101 Story Prompts Based on True Events

Itching to write a true story but aren't sure where to start? Kick things off with these story prompts!
by Ken Miyamoto - updated on February 21, 2024

Do you want to write a true story but need help finding compelling true story concepts to tell? Sometimes reading simple story prompts is the easiest way to get those creative juices flowing.

We've put together 101 story prompts that can help inspire your next screenplay based on real-life events. But first — should you try our hand at writing a true story? Let's take a look at some industry trends in Hollywood.

Why Does Hollywood Love True Stories So Much?

True stories have power over the audience. As a species, we are genuinely curious. As a society, we're enthralled with stories that actually happened in real life — either because of our embedded curiosity within our DNA or because we love to live vicariously through the eyes of people that led an interesting life or lived through interesting events.

Hollywood knows this. They know what audiences love because they see the box office results, the streaming site numbers, and the pop culture tracking. Just look at all of the great true story movies that have been produced.

Read More: How Filmmaker Matt Smulker Told a Touching True Story with 'Wildflower'

When a film or TV series is based on or inspired by a true story, there's an elevated level of interest.

Audience members that stumble upon these types of cinematic stories are intrigued.

  • "This actually happened?"
  • "Someone actually did that?" 
  • "I always wondered what the real story was like."

And that is why Hollywood loves true stories so much. If the audience likes stories like that, Hollywood wants to make stories like that. Plain and simple.

Remember that as you start to build your portfolio as a screenwriter — because you'll probably want to include some true story specs.

True stories are even better than Intellectual Property in the hierarchy of desirable types of cinematic stories. Why does Hollywood love Intellectual Property? Because there's a proven fan base already. The less they have to market something, the better. And that's exactly why true stories are so popular. You can use the true story tag as an easy marketing tool.

To learn more about telling true stories in your scripts or books, Read ScreenCraft's Is Your Script "Based On" or "Inspired By" a True Story? What's the Difference?

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 true story writing prompts were conceived on the fly or were based on finding interesting true stories that are out there. While some may have proven to be told already, there are always alternative storylines not covered in what has already been written and produced.

101 Story Prompts Based on True Events_Elvis

'Elvis' (2022)

101 True Story Prompts

1. Learn more about the stories of your ancestors and how they came to the country you live in.  

2. Ask your parents about their lives and see if there are any unique stories to be told.  

3. The life of slaves escaping plantations.

4. The stories of drummer boys in the military during the Civil War.

5. The adventures of Teddy Roosevelt.

6. The Hawaiian adventures of Mark Twain.

7. The dark life of Edgar Allen Poe. 

8. The stories of people that live in the underground homeless society of Las Vegas. 

9. The first soldier to be awarded to Medal of Honor.

10. The first soldier to be awarded the Purple Heart. 

11. The very first Secret Service agent. 

12. The first African-American to play in the NFL.

13. The first white martial artist to open a school in Asia.

14. The first Asian martial artist to open a school in America.

15. A story about the first submarine crew to sink an enemy ship in WWII. 

16. The story of the first person to be infected by the AIDS virus. 

17. The story behind the creation of Winchester Mansion.

18. The story of the investigation of Amelia Earhart's disappearance

19. Stories told within the Chicago Fire of 1871. 

20. The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. 

King Richard

'King Richard' (2021)

21. The Gary, Indiana Demon House. 

22. The story of Edison vs. Westinghouse vs. Tesla.

23. The story of the men of the missing Flight 19.

24. The story of the first person to run a four-minute mile.

25. The athletes of the very first organized Olympics.

26. The creation of the NFL.

27. The story of the first ascent of Mount Everest. 

28. The story of German soldiers that fled the Nazi regime. 

29. The story of the first man to sail around the world. 

30. The story of the first woman to sail around the world. 

31. The story of the first free African-American community. 

32. The story of the first African-American published author. 

33. The story of the first African-American mayor. 

34. The first white man that traveled down the Mississippi River.  

35. White man's discovery of the Grand Canyon. 

36. The story of the first bank robbery. 

37. The day of the first signing of the Declaration of Independence. 

38. The story of the first official and legal marriage between a same-sex couple.  

39. The first expedition to the North Pole. 

40. The story of the first slaves taken to the Americas. 

101 Story Prompts Based on True Events_The Last Duel

'The Last Duel' (2021)

