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The best dark writing prompts

While positive stories can be a great comfort read, we're all drawn in by a little darkness at times. Whether it's a story about blood and gore, or something that's more emotionally driven, a lot of our favorite tales feature something we fear lurking in the shadows. While inspiration for these kinds of moody stories can be found anywhere (what's in that dark corner over there?), sometimes it can be helpful to get a little outside help for your writing ideas.

To help you get started, this is a list of our top ten dark writing prompts:

  • Set your story during the night shift.
  • Start or end your story with a house going up in flames.
  • Write a story titled ‘The Locked Door.’
  • Five years ago, you moved away, changed your name, got a new job, and altered your appearance. But they managed to find you anyway.
  • It was a hell of a way to die.
  • Write a story where one character needs to betray the other, but isn’t sure if they can.
  • Write about someone who’s so obsessed with a goal that it leads to the destruction of their closest relationship.
  • Your character has made a terrible mistake in his/her life and is living with the consequences, at least a decade later.
  • Write a story in which a window is broken or found broken.
  • Write about a character who tells a lie which turns out to be true - or a truth which turns out to be a lie.

Want some more help writing a story that will send a chill down your readers' spines? Check out these free resources:

  • How to Master the 'Show, Don't Tell' Rule (free course) — To write a dark story full of suspense and mystery, you need to get the atmosphere right. Creating vivid images and describing sensations accurately will allow readers to see through your character's eyes. Use our Show, Don't Tell course to master immersive storytelling, and make your readers feel the fear like they're right there in that dark alley, watching the man walk closer... and closer...
  • How to Write a Horror Story: 7 Tips for Writing Horror (blog post) — Our horror writing bible. If your dark story errs on the side of spooky, this post tells you everything you need to know.

Want more help learning how to write a dark short story? Check out How to Write a Short Story That Gets Published — a free, ten day course guiding you through the process of short story writing by Laura Mae Isaacman, a full-time editor who runs a book editing company in Brooklyn.

Ready to start writing? Check out Reedsy’s weekly short story contest, for the chance of winning $250! You can also check out our list of writing contests or our directory of literary magazines for more opportunities to submit your story.


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