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Scotland's Stories writing prompt: Guiding lights

A story writing prompt inspired by our Scotland's Stories: Hope campaign.

Language: English

Last updated: 25 March 2024

You can also access this prompt in Gaelic.

Scottish Book Trust is asking people all over Scotland to submit their true, personal stories on this year’s theme of Hope. 

Use this writing prompt to get your creative juices flowing. You can submit your piece here for the chance to be featured in a free book, produced by Scottish Book Trust, that will be distributed around the country during Book Week Scotland 2024. 

If you've used one of our prompts to kickstart your creativity, we'd love to read what you've written! You have up to 1000 words to share your story, but you don’t need to use them all. Make sure you submit your piece to Scotland’s Stories by 7 June to see it published on our website (and maybe even in this year’s Book Week Scotland book!).

Guiding lights

Who do you look to when times are hard? The people you can rely on to provide some perspective, bring a smile to your face or just allow you to vent. Confiding in others makes our problems feel less acute. We recognise that they too have dealt with adversity and found the strength to keep going – the strength that they are now reflecting back at us. 

This writing exercise will help you explore instances where others gave you hope, through functional writing. Functional writing is a type of writing that serves a purpose – instruction manuals, recipes, invitations, adverts, to-do lists . . .

Your story could be a list of ways a person has supported you through a tough time, a resume of the person who believed in you when no one else did, or a recipe on how someone gave you the strength to keep going. If a person gave you hope in the past, we would love to read about it!

Warm Up

A moment of hope

To get your creative juices flowing, start with a warm up task. Think of a particular moment when you had to overcome a problem. Describe the situation. Where were you? Describe your surroundings. What happened? How did you feel in that moment? 

Think about your senses. What could you see around you? What could you hear? Were you in a busy environment, were you in nature, could you hear cars passing? What could you feel around you, the wind against your skin, the sofa beneath you, maybe the cup you were clutching in your hands.

Set a timer for 5 minutes of free writing. Free writing is a practice where you write continuously for a set time without deleting anything or scoring anything out. Don’t read over anything you have written either – just keep writing until the timer goes off. This is just to get your brain in gear and to get you ready to write.

When the 5 minutes are up, take a look at what you’ve written. What stands out to you from your writing? Did anything come up that you weren’t expecting? Underline or highlight anything you find interesting or want to come back to.


Now you've warmed up, it's time to start thinking about functional writing. There are lots of different forms this can take – anything that serves a purpose.

Take a piece of paper (or a new page in your document) and start brainstorming ideas for your piece based on different forms of functional writing. Some ideas could be:

Try to come up with at least five ideas.

Start writing

Once you have something you feel excited about, it is time to start writing! You can tell your story and interpret the theme of hope in any way you like – as long as the piece tells a real-life story of hope.

Use your warm-up exercise to help guide your writing whenever you get stuck. Think back to the sounds, smells and sensations of the moment you are sharing, as well as the feelings you had at the time, and your feelings about retelling it now.