10 Suspenseful Writing Prompts to Keep Your Reader’s Attention

Previously from the category On Writing


The start of the New Year is here, but sometimes it isn’t as easy to start works of fiction as it is to start your new year’s resolution. To help you get started on your next suspenseful piece, below are 10 prompts to help you kick off the New Year with some excitement.


1.)   I couldn’t tell whether it was my skull or the coffee mug smashing against it that gave a loud crack, but I could tell Ava was in the midst of another fit.

This one in particular could go so many ways. A restless psych ward patient, a young alien getting used to our culture or just a moody teen dealing with the fact that her brother or boyfriend is a creature of some sort are just a few that came to mind. After all, it is your story.


2.)   ‘This is where it stops, I guess. Not much else you can do when you’re strapped to a chair, naked, and surrounded by half a dozen punks with assault rifles.’

This was honestly an idea that came to mind after conjuring the idea of a secret organization that watches particular people of interest from a young age and decide whether they are deemed fit to live in a typical society. If not, they may have the chance for great success via archaic connections, but if they defect, that’s a different story entirely.


3.)   The city was rampant with protest over the death of a single child. The child’s father was one of the few who remained silent. He knew what his son had become. He had mourned ages ago, before the turn began.

Thinking about a child dying is never an easy thing. Luckily, while in the folds of writing a story, you can bear in mind that none of it’s real. It’s called fiction for a reason. Not shying from the fact that this could stir some serious emotion, what would the child have done for their own father to feel such hatred? I can only think of two words: demonic possession. You, on the other hand, may have a different opinion.


4.)   True beauty had laid underneath that sulking willow; down the walking path, through the five mile, and just past the cross ridge where they had spent so many walks together was the only stretch where it could have happened. Six months had passed and the only thing detective Brady had found left of his fiancé was a half sunken beer can in the marsh and a filthy teddy bear, a decorative red ribbon still tied in a bow around its neck.

I’ve actually had this idea in my head for a while. It’s about a detective that can’t solve the disappearance of his own fiancé. This could be a mix of romance, suspense, mystery, and whatever you find necessary. The possibilities are endless.

  “You’re telling me after everything that’s happened and after everything we’ve been through, the world is going to end because of a damn ice cream cone?”

‘Why?’ you may ask, well, because how in the hell would YOU explain to your readers a tangible way that a delicious frozen treat sat atop a wafer cone is the cause of humanity’s demise.


6.)   She disappeared into the cabin, the four men still ensuing. Dawn approached, fumes of fuel filled the air, and the sulfur head of the match glided forward. Jake bolted upright in a panicked yell. He was drenched, yet again, in sweat.

Clairvoyant perhaps or maybe a young man connected to another reality. Either way, there’s more room for setup in this prompt. You could wait until the end of the book to explain the cabin, girl, the goons, and the fire if you’d like. Or you could explain it within the first chapter. There’s plenty of room for a good buildup as well as open creativity in this one.


7.)   ‘By the time Twig was done explaining his near science fiction inventions, I knew this wasn’t a dream. He knew things about engineering that most scientists had only dreamed of discovering, or perhaps he was rediscovering them for himself. After all, I doubt anyone will have much use for history books after the bombs fell. ‘

This was another ‘what if’ scenario. What if the world ended and the protagonist was frozen, cocooned, or even resurrected from the past and had to adapt to a new world? The possibility for a new life scenario as well as character development is really easy in this one.


8.)   The place was quiet, calm, and black. All of this would soon be dissipated by an orchestra of shrieking machinery.

On a personal note, I’ve worked in several different factories and all had a variety of machinery that never stopped. Now, let’s say the setting of a story was here. Think of the possibilities for the elements of machinery alone. When I used to work in these extremely mundane places, I’d play a game in my head having to do with zombies. I honestly think if a zombie apocalypse was inevitable, I’d survive well in a factory for the simple fact that there are thousands of ways to evade, trap, or otherwise ‘take care of’ any flesh eaters coming my way.


9.)   Her lips had been cold just like the rest of her body, and he watched as she sheepishly slipped back in to the dark.

This could be due to inclement weather or the fact that this man has fallen in love with a ghost. Either way, if ghosts can communicate this well with people, imagine what other mysteries are out there in this universe.


10.)   “Jimmy, you can’t let this stop you from living your life,” Tabatha said, peering from the young man in full dress to the boy who lay still in the casket.

This is another idea where the morbid nature of the material needs to be overlooked for the sake of the story. In my mind, this is a young man who’s lost a young person that he’s possibly influenced and vested quite a bit of time into. Is he vengeful? Is he going to be suffering through this while completing a great task? Perhaps this is just the beginning of an amazing journey that compels him to something beyond any reason or thought he could have possessed otherwise. This may be the end for our hero’s companion, but the hero’s journey is just getting started.

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