Some days I sit down and the creative juices are flowing. Other days I just stare at a blank screen and wonder if the words are ever going to show up. If you’re not careful, it can lead to writer’s block. I’ve found that starting the day with a creative writing prompt that’s unrelated to your current manuscript can help kick start your creativity.
A writing prompt is a word, phrase, paragraph or picture that is used as a catalyst for a creative writing session. It can be used as a writing exercise or to launch a short story or novel.
Each month, Writing Middle Grade publishes a list of daily creative writing prompts for middle grade authors. Use them as 15-minute morning routing or as an idea for your next bestselling middle grade novel.
Creative Writing Prompts for September 2019
I’ve always found September to be a strange month. When I lived in the Midwest, it served as a strange transition between summer and autumn. I live in Arizona now, but even though I’m programmed to associate September with cooler weather, it’s actually 30 more days of triple digit heat.
Growing up it meant that school was back in session. The tradeoff for giving up the freedom of summer was gaining access to all your friends—not just the friends on your Little League team or in your neighborhood.
My hope is that these creative writing prompts will help your kickstart your day. Remember, it’s just a quick writing exercise to trigger a great day of writing. Whatever you do, write fast so you’re able to shift from your conscious mind (critical inner voice) to your subconscious (ideas flow freely).
He had been taught never to hit a girl, but he wondered if that rule was still in affect if the girl was a trained assassin and she was running towards him with a katana waiving over her head. She was about a head taller than him, which wasn’t saying much considering he was only eleven. He side-stepped as she passed by, the sword whooshing in an arc where his head had just been. That’s when he saw the second and third assassins, both of them female as well. One crouched in the rafter, an arrow notched in her bow as she zeroed in on him. The other had a flail. All he had was his hands.
He hadn’t told anyone that he could make people do whatever he wanted by controlling their minds. He’d made the discovery by accident last week when he spotted two eighth graders trying to steal his bike from outside the comic book shop. He ran outside and told them to stop. And they did. They literally stopped in place, frozen like statues. At first he didn’t understand what had happened, but then he told him to walk away and they did. He thought about making them cluck like chickens, but he decided to save that one for his little sister. The quandary came when he ended up failing his sixth-grade Spanish vocabulary quiz. He forgot to study, because he wanted to see if his mind control worked on dogs (it didn’t). He knew that he could make the teacher change his grade, but he wasn’t sure if he should.
It’s the middle of winter, and one morning before school a twelve-year-old girl looks out the sliding glass door in her kitchen to see a monkey sitting in the snow. It’s wearing a top hat and a scarf, and it’s holding what appears to be a gold pocket watch.
It’s Day 4 of the zombie apocalypse, and it still feels like he’s living in a nightmare. After all, this can’t be reality because there’s no such thing as zombies. He’s still stuck in his fifth-grade homeroom, but the only adults on school grounds have already turned to the living dead. He’s barricaded himself in their classroom with a dozen other survivors from his class. Thankfully they’ve been able to get water from the small facet at the back of the room but their food two days ago. He volunteers to run for help. After all, he’s won fastest in his grade for three years running, so he kinda feels like it’s his responsibility. But as he turns the corner, he comes face to fade with his best friend who has turned into a zombie.
A twelve-year-old girl was in a car that had been hit by a drunk driver. When she wakes up, something feels off. She looks down and tries to scream but the sound won’t come out. She raises her right hand and then her left before wiggling all of her fingers. They appear to be robotic, as does the rest of her body. What’s happening?
A ten-year-old boy finds a strange green egg with gold flecks while he was walking his dog through the woods. It has a slight crack, but when he reaches down to touch it, it starts to shake.
After setting up digital cameras in her bedroom, a twelve-year-old girl discovers that the teddy bear she’s grown up with actually comes to life once she falls asleep in order to protect her from the things that go bump in the night. It was a gift from her grandfather, who has gone missing during a solo expedition in the Alaskan wilderness. She wants to go search for him, but she’s going to need the help of her bear in order to do it. The only problem is that she doesn’t know how to wake it up in the middle of the day.
