In this article, I will provide an in-depth look at fantasy writing prompts that you can use to spark ideas for your own fantasy stories. Whether you want to write an epic fantasy novel, a short fantasy story, or something in between, these prompts will help unleash your creativity.
You’ll learn about the key elements that quality fantasy fiction has in common, what goes into a compelling fantasy story, different subgenres of fantasy to explore, and a whopping 60 fantasy prompts to ignite your imagination. My goal is to give you plenty of inspiration to start writing your own fantasy tales.
In this article, you will learn:
- Common features of fantasy stories
- Criteria for good fantasy writing
- An overview of major fantasy subgenres
- 60 unique fantasy ideas to use as starting points
Commonalities in Fantasy Fiction
While fantasy stories can vary widely, from high fantasy epics to paranormal romance, most quality fantasy fiction contains certain core elements. Understanding these common building blocks can help you craft a compelling fantasy tale within any subgenre.
Nearly all fantasy stories contain some form of magic or supernatural phenomena. This magic system doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it generally establishes what’s possible in the fictional world. The mechanics and limits around magic guide what characters can plausibly think and do.
Additionally, fantasy novels typically take place in worlds very unlike our own modern-day reality. While urban fantasy and magical realism bend this rule, most fantasy realms feature invented geographies, histories, cultures and politics – creating an immersive setting.
Fantasy protagonists also tend to go on an epic hero’s journey, facing increasingly difficult external conflicts on quests with high stakes. Internal conflicts often run parallel, with characters battling their own flaws and demons even as bigger foes materialize.
And although tropes aren’t mandatory, incorporating classic fantasy elements like magical swords, wands, spells and mythical creatures can help signal to readers that fantastical adventures lie ahead.
What Makes a Fantasy Good?
Like any fiction, compelling fantasy writing usually shares certain basics like dimensional characters, solid pacing, an interesting plot and engaging themes. Still, I’ve noticed some particular qualities that help set great fantasy tales apart:
- Unique magic system – The magic may not be explained in granular detail initially, but original fantasy worlds feature systems governing supernatural forces that feel fresh rather than derivative.
- Rich worldbuilding – Vivid descriptions breathe life into new environments, their histories, inhabitants and cultures. This convinces readers the setting is worthy of emotionally investing in.
- Relatable characters – Whether human or otherwise, protagonists and central figures invite understanding through authentic characterization and motivations. Their beliefs and inner lives reflect the fantastic world.
- Clever dialogue – Conversation often crackles with personality even amid strange circumstances. Witty repartee between characters fuels charged dynamics.
- Riveting action – Suspense escalates through mounting confrontations, accelerating pacing, higher-stakes drama and new magical discoveries that propel the plot.
Of course personal taste plays a major role too. Composing fantasy with complex themes or injecting humor also attracts loyal audiences. But master the story essentials above while delivering the magical escapism fantasy embodies, and readers will surely come.
Types of Fantasy
Fantasy fiction encompasses a spectrum of subgenres, each with distinctive traits. Having an overview can help you orient your ideas within the style of fantasy you’re most excited to write:
- High/Epic Fantasy – Stories told on a grand scale, often in entirely fictional secondary worlds with sprawling geography and elaborate histories. Densely-plotted heroic quests to defeat supreme evil drive intense action. Prominent examples include Lord of the Rings and George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.
- Sword & Sorcery – Quest-driven tales focused on mighty warriors, wizards and assorted fighters navigating peril with steel and magic. Generally lower stakes than epic fantasy. Often feature wanderers exploring rich lands from Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian stories to Kull the Conqueror.
- Dark Fantasy – Fantasy with horror elements and grim undercurrents. Prevalent atmosphere of darkness or dread surrounds macabre magic, death and destruction. Case in point, the harrowing worlds of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant or the graphic novel series Berserk.
- Urban Fantasy – Supernatural stories unfolding in contemporary real-world settings, typically cities. Magic and magical beings exist in hiding, unknown to the mainstream. Series like Harry Potter as well as The Dresden Files falls under this category.
