120 of the BEST Scene Prompts to Kickstart Your Writing

What are Scene Prompts?

Scene prompts are there to help writers get their creative juices flowing. Say a screenwriter finds themselves stuck during a script, unsure of how to add a scene to move the narrative forward. Or they can’t come up with a good idea for a screenplay in the first place. Well, using scene prompts to create different scenarios can help.

The basics of a scene prompt are that the writer is given a simple outline and they have to write a scenario based on that. Thus, the creativity of the screenwriter is challenged as they must work out a scene that works around a specific element or scenario. Furthermore, this also helps the development of something new as the challenge of scene prompts is that you are forced to write around new ideas and concepts which you usually might not use.

This method can also help get a writer’s creativity going even if the scenes don’t have anything to do with the script at hand. You might just want to experiment with placing your characters in different scenarios, for example. This can be a good way to get a sense of who they are and how they behave and react in certain situations.

What Should You Do With Scene Prompts?

The prompts help writers with developing ideas by giving the basics on what the scene needs to include. However, in order to create a well-established scene that makes sense, the writer needs to do more than just write based on the prompt.

There must be a context to the scene. For instance, what is the setting? If the prompt does not specify a location, you must come up with one that makes sense. How many characters are there and who are they? What do they contribute?

Moreover, what are the consequences of the scene that will lead to a new scene? The prompts create a scene, but you need to imagine in your head what happened before in order to get to this point and how it will resound in a new scene. This applies whether the scene will be included in your script or not. The scene should ideally reverberate, creating consequences for that character that will one way or another be visible in your story.

So in this article, we will give 120 examples of scene prompts, separated into different categories based on the expected emotions that the scenes should generate. The idea behind the categories is that you write the prompts with the result being the creation of a scene that transmits the emotion of the category.

There will be some overlap between the different categories, with one type of scene being able to generate a number of different emotions. Sometimes, in fact, a reversal of expectations can create the most interesting scenes (for example, turning a traditionally happy scene into a sad scene). However, the categories help give direction based on the type of emotion you’re ultimately seeking to characterise your scene or script with.

Tense Scene Prompts

Captain Phillips Tense Scene

These prompts that aspire to create tension can be useful when aiming for a script that falls into the genre of thriller or action. For example, the prompt about a protagonist being held at gunpoint appears in many action movies such as The Hateful Eight and Captain Philips.

  • An accusation amidst family, friends or a workplace.
  • The protagonist is held at gunpoint.
  • A scene where a building is collapsing.
  • A betrayal.
  • An interrogation scene.
  • A kidnapping.
  • A scene where the character is late to catch their plane.
  • A burglar enters a house.
  • A character has to hide from a murderer.
  • A character refuses treatment for an illness.
  • A parachute does not open during a free fall.
  • A fight occurs due to miscommunication.
  • A character works hard to conceal a secret.
  • A character prepares for a career-defining meeting.
  • A character bumps into an ex-partner.
  • The last game of the season defines the winning team.
  • A 911 call.
  • A surgery goes wrong.
  • A character collapses out of the blue.

Sad Scene Prompts

A typical prompt that makes for tearful moments is having a funeral. Nevertheless, you can also take a prompt like that in another direction and create a comedic moment, as in the movie Grown Ups. Overall though, these are scenarios that typically would prompt sadness in the characters.

  • A funeral.
  • A loved one passes away in the arms of the protagonist.
  • A scene where someone is crying in front of a grave.
  • A breakup.
  • A beloved pet’s death.
  • A last goodbye between two characters.
  • A scene where the protagonist discovers their partner cheated on them.
  • A character is standing on top of a bridge about to jump.
  • The sudden death of an important character.
  • A scene where a family business goes bankrupt.
  • A character wakes up with amnesia.
  • A house burns down.
  • A gut-wrenching confession.
  • A character suffering from insomnia.
  • A character on their deathbed.
  • A terminal diagnosis.
  • A non-terminal but life-changing diagnosis.
  • A scene where someone gets fired.
  • A tearful apology.
  • A drug overdose.
  • A character gets disowned.
  • A job rejection.
Funeral scene in Grown Ups used as an example of a funny funeral