41. The first person to parachute from an airplane. 

42. The story of woman code breakers during World War II.  

43. The story of the most deadly sniper in history who was a woman. 

44. The story of the Mercury 13 — thirteen women that trained to go to space during the Mercury Program. 

45. The true stories of Silent Film-era's biggest stars. 

46. The story of the seven Matthews during WWII. 

47. The story about the female editors in the early days of Disney.

48. The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. 

49. The true story of reunited twins Jim Lewis and Jim Springer, and the shocking similarities in their lives. 

50. The disappearance of the Mississippi riverboat Iron Mountain

51. The disappearance of skyjacker Dan Cooper. 

52. The true story of WWII Japanese soldier Shoichi Yokoi, a soldier that emerged from Pacific jungles in the 1970s, not knowing the war was over. 

53. The true story of the Loch Ness monster hoax. 

54. The true story of the most famous Bigfoot sighting hoax. 

55. A dog struggles to find the right human family. 

56. The stories of actual recorded cases of spontaneous human combustion. 

57. Where did Leonardo da Vinci get the ideas for his designs? 

58. The story behind the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan.  

59. Stories within the Japanese-American internment camps. 

60. The story of how the Crips and Bloods were formed in South Central Los Angeles. 

101 Story Prompts Based on True Events_Hidden Figures

'Hidden Figures' (2016)

61. The story of the first Navy SEAL. 

62. The story behind the creation of the first bicycle. 

63. The story of the first person to die in space. 

64. The story behind the first American dog to be sent into space. 

65. The story behind the creation of the first television. 

66. The story of Abraham Lincoln's upbringing.

67. The story of Adolph Hitler's upbringing. 

68. The story of JFK's WWII missions. 

69. Richard Nixon's last day in office.

70. A Charles Darwin biopic. 

71.  The story behind Uncle Sam. 

72. The story of how Fredrick Douglas escaped slavery. 

73. An Emily Dickinson biopic.

74. The story of Custer's Last Stand. 

75. The true story of John Chapman, AKA Johnny Appleseed. 

76. Open up your local newspaper and find compelling true stories. 

77. The true story of how you came of age.

78. The true story of the first time you fell in love. 

79. The true story of how you overcame a seemingly impossible situation. 

80. The biggest battles of WWI. 

101 Story Prompts Based on True Events_Schindler's List

'Schindler's List' (1993)

81. The biggest battles of WWII. 

82. The biggest battles of the Korean War. 

83. The biggest battles of the Vietnam War. 

84. The biggest battles of the Iraq War. 

85. The biggest battles of the Afghanistan War.  

86. The story of the creator of the first Nuclear Missile. 

87. The story of the last man on the moon. 

88. The story of the most decorated soldier in history.  

89. The discovery of the location of the sunken Titanic. 

90. The discovery and exploration of King Tut's tomb. 

91. The creation of the first gun.  

92. The creation of the first automatic weapon. 

93. The creation of the first tank.  

94. The creation of Mount Rushmore. 

95. How the location of Hollywood (originally Hollywoodland) became a movie-making town.  

96. The story behind the first recorded climbing of El Capitan in Yosemite. 

97. The story of post-Civil War-era Union soldiers returning to his southern hometown. 

98. Inspiring stories about teachers.  

99. Inspiring stories about coaches. 

100. The story of the first African-American college football player. 

101. The story of how you made your first sale as a screenwriter by finding a compelling true story (you can write that one later).   

101 Story Prompts Based on True Events_Hustlers

'Hustlers' (2019)

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

Want More Ideas? Take a Look at Our Other 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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