Short Stories

Welcome to the University of Gloucestershire Short Story website

Here, we showcase all the work of our talented UoG students, and we also offer sixth formers and college students the chance to submit their writing to us. We’ll look at every submission, offer helpful guidance, and choose the best ones to publish on our site. At UoG, our students are mentored by professionals across the creative writing fields to hone and expand their skills in poetry, playwriting, prose, and critical writing.

We’d love to read your stories if you’re a student here at the University of Gloucestershire, or a school or college student considering a future degree in Creative Writing. We’ll read every submission, and publish the best, and we’ll try to give helpful feedback where we can.  We have limited time and space so please don’t worry if you have to wait a while.

Visit the UoG Creative Writing pages for more information:

  • Creative Writing, BA Hons
  • Creative Writing, MA
  • Creative Writing, PhD

If you are interested in submitting your work for publication here then see our current submission status below:

  • Student Submissions: New UoG student submissions will be accepted from January 1st 2020.
  • 6th form submissions:  Submissions open.  New stories will be accepted throughout December 2019 and January 2020.

You can find further information on submitting your work at https://uniofglos.blog/creativewriting/short-stories-submission/

STUDENT STORIES

by Thomas Bennett of John Kyrle sixth form. This was one of two stories shortlisted from our schools’ competition, July 2020. Commander Jeffrey Noble collapsed to the ground. He’d manually prised open the enormous weight of the shuttle door, designed to be moved by powerful—now broken—motors. His hand instinctively came to hover over his eyes. So long had Noble stared into the emptiness of space that the explosion of colour and light that stretched before…

by Finlay John of Wyedean School. This was one of two shortlisted stories in our schools’ competition, July 2020. It was another day walking down the road for Mitsuki. The wind softly brushed her hair as she walked home alone. She was independent and self-reliant. Her eyes invited friendships, but she never allowed them. In her house, a group of people were making themselves at home. They were people she’d seen around the town: a…

The Deadly Song

by Iris Davies In a world with a famous and legendary song which no-one dares listen to and is known to cause the listener to commit suicide. Antonio, a pianist in New York City, is forced to contemplate the laws of reality. It is known throughout all cultures that the song is deadly. The Greeks called it the siren’s song; the Irish called it the Banshee’s Wail. It is a fact as far ingrained in our…

Sinking Stress

by Alexandra Vyvyan I am 16 years old and I do creative writing for fun, I have had small pieces of writing published and enter competitions irregularly, I write more poetry than anything else and enjoy losing myself in writing.  A teenage girl feels trapped and drowning in the mass of useless information forced upon her. I wondered if anyone else noticed how pretty the sky was today, how the darkness was bright and soft…

Deathlike Sleep

by Caitlin Hasson I’m sixteen years old and doing an English Literature and Language combined A-level at Cirencester college. Edward has lost his prince, his family, and his friends and now wants to take revenge in this reimagining of the Sleeping Beauty story. It was raining. It hadn’t stopped raining for three days. The battle had started three days ago, and it hadn’t stopped raining. The ground was slick with mud, dark with blood, and…

After ten years

by Amber Wright. Ten years after becoming a trusted mentor for a younger student and having to part ways when school ends.  The mentor gets a surprise knock at the door. Jack looked down at me. I could see his eyes watering as he frowned and straightened his oversized puffer jacket in a failed attempt to maintain his “I don’t give a fuck” attitude. The past five years had flown by and this date was…

by James Pearson. 1986. A new beginning for some but an end for others. Cassiel doesn’t know when he begins university (again) that he would be studying the greatest explosion in history- but he is. England is a vastly different place now in 1983, with more riots ruining workers’ rights and unemployment skyrocketing- not surprising based on the corruption that occurs behind the solid aged brick of parliament. Being only two years since the system…

The Team Talk

by Harry Moore. I am H.L. Moore and I am an sports fiction author. The Team Talk is one of my finest pieces of work and will no doubt be a huge box office hit once it hits the big screen. I am soon expected to become a New York Times best selling author. My inspiration is the legendary, creative mastermind Mr Jeff Kinney. The championship playoff final, the game where you end up 170 million pounds…

by Zelma Bowers. My name is Zelma Bowers and this is the first instalment of  a trilogy about mountains. This is a differing topic to my usual books because I usually stick to hills.  Multi-coloured flags fly in the harsh wind. Each thread being pulled in every direction, unravelling the hard work of the local women and dancing up to the highest point on earth. Each thread taken by the wind is a prayer to…

Unknown Abyss

by Lily-Mae Harrison. Being increasingly interested in the flow of order in society, observation of how people adapt to situations has always been a point of interest of mine. But what if you flip the world on it’s head? I’m a sixth form student at Christopher Whitehead with a fascination in the dystopia genre and a passion for creative writing, with an aim to make you question. In this dystopian world, all anyone could do…

Pasta the point of no return

by Rex Daniels. My name is Rex Daniels and this is the first instalment of my pasta themed trilogy. This book explores the dangers of spaghetti and its deeper meaning throughout life. This is my first time delving into the world of pasta because I’m used to more serious topics. Vomit. Disgusting rancid barf. It’s all I can smell. It’s all I can see. It’s all I can taste. It’s all I can feel. It’s…

Salah’s Revenge

by J.C.B. Digger. I am J.C.B Digger and this here is the first introduction to my trilogy of books called “Stories of the Egyptian God”. Speaking from the view of a professional writer I believe this story is truly fascinating. Breaking news! Here we are January 31st, 2019 the last day of the Premier League transfer window, live at the Tottenham Hotspur training ground waiting for a surprise guest to complete his medical assessment and…

When we were released

by Eleanor Diamond. I am a sixth form student who studies Drama (BTEC), Classical Civilisations and combined English Language/Literature. I have mostly been interested in acting for a large portion of my life, however, writing novels or doing the odd piece of creative writing has been a hobby of mine since I first learnt to form a sentence.  Four days. Those I had called friends, comrades, acquaintances, gone. For our whole lives, up until those…

by Eleanor Cottrill. ‘If only’ is a fictional dystopian piece about the possible close future and the ‘end of the world’, however it is based off both climate change and the seemingly insignificant problem of bees going into decline, a brief overview of what would happen if they were allowed to go extinct from the point of view of a teenager who loses the future that the adults around her promised her from a young…

Christmas in the Country

by Carole May. I am a very mature student returning to university after a gap of many decades and fifteen years after retirement. At the start of this course I was worried about working with people who were so much more in touch with education, but have found that working with such clever young people is both fun and stimulating. Their help and advice is invaluable, particularly when it comes to IT. Both my brain…

The Park Keeper

by Joy-Amy Wigman. Joy-Amy is a mature student who has just finished her first year of the Creative Writing Degree. She is an award winning slam poet and runs a monthly comedy night in Cheltenham called Lemon Rocket for which she often MCs. The Park Keeper I stared at the polar bear and the polar bear stared back at me. “You are not wrong Gerald,” I said to him. The mess had started three weeks…

The Devil That Taught Me I Couldn’t Be Loved

by Bethan Manley. Bethan is an English Language and Creative Writing student. She is also a poet with a background in slam poetry and prose. She is a singer-song-writer turned poet so her poems tend to flow and be heartfelt. If she’s not writing you can normally find Bethan anywhere with dogs! This is a prose piece adapted from one of her poems, and suitable for slam prose performance. There are nights when I still…

Out of Office

by Carol Hilton.  Carol is a mature student completing the third year of her BA in 2019.  She is a short story competition winner. Her poetry has been published in previous University Anthologies and magazines such as Snakeskin. Her short play The Waiting Game, has been selected by the Pirate Theatre in Gloucestershire for their showcase event, ‘Pint Sized Plays’. Out of Office From:                    Saffron Walsh <[email protected]> Sent:                     Thursday, 6 December, 2018 at 19:20…

My Name is Harry

by Asha Sutton. Asha is a second year Creative Writing student at the University of Gloucestershire.  Her stories show her passion for social issues and the treatment of the vulnerable in modern society. My name is Harry I swear that’s the man who worked at the local coffee shop. He spilled the sugar on the floor behind the counter, with an “Oh shit” expression. He rattled tall, skinny glasses, or turned on the coffee machine,…

The Simple Days of Chai and Plum Cake

by Oszey Calland. Oszey is a first year Creative Writing student at the University of Gloucestershire.  He has travelled extensively and writes about a wide variety of subjects. The Simple Days of Chai and Plum Cake Mr Ramesh stepped out of the little shop into the intense heat, looking up at the bright blue sky. “Fort Cochin is getting hotter every year,” he thought. “The monsoons will come soon bringing cooling rains. The Indian Monsoon…

The Fulfilment of a Promise

by Rita Bates. RJ Bates is currently working through the Creative and Critical Writing MA. She is a morning person, conscious about eating foods that will fuel her body and mind, but will never give up drinking red wine. She enjoys a challenge, mental or physical and loves people-watching, because sometimes if lucky enough, she witnesses random acts that would otherwise go unnoticed. The Fulfilment of a Promise I loved spending time with Ashanti. She…

Natural Order

 by Carlie Chabot. Carlie is a Canadian student spending a year in Cheltenham to study for an MA in Creative Writing at the University.  She is currently working on a novel about the murder of a young girl and the fallout it causes in small town. It fits within the theme of Northern Ontario Gothicism, and explores death, mental health, and justice. Natural Order ‘I am deeply appreciative of spiders, and everything they do.’            …

The Undertaker’s Coffin

by Ross Turner. I write short stories, novels and poetry. I study Creative Writing at the University of Gloucestershire, and am a member of the Royal Air Force Reserves. The Undertaker’s Coffin ‘Prepare to feed,’ I say. ‘Feed.’ The six Pallbearers are lined up in three pairs. The Uncle and the younger Brother – the two shortest, and therefore the front-most pair – reach into the yawning hearse. They grasp the two nearest handles, on…

by Michael Moore. Michael is a mature student from Canada. He is currently filling his weekends teaching Computer Aided Design and 3-D modelling.  he has been working at his writing for over twenty years. Bubbles She awoke to bubbles.           Tickles and giggles and bubbles and bursts of frenzied fizzy feelings. As if she was about to pop right out of her skin. The tingles touched her smile and drew it wider. She was breathless, flushed,…

In Memory of Casey Philips

by Andrew Lafleche. Andrew is a University of Gloucestershire MA student in Creative and Critical Writing, studying on the distance learning programme, from Canada.  He describes his work as a blend of social criticism, philosophical reflection, explicit prose, and black comedy. In 2016 he received the John Newlove Poetry Award. Please note that ‘In Memory of Casey Philips’ has adult themes including sexual assault. In Memory of Casey Philips “My uncle just moved in,” Casey…

Authority Self-Publishing

104 Of The Best Short Story Ideas And Prompts To Grab Your Readers

So, you want to write a short story — and not just a mildly entertaining short story but one your readers can’t put down until they’ve finished it.

You want a story that gets reactions like “Wow!” and “How did you do that?” and “Do you have more like this?”

What writer doesn’t want that kind of reaction, right?

And since short stories are short, you have less time to wait for your readers’ reactions — but you also have less time to grab their attention.

That’s why a great topic is worth its weight in gold when it comes to writing these little gems.

Even with the challenges inherent to short story writing, you’ll most likely finish a short story in far less time than you would a novel.

So, you’ll get to explore more story topics in less time than if you were writing longer works.

But how do you generate short story ideas that are worth the time you’ll invest in crafting a short story your readers will love?

If you’ve been writing for long enough, you already know good story ideas are everywhere, and you might even have some in mind as you read this.

But which of those ideas should be on your shortlist for story writing projects?

And if you don’t have any great ideas at the moment, where do you get some?

Short Story Idea Generator (how to generate story ideas)

Short story writing exercises, generating story ideas with the short story formula, timeless themes and emotional impact, 35 short story ideas, 69 short story writing prompts.

When it comes to generating new story ideas, you can take more than one approach. You might try these three:

man typing on laptop short story ideas

  • Writing exercises
  • Writing prompts
  • The Short Story Formula

Think of your school days when your English teacher assigned an essay or invited you to write a paragraph in answer to a question.

Maybe all you had to do was write one complete sentence. Or maybe your teacher wanted a haiku — or a rhyming couplet.

School isn’t the only place for writing exercises , though. If you’ve ever joined a creative writing group, your leader may have encouraged you to spend some time each day freewriting or writing a character sketch .

The purpose of writing exercises is to practice writing — or to practice a specific kind of writing (voice journaling, essays, persuasive ad copy, song lyrics, etc.).

So, whether it’s NaNoWriMo, Twitter’s #VSS (Very Short Story) challenge, or writing sprints, the more time you invest in these exercises, and the more you open yourself up to constructive criticism, the more quickly your writing will improve.

The most effective writing prompts and writing exercises make use of themes with a history of captivating and inspiring others. Because of this, either one might lead you to a story idea that you can hardly wait to explore.

Take one (or more) of those popular themes and combine them with a context that is both unique and relatable, and you have the formula for a compelling story idea.

Story writing ideas are generally more fully developed than writing prompts. It’s not unusual, for example, to begin with a writing prompt , develop it into a story idea, and then write the actual story.

And don’t beat yourself up if the first idea that comes to mind is a cliché. You’re human, and familiar ideas are the easiest to think of. Nothing wrong with that. The first idea is like a first draft , in that it gives you something to start with.

And don’t be afraid to mix it up — literally. Take one idea, mix it up with another, and play with it for a while. Who knows how you might juice up your story idea without even trying?

The best fiction story ideas make use of timeless themes. You’ll find one or more of the ten themes that follow in most stories that have been written, read, and shared over the centuries.

  • The End of a Relationship
  • Rags to Riches
  • Scars / Wounds
  • Ghosts / the Paranormal
  • Deepest Fears
  • A Soulmate Encounter
  • A Journey Interrupted
  • Monsters (human or otherwise)

The story idea itself — in its simplest form — doesn’t have to be original, and in fact, it shouldn’t be. But the way you embody and develop that idea should surprise your readers and evoke an emotional response in them.

It’s that emotional impact that makes your story not only worth finishing but memorable.