Happy Scene Prompts

  • A wedding proposal.
  • A pregnancy reveal.
  • A scene where a doctor tells a patient good news.
  • A kiss in the rain.
  • A student is accepted into their dream university.
  • A confession of love.
  • A scene where a bottle of champagne is opened to celebrate something.
  • A scene where a character receives flowers unexpectedly.
  • A character receives an important award.
  • A standing ovation.
  • A happy ending.
  • A drunken night out with friends.
  • A character wins the lottery.
  • A child receives a gift they wanted.
  • A woman running through a field of flowers.
  • Love at first sight.
Characters Kissing

Action Scene Prompts

When talking about action scenes most think about a superhero fight or people throwing punches. However, it can be much more than that. For instance, the tsunami scene in The Impossible could also be considered an action sequence.

  • An explosion takes place.
  • The protagonist rescues someone.
  • A prisoner is escaping from a high-security prison.
  • A nuclear alarm starts blaring.
  • A scene opens with the sound of a gunshot.
  • A car chase.
  • A boxing match.
  • A plane crashes.
  • A bride is running from the altar.
  • A natural disaster occurs.
  • A scene is interrupted by a sudden slap.
  • The protagonist witnesses a murder.
  • The protagonist is mugged.
  • A high school fistfight.
  • A scene where a knife is revealed.
  • An unexpected act of bravery.
  • Someone jumps from a building.
  • The antagonist and protagonist face off.
  • A war breaks out.
  • A planet explodes.
The Impossible

Scene Prompts That Involve Certain Elements

Another challenge is to write a scenario where a certain element must appear. So, the scene would be written around that specific aspect, having to build the characters as well as the entire setting to work for that component that the prompt wants you to include.

  • Include someone that whispers.
  • Someone enters the frame unexpectedly.
  • Use a flashback.
  • A scene that starts with a close-up of a face.
  • A scene with a person hiding in the shadows.
  • A scene without any dialogue.
  • A scene where one character can talk and one can’t.
  • A scene that starts with an establishing shot.
  • A scene where something is foreshadowed for an upcoming scene.
  • A scene where the scene depends on a prop.
  • A knock on the door opens the scene.
  • A scene with a big revelation.
  • A scene that presents a character.
  • A scene with a plot twist.
  • A scene that ends on a cliffhanger.
  • A scene that starts with a character reacting to something off-screen.
  • An opening scene.
  • A scene inspired by your favourite piece of art.
  • A scene with a voice-over narrator.
  • A scene using montage.
  • A scene that starts in the middle of an argument.
  • A scene with a ticking clock defining the pace.
  • A scene that fades out into a black screen.

Neutral Scene Prompts

Neutral scene taken from the movie 500 days of summer

Finally, you can work with neutral scene prompts that can go in any direction you desire. Even though, as mentioned above, most scene prompts can go in more than one direction, they tend to raise certain emotions more than others.

Nevertheless, with these following scene prompts anything can happen and there are no limitations in terms of genres or feelings. Sometimes it can be a rewarding exercise to throw these scenes into your chosen genre and see how that genre changes the nature of the scene.

  • A scene with a sailor in the middle of the sea.
  • A person writing a letter.
  • A woman rushing down a busy street.
  • A child eating ice cream in the park.
  • A news reporter getting ready for the camera.
  • A character lights a cigarette.
  • A character reads a book in a library.
  • A dialogue is held through the phone.
  • A scene with a crying baby.
  • A scene in the shower.
  • A reunion between two characters.
  • A mundane scene in an extraordinary location.
  • A bartender during a busy shift.
  • A couple watching the sunset.
  • Best friends go out to dinner together.
  • A singer about to go on stage.
  • A prom dance.
  • A sleeping character.
  • A maid cleaning a mansion.
  • An elevator ride.
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This article was written by Valentina Vlasich and edited by IS Staff.

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