i decided to check out this website i thought of everything i could do! Thank you Grace, you helped me think of a good story to use and great themes/story plot for my assignment. I can’t thank you enough.

Hi Caleb, I am so pleased to hear this. It’s amazing how ideas can be triggered in so many different ways. I hope you will come back and let me know how you get on with your story. Best wishes Grace

Thank you for helping me with my homework your website is the best.🙂 👍🏼

Tanks for the tips. Its a great thing people like you are out there. Keep it up. Joe

Hi Joseph – glad the tips help. Best wishes Grace

Ditto. This really helped me with my creative writing class. I can already see myself improving in writing! Grace, you are the best.

Lovely to hear from you, Maddie -keep writing.

this really help me for my critics letter essay thank you!

what is the theme of the song 50 ways to say goodbye? i need this but i can’t figure it out. i thought it was like loss of love or something because of a breakup but i dont know. can someone help me?

I believe the theme of that song is freedom…setting yourself free.

Your list of themes really helped me. All I needed was a small push. Thanks.

Great to hear – keep going now! Grace

Thank you! I have to write a speech and often find it hard to think of an overall theme on my own.

You are very welcome – best of luck with your speech. Grace

Thank you Ms.Grace,

I’m actually making a writing assignment for my teacher. This gives me a lead to my creative writing.

HI Hiromi Glad to hear this helped and the very best of luck with your creative writing assignment. Best wishes Grace

Hi I am doing an English project and for it we need to identify a thematic idea. Can you help explain it?

Hi Haydn I suggest that you read through my articles on theme https://www.practicalcreativewriting.com/what-is-a-theme/ You will find more links to other articles below this. I also suggest you look through the notes your teacher has given you. Read the text and books your teacher has suggested. Research in the library. You will find the answer to the question quite easily if you do the above. If this is an essay question then all you need to do is expand on your answer. Perhaps find some examples and explain them. Your teacher wants you to learn for yourself and prove that you can do this. I wish you all the best of luck and am sure you can do it. Best wishes Grace

Hi Grace. Thanks for posting the THEME information. I just finished my 1st novel and I’m in editing/revision making sure my themes are supported well throughout the plot. I have multiple characters and multiple subplots so I sat down and wrote out some of the themes I felt were represented. Its a science fiction genre so some themes that seemed to come into play were:

Good vs evil (the novel) Greed (antagonist) Loss (sub char) Survival (the novel) Courage (sub char) Discovery (protag) Corruption (antag) and probably Growing up (sub char) There are more but that’s a healthy batch

I kind of figure a book will always have at least a few themes that a writer would include regardless. But when I research Best Sellers – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_books I found a ton of information. And themes from those books. I was overwhelmed with information.

I was really trying to figure out what kind of theme would cover someone who is emotionally isolated (a scientist) that during the course of the novel grows emotionally and finds love. Is that a theme? I think I labeled it as Discovery in the list above.

hi Jeanne Glad you found the theme information useful. There is so much information out there that we writers can get overwhelmed. I think that the best themes are universal and will apply to any genre – the list you supplied above could apply to many stories not just science fiction – so that’s great! As for your character who finds love – well love is a theme. However, think about survival. I don’t know your story. But sometimes survival can apply in different ways. We can survive disease, disaster, difficult lives. She survives her isolation? It sounds like you are doing just great and I am glad to hear you are at the editing stage – that’s a great achievement. Best of luck with the project and keep in touch. I would love to hear how you get on. Grace

this was the best site that i have met for themes thank alot

Glad to have helped. Grace

Wow this website really helped me finish my homework! You look like an amazing person that obviously does amazing work… thanks for helping me!!! Best of Luck

Thanks very much. Do come back any time. Best wishes Grace

Hello Grace. What would be a good theme for bullying because of race and ethnicity?

Racism and bullying are universal themes and are good choices for story lines or even secondary story lines. Best of luck Grace

Thank you for writing this! I have many unfinished projects to revisit armed with this new knowledge. Preperation truly makes a difference.

Hi Dia So pleased this helped – good look with your projects – get them finished 🙂 Best wishes Grace

Themes don’t come easy to me so this was helpful THX

You are welcome Grace

This really helped me as well, thank you!

So glad to hear it, thanks Jack.

Excellent web site. Lots of useful info here. I am sending it to a few friends ans also sharing in delicious. And certainly, thanks in your sweat!