Short story ideas will look different from novel ideas, though — mainly because short stories have to make a big impact with fewer words. And because of this, the most powerful short stories have what James Scott Bell describes as the “one shattering moment.”

In his book, How to Write Short Stories and Use Them to Further Your Writing Career, Bell describes that moment as “something that happens to a character, an emotional blast which they cannot ignore. It changes them, in a large or a subtle way — in a way that cannot be ignored.”

Any one of the popular themes listed above could you give your main character a shattering moment that would change that character’s life or perspective.

woman typing on laptop short story ideas

Take a look at the following creative story ideas, many of which combine two or more of the popular themes listed, and feel free to modify any of them to create your next unputdownable short story.

1. Your character’s loved one has died , and he learns while going through that loved one’s belongings that the latter had a terrible secret that unnervingly correlates to your character’s deepest fear.

The rest of the story explores your character’s reaction to this discovery and how it affects his/her relationships and decision-making.

2. Your character has married the man she saw as her “soulmate.” During their honeymoon, he shows her his list of goals for their first five years together, and they have their first real argument over one of those goals — which requires something of her that she never agreed to.

She has a sudden memory of their first date and of the moment when she first decided he was the one, but she sees it now from his perspective, and it changes everything.

3. Your orphaned character inherits a house and moves in to find that it’s already occupied — by the spirits of the character’s long-deceased parents, who aren’t at all like the people other relatives have described.

4. Your character is having trouble getting past his anger over the wounds inflicted by those who raised him and by those with whom he had one failed relationship after the next.

woman at laptop looking out window Short Story Ideas

After losing his job, he goes on a journey to change the direction of his life, but that journey is interrupted by the death of one of his parents — the one who hurt him the most.

5. Your character is widely regarded as a monster and doesn’t deny or hide from that designation.

When his closest confidante gets fed up with him, tells him off, and leaves the company they founded together, your character finds himself disoriented by grief and does something different.

6. Your character is content with her life but suddenly inherits a large sum of money and a palatial estate on the east coast.

She sees the inheritance as proof that the Law of Attraction works, and she invites family and a few close friends to move with her and share the wealth. On the first night of their stay, someone dies.

7. Your character’s snake-loving neighbor has just been found in the belly of her pet boa constrictor (who she swore was a better “snuggler” than her ex).

The ex shows up and is angry when he finds out that your neighbor left the house and everything in it to your character. He threatens to ruin her life if she doesn’t turn the house over to him.

8. Your character meets his/her soulmate on a flight that almost doesn’t make it to its destination; both of them respond to emergencies on the plane (one as a cop and the other as a doctor).

Once at the airport, your character learns that this soulmate is already in a relationship with a well-known philanthropist. But your character notices something odd and calls the philanthropist out.

9. Your character’s best friend just announced the end of a relationship, and your character is surprised to find this friend in a celebratory state of mind (rather than heartbroken).

Your character then finds out the disturbing reason for the friend’s manic behavior.

10. One of your character’s siblings is getting married, and during wedding preparations, your character learns something she was never meant to know. This discovery changes her relationships with everyone.

11. The happy couple living next door to your character has died in a horrific accident, and when the parents show up for the funeral, you find out why the couple always changed the subject whenever you asked them about their families.

12. Your character starts receiving messages from someone who knows his/her deepest fears and intends to exploit them. At the same time, your character is discovering a latent ability that relates to those fears but might also help him overcome them. Or they might change him into something the messenger never saw coming.

13. Your character meets a soulmate at a community grief counseling group meeting and learns that this soulmate also attends AA meetings (like your mc) — though with a different group and with a friend who doesn’t particularly like your main character.

The surprising reason comes out when your character goes on a first date with this soulmate. The soulmate’s friend swears he/she knows your mc from a different reality — which he/she visits in dreams.

14. Your character breaks free of a painful relationship and embarks on a journey to discover what she’s capable of. After volunteering at a nursing home — reading to vision-impaired residents and writing letters for them — she agrees to personally deliver one of those letters to the resident’s estranged son.

15. After avoiding close relationships because of deep scars from his childhood, your main character learns something about one of his parents that changes everything for him. He then has an opportunity to take a step off his accustomed path.

16. Your character has been married for 19 years before her spouse — after a weekend that reminds her of when they met and why she married him — hands her divorce papers.

17. Your character is making a list of reasons to break up with her boyfriend of two years when the latter comes home early and tells her he’s won the lottery jackpot.

18. Your character is a locally famous writer whose hero story ideas come from his freewheeling lifestyle and insatiable curiosity about others.

One day, out of boredom, he offers a homeless man $100 to propose to the first woman he takes a fancy to, while he watches from a safe distance. The proposal goes terrifyingly wrong.

19. Your character has just lost a child by miscarriage , and when she comes home, her married life has changed. Her husband, who was always the more talkative of the two, spends their time together quietly grieving in his own way.

Your character, on the other hand, becomes more outgoing and starts spending more time (and money) on her appearance.

20. Your young adult character finds himself suddenly orphaned when his parents die in a plane crash. The funeral is the beginning of a dramatic shift in his perspective and in the choices he makes.

He breaks off a relationship with a woman his parents adored, he quits the lucrative job that he hates, and he leaves the country.

21. Your character has just learned that his spouse has been cheating on him, and he confronts her when she gets home that night.

She reveals that what he saw as proof of her infidelity was something completely innocent — but that she’s already decided to make a permanent and dramatic end to their marriage.

22. The only child of your character is diagnosed with a fatal illness, and your character doesn’t know how to deal with the worry and dread that now consumes her.

Her doctor suggests one anti-anxiety med after another, and her husband and his family urge her to try one — for her husband’s and her son’s sakes. She goes into a fugue state with the experimental drug she tries, and she wakes up to the consequences.

23. Your character’s new glasses — created as a free gift from an old friend with unusual connections — reveal more than the physical objects in his field of vision.

After looking at a coworker and seeing the latter’s death just hours before it happens, he goes to replace the glasses with a plain pair from a local chain. Then he catches his full-length reflection in a window.

24. Your character wakes up alone in an unfamiliar place and is told by everyone he encounters that the life he thought he’d lived for the past six years — with a wife and three kids and with the job that barely paid the bills — must have been a dream.

He’s actually stunningly wealthy, treated with respect by everyone he meets, and desired by more than one woman. So, why is there a picture of him with his nonexistent family on his desk?

25. A year ago, your character met someone who offered her the power to transform the interior of her home to anything she wants — in exchange for a DNA sample from her only child, who is a gifted storyteller.

During the year after she accepted the offer, her home becomes everything she wants it to be, but her son stops telling stories, and one day she finds out why.

26. Your character makes drastic changes to his diet and adopts new habits that alienate him from his usual circle of friends but lead him to a new one.

He then wins a large sum of money from a scratch ticket that an estranged friend (a compulsive gambler) slipped under his door.

27. Your character has returned from a successful quest to find his home empty, with no sign of his loved ones other than a note left on the refrigerator.

Not only does he now have no one with whom to share his victory, but what he learns calls that very victory into question.

28. Your character has spent eleven years living with the consequences of a vow she has taken. When she forges a new friendship with a counselor, she learns something about herself that scares her and makes her avoid the counselor, for his own sake.

Keenly aware of her own vulnerability, she brands herself to ward off unwelcome attention.

29. Your character, after 15 years of living in a house chosen mainly to fit her spouse’s preferences, sees an ad for an apartment in town that represents the life she gave up to make her husband happy.

After hearing him complain about his life and their house for one too many times, she goes to look at this apartment and finds it has almost everything she wants. The apartment manager, a well-dressed woman close to her own age, hears your character’s last name and appears shaken by it.

30. Your character splurges on a new rug for her living room floor — the kind of rug she’s coveted for years — and her S.O. criticizes it and later “accidentally” spills his drink on it.

The final straw is his suggestion that she wait ‘til it dries and return it to the store for a refund or exchange it for something more practical.

31. Your character has recently broken free from a cult that had drawn him in when he was vulnerable from a family tragedy. His new support system — a group of other cult survivors — is having varying degrees of difficulty re-entering society and repairing damaged relationships.

Your character meets with them one evening at their accustomed café table and confronts a server whose off-handed comment provokes him. What begins as a calm request for respectful treatment escalates as other members of the group chime in and the server’s manager gets involved.

32. Your character has joined a church and finds herself under the tutelage of a church member who leans toward the traditionalist end of the spectrum and who regards her as the daughter he never had.

When he decides to renounce the church’s leadership and join an extreme traditionalist group, she backs away from him — after explaining to him why she won’t do the same. His behavior toward her changes and she makes a change of her own.

33. Your character is so desperate for money that he does something he never would have done otherwise. He doesn’t get caught, but he doesn’t get away with it, either. Consumed by guilt, he undergoes a penance of his choosing, which spirals out of control.

34. Your character walks into a tourist shop and buys a homemade “tonic” freshly mixed by the owner, after tasting and enjoying an innocuous sample in the same flavor. The tonic changes him in a way he can’t ignore or undo.

35. Your character inherits an old music shop with a secret back room where his uncle kept a few instruments that can make even someone like him — who has never played an instrument — a virtuoso in seconds. He takes the piano to his apartment and learns why his uncle (in a letter he’d written before his death) had warned him not to — and why his uncle kept the door to that secret room locked.

With writing prompts , you get a launching pad of sorts: a question, an idea, a provocative quote, or something that inspires a reaction — specifically a written one. Maybe that reaction is an argument, or maybe it’s an impassioned defense of an idea.

Whatever it is, the purpose here is to take that prompt and use it to generate a written response in one form or another. The aim of writing prompts for short stories is to get you started on a new short story .

The prompt could be as simple as a word or as detailed as a character sketch or an elevator pitch. It could even be a picture or a song. It could be an observation you make while (discreetly) people-watching.

We’ve create 69 short story writing prompts that flesh out an idea more thoroughly, giving you a good headstart for your story.

1. You get a new job, and your new boss approaches you on the first day with an invitation to the “After Hours Club.” He tells you it’s no big deal if you decline, but you get a strong impression that it would be.

2. One day, on the way home from work, your new car takes over and drives you to a remote area, stopping beside other cars in a clearing underneath a new moon. You wake up underneath a full moon and drive yourself home. But much has changed in your absence — and so have you.

3. You bake pies for a local bakery, and when a celebrity comes to town and tastes your locally famous turtle pie, he invites you to go on tour with him — to a movie set somewhere in Europe — to be his personal pie maker. You say yes.

4. You buy a single rose from a street vendor, and it lasts a week, then two weeks, then three, and then a full month. Only then does someone point out to you that previously healthy people in the neighborhood have been falling ill and dying at an abnormal rate.

5. It’s time for your 10-year-old daughter to make her First Confession, but when her turn comes to go into the confessional, she panics and won’t be persuaded to go in.

6. You’re stranded in a small village down a winding road from Burgos (Spain) on a Sunday. A stranger comes by on a motorcycle and goes to fetch a taxi for you. You’re waiting at the bus station when he tells you he knows you’re meant to replace his recently deceased wife.

7. The bartender brings you your first Irish coffee in what looks like a candy dish. Halfway through, you notice the whole cafe seems to be floating, and since you can’t put the rest into a to-go cup (alas), you pay your tab and head out. You think you’re doing fine until your key doesn’t work in the front door of your apartment building. Someone else kindly lets you in, and you recognize him as the bartender from that cafe.

8. You’re exploring an old Spanish town, and you realize someone is following you. You turn and find an old woman who asks if you’ll help her find her hotel. You help her, and she invites you in, telling you she has a son who shares your interest in all things Tolkien. You’re not in a hurry to get back to your hotel room, so you go up with her.

9. Your fingers don’t respond to you the way they used to, and you’ve been having other difficulties. You go see your doctor, and they run some tests to check for neurological diseases but don’t find anything. They think it’s probably stress-related. Your life has been stressful lately, and it doesn’t help that your new roommate has been acting strangely toward you.

10. You wake up with your heart racing, but you don’t remember why. You almost never remember your dreams but often wake up covered in sweat with your heart pounding. You’re tired of having to shower every morning and feeling sick for the rest of the day, so you decide to undergo hypnosis, hoping to find out what’s going on.

11. Your neighbors have been up to some strange shenanigans lately, and their lights are on well into the wee hours of the morning. You’d like to know why, but every neighbor you’ve talked to who have gone over there to ask about it has, later on, told you that nothing suspicious is going on and that those neighbors are “very spiritual, and so, so nice!”

12. The street lamps that light up your cul de sac have gone dark, and you’re outside waiting for your spouse to get home when something large and dark brushes past you, almost knocking you off balance. Then a man appears and asks, “Have you seen my cat?”

13. Someone has broken into your house while you were away and has taken all the religious articles out of it — every statue, every picture, and every holy water bottle. The thief left everything else alone.

14. You move into an apartment that used to be a hoarder’s paradise, and your manager gives you permission to paint the walls a different color and add some new flooring. You get to work removing the kitchen’s linoleum floor and find something you never expected.

15. You joined a wine delivery service, and the delivery person is every bit as charming as the labels on the posh wine he brings to you each week. When you lose your job and cancel the service, the wine keeps coming.

16. You buy a pound of gourmet coffee beans at a local food festival, and as you’re sipping the first cup from the first pot you’ve brewed, you have a vision, which feels as real as though it were actually happening to you. When the vision ends, you’re still in your kitchen, holding your cup. You take another sip.

17. You’re about ready to gather up all the ceramic village pieces that have been cluttering up your living room and toss them in the trash bin, but your spouse, who knows you hate them, insists you should try selling them on eBay, instead. That’s when the fight starts.

18. You buy a new pair of Bluetooth earbuds that are supposed to enhance your listening experience. You plug them in and use them while watching a movie, and suddenly, you’re there on the scene, about to get flattened (or eaten) by a dinosaur.

19. You need a new toilet, and someone shows up at the door (as though sent by heaven) to sell you a toilet that will flush down ANYTHING. Oddly enough, it doesn’t even need to be hooked up to your septic system. “All you have to do is remove and empty the dust tray at the base every evening, reinsert it for the next day’s flushes, and voila!”