A twelve-year-old boy was given a new DSLR camera for his birthday, but it doesn’t take long before he discovers that every time he snaps a picture, the subject is trapped inside his SD card.
An eleven-year-old girl is riding her bike through a forest to spend the night at a friend’s house when the ground starts to shake. At first she thinks it’s another earthquake, but a flare of light is soon followed by what looks like a doorway opening in midair. Before she knows what’s happening a girl who could be her clone walks through door and tells her that she’s come from the near future where mankind is on the brink of extinction thanks to a mistake that her father made.
A twelve-year-old boy is watching his younger sister when she falls down and starts to convulse. Instead of waiting for an ambulance, he decided to driver her to emergency room in their mom’s SUV. The only problem is that unless you count video games, he’s never driven before. With is sister strapped into the back seat, he put the keys in the ignition and starts the vehicle.
A thirteen-year-old girl is convinced the motel that her family is staying at must be haunted. All night long she hears noises that sound like moaning. Her parents are fast asleep and so is her kid brother, but she can’t. Not if there are ghosts roaming around,. She decides to take a flashlight from the closet and go exploring on her own around the motel grounds, but something strange happened the moment she opened the door.
He didn’t believe that all those drones used to deliver packages were militarized—that is until people who had spoken out against them started to disappear. One of those people was a twelve-year-old boy’s father, who had invented the very drones in question. The boy is a coding genius who breaks into the delivery company’s central database in order to upload malware into the operating system that controls the dorones. Just before he’s about the execute the file, his cell phone rings.
A thirteen-year-old girl is riding her bike to school when out of nowhere a parrot lands on her should and tells her that someone named Ethel has fallen and she can’t get up.
He was starting to regret asking his parents if he could stay with grandpa at the family farm over summer break. He spent most of the day doing chores, which included cleaning up after the animals in the barn. One morning his pitchfork hit something metal in the floor of a stall, and when he pulled away the excess hay he found a trap door. He pulled on the ring with both hands. The rusted hinges groaned, but eventually they gave way and the door opened. What he saw would change his life forever.
An eleven-year-old girl woke up to stench of smoke and char. Eyes burned as she sat up in bed to find flames licking the walls all around her. It was so hot that each breath made her lungs feel like they were on fire. She could here sirens in the distance. It was probably fire trucks, but from the look of things they would be too late. As she stumbled out of bed, the ceiling caved in. Sparks flew, burning her skin. She reached for her security blanked and used it to cover her mouth, hoping it would protect her from smoke inhalation. Panic was starting to set in. Her chest was pounding as she tried to focus. The door to her bedroom was blocked by burning rafters, and the air was so thick with smoke that she couldn’t even see her window. “Help me…” she said, her voice little more than a whimper. Almost immediately she felt a surge of energy was over her. Brown eyes shot open only to morph to a color blue that would rival the most beautiful ocean. Her mouth moved on its own and the words she uttered were foreign to her ears. That’s when she heard a clap of thunder, and suddenly a ferocious rain started pouring in her room. That’s when the first fireman stormed in.
He was wondering when the invitation would arrive, but thankfully the day had finally come. In his estimation, wizarding schools were nothing but a fairytale for week minded children. But a school that existed to train the next generation of spies, double agents, and assassin? Now that made sense. His father had attended the academy and now it was his turn. Sure, he was only thirteen, but as far as he was concerned, it was never too early to start learning your craft.
“Time for your first lesson.”
He spun around to see a man in a black suit with a crisp white shirt staring down at him. He smiled as he slowly reached into the front of his jacket.