Glad you found it useful and thanks for sharing as well. Grace

Hey Grace, is “a story without a theme is little more than a list of events” an original quote of yours? If so, would it be okay to quote you for an essay I’m writing?

Hello, Grace, thanks for an excellent organization primer when considering a novel! Am I correct in concluding that theme is the focal point that must appear throughout the narrative of dialogue, plot, and structure? Did I say that right?

Hi Kenneth, Yes themes are important but they don’t always emerge until you the writer are immersed in the story. Being conscious of your themes comes with experience. When you are actually in the act of writing it is always best to concentrate on telling your story. If you set out to write a story about your themes you may produce a piece of non-fiction. It is a bit of a tightrope but remember to focus on your story – if you do that the themes will look after themselves. Best wishes Grace

Hey Grace, How do you get good at finding the theme of a book?

Hi Nathan I suggest reading a book carefully then when you’ve finished write down what you see as the themes. If, for example, the story was about a man who lost his wife in a murder who is determined to find her killer, then some of the themes might be revenge, love grief. Themes are different from the actual story – by reading carefully the themes will appear to you. Best of luck Grace

Thank you Grace found it very useful…

Great to hear – thanks Aswathi and take care. Grace

This is simple and very helpful thx:)

Glad to help Peter. Best wishes Grace

As many people have already said on this website, thanks for the amazing tips and themes! 😀

Hi Katie – thanks for your comment. So encouraging to get feedback like this! I will keep going then 🙂 Best of luck with your writing. Grace

Hey Grace, so I’m 14 and I really wanted to write a story, and these themes really helped me, I wanted to thank you about and appreciate it so much all the love too you.

Hi Nada So lovely to hear from you. I hope you write your story. It’s great to start young. If you have any questions – come back to me. Take care Grace

Can a story have more than one theme involved?

Hi Molly Yes you can – sometimes there are many themes involved in a story. My advice is to pick your favourite book and see if you can identify the themes involved – write them down in a list.

I think you will be surprised. Best wishes

Hi Grace1 Thanks for the post, it gave me some insights for a scholl project!

Hi Grace ! Thank you so much for these writing themes and explanations, I have a question, Does it also work when it comes to songwriting themes ?? Goodbye ! Ben

Hi Ben I’m not a musician myself but I don’t see why not – inspiration can take many forms. Best wishes

Amazing blog! Do you have any recommendations for aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.

Would you advise starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m totally confused .. Any recommendations? Thanks a lot!

It really depends on your budget and whether you want adverts running or not. Maybe you could start with a free option then see how you go. Good luck!

This helped me write my Essay on why picture books aren’t just for children thankyou soo much!

Hi Meghan That’s good to know and glad to have helped. Best wishes Grace

Choosing a theme could indeed be a struggle and to stay consistent with that chosen theme is another challenge. The breakdown of theme examples come in handy for writers who are in the early stages of developing their story.

This tips really helps! I m not good at writing and I don t really like it, but I have to….. I want to make short film and before I can do the fun filming Part, I have to create a Script and a Story. :/

Hi, I’m glad it helped. I suggest looking around the site – there is plenty of tips and exercises to help you with your story and script. Enjoy! Best wishes Grace

Thank you for all your tips because I had to submit a essay with theme and this helped a lot! I got a 100%!! THANK YOU!!!!!!!!

Yes, Luc, you can go ahead – please mention my website. It is my quote but that doesn’t mean other people haven’t said something similar – as always. Best of luck with your essay. Grace


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[…] Examples of Themes by Grace Jolliffe […]

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[…] the now”. I specifically chose to make a book cover for this book is because it can best show the theme by foreshadowing the climax and […]

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[…] Practical Creative Writing: Examples of Themes […]

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Short Story Competition 2023

Write the World

What truth do you want to convey through your stories? This month, write a short story of up to 1000 words and invite readers into a contained universe. With only a small word limit to work with, you must choose carefully. Remember, as Neil Gaiman once said: “Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams.”

Runner up: $50 | Best peer review: $50

Deadline: November 27, 2023

Science Fiction & Fantasy Writing 2023

Fantasy and sci-fi stir our imaginations, inviting us to think outside the limits of the life we know. This month, you have the extraordinary and exciting task of reimagining the world. In a fantasy or sci-fi short story, take your readers on a journey into a world of your imagination.

Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction, Short Story

Nature & Environmental Poetry 2023

In his groundbreaking course on ecopoetry, writer and professor Craig Santos Perez focuses on how to use poetry as a voice for the planet. This month, write a poem about what you know and love from the natural world. Your poem may focus on an element of the environment under threat, explore changes in nature, or honor the planet we call home.

Deadline: September 25, 2023 (Expired)

The Failing Writers £500, 500 Word, Flash Fiction Competition

The Failing Writers Podcast

The Failing Writers Podcast presents its 3rd annual flash fiction competition. This year, with an apt subject to write about... 'Failing'. Check our blog for all the details from Monday the 4th of September, and write your way to £500 plus a skip-full of plaudits, bragging rights and jigs around the kitchen. (To hear past winners, just skiffle through our episodes to find the flash fiction winner eps and enjoy!)

Deadline: September 28, 2023 (Expired)

Elegant Literature's Award For New Writers

Elegant Literature

One of the largest awards open to unpublished writers, and the only one closed to professionals. We are the first magazine to pay pro rates and only accept submissions from new writers, putting over $100k into the hands of emerging talent around the globe. One new writer receives the grand prize. We also choose the best stories, pay the authors above-professional rates, and publish them in our magazine. September's guest judge is multi-award winning author Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki.

Paid publication, 25 x $20 USD | Free entry to Novelist Accelerator | Now Novel Package

Deadline: October 01, 2023

Crime, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Humor, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Short Story, Thriller, Young Adult, Flash Fiction, Science Writing

Matter Poetry Contest

MATTER is our most inclusive contest. All poems that become finalists will be presented in the Matter XXIII anthology. The intention behind this particular contest is to give great odds for publication. It's one of MATTER’s, and Oprelle’s, founding principles: to uplift potentially unheard voices, their stories and poems, to prevent them from being lost in the masses.

Publication in Matter Anthology

Deadline: September 09, 2023 (Expired)

I Am In Print Novel Award 2023

I Am In Print Ltd

I Am In Print are excited to be working with Canelo, one of the largest independent digitally focused publishers in Europe and one of the largest UK fiction publishers by volume, to find the best, as yet unpublished, manuscripts. Novels entered must be complete, written in English and be between 70,000 and 100,000 words. The award is open to writers globally and novels written for an adult audience in the following genres are welcome: Action thriller, Cosy mystery, Crime, Historical adventure, Horror, Psychological thriller, Romance, Saga. First prize is £1000 plus a 60 minute online consultation with a Canelo Editor!

60 minute online consultation with a Canelo Editor

Deadline: October 09, 2023

Crime, Fiction, Horror, Humor, Mystery, Novel, Romance, Thriller

Wenlock Olympian Society Short Story Competition

Wenlock Olympian Society

This is an international competition. There should be a maximum of up to 2,500 words on any theme and in any genre except YA and Children's stories. The contest will be judged by acclaimed author Philip Caine and winners announced in March 2024.

2nd: £50 | 3rd: £25

Deadline: October 30, 2023

Crime, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Humor, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Short Story, Thriller

The Book of the Year Awards

The Independent Author Network

The Independent Author Network presents the 2024 IAN Book of the Year Awards, an international contest open to all authors with 55 fiction and non-fiction categories. Winners are eligible to receive a share of cash prizes of $6,000 USD. Open to all English language print and eBooks available for sale, including small presses, mid-size independent publishers, university presses, and self-published authors.

$6,000.00 USD in total cash prizes

Deadline: August 15, 2023 (Expired)

Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Humor, Memoir, Mystery, Non-fiction, Novel, Novella, Poetry, Romance, Science Fiction, Science Writing, Thriller, Young Adult


Bergen International Literary Festival

Write your story about the climate crisis in a poem or a personal essay.

Deadline: October 15, 2023

Essay, Memoir, Non-fiction, Poetry, Science Writing, Young Adult

The Goldilocks Zone

Sunspot Literary Journal

Sunspot Lit seeks a story, essay, excerpt from longer prose pieces, artwork, graphic novel, or poem that combines excellence in craft with reader or audience appeal. Feedback for fiction and nonfiction submissions available for additional fee.

