101 Action-Packed Story Prompts

Want to write a high-octane action flick? Here are some story prompts to light the fuse on your creativity.
by Ken Miyamoto - updated on May 10, 2023

Do you want to write in the action genre but need help conjuring compelling and action-packed stories and concepts? Sometimes reading simple action writing prompts is the easiest way to get those creative juices flowing.

Common Elements in the Action Genre

The action genre is very broad with many sub-genres. Most action movies call for big action sequences, explosions, chases, gunfights, hand-to-hand combat, etc.

Generally speaking, the central plot of the script is less important compared to the high-octane action and thrills that such action stories have to offer. In action stories, it's the concept and premise that truly shines. But that doesn't mean they're easy to write. You need to be ready to conjure engaging action set pieces and raise the stakes as high as you possibly can to keep readers and audiences on the edge of their seats as the character(s) struggle to survive whatever you throw at them.

Why Use Action Writing Prompts

Action writing prompts can be anything from a simple writing exercise to an ideation tool that helps inspire you for your next big, high-octane project. Think of them as a seed for your story ideas. An effective action writing prompt introduces a simple writing topic and allows you to play around with it. A good one, for instance, isn’t going to be an overly detailed setup — it’ll be basic and bare-boned.

Action Writing Prompts in, Well, Action

Need a few examples? We’ve got them!

Action Writing Prompt: An experimental medical procedure helps a cop catch a bad guy.
Movie: Face/Off

Action Writing Prompt: A group of soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.
Movie: Saving Private Ryan

Action Writing Prompt: A cop comes to L.A. to visit his estranged wife and her office building is taken over by terrorists.
Movie: Die Hard

Action Writing Prompt: A skilled warrior protects her tribe from a highly evolved alien predator.
Movie: Prey

Action Writing Prompt: A Cuban refugee becomes an immensely wealthy, powerful and ruthless drug lord in 1980s Miami..
Movie: Scarface

Action Writing Prompt: Near-future Manhattan is turned into a maximum security prison…and the president is stuck there and needs to be rescued.
Movie: Escape from New York

With action writing prompts, the stakes are high and clearly defined. 

Action Writing Prompts Are Everywhere

We get our ideas from many sources — news headlines, novels, television shows, movies, our lives, our fears, our phobias, etc. They can come from a scene or moment in a film that wasn’t fully explored. They can come from a single visual that entices the creative mind — a seed that continues to grow and grow until the writer is forced to finally put it to paper or screen.

In the spirit of helping writers find those seeds, here we offer 101 originally conceived action story prompts that you can use as inspiration for your next action story.

They may inspire screenplays, novels, short stories, or even smaller moments that you can include in what stories you are already writing.

Note: Because we’re all connected to the same pop culture, news headlines, and inspirations, any similarity to any past, present, or future screenplays, novels, short stories, television pilots, television series, plays, or any other creative works is purely coincidence. These action writing prompts were conceived on the fly without any research or Google search for inspiration.

Cary Grant in North By Northwest - action writing prompts

'North By Northwest'

Action Writing Prompts Focusing on Police/Military/Government/Political Operations

  1. A traffic cop gives the wrong car a ticket.
  2. Four Special Forces teams race against time to find the same POW in four different potential locations. 
  3. A woman joins the military to avenge the death of her soldier husband. 
  4. Agents from the world's superpowers are sent to find the first alien ship that has crashed on Earth.
  5. A man discovers that he has a natural ability to fight with any type of weapon in a masterful fashion. 
  6. A security guard is all that stands between a terrorist group and their towed van full of explosives that were meant to take out a federal building. 
  7. A new Army recruit uncovers a conspiracy within his unit. 
  8. The world's most deadly convicts are hired for an impossible government mission. 
  9. An employee at a corporation discovers that she's an assassin activated by a secret code. 
  10. The world's first cyborg super-soldier goes AWOL to experience the life of an average person. 
  11. The moon is actually a Space Force training center for an intergalactic war. 
  12. A man has the power to conjure any type of weapon. 
  13. A scientist finds the cure for cancer but is suddenly attacked by government agents that don't want it to go public. 
  14. In the near future, the government picks one citizen a month to be hunted down by elite Special Forces.
  15. A detective uncovers the truth that the governor is also a mob boss, forcing him to flee when mob hitmen come after him.  
  16. An off-duty detective on a cruise vacation with his family must fend off terrorists that take over the ship. 
  17. A cop is framed and must prove his innocence as he is hunted down by authorities. 
  18. A Special Forces team comes across a village attacked by a clan of vampires. 
  19. An undercover cop must face off against a ruthless detective without blowing his cover. 
  20. Two police detective partners discover that one of them is a mob plant.
  21. A criminal mastermind tells the world he will pay anyone $20 million to take out the president.
  22. A spy realizes that his government is trying to take him out. 
  23. A president must fight off terrorists that attack him on a retreat. 
  24. A detective uncovers a precinct-wide conspiracy that forces him on the run.
  25. A male detective and a female detective are paired to track down bank robbers. 
Michael B Jordan in 'A Journal for Jordan' - action writing prompts

