Already we’ve looked at how fear can be a terrific writing prompt (click here if you missed the article; it includes lists of things to fear). Now let’s push fear into to sheer terror. What could be more fun? You don’t necessarily have to write horror to use these writing prompts, but on the other hand, ’tis the season. You can easily add to this exercise by listing all things that terrify you and then beside each one, list the worst possible job/place/situation for that fear. Here are a few to get you started.
13 Fears to use as Writing Prompts
Afraid of death?
It comes for you. What is “it” like? Do you start feeling the approaching doom that morning, hours before, or does death come sudden and silent? Describe the moment you realize you are going to die. What happens just before, during, and after.
You die yet you are still aware. Your body sits up and you realize a necromancer is controlling your body while your spirit is trapped. What does that feel like, wearing your own dead body? What is different from when you were alive? What happens next?
Worried about losing your mind?
Then write about suddenly becoming a passenger in your own body. You are possessed by another spirit/being/demon yet you are aware of everything going on but are helpless to stop it. What happens?
You wake up and you can’t breathe. You smell dirt. You can’t move and are surrounded by pressure. You realize you have been buried alive. What happens next?
Do you get out? If so, where are you and who is there?
Do Mirrors make you crazy?
Mirrors make you uneasy so you have none in your house and go out of your way to avoid them. That all comes to an end when you go to a book club meeting and the hostess collects mirrors. When you walk into her living room you see scores of mirrors hanging on the wall. Some are antique, several framed in everything from a fantasyscape of whimsical trees to a mirror rimmed with metal flowers. One mirror is shaped like a skull. You turn to see one entire wall covered with mirror tiles. You start to back away when…
Afraid of dead bodies?
You are house-sitting in a beautiful Victorian situated on the edge of a graveyard when you hear noise coming from the graveyard. Impossible, but it sounds like…
And to make matters worse, you hear glass breaking, like a basement window being destroyed and then something shuffling up the steps.
OR you are desperate for a job and you get an interview. Trouble is, it’s at the county morgue.
Do wild animals send shivers up your spine?
Then you are taking your toddler niece on a visit to the zoo when all the cages spring open. Think of all the animals, even the ones that might not seem life-threatening at first. They all begin a rampage, some in fear, some on the hunt. What happens next?
OR you are desperate for a job and you get an interview. Trouble is, it’s at the zoo in the snake house.
Does that doll have it in for you?
You walk into a doll store and are talking with the strange old lady who owns it when her face suddenly ripples. She presses her features back into control and smiles at you, but you see her register that you noticed. You smile and say goodbye, but….
Do you find libraries creepy?
You are doing research when the lights begin clicking off, one bank at a time. You hear the sound of books thumping and pages rustling. What happens? What do you do?
OR you are desperate for a job and you get an offer for the night janitor position at the library. It’s your first night and the last librarian leaves and locks you in. What happens next?
Wary of small towns?
You are driving to a new job with a full u-haul attached to your car when you get a flat. Thank heavens you happen to be entering a little town in the middle of Iowa when it happens. You pull over and park on a street, but don’t see any residents. Clearly, the town is occupied, or at least it was. You see parked cars, steam rising from the hoods, shop windows have open signs hanging in them, but no signs of people, anywhere. What happens next?
Want to stay out of deep water?
You’ve never liked water but your significant other talks you into a cruise. You are out in the middle of the ocean, looking down at the water several stories below when…
OR you are an unemployed entertainer and you land a high-paying gig on a cruise liner. What happens next?
Afraid of something under the bed or in a closet?
Write about that “something” becoming real. What is it? How does it manifest itself? What do you do when it does?
Fear can be slippery.
You’ve never liked driving on ice and you tend to stay indoors on a snowy day, but you find yourself driving on a remote road in the mountains when an unpredicted ice storm hits. You skid and slide off the road and your car lands on its side in a ditch. You are relieved when you realize you aren’t hurt, but you are trapped inside. Then it starts snowing and you will soon be covered and invisible from the road. What happens next?
Things that go boom in the night.
Storms are frightening but you’ve never before seen one like what is approaching now. Dark clouds are only the edges; the clouds swirl, blacker than black. The front advances faster than should be possible, and the lightning is a putrid green. What happens next?
So there you go, a scary list of writing prompts to get you writing. What truly terrifies you? Dig deep into yourself, be honest, and whether horror or some other type of fiction, write about it. Scare yourself, then revel in it. You’re a writer and after all, that’s what we do.
Award-winning novelist Kathy Steffen teaches fiction writing and speaks at writing programs across the country. Additionally, Kathy is also published in short fiction and pens a monthly writing column, Between the Lines. Her books, FIRST THERE IS A RIVER, JASPER MOUNTAIN and THEATER OF ILLUSION are available online and at bookstores everywhere.