20. You buy a new keyboard , and after typing a few sentences of a new story, it starts typing on its own, and you watch in surprise as it types out a new short story. You submit it to a contest you’ve never won and win first prize. You start thinking you’ll never have trouble paying the rent again! Then you accidentally spill wine on the keyboard, and even stranger things start happening.

Related:  55 Funny Writing Prompts To Inspire Your Inner Comedian

21. Your famous stew recipe has won an award. You go to collect it (a cash prize), and meet the next runner-up, who believes she should have won the first prize instead with her three-bean salad. She warns you not to spend the money, because she will prove you won unfairly. You go home and find a bowl of three-bean salad and a note.

22. You suggest at the breakfast table one morning that you might actually have too many books, and your SO seizes upon this and offers to help you thin out your collection. After breaking up with him, you cull a few volumes for donation and run into the author of one of them.

23. Your first issue of Real Simple magazine has finally arrived, but something has come with it — something you can’t see but that makes your life anything but simpler.

24. A girl scout comes to the door selling cookies, and you tell her you already bought some from her at the table outside your grocery store, and you’ve spent enough for the year. Suddenly, all the food in your house (including the canned food) becomes moldy or rotten. And every bit of food that passes your threshold becomes inedible.

25. You buy a new whiteboard to help you keep track of your writing assignments, but you wake up one morning, and new items have somehow been added to your list. And the new titles have a sinister edge to them. You live alone.

26. You buy a new poster that looks exactly like the TARDIS door, and you put it up on your bedroom wall. One night, right at midnight (you’re up working at your computer), the door opens and you walk through it.

27. You buy a CD with music that’s supposed to help you write more creatively and also lose weight more easily. You start playing it during your writing time, and sure enough, the words flow without effort, and you love what you’ve written. You also start losing ten pounds a week, and soon you can’t afford to lose another ten, but you’ve come to depend on that music CD.

28. You’re a carpenter who has joined a construction team to build a new development of 3,000+ square foot houses. All is going well until someone on the team discovers something buried in the lot for the third house. The foreman removes it and tells everyone to get back to work, but you have a bad feeling. And you’re right to have it.

29. Your boss announces they’re having a potluck and you’re all expected to show up and bring something. He also tells you it has to be homemade. You tell him you can’t cook, but he tells you, “Well, learn, then!” Strangely enough, you do, and you create an entree that has everyone’s mouth-watering when you open the lid at the potluck. But your boss is conspicuously absent.

30. You wake up in the middle of the night and rush to the bathroom, where you empty your stomach of everything you ate that day. Something else comes out, and it’s moving.

31. You stop at a coffee shop while making stops to apply for a new job, and the barista tells you the new bed and breakfast is looking for someone to handle their advertising. You apply, are accepted, and agree to start immediately. But the owner, who openly admires your bicycle, offers you a room at the B&B, so you’ll be more accessible.

32. You have way too much time on your hands since your latest project has earned you enough to more than double your previous year’s salary, and you’re taking a sabbatical. You see an ad for an opportunity to spend a month at a castle in Wales, with full room and board and a bicycle for exploring the countryside. You call the agent and book a flight.

33. One night, as you’re coming back from the bathroom, you see a bright light and follow it to see that your front window is wide open and bugs are swarming in and out. You rush to close it but then you see the view from it — which is not your usual view of the front yard. You see something you want to investigate.

34. Sometimes, people stare when you pull out an index card and start scribbling furiously onto it, but you don’t care. Then someone accuses you of writing something about him and, pulling out a gun, demands you hand the card over to him.

35. You’re starting a new job, and one of your co-workers tells you it’s up to the new guy to keep the coffee pot full for his first week. While you’re brewing the latest refill, muttering to yourself about how little you’re getting done that day, one of your co-workers starts choking and accuses you of trying to poison her.

36. Your home-brewed ale is the talk of the neighborhood, but your next-door neighbor frequently buys up your newest batch. You start imposing limits. He then starts telling other neighbors that your secret is adding pee from your pet guinea pigs, “But it’s cool, because urine is sterile. And that guinea pig pee really adds something!”

37. You inherit a lighthouse from your deceased uncle — along with the small living quarters attached to it. You move right in, looking forward to the solitude. But whenever you’re up at the top scanning the surface of the ocean, you see things that can’t possibly be there. And one of them sees you — and comes to visit.

38. You stop at the local nursery and pick up a new houseplant — a tiny, adorable succulent. The cashier looks nervous as she rings you up. “That plant isn’t normal. If you want to pick another one, I would totally understand.” She’s nodding with wide eyes as she says this, clearly hoping you’ll agree.

39. You live in a studio apartment. Your boss comes to bring you soup when you call in sick and sees the quilt on your bed, which you won at a raffle. “That’s the quilt my mom made!” she says. “She told me someone stole it.”

40. You take your kids trick-or-treating, and you go to your boss’s neighborhood (your boss suggested it). Most houses gave out full-sized candy bars, but one gave out treasure maps, and your kids want to find their treasures before you leave the neighborhood.

41. Someone offers you a chance to win a million dollars just by visiting his website and typing in your address. “I don’t need your checking account info. It’s not safe to give that to just anyone. I’ll just mail the check to you,”he writes.

42. You wonder what it would be like to be a famous actor, and someone, out of the blue, invites you to perform in his movie as an extra — “and, who knows, maybe something more… prominent.”

43. You get a call from the principal’s office that your daughter has been involved in a bullying incident. Someone was bullying her, and she punched him. There were witnesses, and the principal reminds you of their zero-tolerance policy for physical violence…

44. You get a call from the principal’s office that your son has been acting out toward his classmates (who, according to what he’s told you, have been behaving aggressively toward him) and had brought a weapon to school to protect himself. They’ve confiscated the weapon (a paring knife) and have called the police.

45. Your kid has an IEP, and the Special Ed staff at the school always sound so caring and professional at the meetings you attend with them. But your son tells you they behave very differently toward him. The principal assures you that she knows the staff would never do what your son has accused them of doing. She suggests your son may be lying.

46. Your young daughter notices that one of your trees is “sick,” and she goes to visit the tree, talks to it, leans against it, and tells it to please get better. It responds by growing stronger and larger, spreading its branches out and downward to create a sort of cave for your daughter to rest in when she wants to be alone. It becomes her haven.

47. You wake up one morning and start loading your excess possessions into boxes and bags and hauling it off to Goodwill to donate it. That’s when you find the tiny cameras hidden in the bathroom, and bugs hidden in every room.

48. Your favorite coffee mug has broken, and you’re in mourning. The mug you just bought as your “second” just doesn’t feel the same in your hand, but it surprises you by magically refilling your drink with every sip — and keeping it hot for you.

49. The moth on your ceiling doesn’t bother you — much. But every time you look, it’s there. And you wonder why it never leaves. When you finally get a step ladder to get a closer look at it, you can hardly believe what you’re seeing.

50. Your neighbors on the home office side of your house have never been friendly, but one day, the wife comes over with a pie and tells you she made it herself and that she’s tired of being cooped up in the house with no one but her husband to talk to. You look over and see the outline of her husband in an upstairs window.

51. Tired of getting hair in your face, you take an electric hair-trimmer and run it all over your head with the one-inch attachment. You look at the results with satisfaction.

52. Your spouse, who has never done or said a romantic thing since your honeymoon, suddenly comes home with an expensive bouquet and a travel brochure for a place you’ve always wanted to visit. Later on, someone delivers the car you’ve always wanted, and your husband unconvincingly feigns surprise. You ask him if he won the lottery, but he shakes his head and says, “This is way better. You’ll see.”

53. You’re out in your backyard and stumble over something, which turns out to be a small brick half-buried in the grass. You see initials etched into the brick, along with a crudely-shaped heart. You wonder what — or whom — might be buried beneath. Soon, you find other markers like it, and you wonder how you failed to notice them before.

54. Your neighbor invites you over to her house, and you see that every wall has a cross painted on it with crude, hurried strokes. You ask why, and she nervously clears her throat and says, “This place needs them.”

55. You watch an infomercial and order a new face cream, hoping it will restore a youthful look to your face. It does more than that.

56. Your teenage son gets a job and, on his first day, he encounters a rude customer. Unaccustomed to responding with calmness and diplomacy, he lashes out at the customer and gets himself fired. Instead of calling home for a ride, though, he takes a walk through town and runs into the same customer holding up a cardboard sign.

57. You put your headphones on when you start on your writing project, and, at some point, an unfamiliar voice interrupts your playlist to tell you he likes what you’ve written so far. And he thinks you’d get along great.

58. Your spouse starts trying different paint samples on walls all over the house, and you don’t like any of the colors; they’re either too bright or too dark. One day, you paint patches of a pale green-gray that you like next to his acid-bright or dark color patches, and he tells you it’s boring, and that he’s painting the house his way.

59. Someone keeps writing fortune-cookie phrases on your new whiteboard at work, and it’s irritating you. You ask around, and no one knows who keeps writing the messages. Then, one of the predictions comes true.

60. You look out the window while you’re working and you see one neighbor attacking his spouse, knocking her down and then kicking her. You call 9-1-1, but later on, the wife comes over and says, “I know it was you who called. And you’ve made everything worse!”

61. Every time you look outside and see the wind in the trees, you take a deep breath and feel calmer. When the air is still, you feel as though the whole world is holding its breath and that something bad is about to happen. So, when it’s calm outside, you picture wind in the trees and take a deep breath.

62. You see movement in the corner of your eye and whenever you look, you see a huge, black dog in the neighbor’s yard, running back and forth. This time, though, he runs into your yard and starts barking at your front door.

63. Your eight-year-old son gets up and immediately goes for his Kindle Fire to play Minecraft. You’ve found some educational apps you want him to try, so you’ve installed them on his Kindle. He comes to you a few minutes later and says, “This app is telling me to do things I’m not supposed to do.”

64. You try a new recipe for a potluck, hoping it will wow your boss and coworkers, but it turns out terrible, and you end up rushing to a restaurant for something to bring before arriving (late) to find out everyone has already eaten the entree you were most looking forward to trying. When the cops show up later to ask why everyone is violently ill except you, you tell them everything you know.

65. You take your teenage son to his orientation for a new job, and when you come back to pick him up an hour later, you find out no one has seen him — though you saw him walk in the door before you drove off.

66. You’re living in a world where everyone is born with a birthmark that matches that of their soulmate. But you are born without one.

67. You and your best friend are in a terrible car accident, and you both die. Your friend, however, has a very different account of what he saw on the other side.

68. You’re born with the ability to mentally manipulate DNA. You started with plants and moved on to your pets, who now have unique abilities. For the past few years, you’ve been hacking your own DNA.

69. You were raised in the deep South where manners and feigned politeness were a thin veneer covering your family’s questionable history and lingering dysfunction.

More Related Articles:

7 Of The Best Writing Prompts Apps You Need To Try

List of Tragic Hero Traits To Flesh Out Your Character

107 Character Mannerisms For Writers

Did you find these short story ideas and prompts useful?

I hope your mind is buzzing with an idea you can’t wait to start playing with. Keep this article handy, so you can return to it when you’re looking for a new short story idea. You don’t have to follow any of them verbatim; take one and change the details however you like to make the idea your own.

Just don’t forget the “one shattering moment” for your character — and the importance of making an emotional impact on your reader. You make this impact as much with dialogue as with description and the structure of your story. Make it all count.

And when it comes time to edit, cut everything that dampens the impact of your story. Your readers will love you for it!

If you found value from this list of short story prompts, please share it and encourage others to pass it on to support and inspire as many fellow writers out there as possible. Why not even invite them to share their new short stories with you after they’ve written them?

And may your creative energy and goodwill infuse everything else you do today.

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Writers.com

The short story is a fiction writer’s laboratory: here is where you can experiment with characters, plots, and ideas without the heavy lifting of writing a novel. Learning how to write a short story is essential to mastering the art of storytelling . With far fewer words to worry about, storytellers can make many more mistakes—and strokes of genius!—through experimentation and the fun of fiction writing.

Nonetheless, the art of writing short stories is not easy to master. How do you tell a complete story in so few words? What does a story need to have in order to be successful? Whether you’re struggling with how to write a short story outline, or how to fully develop a character in so few words, this guide is your starting point.

Famous authors like Virginia Woolf, Haruki Murakami, and Agatha Christie have used the short story form to play with ideas before turning those stories into novels. Whether you want to master the elements of fiction, experiment with novel ideas, or simply have fun with storytelling, here’s everything you need on how to write a short story step by step.

The Core Elements of a Short Story

There’s no secret formula to writing a short story. However, a good short story will have most or all of the following elements:

  • A protagonist with a certain desire or need. It is essential for the protagonist to want something they don’t have, otherwise they will not drive the story forward.
  • A clear dilemma. We don’t need much backstory to see how the dilemma started; we’re primarily concerned with how the protagonist resolves it.
  • A decision. What does the protagonist do to resolve their dilemma?
  • A climax. In Freytag’s Pyramid , the climax of a story is when the tension reaches its peak, and the reader discovers the outcome of the protagonist’s decision(s).
  • An outcome. How does the climax change the protagonist? Are they a different person? Do they have a different philosophy or outlook on life?

Of course, short stories also utilize the elements of fiction , such as a setting , plot , and point of view . It helps to study these elements and to understand their intricacies. But, when it comes to laying down the skeleton of a short story, the above elements are what you need to get started.

Note: a short story rarely, if ever, has subplots. The focus should be entirely on a single, central storyline. Subplots will either pull focus away from the main story, or else push the story into the territory of novellas and novels.

The shorter the story is, the fewer of these elements are essentials. If you’re interested in writing short-short stories, check out our guide on how to write flash fiction .

How to Write a Short Story Outline

Some writers are “pantsers”—they “write by the seat of their pants,” making things up on the go with little more than an idea for a story. Other writers are “plotters,” meaning they decide the story’s structure in advance of writing it.

You don’t need a short story outline to write a good short story. But, if you’d like to give yourself some scaffolding before putting words on the page, this article answers the question of how to write a short story outline:

https://writers.com/how-to-write-a-story-outline

How to Write a Short Story Step by Step

There are many ways to approach the short story craft, but this method is tried-and-tested for writers of all levels. Here’s how to write a short story step by step.

1. Start With an Idea

Often, generating an idea is the hardest part. You want to write, but what will you write about?