- Magical Realism – Fiction where fantastical elements subtly intrude on otherwise-normal environments. Often Literary fiction exploring cultural hybridity through a touch of the extraordinary. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude epitomizes the style.
- Mythic Fantasy – Fantasy tales drawing on the themes, symbols and elements of ancient myths, legends, folklore or fairy tales. Modern examples include the web novel Lore Olympus, a retelling of Greek mythic romances, or Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless, which reimagines a Russian folk tale.
- Portal Fantasy – Involves characters entering unfamiliar, magical fantasy worlds through portals connecting them to our primary Earth reality. C.S Lewis’ beloved The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe helped codify conventions of the genre.
Of course additional hybrid subgenres abound too like comic fantasy, supernatural fantasy, science fantasy and more. As you explore ideas, having touchpoints like these can unfold helpful context.
60 Unique Fantasy Prompts
Now you have a solid grounding on key aspects of fantasy and its major categories. Harness all this knowledge along with the expansive 60 fantasy prompts below to kickstart your next writing project within the genre you love.
I’ve grouped prompts into handy subsections matching different facets of fantasy. Feel free to tweak or combine prompts as you see fit to develop your own tale etched with original magic.
Portal Fantasy Story Starters
- A child discovers an enchanted mirror in an abandoned house that serves as a portal to another world.
- Siblings find their late grandmother’s ornate wooden wardrobe transports them to the magical land she often told stories about.
- Every year on their birthday, a person dreams the same dream – of a glowing cave beckoning them to enter. On their 18th birthday they discover the actual glowing cave while hiking nearby.
- A young witch-in-training finds a portal inside a tree hollow that leads her to the future domain of her powerful future self.
- An archaeologist excavates a temple from an ancient civilization with a magical portal at its center, still active after all this time. Where might it lead?
- A video game enthusiast discovers that the VR world of their new game engine is an actual alternate reality.
- A photographer takes a tumble while shooting urban architecture, only to enter a portal into a bustling epic fantasy city through a clever trompe l’oeil mural.
- Every house on a block contains a hidden portal to a different fantasy world – except the cranky old man protagonist’s home. When he discovers a young girl trapped and unable to activate her house’s portal, they set off on an odd couple adventure.
- At a magical lake, people enter the water beneath a full moon to briefly visit whoever they’ve lost that they miss most in vision-like dreams.
- A fairy ring of mushrooms in the forest actually serves as a portal between worlds. A mother and daughter each independently take shelter among the mushrooms from rain, ushering an unlikely reunion in the magical realm the portal leads to.
Urban Fantasy Story Ideas
- A busy lawyer discovers their high-powered wardrobe contains enchanted clothing that allows them to manifest their words and soothe frayed nerves around them.
- Gargoyles mysteriously appear on buildings throughout a city. When people walk beneath them after sundown, their greatest ambitions manifest unconsciously.
- A blogger finds handwritten fairytale poems fluttering in the streets. They discover the poet they memorialize died years earlier, yet their ghost continues creating through magic ink that materializes their verses.
- A jaded bureaucract discovers a secret pocket realm accessible through filing cabinets in their office where unwanted documents and office supplies become enchanted.
- A vigilante hacker develops a computer virus that deploys magical rather than technological effects, serving surreptitious justice on corrupt officials undermined through inexplicable luck.
- A chocolatier uses enchanted confections to help customers relive their most cherished memories while enjoying inventive sweets, until the magic goes awry.
- A developer converts dilapidated warehouses into wildly successful commercial properties by making droves inexplicably view their imperfections as quaint through an enchantment. However, without keeping the spell in check the glamour produces catastrophes.
- A painter creates impossible combinations of real realms from dreams by mixing enchanted ink into their watercolors. Trouble arises when people leap physically into the worlds on canvas without the magician’s permission.
