January Writing Prompts

Free daily January writing prompts. Use these photo-based writing prompts in your daily journaling to explore a wide variety of themes and ideas.

Daily journaling is by far one of the best ways to improve your writing skills. Any daily writing is helpful (even the what-I-had-for-dinner-last-night variety), but the best sort is writing that exercises the specific skills you use in all fiction writing.

Narrative, characterization, description, dialogue. As well as the all-important thinking skills of brainstorming storylines and practicing fitting all the pieces together into a coherent story.

Follow along here daily. (Or go back and pick these up from the beginning.) These prompts are simultaneously posted on the ePrompts Facebook page.

Daily January Writing Prompts

Jump-start your January journaling with these unique visual writing prompts.

→ January 1 ←

After hiking through the woods and emerging on the beach, the starving artist paused in wonder as he witnessed the perfect scene for his next painting.

Have fun turing this idea into a story, or even just a scene. What is the young woman's reaction upon seeing the artist emerge from the forest?

→ January 2 ←

A young girl, on a camping trip in the woods with her family, finds a bald eagle with an injured wing, while searching for firewood.

Use this concept to build out a story, a narrative, or to explore character development.

→ January 3 ←

He'd wanted to join the yacht club for as long as he could remember, and he was determined to make it work, even though his was the smallest boat in the dock.

Expand the prompt above into a scene or story.

→ January 4 ←

After years of therapy, a woman decides to overcome a childhood fear by returning to Oregon and swimming in Crater Lake, which she now knows is not really bottomless.

Can you make a story out of this idea?

→ January 5 ←

After dropping her youngest child off at the university, a mom sits alone in a coffee shop, amazed at how fast the past eighteen years have flown by.

What kind of storylines does this writing prompt spark in your imagination? Is it a coming of age story about the child, or is the mom about to be recruited into the CIA?

→ January 6 ←

Becoming mayor of her hometown had been a lifelong dream, but the reality of local politics made her question whether she was really cut out for the job.

Flesh out this idea. Add backstory. Where is the conflict? What does the main character want here, and what will she do to achieve it?

→ January 7 ←

No one knew where the cat had come from, but when their young daughter saw it and instantly fell in love, her parents reluctantly agreed to let her keep it.

Have you ever adopted a stray cat, or rather been adopted by one?

→ January 8 ←

Feeding ducks in the park with her granddaughter had seemed like such a good idea, until the squirrels realized what was happening and ran over to fight with the ducks over the bread crumbs.

Spend some time writing about this idea. Develop the characters of the grandmother and granddaughter. How did they get to this point?

→ January 9 ←

He'd always thought sheep were docile and would run away from people, until the sheep with the red tags and creepy eyes started following him through the countryside.

Have you ever had a frightening experience in the wilderness that seemed unreal after the fact?

→ January 10 ←

The young high school student tried to focus on kicking the football through the goal posts, but thoughts of his little sister's upcoming operation made it hard to concentrate.

Take the writing prompt and expand it into a scene or a story. What is the relationship between these two siblings?

→ January 11 ←

When the snowstorm shut down all the roads, making it impossible for her to drive to her office, the young fashion designer decided to field test her latest winter wear.

Practice creating narratives. Turn this prompt into either the beginning of a story or into its climax.

→ January 12 ←

Unable to take his son with him on most of his business trips, a young father instead brings his kid's favorite teddy bear and sends his son photos of the bear's adventures.

Develop the relationship between the father and son. What is their backstory? And what could be a good point of conflict to drive a narrative about them?

→ January 13 ←

Being the CEO of a successful startup normally kept the young executive quite happy, but knowing that her new friend was waiting at home all day for her to return sometimes made her question her life choices.

Can you write a scene based on this prompt that is mostly dialogue between the woman and her work colleague? Try to make the dialogue move the story forward toward its climax.

→ January 14 ←

Running away from home had felt both adventurous and terrifying for the first few days, but now the two brothers were just plain cold and hungry.

In which direction does your imagination take you? Into the boys' backstory to find out why they ran away? Or into their immediate future to discover what will happen to them on their own in the cold world?

→ January 15 ←

The young man, on the brink of proposing to his sweetheart as they floated down the river, instead started a fistfight with the gondolier when he saw him flirting with her.

This prompt reminds me of the old saying … The best laid plans of mice and men … How do you think the man's girlfriend reacted to his sudden burst of anger?

→ January 16 ←

Boris, the therapy bear, became an overnight best-seller, when children's hospitals around the country started buying him to give to their young recovering patients.

What story comes to mind with this prompt? The designer of the bear perhaps becomes rich, even though she is giving 50% of her profits to charity? Or maybe you have a story about a sick child in need of a friend. Put your ideas below in the comments.

