Introducing the Past Crime Theme
The Past Crime theme probes the recesses of human behavior and morality, offering a lens to examine the consequences of actions long forgotten or intentionally buried. When the past returns to confront the present, a seismic shift occurs, offering rich narrative terrain full of tension, conflict, and emotional upheaval. Whether it’s a carefully guarded secret, an act committed in the heat of the moment, or a calculated scheme, past crimes reverberate through time, presenting characters with new challenges and ethical quandaries.
This theme offers an abundance of storytelling possibilities across multiple genres, from suspense and mystery to drama and comedy. It opens doors for writers to explore plot complexities and psychological landscapes. Characters must wrestle with guilt, face the judgments of others, or reconcile with their own altered self-image. As readers or viewers, we become engaged in a high-stakes emotional investment, compelled to see how the past shapes the decisions in current scenarios.
Recommendations for using these prompts:
Character Development: Use a prompt to construct a detailed backstory for your character. Once the old misdeed resurfaces, analyze how it changes the dynamics of your character’s relationships and personal growth.
Multi-Arc Narrative: Choose several prompts to create an ensemble cast, each with their own hidden past. As these individual stories unfold, they could intersect or clash, producing a multi-layered narrative.
Twist Endings: Opt for a prompt to build up to an unexpected climax. The resurfacing past crime could be a red herring or pivot point, leading your story to a surprising conclusion.
Ethical Dilemmas: Use the prompts as a basis for an essay or discussion about morality, the concept of justice, or social norms. This can serve educators in classrooms or debate settings.
Serialized Stories: Convert the prompts into episodic content for a blog series, podcast, or even a web series. Each episode could reveal a new layer of the past, keeping your audience hooked.
Time-Shift Narrative: Write parallel timelines that alternately focus on past events and current repercussions. This will heighten tension and make for a compelling read.
Genre Fusion: Use a prompt as a springboard to blend genres like historical fiction with mystery or science fiction with crime drama. The resurfacing of a past crime can be the common element that ties different genres together.
With these multiple avenues for exploration, you can flex your creative muscles and craft stories that entertain and engage with thought-provoking scenarios.
Past Crime Writing Prompts
A character’s old misdeed resurfaces…
- A reformed mobster, now a community volunteer, discovers an old “hit list” accidentally sent to his new email address. What happens next?
- A detective is assigned to solve a 20-year-old cold case, only to realize that he was the perpetrator.
- A high-profile politician about to win an election finds out that an old friend is about to expose a crime they committed together in college.
- A woman is confronted by the child she gave up illegally for adoption two decades ago, now seeking answers.
- A celebrated author’s bestselling novel is revealed to be plagiarized from a classmate’s diary that went missing years ago.
- A priest receives a confession from a dying man, revealing a crime that the priest himself had committed and hidden long ago.
- An archeologist discovers an ancient artifact that implicates his own family in a historical crime.
- A reformed criminal turned lawyer finds out that his first case will be defending someone accused of the same crime he committed years ago.
- A teacher at a prestigious school is blackmailed by a student who discovers her past life as a hacker.
- A renowned surgeon learns that a patient he’s supposed to operate on is the man he left for dead in a robbery gone wrong.
- A widowed woman finds love again, but her new partner is the detective who had failed to solve her husband’s murder, which she committed.
- A famous actor receives a script based on an unsolved crime he actually committed years ago.
- An award-winning journalist discovers that the next subject for her investigative series was the victim of her own hit-and-run years ago.
- A bestselling self-help guru’s life unravels when an old accomplice publishes a tell-all book.
- A psychologist learns that her new patient is the younger sibling of a girl she bullied into suicide as a teenager.
- A man receives a package containing evidence of a bank robbery he took part in 30 years ago, along with a note saying, “I know.”
- A social worker assigned to a troubled youth finds out that the boy is the son of her ex-lover, whom she framed for drug possession years ago.
- A pilot’s old crime of faking his credentials resurfaces when he’s chosen for a landmark mission to Mars.
- A scientist makes a groundbreaking discovery, but then is confronted by a former colleague who accuses him of stealing the research from their dead professor’s files.
- A lottery winner’s past as an embezzler threatens to come back to haunt her when the investigation into her “luck” gets underway.
