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40 Sad Writing Prompts and Story Ideas

Sad Writing Prompts

If you’re into stories that really hit you in the feels, then you’re in the right place.

Sad stories have a way of sticking with us, don’t they?

They can be about devastating breakups, loss that cuts to the bone, or any kind of struggle that just doesn’t seem to have a good ending.

Want to give writing a tragic story a try?

We’ve got some writing prompts below that are all about those deep, sorrowful feelings. They’ll help you dig into themes like love, loss, betrayal, the whole nine yards.

Just a heads up – these prompts are no joke.

They’re designed to bring up some seriously heavy emotions, so get ready!

40 Sad Writing Prompts and Story Ideas

  1. Trapped in a DreamImagine you’re in a deep, everlasting dream that you can’t wake up from, and within this dream, you are constantly reliving your most regrettable actions and decisions. It’s a world that punishes you endlessly by bringing back the people you’ve hurt, the opportunities you’ve missed, and the lives you could have lived differently. Craft a story where your protagonist navigates through this dream world and attempts to find redemption within their own subconscious.

  2. The Lighthouse Keeper’s Loneliness – Write about a lighthouse keeper living in a remote island. The keeper’s only interaction is with occasional sailors passing by. The isolation is haunting, and he yearns for human companionship. The sight of the boundless sea only intensifies his loneliness. Explore the depths of the lighthouse keeper’s solitude and his longing for connection with the world beyond the sea.

  3. Once Unconditional Love – Your character was madly in love with their spouse, but after many years, the once passionate love has fizzled out. No catastrophic event or argument led to this, only the slow, torturous process of time and monotony. Describe the aching pain of still loving someone while acknowledging that the spark is gone and the struggle to reignite it.

  4. Memento Mori – Your main character has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. However, the true tragedy lies not in the impending death, but in the realization that they have not truly lived. Their life was dominated by the pursuit of societal norms and expectations. Write about the character’s journey to rediscover life and fill their remaining days with genuine, heartfelt experiences.

  5. Broken Dreams of an Athlete – Your character was once a promising athlete, but a career-ending injury shattered their dreams and ambitions. Now, they must face the harsh reality of life without the one thing that defined them. Dive into the mental turmoil of this character as they search for a new purpose and identity, all while mourning the life they once had.

  6. The Desolate Soldier – A veteran returns home after a long and harrowing tour of duty. He finds that while he was away fighting, life moved on without him. His home, family, and friends, everything is different and he struggles to fit in. Write about the struggle and the sorrow of the soldier trying to readjust to a world that no longer feels like home.

  7. The Silence of an Empty Nest – With the kids grown up and moved out, your character and their spouse are left alone in the house that was once full of life and laughter. They are both grappling with the quiet and the emptiness, feeling a profound sense of loss. Narrate the journey of acceptance and the search for a new meaning to life in the face of this deafening silence.

  8. Final Letters of a Migrant – Your protagonist is an old migrant who has lived in a foreign land all their life but has never truly felt at home. Now, facing the end of their life, they decide to write a series of letters to their estranged family back in their homeland. Depict the migrant’s experience of a lifetime of isolation and longing for a home that exists only in their memories.

  9. Unsung Hero’s Guilt – Your protagonist has done numerous acts of kindness and bravery in secret, while another person unknowingly reaps all the praise and admiration. As the other person’s fame grows, so does your protagonist’s guilt. Write about their internal struggle of wanting recognition yet also wanting to remain an unsung hero.

  10. An Old Friend’s Betrayal – The protagonist is betrayed by their closest friend, a person they trusted unconditionally. The pain of betrayal is worse than the actual act of treachery itself. Capture the poignant journey of the protagonist grappling with feelings of trust broken and love lost.

  11. In the Shadows of Success – Your character has lived their entire life in the shadow of a successful sibling, constantly being compared and always falling short. The burden of feeling never good enough is affecting their self-esteem. Portray the protagonist’s struggle for self-acceptance in a world that only measures them against their sibling.

  12. Love in the Time of Dementia – Your character’s lifelong partner is slowly losing their memories due to dementia. The heartbreaking process of watching the person they love most forget their shared life together is unfolding. Write about their struggle to hold onto their shared past as the one they love slips further and further away.

  13. The Last Bookstore – The protagonist owns the last physical bookstore in a town where everyone else has switched to digital. Despite their efforts to save it, the inevitable closure of the store looms ahead. Describe their grief over the impending loss of not just their livelihood, but a piece of culture they hold dear.

  14. The Unsent Letter – Your character finds an unsent letter from their late parent. The letter reveals feelings of regret and unfulfilled dreams, giving them a new perspective on their parent they thought they knew well. Explore their journey of grief and understanding as they grapple with their parent’s untold story.

  15. A Mother’s Sacrifice – The protagonist is a single mother who sacrifices everything for her child, even her dreams and aspirations. One day, her child accuses her of not understanding the importance of dreams. Write about her silent sorrow and her struggle to reveal her own lost dreams without making her child feel guilty.

  16. The Artist’s Last Masterpiece – An aging artist, once renowned but now forgotten, is creating what they know will be their last masterpiece. But they fear that like them, their art will go unnoticed and unappreciated. Describe the artist’s fear of being forgotten and their desire to leave a lasting impact on the world.

  17. A Child’s Loss – Your protagonist is a young child who loses their beloved pet, experiencing the harsh reality of death for the first time. The child’s parents, while dealing with their own grief, must explain this irreversible change. Explore the child’s journey of understanding and accepting the concept of mortality.

  18. The Uncelebrated Hero – The protagonist, a paramedic, is exposed to life and death scenarios daily but their work remains largely unrecognized by society. They save lives yet go home each day feeling insignificant. Narrate the story of this uncelebrated hero dealing with feelings of underappreciation while continuing their selfless work.

