Pick a Year, Any Year

If you are looking for a new prompt for writing a new short story, or even something longer, then have an exact year get the ball rolling!

By simply plucking a year out of the sky you can have it be the basis of your next story. All games have rules, and if you want an exercise that offers some restrictions, it can be more fun to ensure you don’t step outside of the assigned year, and be sure to keep your story within the bounds of the era to get a feel for the times.

There are many ways you can muster up your year. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Get a friend to say a year, any year, and that will be your prompt.
  2. Find the biggest book you own and open it up at a random page. This will probably place your story in much older times, but how incredibly fun!
  3. Role dice. Keep rolling until you get four numbers, and there is your year. Who knows, you might land on the year 9999 – what would the world look like then? Write it!
  4. Use today’s date. Whenever you read this, check the date. As I write this, it is 12/10, so my year is 1210. After a quick search on what happened that year, a few things pop up: Pope Innocent III excommunicates Roman Catholic Emperor Otto IV, and Genghis Khan is arguably the most powerful person in the world. Off I go!

What to write?

Now you’ve got your year, what are you going to do about it? Just as I did for my assigned year, 1210, go ahead and research as much as you can find that happened. What were the Royal families doing at the time? Were there any famous births or deaths? Who was at war? Which was the most dominant empire? Were there any natural disasters?

These are questions answered easily with a quick Google search, but don’t forget to look at the wider subject matter of the time too as this will give your writing its richness and more flavour. What did a standard house look like at the time? What were the common diseases and ailments? What did people wear? What was the language spoken? What games did kids play? What kind of music was played in this era? And while you’re writing, listen to this music to immerse yourself in the era.


For extra fun and probably an opportunity for some comedy, take a big event or person from the year you have been assigned, then pick another year and place that event or person inside it, and see what unfolds!

At the very least, you learn a lot about a year you had never previously studied, and that can’t be a bad thing. So go ahead and pick a year, any year.


  1. I’m with Gail. Fun idea, Michael. I’ll give it a go when I’m back home.

  2. Fabulous idea, Michael, and a fun way to get started on learning a lot about a year/era and hopefully get some interesting writing out of it.

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