Essay, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Memoir, Non-fiction, Poetry, Script Writing, Short Story

Indignor Play House Annual Short Story Competition

Indignor House Publishing

Indignor House Publishing is proud to announce that our annual writing competition (INDIGNOR PLAYHOUSE Short Story Annual Competition) is officially open with expected publication in the fall of 2024. Up to 25 submissions will be accepted for inclusion in the annual anthology.

Deadline: March 31, 2024

Fiction, Flash Fiction, Short Story, Crime, Essay, Fantasy, Horror, Humor, Memoir, Mystery, Non-fiction, Novella, Poetry, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult

The Masters Review Novel Excerpt Contest

The Masters Review

Each fall, The Masters Review hosts a call for novel excerpts! Writing a novel can be an arduous and lonely process, but we’re here to champion the great work being produced. Whether your book is not quite finished or ready to pitch, we want to read your words. For this contest, we’re looking for self-contained excerpts that display a strong voice, compelling characters, and carefully constructed narrative arcs. You may submit an excerpt from any section of your completed or in-progress novel, but choose wisely: a synopsis should not be required for understanding the excerpt. As always, we have no limitations on genre, though we are primarily interested in literary fiction.

2nd: $300, online publication | 3rd: $200, online publication

Deadline: November 12, 2023

Fiction, Novel

Pivotal Essay Contest

Pivotal is an essay contest for high school students around the world run in partnership with Oxford University's Global Priorities Institute on the world’s most pressing problems. Students will write a 2000-word essay on one of three prompts relating to future generations, AI policy, and ethics.

Deadline: October 10, 2023

Essay, Non-fiction

The Hal Prize

Peninsula Pulse

The contest was created to encourage and appreciate artistic expression through various literary forms and photography. The contest has showcased works from individuals of all ages and backgrounds – novice writers and photographers to professionals.

2nd: $100 | 3rd: $50

Deadline: September 01, 2023 (Expired)

Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry

Discover the finest writing contests of 2023 for fiction and non-fiction authors — including short story competitions, essay writing competitions, poetry contests, and many more. Updated weekly, these contests are vetted by Reedsy to weed out the scammers and time-wasters. If you’re looking to stick to free writing contests, simply use our filters as you browse.

Why you should submit to writing contests

Submitting to poetry competitions and free writing contests in 2023 is absolutely worth your while as an aspiring author: just as your qualifications matter when you apply for a new job, a writing portfolio that boasts published works and award-winning pieces is a great way to give your writing career a boost. And not to mention the bonus of cash prizes!

That being said, we understand that taking part in writing contests can be tough for emerging writers. First, there’s the same affliction all writers face: lack of time or inspiration. Entering writing contests is a time commitment, and many people decide to forego this endeavor in order to work on their larger projects instead — like a full-length book. Second, for many writers, the chance of rejection is enough to steer them clear of writing contests. 

But we’re here to tell you that two of the great benefits of entering writing contests happen to be the same as those two reasons to avoid them.

When it comes to the time commitment: yes, you will need to expend time and effort in order to submit a quality piece of writing to competitions. That being said, having a hard deadline to meet is a great motivator for developing a solid writing routine.

Think of entering contests as a training session to become a writer who will need to meet deadlines in order to have a successful career. If there’s a contest you have your eye on, and the deadline is in one month, sit down and realistically plan how many words you’ll need to write per day in order to meet that due date — and don’t forget to also factor in the time you’ll need to edit your story!

For tips on setting up a realistic writing plan, check out this free, ten-day course: How to Build a Rock-Solid Writing Routine.

In regards to the fear of rejection, the truth is that any writer aspiring to become a published author needs to develop relatively thick skin. If one of your goals is to have a book traditionally published, you will absolutely need to learn how to deal with rejection, as traditional book deals are notoriously hard to score. If you’re an indie author, you will need to adopt the hardy determination required to slowly build up a readership.

The good news is that there’s a fairly simple trick for learning to deal with rejection: use it as a chance to explore how you might be able to improve your writing.

In an ideal world, each rejection from a publisher or contest would come with a detailed letter, offering construction feedback and pointing out specific tips for improvement. And while this is sometimes the case, it’s the exception and not the rule.

Still, you can use the writing contests you don’t win as a chance to provide yourself with this feedback. Take a look at the winning and shortlisted stories and highlight their strong suits: do they have fully realized characters, a knack for showing instead of telling, a well-developed but subtly conveyed theme, a particularly satisfying denouement?

