It’s hard to rely on inspiration alone to fuel your creativity in writing; it comes and goes, with no indication of when it’ll visit you next. This is why writing prompts are valuable tools that can aid your writing process.
Writing prompts attention-catching snippets that have enough details to spark your imagination and build a story on. The best part is that they’re also broad enough to let you take whichever direction you choose.
Best Thriller Writing Prompts
In just a few lines, thriller writing prompts convey that sense of anticipation and suspense that the genre is most known for.
Below is a list of thriller writing prompts you can use to jumpstart your writing process. I’ve divided them based on the thriller subgenres their content fits best.
- You wake up tied to your bed and gagged. On a chair beside you is your ex-lover, silently watching videos of your happy moments together.
- A couple moves into their dream home. The first few weeks are bliss, but they begin noticing small oddities: items slightly moved from their original positions, the thermostat always reverting to a specific temperature, and the unsettling feeling of someone watching them.
- A woman receives text messages from an unknown number. At first they begin as normal texts but soon begin describing her every move.
- Two women strike up a friendship aboard a cruise, but one of them develops an unhealthy obsession with the other.
- A man is abducted and kept in a featureless room. Every day, someone comes in and pumps him full of drugs.
- You’ve always been faithful to your husband. So who’s trying to frame you as an adulterer? And what does it have to do with your past?
- A man approaches you and calls you by your name—not the one you’re currently using, but the one from a past you want to forget.
- A series of female suicides rattle the city. The only connection between them that the police can find is that they’ve all consulted with one particular psychiatrist.
- You are a journalist studying the country’s worst serial killers. Every time you finish interviewing one, you can’t help but agree with their views.
- On your mother’s deathbed, she finally confesses as to why you never met your father. She was a victim to a serial rapist, and as far as she knows, he’s still at large.
- Once a week, a house of worship is ransacked. The culprits take specific religious items, leaving other, more valuable stuff untouched. It’s your job to find out why.
- An accomplished thief receives a package containing his personal details and records of his crime. With them is a letter, which assigns him the task of stealing something from the country’s most secure building.
- Police find the bodies of the leaders of the city’s two most notorious gangs. All evidence points at them killing each other. You suspect a third party.
- It’s the detective’s first high-profile case and the chief already warned him to handle it well. After all, the senator, a religious man, has just been found dead in a brothel.
- A series of well-executed robberies occur all over the world, all within a day of each other. The thefts would have been considered unrelated if not for the fact that the people that were robbed are all members of the same organization.
- An elderly couple voluntarily surrenders at the police station, confessing their guilt of a murder from 16 years ago — the murder that motivated you to join the force.
- A serial killer responsible for 9 deaths resurfaces after two decades of silence. Is it the original killer, or is someone else continuing the legacy?
- You have a pleasant chat with someone as you wait for your turn at the bank. The next day, they’re all over the news as the victim of a brutal murder.
- Someone has broken into the Vatican vault, looting priceless artifacts. Among them are a few secret volumes of the Bible.
- Someone has been kidnapping rich people’s kids in your city. They’ve always returned them alive after claiming the ransom. But not this time.
- You and a few people are the only passengers on a cruise ship. On the last day of the cruise you wake up to find that all of the crew have disappeared, leaving the ship to drift aimlessly.
- You’ve made a career out of writing memoirs. An estranged cousin of yours suddenly calls, asking if you could help her write a “tell-all” memoir. She disappears the next day.
- Archeologists open up a sealed tomb and find an intact sarcophagus. When they break it open, inside is a corpse wearing modern clothing.
- Your brother dies from a workplace accident and authorities fail to recover his body. Months later, you begin receiving emails that could only be from your dead sibling.
- A newlywed couple suddenly wakes up in the early hours of the morning, recalling a nightmare. They soon discover the dream to be true, and receive a letter thanking them for their assistance.
- A group of friends take a vacation in an isolated beach house. One of them ends up dead after a night of partying and drinking. Did one of them do the deed, or is everyone guilty of the crime?
- She saw who took her brother but she was only a a child then. Now she’s a detective, determined to find the truth.
- While on a walk, you notice strange footprints and decide to follow where they lead. You end up at a long-abandoned house with a history of murder.
- A movie crew goes to work and finds their lead actress dead on set . Three people step forward and confess their guilt, each swearing they acted alone.
- An avid crossword puzzle solver discovers hidden messages in the newspaper’s Sunday puzzles. The latest one is a call for help.
- A retired CIA agent’s bank accounts are emptied without explanation — bank accounts that only people in the agency know about. With his pension gone and no one to trust, he sets out to discover who’s responsible.