What’s more, it’s easy to start coming up with ideas and then dismissing them. You want to tell an authentic, original story, but everything you come up with has already been written, it seems.

Here are a few tips:

  • Originality presents itself in your storytelling, not in your ideas. For example, the premise of both Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Ostrovsky’s The Snow Maiden are very similar: two men and two women, in intertwining love triangles, sort out their feelings for each other amidst mischievous forest spirits, love potions, and friendship drama. The way each story is written makes them very distinct from one another, to the point where, unless it’s pointed out to you, you might not even notice the similarities.
  • An idea is not a final draft. You will find that exploring the possibilities of your story will generate something far different than the idea you started out with. This is a good thing—it means you made the story your own!
  • Experiment with genres and tropes. Even if you want to write literary fiction , pay attention to the narrative structures that drive genre stories, and practice your storytelling using those structures. Again, you will naturally make the story your own simply by playing with ideas.

If you’re struggling simply to find ideas, try out this prompt generator , or pull prompts from this Twitter .

2. Outline, OR Conceive Your Characters

If you plan to outline, do so once you’ve generated an idea. You can learn about how to write a short story outline earlier in this article.

If you don’t plan to outline, you should at least start with a character or characters. Certainly, you need a protagonist, but you should also think about any characters that aid or inhibit your protagonist’s journey.

When thinking about character development, ask the following questions:

  • What is my character’s background? Where do they come from, how did they get here, where do they want to be?
  • What does your character desire the most? This can be both material or conceptual, like “fitting in” or “being loved.”
  • What is your character’s fatal flaw? In other words, what limitation prevents the protagonist from achieving their desire? Often, this flaw is a blind spot that directly counters their desire. For example, self hatred stands in the way of a protagonist searching for love.
  • How does your character think and speak? Think of examples, both fictional and in the real world, who might resemble your character.

In short stories, there are rarely more characters than a protagonist, an antagonist (if relevant), and a small group of supporting characters. The more characters you include, the longer your story will be. Focus on making only one or two characters complex: it is absolutely okay to have the rest of the cast be flat characters that move the story along.

Learn more about character development here:

https://writers.com/character-development-definition

3. Write Scenes Around Conflict

Once you have an outline or some characters, start building scenes around conflict. Every part of your story, including the opening sentence, should in some way relate to the protagonist’s conflict.

Conflict is the lifeblood of storytelling: without it, the reader doesn’t have a clear reason to keep reading. Loveable characters are not enough, as the story has to give the reader something to root for.

Take, for example, Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story The Cask of Amontillado . We start at the conflict: the narrator has been slighted by Fortunato, and plans to exact revenge. Every scene in the story builds tension and follows the protagonist as he exacts this revenge.

In your story, start writing scenes around conflict, and make sure each paragraph and piece of dialogue relates, in some way, to your protagonist’s unmet desires.

4. Write Your First Draft

The scenes you build around conflict will eventually be stitched into a complete story. Make sure as the story progresses that each scene heightens the story’s tension, and that this tension remains unbroken until the climax resolves whether or not your protagonist meets their desires.

Don’t stress too hard on writing a perfect story. Rather, take Anne Lamott’s advice, and “write a shitty first draft.” The goal is not to pen a complete story at first draft; rather, it’s to set ideas down on paper. You are simply, as Shannon Hale suggests, “shoveling sand into a box so that later [you] can build castles.”

5. Step Away, Breathe, Revise

Whenever Stephen King finishes a novel, he puts it in a drawer and doesn’t think about it for 6 weeks. With short stories, you probably don’t need to take as long of a break. But, the idea itself is true: when you’ve finished your first draft, set it aside for a while. Let yourself come back to the story with fresh eyes, so that you can confidently revise, revise, revise .

In revision, you want to make sure each word has an essential place in the story, that each scene ramps up tension, and that each character is clearly defined. The culmination of these elements allows a story to explore complex themes and ideas, giving the reader something to think about after the story has ended.

6. Compare Against Our Short Story Checklist

Does your story have everything it needs to succeed? Compare it against this short story checklist, as written by our instructor Rosemary Tantra Bensko.

Below is a collection of practical short story writing tips by Writers.com instructor Rosemary Tantra Bensko . Each paragraph is its own checklist item: a core element of short story writing advice to follow unless you have clear reasons to the contrary. We hope it’s a helpful resource in your own writing.

Update 9/1/2020: We’ve now made a summary of Rosemary’s short story checklist available as a PDF download . Enjoy!

short creative writing story

Click to download

How to Write a Short Story: Length and Setting

Your short story is 1000 to 7500 words in length.

The story takes place in one time period, not spread out or with gaps other than to drive someplace, sleep, etc. If there are those gaps, there is a space between the paragraphs, the new paragraph beginning flush left, to indicate a new scene.

Each scene takes place in one location, or in continual transit, such as driving a truck or flying in a plane.

How to Write a Short Story: Point of View

Unless it’s a very lengthy Romance story, in which there may be two Point of View (POV) characters, there is one POV character. If we are told what any character secretly thinks, it will only be the POV character. The degree to which we are privy to the unexpressed thoughts, memories and hopes of the POV character remains consistent throughout the story.

You avoid head-hopping by only having one POV character per scene, even in a Romance. You avoid straying into even brief moments of telling us what other characters think other than the POV character. You use words like “apparently,” “obviously,” or “supposedly” to suggest how non-POV-characters think rather than stating it.

How to Write a Short Story: Protagonist, Antagonist, Motivation

Your short story has one clear protagonist who is usually the character changing most.

Your story has a clear antagonist, who generally makes the protagonist change by thwarting his goals.

(Possible exception to the two short story writing tips above: In some types of Mystery and Action stories, particularly in a series, etc., the protagonist doesn’t necessarily grow personally, but instead his change relates to understanding the antagonist enough to arrest or kill him.)

The protagonist changes with an Arc arising out of how he is stuck in his Flaw at the beginning of the story, which makes the reader bond with him as a human, and feel the pain of his problems he causes himself. (Or if it’s the non-personal growth type plot: he’s presented at the beginning of the story with a high-stakes problem that requires him to prevent or punish a crime.)

The protagonist usually is shown to Want something, because that’s what people normally do, defining their personalities and behavior patterns, pushing them onward from day to day. This may be obvious from the beginning of the story, though it may not become heightened until the Inciting Incident , which happens near the beginning of Act 1. The Want is usually something the reader sort of wants the character to succeed in, while at the same time, knows the Want is not in his authentic best interests. This mixed feeling in the reader creates tension.

The protagonist is usually shown to Need something valid and beneficial, but at first, he doesn’t recognize it, admit it, honor it, integrate it with his Want, or let the Want go so he can achieve the Need instead. Ideally, the Want and Need can be combined in a satisfying way toward the end for the sake of continuity of forward momentum of victoriously achieving the goals set out from the beginning. It’s the encounters with the antagonist that forcibly teach the protagonist to prioritize his Needs correctly and overcome his Flaw so he can defeat the obstacles put in his path.

The protagonist in a personal growth plot needs to change his Flaw/Want but like most people, doesn’t automatically do that when faced with the problem. He tries the easy way, which doesn’t work. Only when the Crisis takes him to a low point does he boldly change enough to become victorious over himself and the external situation. What he learns becomes the Theme.

Each scene shows its main character’s goal at its beginning, which aligns in a significant way with the protagonist’s overall goal for the story. The scene has a “charge,” showing either progress toward the goal or regression away from the goal by the ending. Most scenes end with a negative charge, because a story is about not obtaining one’s goals easily, until the end, in which the scene/s end with a positive charge.

The protagonist’s goal of the story becomes triggered until the Inciting Incident near the beginning, when something happens to shake up his life. This is the only major thing in the story that is allowed to be a random event that occurs to him.

How to Write a Short Story: Characters

Your characters speak differently from one another, and their dialogue suggests subtext, what they are really thinking but not saying: subtle passive-aggressive jibes, their underlying emotions, etc.

Your characters are not illustrative of ideas and beliefs you are pushing for, but come across as real people.

How to Write a Short Story: Prose

Your language is succinct, fresh and exciting, specific, colorful, avoiding clichés and platitudes. Sentence structures vary. In Genre stories, the language is simple, the symbolism is direct, and words are well-known, and sentences are relatively short. In Literary stories, you are freer to use more sophisticated ideas, words, sentence structures and underlying metaphors and implied motifs.

How to Write a Short Story: Story Structure

Your plot elements occur in the proper places according to classical Act Structure so the reader feels he has vicariously gone through a harrowing trial with the protagonist and won, raising his sense of hope and possibility. Literary short stories may be more subtle, with lower stakes, experimenting beyond classical structures like the Hero’s Journey. They can be more like vignettes sometimes, or even slice-of-life, though these types are hard to place in publications.

In Genre stories, all the questions are answered, threads are tied up, problems are solved, though the results of carnage may be spread over the landscape. In Literary short stories, you are free to explore uncertainty, ambiguity, and inchoate, realistic endings that suggest multiple interpretations, and unresolved issues.

Some Literary stories may be nonrealistic, such as with Surrealism, Absurdism, New Wave Fabulism, Weird and Magical Realism . If this is what you write, they still need their own internal logic and they should not be bewildering as to the what the reader is meant to experience, whether it’s a nuanced, unnameable mood or a trip into the subconscious.

Literary stories may also go beyond any label other than Experimental. For example, a story could be a list of To Do items on a paper held by a magnet to a refrigerator for the housemate to read. The person writing the list may grow more passive-aggressive and manipulative as the list grows, and we learn about the relationship between the housemates through the implied threats and cajoling.

How to Write a Short Story: Capturing Reader Interest

Your short story is suspenseful, meaning readers hope the protagonist will achieve his best goal, his Need, by the Climax battle against the antagonist.

Your story entertains. This is especially necessary for Genre short stories.

The story captivates readers at the very beginning with a Hook, which can be a puzzling mystery to solve, an amazing character’s or narrator’s Voice, an astounding location, humor, a startling image, or a world the reader wants to become immersed in.

Expository prose (telling, like an essay) takes up very, very little space in your short story, and it does not appear near the beginning. The story is in Narrative format instead, in which one action follows the next. You’ve removed every unnecessary instance of Expository prose and replaced it with showing Narrative. Distancing words like “used to,” “he would often,” “over the years, he,” “each morning, he” indicate that you are reporting on a lengthy time period, summing it up, rather than sticking to Narrative format, in which immediacy makes the story engaging.

You’ve earned the right to include Expository Backstory by making the reader yearn for knowing what happened in the past to solve a mystery. This can’t possibly happen at the beginning, obviously. Expository Backstory does not take place in the first pages of your story.

Your reader cares what happens and there are high stakes (especially important in Genre stories). Your reader worries until the end, when the protagonist survives, succeeds in his quest to help the community, gets the girl, solves or prevents the crime, achieves new scientific developments, takes over rule of his realm, etc.

Every sentence is compelling enough to urge the reader to read the next one—because he really, really wants to—instead of doing something else he could be doing. Your story is not going to be assigned to people to analyze in school like the ones you studied, so you have found a way from the beginning to intrigue strangers to want to spend their time with your words.

Where to Read and Submit Short Stories

Whether you’re looking for inspiration or want to publish your own stories, you’ll find great literary journals for writers of all backgrounds at this article:

https://writers.com/short-story-submissions

Learn How to Write a Short Story at Writers.com

The short story takes an hour to learn and a lifetime to master. Learn how to write a short story with Writers.com. Our upcoming fiction courses will give you the ropes to tell authentic, original short stories that captivate and entrance your readers.

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Rosemary – Is there any chance you could add a little something to your checklist? I’d love to know the best places to submit our short stories for publication. Thanks so much.

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Hi, Kim Hanson,

Some good places to find publications specific to your story are NewPages, Poets and Writers, Duotrope, and The Submission Grinder.

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“ In Genre stories, all the questions are answered, threads are tied up, problems are solved, though the results of carnage may be spread over the landscape.”

Not just no but NO.

See for example the work of MacArthur Fellow Kelly Link.

[…] How to Write a Short Story: The Short Story Checklist […]

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Thank you for these directions and tips. It’s very encouraging to someone like me, just NOW taking up writing.

[…] Writers.com. A great intro to writing. https://writers.com/how-to-write-a-short-story […]

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Top left clockwise: Kevin Barry, Kit De Waal, Chris Power, Donal Ryan and Mary Gaitskill

Take risks and tell the truth: how to write a great short story

Drawing on writers from Anton Chekhov to Kit de Waal, Donal Ryan explores the art of writing short fiction. Plus Chris Power on the best books for budding short story writers

T he first story I wrote outside of school was about Irish boxer Barry McGuigan. I was 10 and I loved Barry. He’d just lost his world featherweight title to the American Steve Cruz under the hellish Nevada sun and the only thing that could mend my broken heart was a restoration of my hero’s belt. Months passed and there was no talk of a rematch, so I wrote a story about it.

My imagined fight was in Ireland, and I was ringside. In my story I’d arranged the whole thing. I’d even given Barry some tips on countering Steve’s vicious hook. It went the distance but Barry won easily on points. He hugged Steve. His dad sang “Danny Boy”. I felt as I finished my story an intense relief. The world in that moment was restful and calm. I’d created a new reality for myself, and I was able to occupy it for a while, to feel a joy I’d created by moving a biro across paper. I think of that story now every single time I sit down to write. I strive for the feeling of rightness it gave me, that feeling of peace.

It took me a while to regain that feeling. When I left school, where I was lucky enough to be roundly encouraged and told with conviction that I was a writer, I inexplicably embarked on a career of self-sabotage, only allowing my literary ambitions to surface very sporadically, and then burning the results in fits of disgust. Nothing I wrote rang true; nothing felt worthy of being read.

Shortly after I got married my mother-in-law happened upon a file on the hard drive of a PC I’d loaned her (there’s a great and terrifying writing prompt!). It contained a ridiculous story about a young solicitor being corrupted by a gangster client. I’d forgotten about the story, and about one of its peripheral characters, a simple and pure-hearted man named Johnsey Cunliffe. My wife suggested giving Johnsey new life, and I started a rewrite with him as the hero; the story kept growing until I found myself with a draft of my first finished novel, The Thing About December . I didn’t feel embarrassed, nor did I feel an urge to burn it. I felt peace. I knew it wouldn’t last, and so I quickly wrote a handful of new stories, and the peace didn’t dissipate. Not for a while, anyway.