The idea isn’t to replicate what makes those stories tick in your own writing. But most examples of excellent writing share a number of basic craft principles. Try and see if there are ways for you to translate those stories’ strong points into your own unique writing.

Finally, there are the more obvious benefits of entering writing contests: prize and publication. Not to mention the potential to build up your readership, connect with editors, and gain exposure.

Resources to help you win writing competitions in 2023

Every writing contest has its own set of submission rules. Whether those rules are dense or sparing, ensure that you follow them to a T. Disregarding the guidelines will not sway the judges’ opinion in your favor — and might disqualify you from the contest altogether. 

Aside from ensuring you follow the rules, here are a few resources that will help you perfect your submissions.

Free online courses

On Writing:

How to Craft a Killer Short Story

The Non-Sexy Business of Writing Non-Fiction

How to Write a Novel

Understanding Point of View

Developing Characters That Your Readers Will Love

Writing Dialogue That Develops Plot and Character

Stop Procrastinating! Build a Solid Writing Routine

On Editing:

Story Editing for Authors

How to Self-Edit Like a Pro

Novel Revision: Practical Tips for Rewrites

How to Write a Short Story in 7 Steps

How to Write a Novel in 15 Steps

Literary Devices and Terms — 35+ Definitions With Examples

10 Essential Fiction Writing Tips to Improve Your Craft

How to Write Dialogue: 8 Simple Rules and Exercises

8 Character Development Exercises to Help You Nail Your Character

Bonus resources

200+ Short Story Ideas

600+ Writing Prompts to Inspire You

100+ Creative Writing Exercises for Fiction Authors

Story Title Generator

Pen Name Generator

Character Name Generator

After you submit to a writing competition in 2023

It’s exciting to send a piece of writing off to a contest. However, once the initial excitement wears off, you may be left waiting for a while. Some writing contests will contact all entrants after the judging period — whether or not they’ve won. Other writing competitions will only contact the winners. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind after you submit:

Many writing competitions don’t have time to respond to each entrant with feedback on their story. However, it never hurts to ask! Feel free to politely reach out requesting feedback — but wait until after the selection period is over.

If you’ve submitted the same work to more than one writing competition or literary magazine, remember to withdraw your submission if it ends up winning elsewhere.

After you send a submission, don’t follow it up with a rewritten or revised version. Instead, ensure that your first version is thoroughly proofread and edited. If not, wait until the next edition of the contest or submit the revised version to other writing contests.

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The Write Practice

Top 100 Short Story Ideas

by Joe Bunting | 128 comments

Do you want to write but just need a great story idea? Or perhaps you have too many ideas and can’t choose the best one? Well, good news. We’ve got you covered.

Below are one hundred short story ideas for all your favorite genres. You can use them as a book idea, as writing prompts for writing contests , for stories to publish in literary magazines , or just for fun!

Use these 100 story ideas to get your creative writing started now.

Editor’s note: This is a recurring guide, regularly updated with ideas and information.

100 Top Short Story Ideas

If you're in a hurry, here's my 10 best story ideas in brief, or scroll down for the full version.

Top 10 Story Ideas

  • Tell the story of a scar.
  • A group of children discover a dead body.
  • A young prodigy becomes orphaned.
  • A middle-aged woman discovers a ghost.
  • A woman who is deeply in love is crushed when her fiancé breaks up with her.
  • A talented young man's deepest fear is holding his life back. 
  • A poor young boy or girl comes into an unexpected fortune.
  • A shy, young woman unexpectedly bumps into her soulmate.
  • A long journey is interrupted by a disaster.
  • A young couple run into the path of a psychopath.

The Write Structure

Why Creative Writing Prompts Are Helpful

Below, you'll find our best creative writing prompts and plot ideas for every genre, but first, why do we use prompts? Is it just a waste of time, or can they actually help you? Here are three reasons we  love writing prompts at The Write Practice:

1. Practice the Language!

Even for those of us who are native English speakers, we're all on a language journey to go from beginners to skilled writers. To make progress on this language journey, you have to practice, and at The Write Practice, believe it or not, we're really into practice! Creative writing prompts are easy, fun ways to practice.

Use the prompts below to practice your storytelling and use of language. The more you practice, the better of a writer you'll become.