- The Interpol receives a tip from one of their high-confidence informants. Someone’s shopping around for nuclear weapons, and Interpol wants to know why.
- You are informed that your partner, a soldier, has been killed in action. Weeks later, he arrives in disguise, explaining that he’s actually a spy on the run from his corrupt handler.
- A deep-cover agent acquires sensitive information that could expose every corrupt agent in the country, but someone kills him before he can reveal it. The only clue his handler has is a string of nonsense numbers they find on his body.
- An unknown organization manages to steal high-grade weapons from the United States and Russia. Now both countries’ intelligence agencies have to cooperate to stop them from being used.
- Your agency’s best agent turns out to be a mole. You need to track him down and uncover his network of moles inside the organization.
- Your dad, who you think is an ordinary tradesman, is actually a retired field agent. With a potential crisis waiting to happen, the agency wants him back.
- A woman tries to help a man she finds collapsed in an alley, but his injuries are too severe. Before dying, he hands her a sealed package, asking her to deliver it to the German embassy no matter what.
- Someone has developed a digital key that can potentially override any cyber security system. You’re to make sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
- As a CIA analyst, your job is to comprehend and interpret information collected by field agents. While checking out past information, you begin to see an emerging pattern from all submitted intelligence by four senior agents.
- An inexperienced lawyer discovers that his client is guilty of murder. Worse, evidence suggests that the man has done it before.
- You’re working on the case of a man whose small business is unfairly taken by a larger corporation — the same one that took over your mother’s beloved shop.
- The police finally capture a murderer after his spree of terror. The killer insists you represent him in court.
- One of your longtime friends suddenly contacts you for help. Someone has accused him of rape and he can’t remember anything.
- A lawyer is preparing for a case when he is approached by his boss, who offers him money to perform poorly. With him is the defendant’s father.
- As a judge, you’re accustomed to being approached for bribes and threats. You’ve refused them all. But the man before you right now has something you could never refuse.
- A lawyer takes on his first pro-bono work: helping a young woman find enough evidence to jail her abusive ex for good. But was he really the abusive one in the relationship?
- A key witness suddenly refuses to speak and disappears soon after. Without her, your client will likely go to jail.
- A career thief hires you to represent him in court, offering you a priceless piece of art as payment.
- Someone beats up your mentor as retaliation for winning a past case. With your mentor in a coma, its your job to find out who ordered the assault.
- You, a detective, arrive at the scene of a gruesome murder. The officer on scene informs you that the culprit has already been caught and has confessed. The murderer? The victim’s A.I. assistant.
- For 87 years, everyone’s thought that the Foundation, Earth’s first starship, has been lost to the stars. Now it’s back, but with a crew that look slightly less human.
- A mining outpost on one of Jupiter’s moons abruptly goes silent. Any attempt at contact is unsuccessful. When a team arrives to investigate, they find all of the personnel dead, their faces frozen in expressions of terror.
- New technology has made it possible for people to access other people’s memories. Now you can relive an athlete’s moment of victory in the Olympics — or how serial killers feel when hunting down their victims.
- Your time machine is almost complete. You know it’ll work because you’ve already caught several older versions of yourself trying to sabotage your work.
- A high-ranking government official is abducted and drugged just before an important conference. She wakes up to find herself swapped into another body, with her own body being used by someone else.
- A man buys a new phone, finding a pre-installed app that he can’t delete. Once a day, it sends him a piece of information that later becomes true.
- One of your friends disappear for a few weeks only to reappear with no recollection of where they’ve been. What he does remember are events that will happen in the near future.
- Satellite imagery and sonar confirm the existence of a massive artificial structure at the bottom of the ocean. Scientists agree that it’s of alien origin.
- A scientist has found a way to terraform Mars to lessen humanity’s strain on the Earth. Someone wants the technology for themselves.
What Is the Purpose of Writing Prompts?
Writing prompts are short texts or even images that help you practice your art, often leading you in unexpected directions. They give you a seed of an idea that you can expand on however you choose.
Some of the thriller writing prompts in this list are broad, while others are more specific. They’ll all still provide you with the freedom to create a thrilling story with unique twists.
Cole is a blog writer and aspiring novelist. He has a degree in Communications and is an advocate of media and information literacy and responsible media practices. Aside from his interest in technology, crafts, and food, he’s also your typical science fiction and fantasy junkie, spending most of his free time reading through an ever-growing to-be-read list. It’s either that or procrastinating over actually writing his book. Wish him luck!