- A runaway bride re-encounters her ex-fiancé years later; he’s now a police officer and she’s a wanted art thief.
- A famous chef finds out that a food critic visiting his restaurant is the same cop who never managed to pin a crime on him.
- A YouTube star’s fame comes crashing down when a video of a hazing incident she orchestrated in college goes viral.
- An activist preaching against violence is confronted by a victim from her days as a member of a violent extremist group.
- A wealthy entrepreneur gets a request for a substantial “charity” donation from an old accomplice who knows about his initial seed money’s illegal origins.
- A talented musician learns that the new member of his band is the son of a man he killed in a bar fight long ago.
- A professional sports coach is confronted by a player he once sabotaged to further his own career.
- A tech billionaire receives a system error on his latest project, revealing code he had stolen from a former business partner.
- A woman engaged to a loving man discovers that her estranged sister is about to marry the man they framed for theft as teenagers.
- An astronaut receives an anonymous message while in space, telling her that someone knows about the exam she cheated on to qualify for the mission.
- A fashion designer at the pinnacle of her career receives a fabric delivery from a mill she burned down for insurance money years ago.
- A small-town mayor gets a tip that treasure is hidden in a local park, but digging it up would expose the body he buried there years ago.
- A former jewel thief, now a jeweler, gets a custom ring request that includes a diamond he recognizes as one he stole years before.
- A well-respected marine biologist receives an anonymous donation to stop research that would expose the ecological crime he committed that started his career.
- A top-ranking military officer is sent a set of dog tags belonging to a soldier he secretly killed in a friendly-fire incident years ago.
- A popular podcaster specializing in unsolved crimes starts getting anonymous tips about a crime she committed.
- An elderly artist about to have a retrospective exhibit discovers that a young art historian is investigating the provenance of her earliest works, revealing they were stolen.
- A police officer up for promotion receives an envelope containing a photo of the innocent man he framed to solve a high-profile case years ago.
- A viral blogger who writes about morality and ethics starts receiving quotes from her old, deleted blog that promoted hate speech.
- A real estate developer finds out that the land he’s about to build luxury condos on is the same plot where he buried evidence from a crime years earlier.
- A former mercenary turned peace activist gets a photo from an old mission—someone has circled the face of a civilian he killed.
- A renowned art restorer is asked to restore a painting she herself vandalized in her youth.
- A dean at a prestigious university receives a thesis from a student that exposes an academic fraud the dean committed decades ago.
- A former child star, now a talent manager, finds out that his new client is planning a reboot of the TV show he was fired from for stealing props.
- A baker is shocked to find out her famous “secret recipe” is actually the same as a bakery she helped sabotage years ago.
- A CEO finds out her assistant is the child of a former colleague she betrayed to climb the corporate ladder.
- A politician advocating for tougher drug laws receives an anonymous donation in Bitcoin, traced back to her days as a drug dealer.
- A famous mountain climber, writing a memoir, has to decide whether to include the story of the climbing partner he left behind.
- A beloved children’s book author is sent a manuscript: it’s the story of a crime he committed, written as if it’s a children’s story.
- An antiques dealer specializing in war memorabilia is given a diary that details war crimes he committed but had blamed on others.
- A popular Twitch streamer receives an old video game in the mail, reminding him of the friends he swindled to start his streaming career.
- A philanthropist known for her generosity towards animals receives a letter from someone who knows about the dog fights she used to run.
- An actor nominated for an Academy Award for a role as a wrongfully convicted man gets an anonymous message revealing his unsolved crime.
- A climate activist receives a piece of coal in the mail, a reminder of the fossil fuel company she used to work for and helped cover up their pollution.
- A historian publishing a paper on war crimes discovers an old photograph implicating his grandfather in the very crimes he’s exposing.
- A cybersecurity expert gets hacked, revealing their past life as a creator of malicious software.
- A professional soccer player faces off against a goalkeeper he bullied into quitting the sport as children.
- A linguist decoding an ancient manuscript realizes that it contains information about his ancestor’s role in the burning of the Library of Alexandria.
- A woman running a successful organic farm receives an old pesticide container in the mail, a nod to her previous job at a chemical plant.