2. When you have no ideas and are stuck.

Sometimes, you want to write, but you can't think up any ideas. You could either just sit there, staring at a blank page, or you could find a few ideas to help you get started. Even better if the list of ideas is curated from our best plot ideas over the last decade that we've been publishing lessons, writing exercises, and prompts.

Use the story ideas below to get your writing started. Then when your creativity is warmed up, you'll start to come up with your own ideas!

3. To develop your own ideas.

Maybe you do have an idea already, but you're not sure it's good. Or maybe you feel like it's just missing some small piece to make it better. By reading other ideas, and incorporating your favorites into your   story, you can fill your plot holes and generate creative ideas of your own.

Use the story ideas below to develop your own ideas.

4. They're fun!

Thousands of writers use the prompts below every month, some at home, some in classrooms, and even a few pros at their writing “office.” Why? Because writing prompts can be fun. They get your creativity started, help you come up with new ideas of your own, and often take your writing in new, unexpected directions.

Use the plot ideas to have more fun with writing!

How to Write a Story

One last thing before we get to the 100 story ideas, let’s talk about how to write a great short story . (Already know how to write a great story? No problem. Just skip down to the ideas below.)

  • First, read stories. If you’ve never read a story, you’re going to have a hard time writing one. Where do you find great stories? There are a lot of places, but check out our list of  46 Literary Magazines  we’ve curated over here .
  • Write your story in a single sitting. Write the first draft of your story in as short a time as possible, and if you’re writing a short story , try to write it in one sitting. Trust me, this works. Everyone hates being interrupted when they’re telling compelling stories. Use that to your advantage and don’t stop writing until you’ve finished telling yours.
  • Read your draft. Read your story through once, without changing anything. This will give you a sense of what work it needs going forward.
  • Write a premise. After reading your first draft, get your head around the main idea behind your story by summarizing your story in a one sentence premise. Your premise should contain four things: a character, a goal, a situation, and a special sauce. Not sure what that means or how to actually do that? Here’s a full premise writing guide .
  • Write, edit, write, and edit. Good writing is rewriting. Use your second draft to fill in the plot holes and cut out the extraneous scenes and characters you discovered when you read the first draft in step #2. Then, polish up your final draft on the next round of edits.
  • Submit! Real writers don’t keep their writing all to themselves. They share it. Submit your story to a literary magazine , an anthology series , enter it into a writing contest , or even share it with a small group of friends. And if it gets rejected, don’t feel bad. You’ll be in good company.

Want to know more? Learn more about how to write a great short story here .

Our 100 Best Short Story Ideas, Plot Ideas, and Creative Writing Prompts

Ready to get writing? Here are our 100 best short story ideas to kickstart your writing. Enjoy!

10 Best General Short Story Ideas

Our first batch of plot ideas are for any kind of story, whether a spy thriller or a memoir of your personal life story. Here are the best story ideas:

  • Tell the story of a scar, whether a physical scar or emotional one. To be a writer, said Stephen King, “The only requirement is the ability to  remember every scar .”
  • A group of children discover a dead body. Good writers don’t turn away from death, which is, after all, the  universal human experience. Instead, they look it directly into its dark face and describe what they see on the page.
  • A young prodigy becomes orphaned. Orphans are uniquely vulnerable, and as such, they have the most potential for growth.
  • A middle-aged woman discovers a ghost. What do Edgar Allen Poe, Ron Weasley, King Saul from the Bible, Odysseus, and Ebenezer Scrooge have in common? They all encountered ghosts!
  • A woman who is deeply in love is crushed when her fiancé breaks up with her. “In life every ending is just a new beginning,” says Dakota Fanning’s character in Uptown Girls.
  • A talented young man’s deepest fear is holding his life back. Your character’s biggest fear is your story’s secret weapon. Don’t run from it, write about it.
  • A poor young boy or girl comes into an unexpected fortune. Not all fortunes are good. Sometimes discovering a fortune will destroy your life.
  • A shy, young woman unexpectedly bumps into her soulmate (literally bumps into him). In film, this is called the “meet cute,” when the hero bumps into the heroine in the coffee shop or the department store or the hallway, knocking her books to the floor, and forcing them into conversation.
  • A long journey is interrupted by a disaster. Who hasn’t been longing to get to a destination only to be delayed by something unexpected? This is the plot of  Gravity ,  The Odyssey , and even  Lord of the Rings .
  • A young couple run into the path of a psychopath. Monsters, whether people who do monstrous things or scaly beasts or a monster of a natural disaster, reveal what’s really inside a person. Let your character fall into the path of a monster and see how they handle themselves.

