37 Dystopian Writing Prompts

Dystopian novels had a big upswing in popularity a few years back with series like The Hunger Games. While there has been a remarkable dip in the genre, it’s important to remember that trends are cyclical. With the current tumultuous state of the world, we can expect another jump in interest for dystopian novels.

With that in mind, why not hop ahead of the curve and get started on your own dystopian novel? Here are 37 dystopian writing prompts to get you started!

  1. Write about a band touring after the end of the world.
  2. During a zombie apocalypse, a woman finds a tube of her favorite lipstick from the old days–but it’s in the display window of a boutique overrun by zombies.
  3. In the mountains, a traveler finds a survivalist school run by a doomsday prepper who doesn’t know the world has ended.
  4. A family huddles together in a tornado shelter while the storm passes. When it lets up, they emerge in a horrible version of their world where everything has been burned to the ground.
  5. A motorcycle gang has been keeping the peace in a small town. One day, a traveler arrives, sick with the plague that ended the world.
  6. A salesman got rich selling equipment that was supposed to protect the nation’s citizens from the oncoming climate disaster. The equipment didn’t work.
  7. After the government collapsed, a group of people decided to instate a child as its leader, believing they would make more morally pure decisions. How does that go?
  8. Three teenagers find a TV abandoned in a warehouse and don’t know what it is. They finally get it to turn on. What’s playing?
  9. A dystopian society organizes its citizens into three groups. A government member comes out and admits that the organization is completely arbitrary. What ensues?
  10. No one’s been outside the city walls in several hundred years. A girl sneaks out.
  11. The world’s leaders agree to immediately shut down all industrial plants, factories, and mass manufacturing in an effort to stop climate change. How does the world look five years from that decision?
  12. A group of post-apocalyptic archaeologists uncover a building that they don’t know is a high school from 2015.
  13. The nation’s leaders have decreed that the oldest child from every family go to military service. One family decides to hide theirs, and it works, until the child’s seventeenth birthday. What happens then?
  14. Write about a world where people spend some or all of their time in an alternate reality simulator.
  15. In fear of annihilation, bunkers deep below the ground are built to ensure that people can survive. The worst happens, and people are sent to live underground. What does life look like after fifty years down below?
  16. Write from the perspective of a cave explorer logging their experience as they find the remains of human life from 2020, which was two thousand years ago.
  17. In post-apocalyptic Texas, a group of people band together to form a Sheriff’s department to help curb crime. Write about their latest case.
  18. Write about a world in which children are not allowed to say a single word until they turn eighteen.
  19. A group of nomadic people travelling across an American wasteland come across a cat. The youngest girl wants to keep it, and the others want to kill it. Who prevails?
  20. Write the journal entry of the last scientist to die when the world is overrun by a horrible plague.
  21. In this world, a government requires citizens to be at work literally every waking hour. They are given 8 hours to sleep. One day, a citizen doesn’t clock in.
  22. A society assigns people to their romantic partner based on a variety of genetic factors, and does not allow people to choose outside of their assignment. Of course, people fall in love who aren’t assigned all the time–write about one unassigned couple.
  23. A horrible new species of dinosaur resurrected from unexplored caves in North America. Nothing humans had could kill them. Write about one brave person’s attempt to kill them off a hundred years after society has collapsed.
  24. Write a story about two kids finding a stray dog in a world where it’s illegal to have pets.
  25. A space explorer lands on a planet called ‘Earth,’ two thousand years in the future. There are no people. What’s left behind?
  26. An intern in a dystopian world discovers that the leader of their nation is just a computer plugged into a mainframe. What do they do with this information?
  27. Write about a society where organs can be harvested while people are still alive.
  28. To prevent high murder rates, body cameras on installed on every citizen. You can’t turn them off, and you can’t remove them. Write from the perspective of a surveillance officer as he watches a citizen run from the law.
  29. In a next-to-empty world, where the world has been picked to its bare bones, a lone character grave robs for supplies.
  30. In a new age where extreme poverty is the norm, the new Gold Rush and the promise of money sends people flooding to what was once California to collect.
  31. A cult leader takes himself and his followers underwater to live the rest of their lives beneath the sea level. They expand their original buildings and eventually create a nation, and it’s the only thing left when a meteor wipes out people on land.
  32. In a world where people aren’t allowed to die, replacement organs and body parts are produced cheaply and sold at an outrageous upmark, people who can no longer afford replacement parts are kept alive on machinery. Write from the perspective of a worker in one of these facilities.
  33. A secret lab produces hybrids of humans and various animals in an attempt to create a super-species of people that can survive in the changing world conditions. One of these hybrids escapes.
  34. A character in a sparsely populated post-apocalyptic world finds an entrance to a previously unknown, thriving underground city.
  35. In a water-covered world, resources are limited. As a form of population control, there’s a Death Lottery. With a ranking based on community usefulness and infractions committed, a random person from the lowest-ranked citizens is selected to be killed and eaten. Write from the perspective of a selected.
  36. An EMP deprives the world of all electronics, which gives the citizens relying on cyborg brain parts to function normally an interesting problem.
  37. Soldiers collect children between the ages of 10 and 19, because they’re the prime age to be receptive to a life-saving biological alteration in the face of mass extinction.

Use these prompts for short story or novel ideas, writing exercises, or warm-ups! Remember you can always edit prompts, take one part of it, or interpret it in a different way. Don’t restrict yourself into the confines of the prompt, but let it spark an idea you’re excited to write about.

Happy writing!

Hannah Lee Kidder

Hannah Lee Kidder is a contemporary and fantasy author, writing coach, and YouTuber. She has published two bestselling short story collections, Little Birds and Starlight. Hannah is currently minding her own business somewhere in the Colorado mountains with her roommate, Saya, who is a dog.

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