- A grandmother runs a magical greenhouse passed down generations where every flower’s scent imbues a unique imagining gift when inhaled. As surrounding neighbourhoods destabilize, enticing buyers threaten the family legacy and community peace the greenhouse protects.
- A chic fashion designer sews impossible dresses that render wearers unnoticed in public spaces, allowing celebrities reprieve and young female interns escape from harassment. However when a customer wants to adapt her stealth designs to commit crimes, she must fight back.
Dark Fantasy Story Ideas
- In a realm where necromancers are priests, graveyards become animate with the rattling bones and shambling corpses of those mourners fail to appease through proper funereal tributes.
- An amoral wizard-artificer breeds terrifying beast-machine hybrids by infusing strange pulsating relics into flesh, bone and iron during unholy experiments, slowly losing their humanity in the process.
- A cursed charm from ages past compels its possessors to transfer the Hello through murder alone so they might live. The chain of possessed “inheritors” spans centuries leaving macabre legends, like an archeologistInheritor driven to study and ultimately pocket the ancient artifact that possesses them next despite all warnings.
- Every year villages offer up people chosen by lottery to a towering labyrinthine prison as tithes appeasing its monstrous warden – except this year, chance selects the beloved daughter of a grieving mother who vows to topple the entire tithe system and destroy the warden who keeps it in place no matter the cost.
- Poisonous purple clouds spread from a crater where a mysterious obsidian meteor struck, their lethal miasma driving people to madness before painful death sweeps them away. Desperate holdouts too poor to flee struggle to survive while negotiating fragile alliances.
- A ruthless band of treasure hunters seeking mythic riches slaughter their way through an old-growth forest but encounter wrathful plant spirits and sentient trees that manipulate nature itself to violently expel the invaders.
- An innocent child is born with emerald eyes that involuntarily turn those who behold them into lifeless onyx statues over time. They must find a way to hide their curse from superstitious townspeople who would condemn them for witchcraft.
- Harrowed parents in in an isolated village cut off from outside aid can only watch their loved ones fall prey to a contagious werewolf curse transforming helpless victims monthly beneath the full moon. A lone misunderstood wizard may be able to help before it’s too late.
- Shadowy nightmare beings thrive on human fear and take monstrous shape from an individual’s personal phobias before entering bedrooms unseen to feast. A young girl fights sleeplessness as she desperately learns how to lucid dream so that she may turn these creatures of darkness into her own guardians against harm.
- A violent clan of nomadic raiders invades a suspected witch’s well-hidden sanctuary domicile seeking to capture and torture her for nefarious purposes. But they soon discover her cabin in the dark forest contains uncanny horrors guarding far greater secrets within which promise terrifying power should they seize it as their own.
High Fantasy Story Starters
- In a land where dragon riders defend humanity against otherworldly threats, an orphan stable hand discovers an abandoned dragon egg and faces backlash as they raise the hatchling in secret, forging an unbreakable bond.
- An exiled knight errant and mage masquerading as a common sellsword venture deep into forgotten valleys chasing legends of a fallen kingdom’s lost treasure, but release an ancient guardian entity in the perilous ruins below.
- A womdering ronin samurai and mystic swordsman with a cursed blade joins forces with rebel guerillas and a young rural farm boy working to end a tyrannical warlord’s conquests. During a pivotal confrontation at the despot’s stronghold, it’s revealed the protagonists all hail from the same ninja shinobi clan.
- A soldier spared from death during a decisive battle gradually transforms into an undead revenant beholden to sinister forces because of the necromantic axe that saved his life. Seeking a cure, he returns to his home village but learns even greater dangers haunt his once idyllic community.
- A plucky thieves guild urchin who narrowly escapes captivity and her orphan friends accidentally unleash an imprisoned magical creature while hiding in castle ruins. Its freedom could spell salvation or doom for the kingdom.
- A gifted apothecarist monastery acolyte mistakes a crucial ingredient during an accelerated plague remedy trial, inadvertently creating a ravenous undead epidemic infecting the abbey’s medicinal garden instead of the life-saving panacea everyone hoped for.