Now that you have an idea, learn exactly what to do with it.  Check out my new book The Write Structure which helps writers take their ideas and write books readers love. Click to check out  The Write Structure  here.

More Short Story Ideas Based on Genre

Need more ideas? Here are ideas based on whichever literary genre you write. Use them as character inspiration, to start your own story, or borrow pieces to generate your own ideas. The only rule is, have fun writing!

By the way,  for more story writing tips for each these plot types, check out our full guide to the 10 types of stories here .

10 Thriller Story Ideas

A thriller is any story that “thrills” the reader—i.e., gets adrenaline pumping, the heart racing, and the emotions piqued.

Thrillers come in all shapes and forms, dipping freely into other genres. In other words, expect the unexpected!

Here are a few of my favorite thriller story ideas :

Rosa Rivera-Ortiz is an up-and-coming lawyer in a San Diego firm. Held back by her ethnicity and her gender, she works twice as hard as her colleagues, and she’s as surprised as anyone when she’s requested specifically for a high-profile case. Bron Welty, an A-list actor and action star, has been arrested for the murder of his live-in housekeeper. The cop heading the case is older, ex-military, a veteran of more than one war, and an occasional sufferer of PTSD. Rosa’s hired to defend the movie star; and it seems like an easy win until she uncovers some secrets that not only make her believe her client is guilty, but may be one of the worst serial killers in the past two decades… and he knows she found out .

It’s the Cold War. Sergei, a double-agent for the CIA working in Berlin, is about to retire when he’s given one final mission: he’s been asked to “defect” to the USSR to help find and assassinate a suspected double-agent for the Kremlin. Sergei is highly trusted, and he’s given to understand that this mission is need-to-know only between him and very few superior officers. But as he falls deeper into the folds of the Iron Curtain, he begins to suspect that his superior officer might just be the mole, and the mark Sergei’s been sent to kill is on the cusp of exposing the leak.

It is 1800. A lighthouse on a barren cliff in Canada. Two lighthouse keepers, German immigrants, are alone for the winter and effectively cut off from the rest of the world until the ice thaws. Both Wilhelm and Matthias are settled in for the long haul with warm clothes, canned goods, and matches a-plenty. Then Wilhelm starts hearing voices. His personal belongings disappear from where he’d placed them, only to reappear in strange spots—like the catwalk, or dangling beneath the spiral stair knotted in brown twine. Matthias begs innocence. Little by little, Wilhelm grows convinced that Matthias is trying to convince him (Wilhelm) to kill himself. Is the insanity real, or is this really Matthias’ doing? And if it is real, what will he do to defend himself? There are so many months until the thaw. 

thriller story ideas

20 Mystery Story Ideas

Enjoy a good whodunit? Then you’ll love these mystery story ideas .

Here are a few of my favorites:

Ever hear the phrase, “It is not who fired the shot but who paid for the bullet?” This is a philosophy Tomoe Gozen lives by. Brave and clever, Tomoe follows clues until she learns who ordered the murder: Emperor Antoku himself. But why would the emperor of Japan want to kill a lowly soldier?

Mystery writer Dan Rodriguez takes the subway every day. Every day, nothing happens. He wears earbuds and a hoodie; he’s ignored, and he ignores. Then one evening, on his way home from a stressful meeting with his publisher, Dan is startled out of his funk when a frantic Middle-Eastern man knocks him over at a dead run, then races up the stairs—pursued by several other thugs. The Middle-Eastern man is shot; and Dan discovers a mysterious package in the front pocket of his hoodie. What’s inside, and what does he need to do to survive the answer?

A headless corpse is found in a freshly-dug grave in Arkansas. The local police chief, Arley Socket, has never had to deal with more than missing gas cans and treed cats. His exploration of this weird murder digs up a mystery older than the 100-year-old town of Jericho that harkens all the way back to a European blood-feud.

story ideas

20 Romance Story Ideas

Ready to write a love story? Or perhaps you want to create a subplot with a secondary character? We've got ideas for you!