An eleven-year-old girl hated goblins. One had killed her father, who was a soldier on the frontlines of the Great Goblin War. She had just been an infant, and thanks to the vile creature the only memories of her father were fleeting at best. In fact, she wasn’t sure if they were her memories or If she was remembering stories that her mother used to share. Girls weren’t allowed to fight in the military, but that wasn’t going to stop her. She had set up grain bags in the back that were roughly the shape of a horned desert croaker—the very species of goblin who had taken her father’s life. She would practice stabbing it with a kitchen knife every moment she could, but things were different the night that goblin horde attacked her village. They were hideous to look at, fast and strong. Still, when one burst through the window of their tiny cottage she stood her ground with knife in hand. It smiled before a forked tongue slowly crossed its lips. “You look like a tasty one, you do,” the goblin said with a croak. “Not much but a morsel, but tasty nonetheless.” Tears in her eyes and knife in hand, she lunged.
A thirteen-year-old boy discovers a horrifying truth about his family while packing up some of his late grandmother’s belongings. He opened the lid of a tattered cardboard box to find yellowed papers and old photographs—including several of his great grandfather in a German military uniform with a swastika band on his arm. He quickly puts the lid back on the box, his heart pounding as he attempts to process what this could mean.
“How’s everything going in here?”
Startled, he turns to find his father standing there, looking down at him.
“Find anything interesting?” his father asks.
An eleven-year-old girl and her father are fishing with a tour guide off the coast of Florida. She hooks a tarpon and after a twenty-minute battle she’s about to reel it in when a hammerhead shark grabs the fish and pulls it back under the water. She’s startled and slips on the deck and stumbles overboard before he dad can grab her. She hits with a splash as the boat pulls away, leaving her behind. Panic sets in as the waves crash over her. She looks around for the shark fin and can’t see it. Nervous that it’s still nearby, she takes a breath and plunges underwater. She opens her eyes and is startled that she can see everything clearly—including the webbing that has somehow appeared between her fingers and toes. If that wasn’t enough, she reaches up and feels gills that have sprouted across her neck. They open and close repeatedly, and that’s when she discovers for the first time that she can breathe underwater. But how?
It’s too cold to swim in the river, but his mom said it was okay to take the kayak out on the river as long as he wore his lifejacket. He was only eleven, but he felt comfortable on the water. It made sense, considering he was actually born on a riverbank during a rafting trip that his parents had taken despite his mother being nine months pregnant. He brought his phone to take pictures for his Instagram account. Last week he managed to get a shot of a brown bear. It was his first picture to get over a thousand likes and he was hoping to spot another one. What he saw instead made him wondering if he was in the middle of a dream.
Two girls, each eleven years old, hid behind the trellis. “See, there it is,” Brooklyn said, pointing at the massive oak tree.
“Those aren’t faeries, they’re leaves,” Sage said. “They’re supposed to be colorful like that. It’s Fall.”
“Watch.” Brooklyn hurled a smooth stone from the flower bed. It hit the trunk of the tree with a thud, and as it did, ten thousand fairies launched from the branches.
A twelve-year-old boy saved up money from mowing yards and raking leaves for an entire year to buy a drum set at that he saw at a pawn shop. It was a bit mismatched and there a few scratches and dents, but he didn’t care. They were his and he couldn’t wait to get home and start practicing. “Don’t forget these,” the pawnshop owner said before he handed the boy a pair of drumsticks. Like the kit, they looked worn but he didn’t have enough money to buy new ones. His dad helped him set them up in the basement, and when everything was in place he clapped the sticks together four times sparks flew. Then, without ever having played the drums before, he started to play like a rock star.
For the second year in a row, she’s qualified for the intergalactic spelling bee. This is her last opportunity, though. She’s twelve and will be in junior high school next year. The spelling bee is taking place on a space station off the water planet known as Devrondu. She made it to the top ten last year, but it was a Felucian with rust colored scales, four eyes, and six tentacles who ultimately won. She was about to head to the auditorium where the spelling bee was to take place, when she noticed that her translator was missing. Without it, she’d have no way of know which words the judges were asking her to spell.
