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The best thriller and suspense writing prompts

Thriller and suspense are among the publishing industry's most popular genres, churning out book after book and series after series every year. But where do all of these Dan Browns, Lucy Foleys, and John Grishams find their book ideas for such crime?

If you're in the middle of figuring out where you can find inspiration for your thriller and suspense stories — whether they're short stories or novels — give a writing prompt a whirl. No matter if you're dying to write an action thriller where the protagonist has to stamp out crime across the city or a husband-wife pair who commit murders in a small town, creative writing prompts exist to provide you with that seed of a story idea, giving you the time and space to do what writers do best: write it out.

If you're looking to cut (figuratively) to the chase, here's a top ten list of thriller and suspense writing prompts:

  • A loved one confides in you, but the secret could damage someone else you care about. What do you do?
  • A newly married couple is on their honeymoon in a sleepy, beachside town. They begin to have the same nightmares every night.
  • "Guard this with your life," the message read.
  • Write a short story where the protagonist has a doppelgänger.
  • Write a story about a character who can't figure out when they're dreaming or awake.
  • Write about a character who can suddenly only "remember" their future, not their past.
  • Write about someone who purposefully causes a power outage.
  • You are a therapist, and your new patient has a rare but extreme phobia. And you're about to find out why.
  • You are a hypnotist in the middle of your regular routine. Suddenly, you realize your powers have become real. What do you do?
  • You go to visit your neighbor. When you ring the doorbell, a stranger appears and tells you that your neighbor has been dead for ten years.

If you're interested in becoming a thriller and suspense author, check out our free resources on the topic:

  • How to Create Suspense (blog post) — You guessed it: a suspense book will need, well, suspense. And it’s not as easy as one, two, three. Learn how the masters build suspense in their bestselling novels and famous films in this blog post — and how you can start successfully doing so in your own book as well.
  • How to Write a Thriller (blog post) — Thrillers are in demand right now among readers, but just how do you start writing one as an author? This blog post breaks the process down into seven simple steps for you to follow.
  • How to Write a Fight Scene (blog post) — If you're writing in the thriller and suspense genre, you'll probably run into a fight scene at some point. And when it comes to that time, you'll want to be prepared to write the best fight scene possible, which is exactly what this post will show you, step by step, and punch for punch.

Ready to start writing? Check out Reedsy’s weekly short story contest for the chance of winning $250, plus potential publication in our literary magazine, Prompted! 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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