Hint: When it comes to romance, a sense of humor is always a good idea. Have fun! Here are a few of my favorite love story ideas :

She’s a cop. He’s the owner of a jewelry store. A sudden rash of break-ins brings her to his store over and over and over again, until it becomes obvious that he might be tripping the alarm on purpose—just to see her. That’s illegal—but she’s kind of falling for him, too. Write the moment she realizes she has to do something about this crazy illicit courtship.

Colorado Animal Rescue has never been more challenging than after that zoo caught on fire. Sally Cougar (no jokes on the name, or she’ll kill you) tracks down three missing tiger cubs, only to find they’ve been adopted by millionaire Bryce Champion. Thanks to an antiquated law on the books, he legally has the right to keep them. It’s going to take everything Sally has to get those tiger cubs back.

He’s a museum curator with a fetish for perfection. No one’s ever gotten close to him; how could they? They’re never as perfect as the portraits, the sculptures, the art that never changes. Then one day, an intern is hired on—a young, messy, disorganized intern, whose hair and desk are in a constant state of disarray. The curator is going half-mad with this walking embodiment of chaos; so why can’t the he stand the thought of the intern leaving at the end of their assistantship?

20 romance story ideas

20 Sci-Fi Story Ideas

From the minimum-wage-earning, ancient-artifact-hunting time traveller to the space-exploring, sentient dinosaurs, these sci-fi writing prompts will get you set loose your inner nerd.

Here are a few of my favorite sci-fi ideas :

In a future society, neural implants translate music into physical pleasure, and earphones (“jacking in”) are now the drug of choice. Write either from the perspective of a music addict, OR the Sonforce agent (sonance + enforcer) who has the job of cracking down.

It’s the year 5000. Our planet was wrecked in the great Crisis of 3500, and remaining human civilization survives only in a half dozen giant domed cities. There are two unbreakable rules: strict adherence to Life Quality (recycling doesn’t even begin to cover these laws), and a complete ban on reproduction (only the “worthy” are permitted to create new humans). Write from the perspective of a young woman who just discovered she’s been chosen to reproduce—but she has no interest in being a mother.

So yeah, ancient Egypt really was “all that” after all, and the pyramids turn out to be fully functional spaceships (the limestone was to preserve the electronics hidden inside). Write from the perspective of the tourist exploring the ancient society who accidentally turns one on.

sci-fi story ideas

20 Fantasy Story Ideas

Need a dose of sword-in-the-stone, hero and/or heroine packed coming-of-age glory?  We love fantasy stories!

Here are a few of my favorite fantasy story ideas:

Bored teenaged wizards throwing a graduation celebration.

Uncomfortable wedding preparation between a magic wielding family tree and those more on the Muggle side of things.

A fairy prince who decides to abandon his responsibilities to become a street musician.

Just try to not have fun writing (or even just reading!) these fantasy writing prompts.

fantasy story ideas

The Secret to Choosing the Best Story Idea

Stories, more than any other artistic expression, have the power to make people care. Stories have the ability to change people’s lives.

But to write a great story, a life-changing story, don’t just write about what your characters did, said, and saw. Ask yourself, “Where do I fit in to this story? What is my personal connection to this story?”

Robert Frost said this:

If you can connect your personal story to the story you’re writing, you will not only be more motivated to finish your story, you might just be able to change the lives of your readers.

Next Step: Write Your Best Story

No matter how good your idea, writing a story or a book can be a long difficult process. How do you create an outline, come up with a great plot, and then actually  finish  it?

My new book  The Write Structure  will help. You'll learn how to take your idea and structure a strong plot around it. Then you'll be guided through the exact process I've used to write dozens of short stories and over fifteen books.

You can learn more about   The Write Structure  and get your copy here.

Get The Write Structure here »

Have a great short story idea?  We'd love to hear it. Share it in the comments !

Choose one of these ideas and write a short story in one sitting (aim for 1,000 words or less!). When you're finished, share your story in the practice box below (or our latest writing contest ) for feedback from the community. And if you share, please be sure to comment on a few stories by other writers.

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Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris , a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

Want best-seller coaching? Book Joe here.

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  1. Examples of themes with Information, tips for creative writing

    You might like to choose one of the following examples of themes – that appeals to you and try writing a story about it. Alienation – The effects of, the loneliness of, to cure it. Ambition – getting what you want, stunted by, thwarted. Betrayal – the pain of, in love and friendship. Coming of age – loss of innocence.

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