So a forgotten short story, written somewhere in the fog of my early 20s, turned out to be the making of my writing career. Maybe it would have happened anyway, or maybe not, but I think the impulse would always have been present, the urge to put a grammar on the ideas in my head. Mary Costello, author of The China Factory , one of the finest short story collections I’ve ever read, says: “Write only what’s essential, what must be written … an image or a story that keeps gnawing, that won’t leave you alone. And the only way to get peace is to write it.”

I know that in this straitened, rule-bound, virus-ridden present, many people find themselves with that gnawing feeling, that urge to fashion from language a new reality, or to get the idea that’s been clamouring inside them out of their imagination and into the world. So I’ve put together some ideas with the help of some of my favourite writers on how best to go about finding that peace.

Don’t worry

Stephen King Full Dark, No Stars

In a short story, the sentences have to do so much! Some of Chekhov’s stories are less than three printed pages; a few comprise a single brief paragraph. In his most famous story, “The Lady with the Dog”, we are given a detailed account of the nature, history and motivations of Gurov within the first page, but there is no feeling of stress or overload. Stephen King’s 2010 collection Full Dark, No Stars is a masterclass in compression and suspense. My colleague in creative writing at the University of Limerick, Sarah Moore Fitzgerald, is, like me, a novelist who turns occasionally to the short form. Sarah considers short stories to be “storytelling’s finest gifts. In the best ones, nothing is superfluous, their focus is sharp and vivid but they can be gloriously elliptical too, full of echoes.” The novel form, as I’ve heard Mike McCormack say, offers “a wonderful accommodation to the writer”, but the short story is a barren territory. There’s nowhere to hide, no space for excess or digression.

My wife asked me once why this worried me so much. I’d just published my first two novels and had embarked on a whole collection of short stories, A Slanting of the Sun . She’d come home from work to find me curled up in a ball of despair. “Every sentence worries me,” I whined. “None of them is doing enough .” “Don’t worry about how much they’re doing until all the work is done,” she said. “Get the story written, and then you can go back and fix all those worrisome sentences. And the chances are, once the story exists, you won’t be as worried about those sentences at all. They’ll just be. ”

Ah. I can still feel the beautiful relief I felt at her wise words. Life is filled with things to worry about. The quality of our sentences should be a challenge and a constant fruitful quest, a gradual aggregation of attainment. But creativity should always bring us at least some whisper of joy. It should be a way out of worry.

One of the concepts my colleague Sarah illuminates is that of a “draft zero” – a draft that comes before a first draft, where your story is splashed on to your screen or page, containing all or most of its desired elements. Draft zero offers complete freedom from any consideration of craft or finesse.

Kit de Waal, Supporting Cast

Kit de Waal, who recently published a wonderful collection, Supporting Cast , featuring characters from her novels, offers this wisdom on getting your story from your head on to your page or screen: “Don’t overthink but do overwrite. Sometimes you see a pair of gloves or a flower on the street or lipstick on a coffee cup and it moves you in a particular way. That’s your prompt right there. Write that feeling or set something around that idea, you don’t know what at this stage, you’re going off sheer muse, writerly energy, so just follow it. And follow it right to the end – it might be a day, a week, a year. Overwrite the thing and then sit back and ask yourself, ‘Where is the magic? What am I saying? Who is speaking?’ When you’ve worked that out, you have your story and you can start crafting and editing.”

Your draft zero is Michelangelo’s lump of rough-hacked marble, but with David’s basic shape. It is the reassuring existence of something tangible in the world outside of your mind , something raw and real, containing within its messy self the potential for greatness. And the best way to make it great is to make it truthful.

Be truthful

I don’t mean by this that you need to speak your own truth at all times or to draw only on your own lived experience, but it’s important to be true to our own impulses and ambitions as writers; to write the story we want to write, not the story we think we should write. That’s like saying things that you think people want to hear: you’ll end up tangling yourself in a knot of half-truths and constructed, co-opted beliefs. You’ll be more politician than writer, and, as good and decent as some of them are, the world definitely has enough politicians.

Melatu Uche Okorie, This Hostel Life

Your own experiences, of course, your own truth, can be parlayed into wonderful fictions, and can by virtue of their foundation in reality contain an almost automatic immediacy and intensity. Melatu Uche Okorie’s debut collection, This Hostel Life , is drawn from her experiences in the Irish direct provision system as an asylum seeker. The title story in particular has about it a feeling of absolute truthfulness, written in the demotic of the author’s Nigerian countrywomen; while another story, “Under the Awning”, feels as though it might be an oblique description of events witnessed or experienced first-hand by the author.

You might as well do exactly what you want to do, even (or especially) if it’s never been done before. You have nothing to lose by taking risks, with form, content, style, structure or any other element of your piece of fiction. Rob Doyle , a consummate literary risk-taker, exhorts writers to “try writing a story that doesn’t look how short stories are meant to look – try one in the form of an encyclopaedia entry, or a list, or an essay, or a review of an imaginary restaurant, sex toy, amusement park or film. Have people wondering if it’s even fiction. Mix it all up. Short stories can explore ideas as well as emotions – huge ideas can fit into short stories. For proof, read the work of Jorge Luis Borges . In fact, I second Roberto Bolaño’s advice to anyone writing short stories: read Borges.”

Frank O’Connor in 1958.

Bend the iron bar

“When the curtain falls,” said Frank O’Connor of the short story, “everything must be changed. An iron bar must have been bent and been seen to be bent.” One of the first short stories to break my heart was O’Connor’s “ Guests of the Nation ”. It has been described as one of the greatest anti-war stories ever written, and one of the finest stories from a master of the form. Its devastating denouement closes with this plaintive statement from the shattered narrator: “And anything that happened to me afterwards, I never felt the same about again.” This line contains within it an entreaty to short story writers to reach for that profound moment, that event or epiphany or reversal or triumph; to arrive within the confines of their story at a moment that will have a resonance far beyond its narrow scope.

Another great literary O’Connor, this time the novelist Joseph, who teaches creative writing at the University of Limerick, says that “to me every excellent short story centres around an instant where intense change becomes possible or, at least, imaginable for the character. Cut into the story late, leave it early, and find a moment.” Joseph quotes the closing words of one of his favourite short stories, Raymond Carver’s “Fat”: “It is August. My life is going to change. I feel it.”

The moment of course needn’t be in the ending, and the end of a story doesn’t necessarily have to be incendiary or revelatory, or to contain an unexpected twist. Mary Gaitskill ’s story “Heaven” describes a family going through change and trauma and loss, and iron bars are bent in almost every paragraph, but its ending is memorable for the moment of relief it offers, in a gently muted description of the perfect grace of a summer evening and a family gathered for a meal. “They all sat in lawn chairs and ate from the warm plates in their laps. The steak was good and rare; its juices ran into the salad and pasta when Virginia moved her knees. A light wind blew loose hairs around their faces and tickled them. The trees rustled dimly. There were nice insect noises. Jarold paused, a forkful of steak rising across his chest. ‘Like heaven,’ he said. ‘It’s like heaven.’ They were quiet for several minutes.”

Listen to your story

Kevin Barry Dark Lies the Island

“Beer Trip to Llandudno”, Kevin Barry’s masterpiece of the short form, from his 2012 collection Dark Lies the Island , is another story that has remained pristine in my consciousness since I first read it. Part of the magic of that story, and of all Barry’s work, is its dialogue: the earthy, pithy, perfectly authentic exchanges between his characters. When I asked Kevin about this, he said: “If you feel like you’re coming towards the final draft of a story, print it out and read it aloud, slowly, with red pen in hand. Your ear will catch all the evasions and the false notes in the story much quicker than your eye will catch them on the screen or page. Listen to what’s not being said in the dialogue. Very often the story, and the drama, is to be found just underneath the surface of the talk.”

Such scrupulous attention to the burden carried by each unit of language and to the work done by the notes played and unplayed can make a story truly shine. Alice Kinsella is an accomplished poet who recently turned her hand to the short form in great style with her sublime account of early motherhood, “Window”. “Poetry or prose,” Alice says, “the aim is the same, to make every word earn its place on the page.”

Ignore everything

And as self-defeating as this sounds, here’s a final piece of advice: once you sit down to write your story, forget about this article. Forget all the advice you’ve ever been given. Free your hand, free your mind, cut yourself loose into the infinity of possibility, and create from those 26 little symbols what you will. We came from the hearts of stars. We are the universe, telling itself its own story.

Donal Ryan is a judge for the BBC national short story award with Cambridge University. The shortlist will be announced on 10 September and the winner on 19 October. For more information see www.bbc.co.uk/nssa .

Books for budding short story writers By Chris Power

If short story collections occupy a minority position on publishers’ lists, books about the short story are an even scarcer commodity. In the 1970s the academic Charles E May published Short Story Theories , which he followed up in 1994 with The New Short Story Theories . These volumes, out of print but easy enough to find second-hand, collect some of the key texts about short fiction, from Edgar Allan Poe’s 1842 review of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales , to Elizabeth Bowen’s tracing of Guy de Maupassant and Anton Chekhov’s influence, and Julio Cortázar’s brilliant lecture Some Aspects of the Short Story (“the novel always wins on points, while the story must win by a knockout”).

Frank O’Connor’s The Lonely Voice (1963) studies 11 great story writers, from Ivan Turgenev to Katherine Mansfield, and argues that the quintessential short story subjects are outsiders: “There is in the short story at its most characteristic something we do not often find in the novel – an intense awareness of human loneliness.” O’Connor’s assertiveness makes disagreeing with him part of the fun. As his countryman Sean O’Faolain wrote: “He was like a man who takes a machine gun to a shooting gallery. Everybody falls flat on his face, the proprietor at once takes to the hills, and when it is all over, and you cautiously peep up, you find that he has wrecked the place but got three perfect bull’s-eyes.”

I have a similar relationship with George Saunders’s remarkable study of seven classic Russian short stories, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain , published earlier this year. I don’t buy the overarching argument about fiction generating empathy, but this is a book stuffed with arresting observations and practical tips from a master craftsman. His 50-page close reading of Chekhov’s 12-page “In the Cart” is jaw-droppingly good.

Steering the Craft by Ursula K Le Guin isn’t specifically about short stories, but she could certainly write them, and her clear, practical advice is invaluable to anyone wanting to learn about two of the form’s prerequisites: rhythm and concision.

My last recommendation isn’t a book at all, but the New Yorker: Fiction podcast . Appearing monthly since 2007, each episode features a writer reading a story from the magazine’s archives and discussing it with fiction editor Deborah Treisman. These conversations are a wonderful education in how stories work. I strongly recommend Ben Marcus on Kazuo Ishiguro (September 2011), Tessa Hadley on Nadine Gordimer (September 2012), and ZZ Packer on Lesley Nneka Arimah (October 2020), a discussion which moves between craft, fairytale and motherhood.

  • Short stories
  • Raymond Carver
  • Stephen King
  • Anton Chekhov
  • Jorge Luis Borges
  • Mary Gaitskill
  • Kevin Barry

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The Write Practice

How to Write a Short Story: 5 Major Steps from Start to Finish

by Sarah Gribble | 81 comments

Do you want to learn how to write a short story ? Maybe you'd like to try writing a short story instead of a novel-length work, or maybe you're hoping to get more writing practice without the lengthy time commitment that a novel requires.

The reality of writing stories? Not every short story writer wants to write a novel, but every novelist can benefit from writing short stories. However, short stories and novels are different—so naturally, how you write them has its differences, too.

how to write a short story

Short stories are often a fiction writer’s first introduction to writing, but they can be frustrating to write and difficult to master. How do you fit everything that makes a great story into something so short?

And then, once you do finish a short story you’re proud of, what do you do with it?

That's what we'll cover in this article, along with additional resources I'll link to that will help you get started step-by-step with shorts.

Short Stories Made Me a Better Writer

I fell into writing short stories when I first started writing.

I'd written a book , and it was terrible. But it opened up my mind and I kept having all these story ideas I just had to get out.

Before long, I had dozens of stories and within about two years, I had around three dozen of them published traditionally. That first book went nowhere, by the way. But my short stories surely did.

And I learned a whole lot about the writing craft because I spent so much time practicing writing with my short stories. This is why, whether you want to make money as a short story writer or experiment writing them, I think writing short stories is important for every writer who wants to become a novelist.

But how do you write a short story? And what do you do afterwards? I hope that by sharing my personal experiences and suggestions, I can help you write your own short stories with confidence.

Why Should You Write Short Stories?

I get a lot of pushback when I suggest new writers should write short stories.

Everyone wants to write a book. (Okay, maybe not everyone, but if you ask a hundred people if they’d like to write one, I’d bet seventy-something of them would say yes.) Anthologies and short story collections don’t make a ton of money because no one really wants to read them. So why waste time writing short stories when books are what people read ?

There are three main reasons you should be a short story writer:

1. Training

Short stories help you hone your writing skills .

Short stories are often only one scene and about one character. That’s a level of focus you can’t have in a novel. Writing short stories forces you to focus on writing clearly and concisely while still making a scene entertaining.

You’re working with the basic level of structure here (a scene) and learning to perfect it .

Short stories are a place to experiment with your creative process, to play with character development techniques, to dabble in different kinds of writing styles. 

And you're learning what a finished story feels like. So many aspiring novelists have only half-done drafts in drawers. A short is training yourself to finish.

2. Building contacts and readers

Most writers I know do not want to hear this, but this whole writing thing is the same as any other industry: if you want to make it, you better network.

When my first book, Surviving Death , was released, I had hundreds of people on my launch team. How? I’d had about three dozen short stories published traditionally by that time. I’d gathered a readership base, and not only that, I’d become acquainted with some fellow writers in my genre along the way. And those people were more than willing to help me get the word out about my book.

You want loyal readers and you want friends in the industry. And the way to get those is to continuously be writing.

Writing is like working out. If you take a ton of time off, you’re going to hurt when you get back into it.