- A parole officer finds out that one of his new cases is a man he framed when he was a detective.
- An Instagram influencer promoting a healthy lifestyle gets an anonymous message from someone who remembers when she used to sell diet pills.
- A therapist known for his techniques on helping people cope with guilt gets a new client who was a victim of his former life as a scam artist.
- A ghostwriter hired to pen an autobiography discovers that he is writing the life story of the man whose identity he stole years ago.
- A venture capitalist is asked to invest in a tech startup founded by the person he stole his first business idea from.
- A popular travel blogger visiting remote countries is confronted by a villager who recognizes her as the person who stole sacred artifacts years ago.
- A renowned investigative reporter is tipped off about a corrupt charity organization that he himself founded under a pseudonym years before.
- A leading robotics engineer discovers that his new project is funded by money he had embezzled in a previous job but had been blamed on someone else.
- A famous comedian who jokes about relationships gets a love letter from someone he ghosted years ago—after stealing from them.
- A popular Twitch streamer receives a donation from a username that he recognizes as a former gaming friend he had framed for cheating.
- A bestselling mystery writer receives an anonymous manuscript that details the unsolved murder she committed, written as fiction.
- A renowned firefighter is confronted by the arson investigator who never managed to prove he was behind a series of fires.
- A socialite running a charity ball for orphaned children gets an RSVP from the child she abandoned years ago.
- A technology mogul receives a vintage computer in the mail—it contains files implicating him in corporate espionage.
- A famous psychic medium receives a message from the other side, implicating her in a fraud she committed years ago.
- A celebrated fashion photographer is sent an old camera containing undeveloped photos of the model whose career he ruined.
- A professional dancer at the peak of her career is asked to judge a competition where her former dance partner, whom she sabotaged, is competing.
- A charismatic preacher receives an anonymous donation of 30 silver coins, reminding him of the friend he betrayed years ago.
- A pet rescue owner is confronted by someone who used to work for the illegal breeding operation she used to run.
- An accomplished architect finds blueprints from an old project—building unsafe structures that led to fatalities.
- A popular beauty vlogger receives an old makeup kit in the mail that she stole from a roommate who was then falsely accused of theft.
- A survivalist famous for his wilderness skills receives a map showing the location where he left his old partner to die.
- A renowned bioethicist receives a DNA test revealing that she is the child of a donor her parents had stolen from a sperm bank.
- A detective acclaimed for solving cold cases receives the locket he stole from a murder scene that was never solved.
- A reality TV star finds out that a new cast member is the spouse of someone they swindled in a pyramid scheme years ago.
- A famous magician receives a trick deck of cards that he knows is rigged—the same type he used to cheat in high-stakes poker games.
- A well-known paleontologist is sent an ancient fossil—of a creature he falsely claimed to have discovered.
- A motivational speaker who talks about redemption and second chances is sent a photo of the family he destroyed due to his reckless driving.
- A popular fantasy author gets fan mail from the real-life person they based their villain on, who recognizes the borrowed elements from their shared past.
- A host of a true-crime podcast receives a tape recording of herself discussing how to cover up a crime she was involved in years ago.
- A fitness instructor who preaches body positivity is sent an old video of herself body-shaming classmates in high school.
- A renowned art critic receives an anonymous painting depicting a scene from the crime he committed but was never suspected of.
- A popular health blogger who promotes natural remedies gets an anonymous message from someone who knows she used to work for a pharmaceutical company, making dangerous drugs.
- A contestant on a reality TV cooking show realizes that one of the judges is the chef she stole her signature recipe from.
- A famous documentarian receives footage that shows he staged the scenes that made his career.
- A revered war hero receives an old military order, revealing that his heroic act was actually a war crime.
- A life coach who specializes in helping people recover from addiction gets a message from a former drug-dealing associate.
- A self-made entrepreneur gets a patent request for a device remarkably similar to one he had stolen the design for to start his own business.
- A renowned film director is sent a screenplay written by the aspiring writer whose work he plagiarized to make his first hit film.
- A respected judge is sent an old case file, showing evidence that she tampered with to win her first big case as a prosecutor.
- A woman who runs a non-profit for abused children is sent an old diary detailing how she used to be a bully, written by one of her victims.