'A Journal for Jordan'

Action Writing Prompts Focusing on School Aged People/Families

  1. A group of high school students traveling abroad must escape the clutches of a sex-trafficking ring. 
  2. A gamer wakes up in his favorite car racing game.
  3. A young boy has a pretend friend that is an action hero.
  4. A college student is mistaken as the son of a drug cartel boss.
  5. A gamer is thrust into the body of his favorite shooter game character.
  6. A high school is taken over by terrorists and only the students can save the day. 
  7. A boy makes a wish to become the ultimate soldier. 
  8. A girl makes a wish to become the ultimate warrior. 
  9. A high school student that is a witness to a mob hit finds himself on the run. 
  10. A high school student discovers that his classmates are robots from the future sent to kill him.
  11. An outcast nerd discovers that he's actually a revered prince from another planet, hidden by his royal family to escape an evil space lord. 
  12. A woman has ninety minutes to find her kidnapped son. 
  13. A family struggles to survive a destructive meteor shower.
  14. A retired assassin realizes that his assassin son is hunting him down.
  15. Bank robbers recruit a genius student to crack a code.
  16. A science fair team accidentally creates teleportation technology that the government wants for itself.
  17. A gamer learns that the soldier he is controlling is actually a real soldier in a real war. 
  18. A high school genius discovers anti-gravity technology, only to be hunted down by government agents. 
  19. A family of assassins must survive a syndicate's attempt to take them out. 
  20. A teenager enlists the training of a hitman to avenge the death of his father. 
  21. A slacker high school student stumbles upon a new energy source, only to be hunted down by government agents.
  22. A son discovers that his dead father was a legendary assassin. 
  23. A girl discovers that her mother is a legendary assassin.  
  24. A husband discovers that his wife has been assigned to watch over him and kill him when ordered to. 
  25. A bank robber is tasked with robbing ten banks in a single day to save his daughter's life.  
  26. A wilderness firefighter must parachute into a wildfire to find a missing family.
Keanu Reeves in The Matrix - action writing prompts

'The Matrix'

Action Writing Prompts Focusing on War and/or its Effects 

  1. A former POW breaks into the foreign prison he escaped from to rescue a friend. 
  2. A masked mastermind kidnaps soldiers and makes them compete against each other in a last-man-standing game of combat. 
  3. A soldier paralyzed in battle creates his own cybernetic endoskeleton to fight again. 
  4. A soldier discovers that after a battle, he has gained the ability to never miss a target with his weapon. 
  5. The military sends a single super-soldier to end a war. 
  6. Two escaped union soldiers with key intel must make their way through the southern battlefields of the Civil War-era United States.
  7. Old West train robbers must fight off infantry soldiers as the train races across the country. 
  8. A Vietnam POW escapes a prisoner camp and struggles to make his way through the war-torn territories to freedom.
  9. Wars are fought in simulation to protect lives.
  10. A Buddhist monk must forgo his pacifist ways to defend a village. 
  11. Warring superpower nations choose champions to face off in battle, instead of armies. 
  12. The two remaining battleships from opposite sides of a devastating world war fight to be the last nation standing. 
  13. An aging war veteran takes on a biker gang that terrorizes a mountain town community.  
Tessa Thompson in Thor: Ragnarok -action writing prompts

