Strong emotions make for great story-telling.
Sadness is one of those emotions that pulls on the heartstrings and makes a story engaging and memorable.
The saddest stories make us cry and even summon a tear when we remember them long after we first heard them.
Even though sadness is a complex emotion, it’s part of life.
Each of us will face feelings of sadness at some point in our lives.
When it comes to story-telling, exploring sadness offers some benefits.
We’ve got you covered if you’re a writer and want an idea for a sad short story.
This article has over 50 sad writing prompts to help you get started.
The prompts below include general sad story ideas, sad opening lines, and suggestions for sad dialogue.
We’ve also included sad lines and quotes from world-famous novels to inspire you further.
50+ sad writing prompts
Check out the 50+ sad story prompts below to inspire you!
Ideas for sad short stories
The main character is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Write a story about their attempts to reconnect with distant family members during the short time they have left.
A couple who lost their child to an illness years ago adopted an orphan. Write a story from the parents’ perspective as they learn to love this adopted child.
Write a story about a teenager trying to get through high school while also battling her depression. Explore her background, trials, tribulations, and the main character’s rocky relationship with herself.
Write a story from the perspective of a dead person who watches over their loved ones from the afterlife.
One of the last remaining members of an animal species is caged in a zoo. Write a story about their memories of life before the zoo, how they got caught, and their thoughts and sentiments today.
A couple about to reunite after ten years has their plans thwarted by a global pandemic. Write a series of letters between the two lovers yearning for each other during this unprecedented pandemic. For extra drama, add a conflict to the correspondence. Does a letter go missing? Is there some vital information revealed in one of the letters, something that might change the relationship?
An older, overweight woman just wants some love and affection. Her size and the amount of time since she was held by someone make her believe she is unlovable. One day, an old friend from school shows up to ask how she is. They spend time together, have lots of fun, and make lasting memories. Our main character develops feelings for her old friend, but he won’t be around forever.
A young boy is destined to become a superhero and save the world. To fulfill his destiny, he must leave his friends and family behind without telling them and enter a strict training regime in a secret location. Write a story from the perspective of his friends and family members who believe their loved one has gone missing.
A young high school couple decides to try a long-distance relationship when high school ends, and both go to different states for college. Write a letter from one partner to another explaining why they think they should break up—include memories and sentiments from the relationship and important last things they say to each other.
Write a story about a young girl whose cat was run over on the road outside her house. Explore how her parents teach her about death and grief.
An old man slowly dying in a hospital bed recounts the story of his life to his young grandson.
A father’s alcoholism tears a family apart. Write a story from the perspective of a daughter who needs her father, but his addiction makes him indisposed to help.
In high school, all the girls receive Valentine’s day cards from the boys in class. All but one. Write a story about the girl who doesn’t get a card.
Two young lovers are forbidden from seeing each other. Yearning for each other’s company, they sneak out of their respective homes. Knowing that their love is forbidden, they never return home.
A woman whose husband is killed in war dreams about him every night and wakes up alone every morning. Tired of the pain of waking up alone, she tries to go to sleep forever.
An old man and his dog are best friends and have only had each other for years. When the old man dies, the dog is left alone. The man’s relatives take the dog into their home. Every day, the dog runs away and sits on his former owner’s grave until his new owner comes to bring him home.
Sad short story opening line prompts
When I was a child I always wanted a dog, and I had one. The three months I spent with my dog was some of the most fun I’ve ever had.
Maria couldn’t cry. She was sad and angry but tired, and crying required far more energy than she could summon.
One morning, Brian woke up alone. He was surprised until he remembered that his dream life was a dream.
The best way to break a person’s heart is to pretend that you care about them.
I loved her, and she loved me. Now I’m a stranger, and she’s a memory.
One day I woke up, and she was gone. No text, no note, nothing. Just the smell of her hair on the pillow and my loneliness were all that was left.
You never know how much you love someone until they’re gone. That was one of the hardest lessons I ever had to learn.