  19. Time-Travel Regret – Your character gains the ability to time travel but makes a decision that alters their timeline for the worse. Unable to rectify the situation, they must now live with a reality they created but deeply regret. Write about their struggle to adapt to this new timeline, and the burden of their regret.

  20. Last Words Unheard – The protagonist’s last interaction with a loved one was an argument. When that loved one suddenly passes away, the protagonist grapples with guilt, regret, and the words left unspoken. Describe their journey of coping with the guilt and seeking forgiveness in their own heart.

  21. The Failed Protector – Your character, a police officer, is unable to prevent a crime that results in a victim’s death. They had joined the force to protect, but now they feel like a failure, dealing with guilt and self-doubt. Illustrate their inner turmoil as they try to make peace with their failure and regain confidence in their purpose.

  22. Behind the Smile – Your character is known for their cheerful and bubbly personality, but underneath that, they are fighting their own mental health battles. Afraid to worry their loved ones, they choose to suffer in silence. Unfold their hidden struggle and their journey to reach out for help while maintaining their facade.

  23. Empty Victory – The protagonist finally achieves a goal they have been working towards for years, only to find it hollow and unfulfilling. Now, they feel lost and devoid of purpose. Describe their journey to rediscover their passion and to understand what true success means to them.

  24. The Poet’s Block – Your character, a renowned poet, suddenly finds themselves unable to create any meaningful verse. With their identity tied to their art, they’re left feeling empty and lost. Write about their struggle with creative block and the fear of never being able to create again.

  25. Bearing the Burden Alone – The protagonist is the eldest child in a family that’s fallen on hard times. They have to take on multiple jobs and responsibilities, leaving no room for their own personal dreams or desires. Chronicle the struggles and sacrifices the character makes while feeling overwhelmed by the weight of their responsibilities.

  26. A Promise Unfulfilled – Your character made a promise to their best friend as children, a promise they were unable to keep due to circumstances beyond their control. Now, many years later, the guilt of that unfulfilled promise haunts them. Dive into their journey of self-forgiveness and letting go of past regrets.

  27. The Melody of the Past – The protagonist, a retired musician, is losing their hearing. With every passing day, the world becomes a little quieter, and their connection to their past and their music is fading. Narrate the story of their struggle to cope with this loss and their journey to find a new purpose in life.

  28. The Unnoticed Helper – Your character is a quiet, reserved person who constantly helps everyone but always goes unnoticed. They struggle with feelings of invisibility and yearn for acknowledgment. Write about their silent battle with loneliness and their desire to be seen and appreciated.

  29. Ghost of a Lover – The protagonist loses their significant other in a tragic accident. Even years after the incident, they are unable to move on and feel haunted by the memories of their lost love. Describe the pain of their loss, their struggle with letting go, and their journey to find closure.

  30. The Forgotten Village – Your character hails from a small village that is rapidly being forgotten due to urbanization. As the city grows, their home becomes a ghost town. Narrate their pain of seeing their home disappear and their fight to preserve their culture and heritage.

  31. The Letter That Never Arrived – The protagonist has been waiting for a letter from their estranged sibling for years. The letter never arrives, leaving them in a state of anticipation and longing. Depict their emotional turmoil as they grapple with the uncertainty and their longing for reconciliation.

  32. Invisible Chains – Your character, despite being free physically, is shackled by their past and their fear. This invisible chain is preventing them from moving forward in life. Explore their internal struggle to break free from their past and overcome their fear.

  33. A Flower Among Weeds – Your protagonist is a skilled and talented person living in a community that fails to appreciate their abilities. Instead of nurturing their talent, the community mocks and ridicules them. Depict the protagonist’s struggle with this constant discouragement and their journey towards self-acceptance and belief in their own worth.

  34. The Diary of Unspoken Words – Your character finds a diary left behind by their late spouse, revealing a side of them they never knew. The diary’s words echo with unfulfilled dreams and unexpressed emotions. Narrate the painful journey of discovery as the character grapples with these newfound aspects of their partner’s life.

  35. A Teacher’s Dilemma – The protagonist is a dedicated teacher in a school system that prioritizes grades over actual learning. They watch helplessly as their students lose interest and enthusiasm for learning. Write about their struggle to ignite a spark of passion for knowledge in their students within this stifling system.

  36. Sorrow in Silence – Your character is a radio host who is a source of joy and positivity for their listeners. However, behind their cheerful voice lies a lonely individual battling their own demons. Explore the dichotomy of their on-air personality and their off-air reality, and their journey towards self-healing.

  37. A Life on the Stage – The protagonist, an aging actor, is being forced into retirement. The stage was their life, and now, without it, they feel a deep sense of emptiness. Capture their struggle to adapt to life off stage and their yearning for the applause and the lights one last time.

  38. Gifts From the Departed – On their birthday each year, your character receives a gift from their deceased parent, arranged years in advance. With each gift, they relive their loss anew. Write about their emotional journey each year as they celebrate their birthday with joy and sorrow in equal measures.

  39. The Echoes of a Childhood Home – The protagonist returns to their childhood home after decades, only to find it in ruins. The sight triggers a wave of nostalgia and loss, as they recall the days of laughter and love that once filled the house. Narrate their struggle to reconcile their vibrant memories with the stark reality before them.

  40. The Weight of a Crown – Your character, a young ruler, feels overwhelmed by the responsibilities of their position. They are expected to be strong and wise beyond their years, but inside, they’re still just a person filled with self-doubt and fear. Chronicle their journey as they navigate the burdens of leadership while struggling to maintain their own identity.