'Thor: Ragnarok'

Action Writing Prompts Focusing on Partners/Team-Ups/Buddies

  1. A bank robber joins the FBI to gain access to federal gold reserves.
  2. Extreme paintball enthusiasts on a wilderness retreat stumble upon a group of armed criminals.
  3. A cop is forced to team up with a crime boss to find their sons.
  4. A cop seeks revenge after his partner is killed on a routine stop. 
  5. Rock climbers stumble upon a drug cartel.
  6. Extreme sports athletes are forced to use their skills for heists. 
  7. A foreign country invades the United States, only to come face-to-face with intercity gangs and the police force that band together.  
  8. The deadliest female assassin goes up against the deadliest male assassin as the criminal underground place their bets.
  9. A sailor decided to sail into the infamous Bermuda Triangle to find a lost friend. 
  10. An astronaut stuck in cryosleep wakes up after his returning ship and crew crashland in medieval times. 
  11. A hitman falls in love with his target. 
  12. Two assassins make a gentleman's bet that they can hunt the other down first from opposite ends of the world. 
Emily Blunt in 'Edge of Tomorrow' - action writing prompts

'Edge of Tomorrow'

Action Writing Prompts with Sci-Fi

  1. A man dreams of a life where he is an alien soldier. 
  2. A handicapped man becomes a cyborg.
  3. A man that has uploaded his consciousness to a simulated reality fights to return to his real body and world.
  4. The story of the Titanic, but the Titanic is a luxury space cruiser that has hit a meteor made of ice. 
  5. A space pilot goes on an interstellar race to find a coveted treasure. 
  6. Criminals are now shipped into space on space prison ships as some try to escape. 
  7. Asteroid miners struggle to survive an accident. 
  8. Scientists travel back to the world of dinosaurs to find a long-dead plant that could save humankind from extinction. 

Miscellaneous Action Writing Prompts 

  1. Assassins recreate a gifted pilot.
  2. Drivers speed across the country in the ultimate cross-country race. 
  3. A serial killer stalks the highways in stolen cars, looking for his next hit-and-run victim. 
  4. A former professional MMA fighter must fight his way out of an abandoned prison set as the stage for the ultimate MMA tournament. 
  5. A bouncer kicks out the wrong patron. 
  6. A racecar driver is tasked with driving drugs across the border. 
  7. An old west gunslinger must survive a posse that is after him. 
  8. Competing treasure hunters race on the open ocean waters to find a sunken treasure. 
  9. A vigilante creates a superhero guise to fight crime. 
  10. A riverboat captain attempts the first trip down the Mississippi River. 
  11. A futuristic gamer realizes what he thought was a virtual reality shooter game is actually real life.
  12. A woman is wrongly convicted of murder and escapes prison to prove her innocence. 
  13. A martial artist wakes up in a building and discovers that he must battle a different warrior on each level to survive. 
  14. A man wakes up in a crashed car with a gun in his hand — and amnesia clouding his memory of who he is and how he got there. 
  15. An action star is kidnapped and hunted down by a tribe that believes he is the real deal.  
  16. Career criminals utilize a city-wide blackout for their crimes.

Share this with your writing peers or anyone that loves a good action-packed story. Have some prompts of your own? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter!

Want More Ideas? Take a Look at Our Other Genre-Based Story Prompts!

Ken Miyamoto has worked in the film industry for nearly two decades, most notably as a studio liaison for Sony Studios and then as a script reader and story analyst for Sony Pictures.

He has many studio meetings under his belt as a produced screenwriter, meeting with the likes of Sony, Dreamworks, Universal, Disney, Warner Brothers, as well as many production and management companies. He has had a previous development deal with Lionsgate, as well as multiple writing assignments, including the produced miniseries Blackout, starring Anne Heche, Sean Patrick Flanery, Billy Zane, James Brolin, Haylie Duff, Brian Bloom, Eric La Salle, and Bruce Boxleitner, the feature thriller Hunter’s Creed, and many Lifetime thrillers. Follow Ken on Twitter @KenMovies

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