Have you ever loved someone so much that it broke your heart?
When I was younger, I thought love was about butterflies, smiles, holding hands, and being happy forever after. Now that I’m older, I realize how much pain it causes. Still, that doesn’t mean we should stop loving.
The day the doctor told me I was sick was the first day of the rest of my life.
Looking back on my life before I died, I realize that there were so many things I could have done differently. All the worry, the procrastination, the pointless arguments, what a waste of time!
I’m done with love. Over. Never again.
Sad short story dialogue prompts
‘No, I won’t let you go!’
‘I love you.’
‘I’m sorry, but I have to leave.’
‘I was waiting for you.’
‘I wish you told me how you felt before today.’
‘I understand if you never want to see me again.’
‘Can we just talk?’
‘I don’t love you anymore.’
‘I heard this song, which made me think of us.’
‘Loving you is the best and worst thing ever to me.’
‘Is there someone else?’
‘I have some bad news.’
‘How could you do this to me?’
‘I need to tell you something.’
‘I have to go, and I don’t know when I’ll be back.’
‘I really thought things would be different this time.’
‘I can’t help myself.’
‘I hope you never miss someone as much as I miss you.’
‘Words can’t describe the pain I feel right now.’
‘I’m worried about you; call me?’
‘All I want is one more moment with you; is that wrong?’
‘I know you don’t want to talk to me anymore, but I just want to thank you for making me a better person.’
‘I thought you would notice, but you didn’t.’
‘How can I possibly trust you anymore?’
‘I’m not mad at you, but I’m very disappointed.’
‘One time, I would have screamed and argued with you, but now I just don’t have the energy.’
‘I heard you’re happy now.’
‘All of this hurt, all of this pain, and still I love you.’
‘I never realized loving you would hurt this much. Still, I don’t regret a thing.’
‘I dreamed we were still together, you and me.’
Sad lines and quotes from literature
“Beautiful things grow to a certain height, and then they fall and fade off, breathing out memories as they decay.”F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned
“Time was passing like a hand waving from a train I wanted to be on. I hope you never have to think about anything as much as I think about you.”Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
“If you have a sister and she dies, do you stop saying you have one? Or are you always a sister, even when the other half of the equation is gone?”Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper
“There are a lot of children in Afghanistan, but little childhood.”Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
“I know so many last words. But I will never know hers.”John Green, Looking for Alaska
“I have scars on my hands from touching certain people.”J. D. Salinger, Raise High the Roof Beam
“I hid my deepest feelings so well I forgot where I placed them.”Amy Tan, Saving Fish from Drowning
“You see I usually find myself among strangers because I drift here and there trying to forget the sad things that happened to me.”F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
“The heart dies a slow death, shedding each hope like leaves until one day there are none. No hopes. Nothing remains.”Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha
‘I think everyone feels alone in their sadness, and there’s a certain value to hearing other people’s sad stories.’Brandon Stanton, American Novelist
Sad stories evoke difficult emotions.
All of us have some sadness in our lives somewhere. Such is the nature of human life.
Many of us would rather avoid sadness altogether and only allow ourselves to feel positive emotions.
However, integrating and accepting sadness is essential for living a life of emotional stability.
Sad stories, though emotionally heavy, can help us process our own sadness.
American Novelist Brandon Stanton believes that hearing others’ stories is valuable. We experience catharsis, the purging of emotions through experiencing them vicariously through fictional characters.
Sad stories also help us feel sympathy, empathy, and compassion for others.
For writers, sad stories pose a challenge.
It’s essential to approach sad scenes and themes with authenticity and honesty.
At the same time, one shouldn’t indulge in sadness. It should exist as a theme as a by-product of the natural unfolding of events in a story.
So, if you’re a writer and you want to write a heart-heavy, tear-jerker story, use any of the prompts and ideas outlined above.
Feel free to chop and change elements of each prompt to suit you.
Take inspiration from one or several of the prompts above and craft your unique story that will bring a tear of sadness to your reader’s eye.