People usually move away from this rural farm community, so when a new girl named Cora showed up the first day of school, Jackson was surprised. Her dad bought the old man Henderson’s farm, just down the road. She had dark hair and eyes, and her skin was so pale that it looked as though she’d never seen the sun. Still, she was pretty, and she got a lot of attention from the boys. She ignored them, though. Well, all of them except Jackson—and he wasn’t sure why.
One day he got up the courage to ask her, and she said it was because he wasn’t a jerk like everyone else. They start hanging out more, and she asks him if he wants to come over and celebrate the autumnal equinox with her family. Jackson didn’t know that was actually a holiday, but he accepted the invitation—especially since it meant more time with Cora.
Her dad had set out torches all around the backyard, which looked both amazing and kind of creepy at the same time. When he asked about them, Cora told him, “Oh, those are to scare away all the evil spirits.” Jackson started to laugh, but she told him that she wasn’t kidding. “Every year on the autumnal equinox they come to try and take me to the underworld.”
“You’re kidding, right?” Jackson said.
“No,” Cora said. “Hades wants to raise me to be his wife.”
The wind picked up, and Jackson turned to watch the corn stalks roll like waves of the ocean. That’s when he saw the first shadow rise up, it’s eyes burning like fire in the twilight.”
Twelve-year-old Carlos stood there holding a metal flashlight like a club, wondering what good it was going to do against a giant snake made of sunlight. The guide who had taken his family on the tour of Chichen Itza lay motionless just a few feet away.
“Where’s mom and dad?” his little sister asked.
“I don’t know… they must’ve got caught on the other side when the ceiling caved in,” he said.
The snake hissed as it started to slither towards them.
There is a planet far from our own where children genetically unlock a super power on their thirteen birthdays. Like the heroes in our comic books, some can fly, some have super strength, and some run faster than the speed of light. But their most famous turned thirteen today. And he was the first person in the history of their planet who did not manifest a power. He is extraordinarily ordinary, and he isn’t sure if he’s been cursed or if he was blessed.
It’s hard enough to be a sixth-grade girl, but when your dad is the principal of your elementary school, sometimes life feels just about impossible. Little did she know that things were about to get worse. They had just started a school assembly when the police came to arrest her father right in front of the entire student body.
He had always wanted a dog, but this thing? The vet said it was only going to get to be five pounds at the most, and it didn’t walk, it pranced. He was twelve now, and he’d always wanted a big dog—like a Labrador retriever or a Rhodesian ridgeback. The dog his mom brought home looked more like a cotton ball. His mom tried to explain how the Maltese were favored by royalty on the island of Malta, and then she told him to take it for a walk through the park. Reluctantly, he grabbed the leash. They were only gone a few minutes before the dog stopped and snarled. “What is it?” the boy asked. That’s when he saw the coyote step out of the brush.
The entire sixth grade had travelled nearly three hours by bus to take a ferry across New York Harbor to see the Statue of Liberty. It had been a beautiful day, with clears skies and warm autumn breeze. But out of nowhere, clouds rolled in, blanketing the sun until it felt like dusk. Then the winds picked up and waves crashed hard against the ferry. Children started to scream and their chaperones did their best to calm everyone down. That’s when a bolt of lightning shot out from the sky and struck the torch. Somehow the metal burst into flames. “It’s moving!” one of the boys from the class shouted. “I’m serious. The statue is alive.” Sure enough, the statue blinked as its head turned toward them.
I took some coaxing, but she had finally talked her parents into letting her stay home tonight without a babysitter. Her dad must have asked her what she was supposed to do in case someone tried to break in at least a dozen times. She assured him that she knew how to dial 9-1-1 and that she’d run to the Johnson’s house next door. It wasn’t long before the sun went down, and even though she’d never tell him, she was happy that her dad had turned on every single light in the house. She was about to place a frozen pizza in the oven when she heard what sounded like someone trying to open one of the windows in the dining room. Her chest tightened as she reached for her phone, but it wasn’t in her back pocket. It was sitting on the coffee table in the living room.