→ January 17 ←

After discovering the scenic walkway near his office six months ago, the formerly overweight man began seriously training for his first marathon.

Brainstorm some ideas about the man in this prompt. What motivated him to lose weight? Is there anything that threatens his plan to run a marathon?

→ January 18 ←

The young woman, reluctant to enter into another relationship so soon after her breakup, was severely tempted by the winning personality of her fellow jogger.

Life can be ironic. Once we decide not to do something, seemingly perfect opportunities sometimes pop up out of nowhere. Do you follow your intellect, or pursue the vagaries of your emotions?

→ January 19 ←

Desperate for some alone time, the mother of three tried to hide away in her comfy lounging chair to watch some mindless television, but the cat had other plans.

How can you resist that adorable face? What story ideas pop into your head? Maybe the cat knows something and is trying to communicate? Develop some narrative ideas of where this prompt is heading.

→ January 20 ←

Determined that her daughter would become an actress, a mom drove her little girl to every photo shoot and audition in the state, certain that their big break was right around the corner.

What about writing a story from a child’s point of view? How different would the narrative be, and how would you relay adult information that the child would be too young to understand?

→ January 21 ←

Getting back on stage after his long convalescence had been terrifying, but as soon as the music started, his fingers flew across the fretboard of their own accord.

Is this writing prompt telling the beginning of a story, or its end? Use your imagination to explore forward and backward to find a storyline that piques your interest.

→ January 22 ←

A mom marveled again at the coincidence of holding the middle school dance in the old barn where she'd first fallen in love so many years ago.

Brainstorm some ideas for this prompt. Which storyline sounds more interesting to you? The mom's story? Or maybe one of her kids will have a similar experience. What does dad think about all this?

→ January 23 ←

The lone tree was the meeting spot where the drug cartel made its deliveries, but this time the state marshal would be ready to catch the criminals in the act.

How would you set up this sting operation? Write a scene, telling the story either from the perspective of the marshal, or from that of the criminals. Or perhaps the tree has its own story to tell.

→ January 24 ←

As drones became more common in everyday life, people stopped fearing them and even stopped noticing them hovering overhead. That's when life as we once knew it changed forever.

What do you think of drones? What stories come to mind when you see one flying? Think up a way that drone usage could fundamentally alter society. Then write a scene or story to convey your vision.

→ January 25 ←

A young man crouched in a sea of lavender, ready to jump out and surprise his girlfriend with a bouquet of wildflowers when she passed by on the trial.

This young man sounds rather playful to me. What's his story? How did he win over his girlfriend? What will her reaction be when he startles her?

→ January 26 ←

Engrossed in her book, the young girl failed to notice that most of the morning had already passed and that her family had all left for the beach hours ago.

Where's the story in this prompt? What's the conflict? Does it begin with the girl's sudden realization that she is alone? Or perhaps it's written from the family's point of view. What would make them leave her alone to read?

→ January 27 ←

When the ranch hand finally caught up to the horses, she texted her boss to tell her their location. Then she planned out how to corral the animals so they didn't take off running again.

How is modern ranching different from the days of the wild wild west? What made these horses run away in the first place, and how will this ranch hand go about bringing them back?

→ January 28 ←

Two college students, walking along the pier after their first date, tried to offer some bread to the pelican, but the bird was shy and kept moving away.

Develop this prompt into a scene or story by fleshing out the characters of these two young college students. How did they meet? Does this pelican play a larger role than might be obvious at first?

→ January 29 ←

The young architect loved to lie on the grass and study the skyline, imagining all the skyscrapers she would build.

Explore the world of this writing prompt. How did this young lady arrive at her present position? Where does she go from here? How is she able to dream such big dreams for herself? What will her future hold?

→ January 30 ←

The moment just before each speech was the scariest, as the man stared at the microphone, once again questioning whether he was good enough to speak before such a large crowd.

Spend some time brainstorming the backstory of this character. What is his motivation for speaking? What challenges did he overcome to get to where he is now? What does he desire more than anything else? And what is stopping him from achieving his desire?

→ January 31 ←

Tomorrow she would turn fourteen, and her dad had given her this new journal, knowing of her desire to become a writer.

Did you ever receive a perfect present form someone who seemed tuned into your deepest desires? How might a scene from this story look if told from the dad's point of view? What are his feelings about his daughter growing up?

Stay Tuned

Don't turn that dial. More eye-catching, visual writing prompts are on the way for February.

› January Writing Prompts

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Subscribe to Inspiration, a bimonthly newsletter featuring reviews of helpful books on writing, advice on how to stay productive, important site updates, and even more writing prompts to fire up your imagination and keep you writing.