It’s a little difficult to be working on a novel all the time. Most writers have one or two in them a year, and those aren’t written without a bit of a break in between.

Short story writing helps you keep up your writing habit , or develop one, and they make for a nice break in between larger projects.

I always write short stories between novels, and even between drafts of my novels. It keeps me going and puts use to all the random story ideas I had while working on the larger project. I've found over the years that keeping up the writing habit is the only way to actually keep yourself in “writer mode.”

All the cool kids are doing it. Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Edgar Allan Poe, Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood . . . Google your favorite writers and they probably have a short story collection or two out there. Most successful authors have cut their teeth on short stories.

What is a Short Story?

Now that you know why you should be writing short stories, let’s talk about what a short story is. This might seem obvious, but it’s a question I’ve gotten a lot. A short story is short, right? Essentially, yes. But how short is short?

You can Google how long a short story is and get a bunch of different answers. There are a lot of different editors out there running a lot of different anthologies, magazines, ezines, podcasts, you name it. They all have slightly different definitions of what a short story is because they all have slightly different needs when it comes to providing content on their platform and meeting the expectations of their audiences.

A podcast, for instance, often wants a story to take up about thirty minutes of airtime. They know how long it takes their producers to read a story, so that thirty minutes means they’re looking for a very specific word count. An ezine might aim for a certain estimated reading time. A magazine or anthology might have a certain number of pages they’re trying to fill.

Everyone has a different definition of how short a short story is, so for the purpose of this series, I’m going to be broad in my definition of a short story.

What qualifies as a short story?

A short story word count normally falls somewhere between 1,000 words and 10,000 words. If you’re over ten thousand, you’re running into novelette territory, though some publications consider up to 20,000 words to be a short story. If you’re under a thousand words, you’re looking at flash fiction.

The sweet spot is between 2,000 and 5,000 words. The majority of short stories I’ve had published were between 2,500 words and 3,500 words.

That’s not a lot of words, and you’ve got a lot to fit in—backstory, world-building, a character arc—in that tiny amount of space. (A book, by the way, is normally 60,000 to 90,000 words or longer. Big difference.)

A short story is one to three scenes. That’s it. Think of it as a “slice of life,” as in someone peeked into your life for maybe an hour or two and this is what they saw.

You’re not going to flesh out every detail about your characters. (I normally don’t even know the last names of my short story characters, and it doesn’t matter.) You’re not trying to build a Tolkien-level world. You don’t need to worry about subplots.

To focus your writing, think of a short story as a short series of events happening to a single character. The rest of the cast of characters should be small.

How to Write a Short Story: The Short Version

Throughout this blog series, I’ll take a deep dive into the process of writing short stories. If you’re looking for the fast answer, here it is:

  • Write the story in one sitting.
  • Take a break.
  • Edit with a mind for brevity.
  • Get feedback and do a final edit.

Write the story in one sitting

For the most part, short stories are meant to be read in one sitting, so it makes sense that you should write them in one sitting.

Obviously, if you’re in the 10K range, that’s probably going to take more than one writing session, but a 2,500-word short story can easily be written in one sitting. This might seem a little daunting, but you’ll find your enthusiasm will drive you to the ending and your story will flow better for it.

You’re not aiming for prize-winning writing during this stage. You’re aiming to get the basic story out of your head and on paper.

Forget about grammar . Forget about beautiful prose. Forget about even making a ton of sense.

You’re not worrying about word count at this stage, either. Don’t research and don’t pause over trying to find the exact right word. Don't agonize over the perfect story title.

Just get the basic story out. You can’t edit a blank page.

Take a break

Don’t immediately begin the editing process. After you’ve written anything, books included, you need to take a step back . Your brain needs to shift from “writer mode” to “reader mode.” With a short story, I normally recommend a three-day break.

If you have research to do, this is the time to do it, though I highly recommend not thinking about your story at all.

The further away you can get from it, the better you’ll edit.

Edit with a mind for brevity

Now that you’ve had a break, you’re ready to come back with a vengeance. This is the part where you “kill your darlings” and have absolutely no mercy for the story you produced less than a week ago. The second draft is where you get critical.

Remember we’re writing a short story here, not a novel. You don’t have time to go into each and every detail about your characters’ lives. You don’t have time for B-plots, a ton of characters, or Stephen King-level droning on.

Short stories should have a beginning, a middle, and an end, though. They’re short, but they’re still stories.

As you edit , ask yourself if each bit of backstory, world building, and anything else is something your reader needs to know. If they do, do they need to know it right at that moment? If they don’t, cut it.

Get feedback

If this is your first time letting other people see your writing, this can be a scary step. No one wants to be given criticism. But getting feedback is the most important step in the writing process next to writing.

The more eyes you can get on a piece of writing, the better.

I highly recommend getting feedback from someone who knows about writing, not your mother or your best friend. People we love are great, but they love you and won’t give you honest feedback. If you want praise, go to them. If you want to grow as a writer, join a writing community and get feedback from other writers.

When you’ve gotten some feedback from a handful of people, make any changes you deem necessary and do a final edit for smaller issues like grammar and punctuation.

Here at The Write Practice, we’re huge fans of publishing your work . In fact, we don’t quite consider a story finished until it’s published.

Whether you’re going the traditional route and submitting your short story to anthologies and magazines, or you’re more into self- publishing , don’t let your story languish on your computer. Get it out into the world so you can build your reader base.

And it’s pretty cool getting to say you’re a published author.

That’s the short version of how to go about writing short stories. Throughout this series, I’ll be taking a more in-depth look at different elements of these steps. Stick with me throughout the series, and you’ll have a short story of your own ready to publish by the end.

A Preview of My How to Write a Short Story Series

My goal in this blog series is to walk you through the process of writing a short story from start to finish and then point you in the right direction for getting that story published.

By the end of this series, you’ll have a story ready to submit to publishers and a plan for how to submit.

Below is a list of topics I’ll be covering during this blog series. Keep coming back as these topics are updated over the coming months.

How to Come up With Ideas For Short Stories

Creative writing is like a muscle: use it or lose it. Coming up with ideas is part of the development of that muscle. In this post , I’ll go over how to train your mind to put out ideas consistently.

How to Plan a Short Story (Without Really Planning It)

Short stories often don’t require extensive planning. They’re short, after all. But a little bit of outlining can help. Don’t worry, I’m mostly a pantser! I promise this won’t be an intense method of planning. It will, however, give you a start with the elements of story structure—and motivation to get you to finish (and publish) your story. Read this article to see how a little planning can go a long way toward writing a successful story.

What You Need in a Short Story/Elements of a Short Story

One of the biggest mistakes I see from new writers is their short stories aren’t actually stories. They're often missing a climax, don't have an ending, or just ramble on in a stream-of-consciousness way without any story structure. In this article , I’ll show you what you need to make sure your short is a complete story.

Writing Strategies for Short Stories

The writing process varies from person to person, and often from project to project. In this blog , I’ll talk about different writing strategies you can use to write short stories.

How to Edit a Short Story

Editing is my least favorite part of writing. It’s overwhelming and often tedious. I’ll talk about short story editing strategies to take the confusion out of the process, and ensure you can edit with confidence.Learn how to confidently edit your story here .

Writing a Better Short Story

Short stories are their own art form, mainly because of the small word count. In this post, I’ll discuss ways to write a better short, including fitting everything you want and need into that tiny word count.

Weaving backstory and worldbuilding into your story without overdoing it. Remember, you don't need every detail about the world or a character's life in a short story—but the setting shouldn't be ignored. How your protagonist interacts with it should be significant and interesting.

How to Submit a Short Story to Publications

There are plenty of literary magazines, ezines, anthologies, etc. out there that accept short stories for publication (and you can self-publish your stories, too). In this article, I’ll demystify the submission process so you can submit your own stories to publications and start getting your work out there. You'll see your work in a short story anthology soon after using the tips in this article !

Professionalism in the Writing Industry

Emotions can run high when you put your work out there for others to see. In this article, I’ll talk about what’s expected of you in this profession and how to maintain professionalism so that you don't shoot yourself in the foot when you approach publishers, editors, and agents.

Write, Write, Write!

As you follow this series, I challenge you to begin writing at least one short story a week. I'll be giving you in-depth tips on creating a compelling story as we go along, but for now, I want you to write. That habit is the hardest thing to start and the hardest thing to keep up.

You may not use all the stories you're going to write over the next months. You may hate them and never want them to see the light of day. But you can't get better if you don't practice. Start practicing now.

As Ray Bradbury says:

“Write a short story every week. It's not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”

When it comes to writing short stories, what do you find most challenging? Let me know in the comments .

For today’s practice, let’s just take on Step #1 (and begin tackling the challenge I laid down a moment ago): Write the basic story idea, the gist of the premise, as you’d tell it to a friend. Don’t think about it too much, and don’t worry about going into detail. Just write.

Write for fifteen minutes .

When your time is up, share your practice in the Pro Practice Workshop. And after you post, please be sure to give feedback to your fellow writers.

Happy writing!

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Sarah Gribble

Sarah Gribble is the author of dozens of short stories that explore uncomfortable situations, basic fears, and the general awe and fascination of the unknown. She just released Surviving Death , her first novel, and is currently working on her next book.

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44 Short Story Ideas

Story ideas - 3 elements.

  • A stolen ring, fear of spiders, and a sinister stranger.
  • A taxi, an old enemy, and Valentine's Day.
  • Identical twins, a party invitation, and a locked closet.
  • A broken wristwatch, peppermints, and a hug that goes too far.
  • Aerobics, a secret diary, and something unpleasant under the bed.
  • An ex-boyfriend, a pair of binoculars, and a good-luck charm.
  • An annoying boss, a bikini, and a fake illness.
  • The first day of school, a love note, and a recipe with a significant mistake.
  • A horoscope, makeup, and a missing tooth.
  • A campfire, a scream, and a small lie that gets bigger and bigger.

More short story ideas

  • A babysitter is snooping around her employer's house and finds a disturbing photograph...
  • At a Chinese restaurant, your character opens his fortune cookie and reads the following message: "Your life is in danger. Say nothing to anyone. You must leave the city immediately and never return. Repeat: say nothing."...
  • Your character's boss invites her and her husband to dinner. Your character wants to make a good impression, but her husband has a tendency to drink too much and say exactly what's on his mind...
  • It's your character's first day at a new school. He or she wants to get a fresh start, develop a new identity. But in his or her homeroom, your character encounters a kid he or she knows from summer camp...
  • Your character has to tell his parents that he's getting a divorce. He knows his parents will take his wife's side, and he is right...
  • At the airport, a stranger offers your character money to carry a mysterious package onto the plane. The stranger assures your character that it's nothing illegal and points out that it has already been through the security check. Your character has serious doubts, but needs the money, and therefore agrees...
  • Your character suspects her husband is having an affair and decides to spy on him. What she discovers is not what she was expecting...
  • A man elbows your character in a crowd. After he is gone, she discovers her cell phone is too. She calls her own number, and the man answers. She explains that the cell phone has personal information on it and asks the man to send it back to her. He hangs up. Instead of going to the police, your character decides to take matters into her own hands...
  • After your character loses his job, he is home during the day. That's how he discovers that his teenage son has a small marijuana plantation behind the garage. Your character confronts his son, who, instead of acting repentant, explains to your character exactly how much money he is making from the marijuana and tries to persuade your character to join in the business...
  • At a garage sale, your character buys an antique urn which she thinks will look nice decorating her bookcase. But when she gets home, she realizes there are someone's ashes in it....

Even more short story ideas

  • Your character starts receiving flowers and anonymous gifts. She doesn't know who is sending them. Her husband is suspicious, and the gifts begin to get stranger....
  • A missionary visits your character's house and attempts to convert her to his religion. Your character is trying to get rid of him just as storm warning sirens go off. Your character feels she can't send the missionary out into the storm, so she lets him come down into her basement with her. This is going to be a long storm....
  • Your character is caught shoplifting. The shop owner says that she won't call the police in exchange for a personal favor....
  • Your character is visiting his parents over a holiday. He is returning some books to the library for his mother and is startled to notice that the librarian looks exactly like him, only about thirty years older. He immediately begins to suspect that his mother had an affair at one time and the librarian is his real father...
  • Your character picks up a hitch-hiker on her way home from work. The hitch-hiker tries to persuade your character to leave everything and drive her across the country...
  • Your character has to sell the house where she grew up. A potential buyer comes to look at it and begins to talk about all of the changes she would make to the place. This upsets your character, who decides she wants to find a buyer who will leave everything the way it has always been....
  • A bat gets in the house. Your character's husband becomes hysterical, frightened that it might be rabid. In his panic, he ends up shutting the bat in a room with your character while he calls an exterminator from a safe place in the house. His behavior makes your character see her husband in a new way....
  • Your character changes jobs in order to have more time with his family. But his family doesn't seem interested in having him around...
  • Your character develops the idea that she can hear the voices of the dead on a certain radio channel. She decides to take advantage of this channel to find answers to some questions that are bothering her about her dead parents....
  • Your character's dream is to be a professional dancer. At a party, she mentions this dream to a stranger, who says that he has contacts in the dance world and gets her an audition for a prestigious dance troupe. One problem: your character doesn't know how to dance. Your character decides to accept the audition anyway and look for a solution....

And still more short story ideas

  • Your character thinks her boss is looking for an excuse to fire her. She decides to fight back....
  • Your character goes out for dinner on a date and becomes attracted to the waiter or waitress....
  • Your character notices that a stranger is following her. She pretends not to notice. The stranger follows her home and watches her go inside. Then when he leaves, your character turns the tables and starts to follow him....
  • A child moves into a new house and finds out that the other kids in town think it's haunted. She begins to invent ghost stories to tell at school in order to get attention. But the more stories she tells, the more frightened she becomes of the house...
  • Your elderly character escapes from the retirement home where his or her children have placed him or her....
  • Your character gets cosmetic surgery in an attempt to make her boyfriend love her more. But then she worries he only loves her for her looks....
  • Your character is a writer. But his new neighbors are so noisy that he can neither work nor sleep. He decides to take action....
  • Your character's mother-in-law comes to visit for a week, and your character suspects she is trying to poison him. He shares his suspicion with his wife, who says he's always hated her mother but this accusation is going too far. Meanwhile, your character has stomach cramps, and his mother-in-law is downstairs making breakfast again....
  • It's a freezing cold night. Your character finds a homeless family on his doorstep and invites them into his home to sleep. But in the morning, the family doesn't leave....
  • Your character has recently married a man with two teenage children. The children resent her, and she tries to avoid them altogether. Then her new husband (their father) disappears suddenly, leaving only a short good-bye note....