- After an ambitious noble house launches a coup against the crown, the deposed queen entrusts her newborn heir to loyalist allies who disguise themselves as common laborers as they ferry the scion to safety through contested territory. The babe bears a unique birthmark signifying they are the rightful future ruler.
- The sole surviving member of a legendary guardian order embarks on a dangerous quest to convene compatriots in a desperate attempt to combat the malevolent god recently freed from its aeons-long imprisonment now threatening civilization anew.
- A court jester hailed as the cleverest in the land is actually a powerful mageSaboteur patiently dismantling the empire subjugating the mages through subtle magical pranks embarrass leading officials. However, when the king brings in an estranged childhood friend as an inquisitor who sees through the deception, the fight turns serious.
- After frightened woodcutters report a phoenix roosting in a shadowed glen once struck by lightning during a dry storm, druids debate whether its glorious immolation ritual signals ruin or rebirth while opportunistic trappers encroach against all advice.
Magic Discovery Story Prompts
- While salvaging equipment from an alchemical workshop, a tinkerer haphazardly activates an experimental transmutation engine revealing new metals and gemstones but can’t control what it conjures, attracting greedy opportunists and magical investigators alike.
- An obsessive aristocrat commissions explorers to chart rumored ley lines crisscrossing her lands hoping to harness ambient magical energy flowing through them. But breaching these channels of power has unintended effects even the mysterious ley walkers they consult against better judgement couldn’t predict.
- In a magic academy where rival factions vie for prestige and sway using illegally-obtained relics stolen from crypts, museums and private collections, a principled teacher tries limiting growing corruption as repercussions from meddling with dangerous artifacts shake the arcane institution’s foundations.
- An antiques appraiser routinely consults mystics whenever they encounter particularly beguiling magical objects of inscrutable origin, but after they help a powerful benefactor procure a set of seven rings believed crucial for a secret unity ritual, reality itself seems to glitch and blur around them.
- A tribal shaman hunting fungi components to restock their village’s medicinal stores realizes the magical mycelium network binding specific flora grants personalized visions of possible futures after accidental overexposure. Sharing this revelation could enable defensive premonitions yet invites outside exploitation.
- Academics excavating a newly uncovered tomb complex note its strange hieroglyphs glow whenever workers disturbed lost relics and scrolls strewn about the premises. Exact deciphering proves difficult but points to catalogues of profound magical knowledge awaiting proper translation back at the university.
- Over multiple generations spanning centuries, successive guardians of an enigmatic lighthouse ensure its beacon fire continues burning to luminously outline treacherous shallows and navigate ships away from rocky disaster. But the latest caretaker worries their diminishing eyesight risks losing track of a delivery shipment carrying the secret flame’s fuel – luminous nighthawk eggs harvested only under a blue moon’s sight.
- Far from colonial authorities in balmy tropics, secreted among volcanic peaks and plunging ravines, autonomous villages still prosper by distilling elusive absinthe liquor through unique botanicals granting imbibers reality-warping and time-bending qualities when sipped sparingly. An exiled occultistdecrypts production secrets in order to barter access home.
- When hostile treasure hunters probing a seam of glowstone in the abyssal depths of an ancient dwarven mine complex inadvertently unearth a towering titan imprisoned for instigating the legendary War of Fire Giants, their screaming vanguard flees for the surface to spread warning while veteran champions steel themselves to make a heroic last stand against the fiery colossus they’ve unleashed until reinforcements hopefully still versed in binding runes and shielding wards arrive in time.
Mythic Creatures Story Ideas
- An amateur cryptozoologist receives photos depicting an unknown serpentine beast spied coiling amongst legendary loch waters, prompting a dangerous pursuit to confirm rumours suggesting this mystical lake entity survives against all odds using chameleonic camouflage mechanisms to avoid modern detection.
- While surveying prospective marshland real estate, curious scouts discover timid willowy beings with leafy hair resembling botanical dryads shyly withdrawing amidst the isolated bog.their disturbance risks permanently scattering these rare sylvan spirits before conservation efforts establish protected areas.
