This month, we’ve been exploring the ins and outs of creative nonfiction, including why you should pursue this unique genre, whether you are “ready” to write about yourself (once again, yes, you are), different nonfiction structures, and how to tell the stories of other people or events beyond your own life experience.
Guess what? Now it’s your turn.
After learning the ropes of creative nonfiction, it’s time to try your hand at writing an essay of your own.
And to make it happen, I’m giving you 15 prompts that I personally enjoy to help you kick things off.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
Before we really dig into the prompts, though, here are some considerations:
1. Don’t feel pressured to choose “big life moments” as your topics. The great thing about creative nonfiction is that even little things can create powerful essays. No life experience, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is off limits.
2. Nobody has to see this. Feel free to be uncensored and unconcerned with what other people might think of your writing. There’s no need to feel insecure or to judge something that only has to be for your eyes.
3. You get to revise! It doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, it won’t be. But you won’t be able to create something good unless you take the risk of starting somewhere.
4. Write what you are comfortable with. If you think that exploring certain experiences or people in your piece will be triggering or will somehow not be helpful emotionally, then don’t tackle that topic. Again—these subjects don’t have to be “deep” or life-changing. They just have to be vivid and important to YOU.
5. Don’t try to tell a whole story. Many of these prompts work best if you zero in on a single moment or image, then milk every bit of sensory detail and reflection out of it. Often, these short essays make for some of the most powerful creative nonfiction writing.
Well, that’s all I’ve got. Here come the prompts!
Prompts to Get Inspired with Creative Nonfiction
1. Write a description of your bedroom from your childhood or teen years. What pictures or posters are on the walls? What color is your bedspread? What music is playing? Try to let the details you share create a picture of who you were at this point in your life.
2. Write an essay you would never want your grandma to read. Go ahead—be as offensive as you want.
3. Pick a photograph of yourself from a different age and write about who you were and what you are doing. Then, write about what the person in the picture might think of the older version of you.
4. Choose a pivotal event in your life, one that shifted the trajectory of where you were going. Write about it in reverse chronological order, starting with your life now and moving backward to the inciting event itself.
5. Choose a work of art—visual, cinematic, written, musical, etc—and describe it in a way that reveals its impact on you as a human being.
6. Describe the space where you write. Do you write at a desk? In a favorite chair with a laptop? Indoors or outdoors? Are there any pets around? Any special items on your desk? See what ideas emerge as you write about the place where you create.
7. Write about an experience that you have had with either accepting or rejecting a set of beliefs (religious, social, political, or otherwise).
8. Create your own conspiracy theory.
9. What scared you most as a child? Write about a specific memory of fear.
10. Write an essay about a personal experience in the form of an instruction manual.
11. Write about a powerful experience you’ve had with the outdoors.
12. Write about your favorite book from when you were a kid. Then, use it to make a statement about the kind of person you are now.
13. Think of a big family gathering or event from the past and write a description of it in the third person, as if someone with a video camera is moving throughout the room capturing the action.
14. Think of two separate incidents that occurred in your life and write a description of each one. Then, write about the connection between them.
15. Think of a funny saying or phrase that a loved one used to use all the time. Write an short essay using this phrase as the title.
Need Help with Creative Nonfiction?
The Ultimate Writing Project Workbook is the best tool to take your prompt responses and develop them into essays.
Get templates, worksheets, and even MORE prompts so you can flesh out your work into creative nonfiction pieces that will inspire and impact readers.
Click here to grab a free copy and get both the fiction and nonfiction editions of the workbook.