- Daring divers conducting submarine surveys along a remote archipelago document an elegant tribe of humanoids swimming through crystal waters with bioluminescent skin, membranes between elongated digits, and gently swirling spines running from nape down backs evoking mythical merfolk. Attempts to discretely monitor them raise urgent preservation questions once footage leaks publicly.
- Supposed extinct miniature stallions with pearlescent spiral horns projecting from their foreheads turn up mystifying wildlife experts seeking to verify their validity as alicorns and pinpoint origins of the diminutive equines inexplicably spotted in various surprising locations worldwide given lack of previous sightings. Where did they emerge from and how did they proliferate globally?
- While researching folk beliefs associated with a puzzling root vegetable grown by rural cultivators, an ethnobotanist finally pieces together why superstitious farmers harvest these specific tuberous plants according to lunar cycles. It seems consuming them under moonlight alters people’s perceptions towards seeing capricious pookah fae shapeshifting through forms.
- Baffled pet owners across several cities surreptitiously consult veterinarians after hours concerning their animals’ unusual behavior patterns, but the consensus suggests certain elemental sprites remarkably reactive to pollution and habitat disruptions have begun intervening through willing animal vessels letting them convey crucial environmental restoration messages.
- A celebrated chimera in antiquity renown for its oracular sight and wisdom unexpectedly resurfaces after centuries dormant to reluctantly help a perilously fractured kingdom, but its sphinx-like proclamations prove so cryptic that divine decipherers must convene to properly unravel prophetic statements encoded within imagery-rich verse.
- exploring a tidal cave network reveals crude bioluminescent cave paintings depicting now extinct mega faunas living amongst early humans, yet one hitherto unidentified sauropod they spot outlined multiple times near vital freshwater outlets suggests maybe a special phoenix-like regeneration is involved accounting for why this particular colossal species still roams secluded sites according to rare sightings.
- After inheriting an eccentric relative’s overgrown estate, the new groundskeeper gradually befriends gargantuan guardian statues prowling the property each night that their ancestor had long ago awakened from stone hibernation using ancient runic synergies. Now fully sentient yet still bound by geas-fueled oaths to defend sacred boundary wards against trespassers in perpetuity.
- Investigating terrifying instances of dangerous predators found mysteriously slaughtered throughout remote mountain hiking trails points to the legendary involvement of a massive fur-covered humanoid people come down seasonally from hidden villages nestled amongst cloud-piercing peaks to harvest resources, leaving occasional violent calling cards warning human settlers away.
- Clearing out a backyard garden plot, homeowners unearthed strange skull fragments alongside unusual claw and vertebrae remains resembling no catalogued regional wildlife. However, after unexpectedly animated beings self-assembling from these unknown animal bones and sinew subsequently carry their whining dog away towards the forested foothills, frantic owners contact monster hunting occultists and sabermetric scientists to identify what may have emerged and strategize safe retrievals.
These 150 fantasy writing prompts offer a treasure trove of story ideas you can explore within magical realms of your own imagining, whether building out entire worlds or just enhancing life’s hidden wonders. From portals leading across dimensions to mythical beasts and magical objects with cryptic purposes, let these prompts stir your creativity.
Remember the key ingredients that make fantasy tales resonate. Bake in rich worldbuilding, dimensional characters, suspenseful pacing and themes that connect with readers. Study classics of the genre you wish to emulate while putting your own distinct spin on tropes. Keep magic and supernatural forces integral without overshadowing interpersonal relationships, inner turmoil and relatable conflicts that bring fantasy down to earth even amidst the extraordinary.
Most importantly, believe fervently in the realms you envision and pour passion into each enchanted word set to page. If you thoroughly enjoy building new worlds and want readers to find the same wonder escaping routine reality, then fantasy fiction offers endless gateways forescape. Now step through the portal of your imagination – let these prompts guide your journey into fantastical storytelling!