Story ideas: personal creative writing challenges

  • Make a list of five things you're afraid of happening to you. Then write a story in which one of them happens to your character..
  • Think of a big problem that one of your friends had to face. Then write a story in which your character battles with that problem..
  • What is one of your bad habits? Invent a character who has the bad habit, but a much worse case of it than you have. Write a story where this habit gets your character into trouble.
  • What is one of your greatest strengths? Invent a character who doesn't have this strength. Create a situation in which having this strength is very important for your character. What does your character do? Write the story.

field of tulips, representing story ideas

Photo credit: Pascal van de Vendel

Keep the short story ideas flowing

  • Looking for more detailed short story ideas? Find them here .
  • Use our free worksheet to develop your story plot.
  • Our online writing course Irresistible Fiction will show you how to write stories people can't put down.
  • Click here for a list of CWN pages with creative writing prompts and short story ideas.

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The 35 Best Short Story Prompts That Will Surely Inspire You To Write

  • March 16, 2022
“I love short stories because I believe they are the way we live. They are what our friends tell us, in their pain and joy, their passion and rage, their yearning and their cry against injustice.” Andre Dubus

Are you running out of short story prompts? Or, are you experiencing writer’s block? Want to write a short story, but you have no story idea where to even begin?

If so, this article is for you. We included a long list of creative writing prompts in this article, story ideas, and writing exercises to help you get your creative juices flowing.

What Makes a Good Short Story?

Any good short story has rich characters , an interesting plot, and an immersive setting.

Unlike a novel, short story writers have to traverse their character arcs in a short amount of time in a way that keeps the reader engaged.

The writing skills required to write a short story are:

  • An ability to be concise
  • The ability to engage the reader immediately
  • Natural and realistic use of dialogue
  • The power to paint a compelling image with words
  • Interesting plot developments and character arcs

If you have a short story that you would like to publish or are trying to get started with just writing it, consider the abovementioned points. If your story lacks any of the above, it is wise to revisit and add whatever is missing.

Kurt Vonnegut on Writing Short Stories

In Kurt Vonnegut’s  Bagombo Snuff Box , the renowned American 20th-century writer shares some important tips for anyone who wishes to write a compelling short story. According to Vonnegut’s advice, a short story should:

  • Use the time of a total stranger so that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  • Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  • Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  • Every sentence must do one of two things: reveal character or advance the action.
  • Start as close to the end as possible.
  • Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters are, make awful things happen to them so that the reader may see what they are made of.
  • Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  • Give your readers as much information as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such a complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

How Long Should My Short Story Be?

There is no exact word count for a short story . Some are merely a page or two, while others can be 10 or 20 pages. Typically, the word count of a good short story falls somewhere between 5000-10,000 words.

Short Story Prompts, writing prompts

The Importance of Feedback

It is always wise to get as much feedback as possible about your story or even your short story idea. Share your work with fellow writers, avid readers, and friends and family who do not write or read much at all.

Get all kinds of opinions, insights, and criticisms from all sorts of people to gain a clearer sense of your story’s impact.

Short Story Ideas and Writing Prompts to Help You Get Started

Feel free to use the following story prompts or in combination with your own story ideas.

  • A man wakes up in a new town with no idea how he got there.
  • A young woman receives a letter from a mysterious stranger.
  • Three strangers who look alike meet in a bar.
  • A man gets blamed for a crime he did not commit.
  • A child’s dog wanders through the forest, and he follows it.
  • A character notices that his neighbor is acting strange and suspicious.
  • The internet shuts down all over the world without warning.
  • Passengers on a train wake up one by one at an abandoned station.
  • A quiz show winner enjoys their prize until someone claims that the show was rigged.
  • A young woman loses her partner for years and sets out on a solo adventure worldwide.
  • A coming-of-age story in which high school students prepare for their final exams and the different journey the friend group will take when they move on to university.
  • A middle-aged man gets tired of his job and quits on a whim. Now jobless and in need of income, he joins a team of young professionals who create a dating app for middle-aged singles. He volunteers to provide greater information for the team and the app – in person, by going on as many dates as he can.

More Creative Writing Prompts

We have included some genre-specific short story ideas below, including fantasy, science fiction , and romance . Even if these are not your go-to genres, it is worth checking them out. In attempting to write one of the following, you may find inspiration for a different story altogether.

Short Story Prompts

Fantasy Short Story Prompts

  • A young man stumbles across an ancient gemstone. With the stone in his possession, the character finds himself the center of attention of strange people who seem to want to harm him and one new friend who has some unexpected answers.
  • A young girl who lives on a farm with her family finds a large unhatched egg. She takes care of the egg in her room without telling her parents. The egg begins to hatch, but the creature that emerges is far from what she expected.
  • The main character makes a living selling fake artifacts. One artifact in his collection is the real deal, but he has no idea until a strange customer shows up.
  • A prince is captured in a foreign land and is held at ransom. The hostage-taker is a mercenary hired by someone close to the prince.
  • A teenage farm boy is visited at night by a white horse. The horse stands outside his window, and the boy approaches. The horse walks on, stops, and waits for the boy. The boy follows and eventually mounts the horse. As the horse begins to gallop, the boy looks back at his house, only to find that the entire landscape has changed and his house is no longer there.

Science Fiction Short Story Ideas

  • An airplane flies through turbulence. The turbulence passes, the plane stabilizes, but half of the passengers are missing. The pilot tries to contact the ground but to no avail.
  • A man reports strange sights in the skies, but no one believes him. He pleads them to believe him because he is convinced that what he saw was not of this earth. As more and more people begin to see the strange lights in the sky, the man is nowhere to be found.
  • The main character wakes up with no memory of his past. He finds himself equipped with advanced weapons, strange technology, and a chip in his arm. War and conflict rage outside his room. As he begins to wake up, he notices a letter by his bed with an address and note that says ‘Urgent!’
  • AI has advanced exponentially since our current day, most of humanity has been wiped out, and the remaining humans now live in small tribes. A team of humans who take refuge deep in the desert must traverse, but the AIs occupied the lands for more resources for their survival.
  • A large unidentified object hurtles through space on a direct trajectory to earth. A team of scientists and astronauts are on a timer to divert the object before it gets too close. Time is ticking, people are panicking, and the team faces resistance when gathering support.

Short Story Prompts, writing prompts

  • The year is 3100. Humanity lives in bunkers underground due to an apocalyptic event 500 years earlier. As the dust settles, the surviving humans begin to emerge from their underground shelter only to find new inhabitants living and ruling on the surface.
  • A scientist discovers a means of traversing galaxies at light speed, but the cost of the technology is millions of lives. Authorities seek to understand and control his discovery. However, his moral compass drives him to keep his discovery out of the hands of those who would sacrifice millions without a second thought.
  • Humans on a mission to revive a dead planet are met by resistance from living creatures under the surface. On their escape back to earth, one of the planet’s inhabitants has made its way onto their ship and hides there until the team arrives home.
  • A microchip inserted into the brain allows authorities to influence and control the thoughts of chipped people. The unchipped are now few in numbers but are the only humans left who can think independently. Time is ticking as the last remaining free-thinkers are mercilessly hunted down. A ragtag group, a multi-disciplinary team of survivalists, scientists, and hackers, must fight the authority and free those who have been brainwashed into the authority’s oppressive regime.
  • In the near future, the elites will control the fate of the rest of us at the press of a button. Access to water, food, and even sunshine depend on a nation or community’s willingness to send a large proportion of their population into competition against each other for survival.

Scary Story Ideas

  • A young couple moves into a new house in the countryside. The house is empty except for an old-fashioned dress in a wardrobe. The young woman, packing her stuff away, tries on the dress. As soon as she wears it, she starts acting strange.
  • One night in an allegedly haunted house in the country, friends planned a trip. They partied, drank, and danced all through the night. Later, one of the friends pulls out an Ouija board. Most of the friends disagree and go to bed for the night. Five friends stayed up and played the game with ghostly consequences.
  • Kids visit their grandmother’s house and find a secret room in the basement. They enter the room, and the door vanishes.
  • Trick or treaters visit houses on Halloween night. One family offers lots of candy to the kids who show up and say trick or treat! A child shows up at the house and rings the bell. When the family answers, the child is alone and silent. The family invites him in to ask where his friends and parents are, the greatest mistake they ever made.

Romantic Short Story Ideas

Here are some romantic short story ideas to try out:

  • A correspondence of love letters between two now long separated and aged former lovers. They are no longer together, but the letters reveal the ups and downs of their relationships and how close yet far they were from becoming lasting lovers.
  • A young man about to take off on his travels stops by a café to grab a coffee before he goes. While sipping his coffee, he meets a high school crush he knew years earlier. She has a suitcase.
  • A woman plans an exotic holiday on her time off from work with her best friend. Her best friend decides to cancel at the last minute, so, on a whim, the woman asks her coworker to join. They set off on this unexpected journey, but the shared journey is not the only thing they had not expected.
  • A man’s sick and dying mother is being taken care of by an at-home nurse. The character finds out about his mother’s fading health and decides to rush home to be with her, worried and guilty for not having spent time with her in recent months. The nurse and the man’s mother have developed a close relationship, and even though the mother is dying, the nurse keeps her in good humor. After her passing, the nurse and the man do not want to say goodbye to each other.

Whether you are a student required to submit a good story for a writing class, a first-time short story writer looking for inspiration or a seasoned writer stumped with writer’s block, the prompts and story ideas above should help you get a story flowing.

Even if you do not decide to follow through with any of the short story prompts above, attempt writing at least one of them—the more you write, the more skilled you become, so write poorly, write slowly but make sure to keep writing.

“You should write because you love the shape of stories and sentences and the creation of different words on a page. Writing comes from reading, and reading is the best teacher of how to write.” Annie Proulx

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  • Writing Prompts

150+ Story Starters: Creative Sentences To Start A Story

The most important thing about writing is finding a good idea . You have to have a great idea to write a story. You have to be able to see the whole picture before you can start to write it. Sometimes, you might need help with that. Story starters are a great way to get the story rolling. You can use them to kick off a story, start a character in a story or even start a scene in a story.

When you start writing a story, you need to have a hook. A hook can be a character or a plot device. It can also be a setting, something like “A young man came into a bar with a horse.” or a setting like “It was the summer of 1969, and there were no cell phones.” The first sentence of a story is often the hook. It can also be a premise or a situation, such as, “A strange old man in a black cloak was sitting on the train platform.”

Story starters are a way to quickly get the story going. They give the reader a place to start reading your story. Some story starters are obvious, and some are not. The best story starters are the ones that give the reader a glimpse into the story. They can be a part of a story or a part of a scene. They can be a way to show the reader the mood of a story. If you want to start a story, you can use a simple sentence. You can also use a question or an inspirational quote. In this post, we have listed over 150 story starters to get your story started with a bang! A great way to use these story starters is at the start of the Finish The Story game .

If you want more story starters, check out this video on some creative story starter sentences to use in your stories:

150+ Creative Story Starters

Here is a list of good sentences to start a story with:

  • I’ve read about a million stories about princesses but never thought I could ever be one.
  • There was once a man who was very old, but he was wise. He lived for a very long time, and he was very happy.
  • What is the difference between a man and a cat? A cat has nine lives.
  • In the middle of the night, a boy is running through the woods.
  • It is the end of the world.
  • He knew he was not allowed to look into the eyes of the princess, but he couldn’t help himself.
  • The year is 1893. A young boy was running away from home.
  • What if the Forest was actually a magical portal to another dimension, the Forest was a portal to the Otherworld?
  • In the Forest, you will find a vast number of magical beings of all sorts. 
  • It was the middle of the night, and the forest was quiet. No bugs or animals disturbed the silence. There were no birds, no chirping. 
  • If you wish to stay in the Forest, you will need to follow these rules: No one shall leave the Forest. No one shall enter. No one shall take anything from the Forest.
  • “It was a terrible day,” said the old man in a raspy voice.
  • A cat is flying through the air, higher and higher, when it happens, and the cat doesn’t know how it got there, how it got to be in the sky.
  • I was lying in the woods, and I was daydreaming.
  • The Earth is a world of wonders. 
  • The fairy is the most amazing creature I have ever met.
  • A young girl was sitting on a tree stump at the edge of a river when she noticed a magical tree growing in the water.
  • My dancing rat is dressed in a jacket, a tie and glasses, which make him look like a person. 
  • In the darkness of the night, I am alone, but I know that I am not. 
  • Owls are the oldest, and most intelligent, of all birds.
  • My name is Reyna, and I am a fox. 
  • The woman was drowning.
  • One day, he was walking in the forest.
  • It was a dark and stormy night…
  • There was a young girl who could not sleep…
  • A boy in a black cape rode on a white horse…
  • A crazy old man in a black cloak was sitting in the middle of the street…
  • The sun was setting on a beautiful summer day…
  • The dog was restless…”
  • There was a young boy in a brown coat…
  • I met a young man in the woods…
  • In the middle of a dark forest…
  • The young girl was at home with her family…
  • There was a young man who was sitting on a …
  • A young man came into a bar with a horse…
  • I have had a lot of bad dreams…
  • He was a man who wanted to be king…
  • It was the summer of 1969, and there were no cell phones.
  • I know what you’re thinking. But no, I don’t want to be a vegetarian. The worst part is I don’t like the taste.
  • She looked at the boy and decided to ask him why he wasn’t eating. She didn’t want to look mean, but she was going to ask him anyway.
  • The song played on the radio, as Samual wiped away his tears.
  • This was the part when everything was about to go downhill. But it didn’t…
  • “Why make life harder for yourself?” asked Claire, as she bit into her apple.
  • She made a promise to herself that she would never do it.
  • I was able to escape.
  • I was reading a book when the accident happened.
  • “I can’t stand up for people who lie and cheat.” I cried.
  • You look at me and I feel beautiful.
  • I know what I want to be when I grow up.
  • We didn’t have much money. But we knew how to throw a good party.
  • The wind blew on the silent streets of London.
  • What do you get when you cross an angry bee and my sister?
  • The flight was slow and bumpy. I was half asleep when the captain announced we were going down.
  • At the far end of the city was a river that was overgrown with weeds. 
  • It was a quiet night in the middle of a busy week.
  • One afternoon, I was eating a sandwich in the park when I spotted a stranger.
  • In the late afternoon, a few students sat on the lawn reading.
  • The fireflies were dancing in the twilight as the sunset.
  • In the early evening, the children played in the park.
  • The sun was setting and the moon was rising.
  • A crowd gathered in the square as the band played.
  • The top of the water tower shone in the moonlight.
  • The light in the living room was on, but the light in the kitchen was off.
  •  When I was a little boy, I used to make up stories about the adventures of these amazing animals, creatures, and so on. 
  • All of the sudden, I realized I was standing in the middle of an open field surrounded by nothing but wildflowers, and the only thing I remembered about it was that I’d never seen a tree before.
  • It’s the kind of thing that’s only happened to me once before in my life, but it’s so cool to see it.
  • They gave him a little wave as they drove away.
  • The car had left the parking lot, and a few hours later we arrived home.
  • They were going to play a game of bingo.
  • He’d made up his mind to do it. He’d have to tell her soon, though. He was waiting for a moment when they were alone and he could say it without feeling like an idiot. But when that moment came, he couldn’t think of anything to say.
  • Jamie always wanted to own a plane, but his parents were a little tight on the budget. So he’d been saving up to buy one of his own. 
  • The night was getting colder, and the wind was blowing in from the west.
  • The doctor stared down at the small, withered corpse.
  • She’d never been in the woods before, but she wasn’t afraid.
  • The kids were having a great time in the playground.
  • The police caught the thieves red-handed.
  • The world needs a hero more than ever.
  • Mother always said, “Be good and nice things will happen…”
  • There is a difference between what you see and what you think you see.
  • The sun was low in the sky and the air was warm.
  • “It’s time to go home,” she said, “I’m getting a headache.”
  • It was a cold winter’s day, and the snow had come early.
  • I found a wounded bird in my garden.
  • “You should have seen the look on my face.”
  • He opened the door and stepped back.
  • My father used to say, “All good things come to an end.”
  • The problem with fast cars is that they break so easily.
  • “What do you think of this one?” asked Mindy.
  • “If I asked you to do something, would you do it?” asked Jacob.
  • I was surprised to see her on the bus.
  • I was never the most popular one in my class.
  • We had a bad fight that day.
  • The coffee machine had stopped working, so I went to the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea.
  • It was a muggy night, and the air-conditioning unit was so loud it hurt my ears.
  • I had a sleepless night because I couldn’t get my head to turn off.
  • I woke up at dawn and heard a horrible noise.
  • I was so tired I didn’t know if I’d be able to sleep that night.
  • I put on the light and looked at myself in the mirror.
  • I decided to go in, but the door was locked.
  • A man in a red sweater stood staring at a little kitten as if it was on fire.
  • “It’s so beautiful,” he said, “I’m going to take a picture.”
  • “I think we’re lost,” he said, “It’s all your fault.”
  • It’s hard to imagine what a better life might be like
  • He was a tall, lanky man, with a long face, a nose like a pin, and a thin, sandy moustache.
  • He had a face like a lion’s and an eye like a hawk’s.
  • The man was so broad and strong that it was as if a mountain had been folded up and carried in his belly.
  • I opened the door. I didn’t see her, but I knew she was there.
  • I walked down the street. I couldn’t help feeling a little guilty.
  • I arrived at my parents’ home at 8:00 AM.
  • The nurse had been very helpful.
  • On the table was an array of desserts.
  • I had just finished putting the last of my books in the trunk.
  • A car horn honked, startling me.
  • The kitchen was full of pots and pans.
  • There are too many things to remember.
  • The world was my oyster. I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth.
  •  “My grandfather was a World War II veteran. He was a decorated hero who’d earned himself a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart.
  • Beneath the menacing, skeletal shadow of the mountain, a hermit sat on his ledge. His gnarled hands folded on his gnarled knees. His eyes stared blankly into the fog. 
  • I heard a story about a dragon, who was said to be the size of a house, that lived on the top of the tallest mountain in the world.
  •  I was told a story about a man who found a golden treasure, which was buried in this very park.
  • He stood alone in the middle of a dark and silent room, his head cocked to one side, the brown locks of his hair, which were parted in the middle, falling down over his eyes.
  •  Growing up, I was the black sheep of the family. I had my father’s eyes, but my mother’s smile.
  • Once upon a time, there was a woman named Miss Muffett, and she lived in a big house with many rooms.
  • When I was a child, my mother told me that the water looked so bright because the sun was shining on it. I did not understand what she meant at the time.    
  •  The man in the boat took the water bottle and drank from it as he paddled away.
  • The man looked at the child with a mixture of pity and contempt.
  • An old man and his grandson sat in their garden. The old man told his grandson to dig a hole. 
  • An old woman was taking a walk on the beach. The tide was high and she had to wade through the water to get to the other side.
  • She looked up at the clock and saw that it was five minutes past seven.
  • The man looked up from the map he was studying. “How’s it going, mate?”
  • I was in my room on the third floor, staring out of the window.
  • A dark silhouette of a woman stood in the doorway.
  • The church bells began to ring.
  • The moon rose above the horizon.
  • A bright light shone over the road.
  • The night sky began to glow.
  • I could hear my mother cooking in the kitchen.
  • The fog began to roll in.
  • He came in late to the class and sat at the back.
  • A young boy picked up a penny and put it in his pocket.
  • He went to the bathroom and looked at his face in the mirror.
  • It was the age of wisdom and the age of foolishness. We once had everything and now we have nothing.
  • A young man died yesterday, and no one knows why.
  • The boy was a little boy. He was not yet a man. He lived in a house in a big city.
  • They had just returned from the theatre when the phone rang.
  • I walked up to the front of the store and noticed the neon sign was out.
  • I always wondered what happened to Mary.
  • I stopped to say hello and then walked on.
  • The boy’s mother didn’t want him to play outside…
  • The lights suddenly went out…
  • After 10 years in prison, he was finally out.
  • The raindrops pelted the window, which was set high up on the wall, and I could see it was a clear day outside.
  • My friend and I had just finished a large pizza, and we were about to open our second.
  • I love the smell of the ocean, but it never smells as good as it does when the waves are crashing.
  • They just stood there, staring at each other.
  • A party was in full swing until the music stopped.

For more ideas on how to start your story, check out these first-line writing prompts . Did you find this list of creative story starters useful? Let us know in the comments below!

150 Story Starters

Marty the wizard is the master of Imagine Forest. When he's not reading a ton of books or writing some of his own tales, he loves to be surrounded by the magical creatures that live in Imagine Forest. While living in his tree house he has devoted his time to helping children around the world with their writing skills and creativity.

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The Best Short Story Collections That Keep You Reading

Which of these captivating collections will you be picking up next?

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Short story collections offer the perfect medium for fiction writers to craft compelling, affecting narratives that simply may not warrant a full-length novel to explore the ideas. The short story collection’s compact form delivers concise, impactful ideas and can free authors to explore a multitude of themes, characters, story arcs and styles within a single collection. Collections of short fiction have allowed writers like Edgar Allen Poe, Flannery O’Connor and James Baldwin to experiment with different tones, voices and plot devices while providing readers with gripping but approachable standalone stories.

These 8 short story collections are extremely readable, cover a variety of genres and authors and may give you a newfound appreciation of writers you already love.

Homesick For Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh

a ring with a person's face on it

From one of the most compelling, propulsive voices in contemporary fiction, Moshfegh’s 2017 short story collection is an eclectic compendium of some of her best fiction work—much of which was previously published in places like The Paris Review , The New Yorker and Vice . Exceedingly atmospheric and permeated with Moshfegh’s hallmark sordid wit, Homesick For Another World interrogates the ubiquitous afflictions of the human condition and our capacity for cruelty through the collection’s generally amoral, misanthropic protagonists. A highly anticipated follow-up to Moshfegh’s breakout debut novel Eileen , Homesick was later named a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 2017 and drew innumerable comparisons to the work of renowned authors like Mary Gaitskill and Flannery O’Connor.

Earth Angel by Madeline Cash

a lizard on a woman's head

An electric debut from author Madeline Cash, Earth Angel is a collection of short stories that rockets through the reader’s imagination like a fever dream. Teeming with chimeric vignettes synthesizing the mundanely sinister realities of a capitalist culture with cataclysmic doomsday tropes, Earth Angel manages to be both endlessly funny and deeply poignant without feeling didactic. Cash both parodies and embraces the myopic stylings dominating popular fiction in a way that never feels malicious, but rather like the playful ribbing of a writer that refuses to take herself too seriously. Irreverent, compelling and laugh-out-loud funny, Earth Angel marks the emergence of one of contemporary fiction’s most exciting new figures.

Bliss Montage by Ling Ma

calendar

A surrealist collection from Severance author Ling Ma, Bliss Montage marks Ma’s first published short story collection after her phenomenal debut novel (which has no relation to the recent Apple TV+ series, by the way). Uncanny, otherworldly and above all evocative— Bliss Montage contains eight wildly different stories each touching on universal themes of the human experience against phantasmagoric, though eerily familiar backdrops. Ranging from a tale of two friends bonded by their shared use of a drug that turns you invisible to the story of a tourist caught up in a fatalistic healing ritual, Ma’s unforgettable collection manages to be both ingeniously unique and undoubtedly universal at once. Somehow both outlandish and quotidian, Bliss Montage keeps readers wrapped up in Ma’s captivating prose from start to end.

Daddy by Emma Cline

a person lying on a train

A thrilling examination of unspoken power structures (predominantly male power in a patriarchal society), Daddy by Emma Cline offers glimpses into the unexamined lives of each story's protagonist, often playfully alluding to, but never explicitly pointing to, a certain moral paradigm. Fraught familial dynamics, imbalanced romantic relationships and moral nuance permeate Cline’s collection, and each story offers a taste of her infectious prose and incisive style. The ten stories on offer often end achingly realistically, rejecting a tidy, personally gratifying ending—making each story appear as a certain tableau harkening to an idea rather than a traditional beginning, middle and end. Suspenseful, richly descriptive and engrossing—Cline’s collection begs to be devoured.

Skeleton Crew by Stephen King

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First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami

diagram

First published in July 2020, First Person Singular is a collection of eight short stories each told from, you guessed it, the first-person singular perspective. Written by Japanese author Haruki Murakami, First Person Singular explores themes of nostalgia and lost love through stories from the perspective of mostly unnamed, middle-aged male protagonists believed to be based largely on the author himself, though some are more fantastical than others. Ranging from slice-of-life stories wherein the narrator reminisces on a past relationship, to the tale of a monkey doomed to fall in love with human women, the stories employ a myriad of hallmark Murakami techniques like magical realism, music, nostalgia and aging.

The Houseguest and Other Stories by Amparo Dávila

a green and pink bag

The first collection by beloved Mexican author Amparo Dávila to be translated into English, The Houseguest is a collection of 12 short stories touching on themes of obsession, paranoia and fear primarily featuring female protagonists and narrators. Often compared to horror writers like Edgar Allen Poe and Shirley Jackson, Dávila’s writing often deals with abstract feelings of dread and paranoia, imbuing them with magical realism to craft jarring, transfixing narratives that seem both eerily familiar and preternatural. Each tale menaced by an unseen, pernicious force, Dávila’s writing revels in its ambiguity with no straightforward answers. The Houseguest is an anxiety-inducing page-turner which will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

text, letter

Though technically a short story cycle (a collection of self-contained short stories arranged to convey a concept or theme greater than the sum of its atomized parts), Olive Kitteridge consists of 13 stories each taking place in the fictional town of Crosby, Maine. The stories predominantly center on Olive Kitteridge, a brusque but caring retired school teacher and longtime resident of Crosby. Other stories show Olive only as a secondary character or in a cameo capacity and are from the point of view of other townsfolk. Winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the collection was later adapted into a critically acclaimed miniseries starring Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins, Zoe Kazan and Bill Murray. Profound, heartbreaking and human, Olive Kitteridge is an unforgettable first-read that will still impact you even if you watched the miniseries before.

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Curtis Brown Creative (CBC) is expanding its Zoom courses, with Writing Short Stories – Advanced, taught by 2023 BBC Short Story Award winner Naomi Wood.  

It will take 15 students and last for nine weeks. Students will also attend two exclusive Zoom masterclasses: one with Deborah Treisman, fiction editor for the New Yorker , and one with Kevin Barry, short story writer and Booker Prize-longlisted author, and his literary agent, C&W’s Lucy Luck. At the end of the course, the CBC team will help students submit their stories formally to the agents at Curtis Brown and C&W.   

The new course is the latest in CBC’s range of online courses with interactive Zoom teaching sessions. CBC said it has increased its online offering four-fold in the past three years and now runs over 40 online courses for writers of all levels of experience, supported by its bespoke learning platform, which was updated and relaunched in 2023.  

Jennifer Kerslake, head of courses/editor at CBC, said: “I love reading short stories – the very best carry such an astonishing, powerful charge – and I am delighted we’re launching this new online course with Naomi Wood, whose brilliantly sharp and funny ‘Comorbidities’ won the BBC Short Story Award last year . We also have three incredible special guests – Kevin Barry, Lucy Luck and Deborah Treisman – providing insight and expertise. It’s set to be a really exciting course, and I can’t wait to start reading applications and to welcome 15 talented emerging writers to their first Zoom workshop with us in April.” 

Applicants to Writing Short Stories – Advanced are invited to submit a short story or extract from a piece of short fiction of up to 3,000 words by 24th March 2024. The course costs £1,100. CBC is also providing a scholarship place. The Breakthrough Scholarship for Short Story Writers with Low Income will award one talented writer a free place on the course. The course will run from 24th April to 19th June. 

More information is available here . 

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Latest issue, 9th february 2024.

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Meet the 2024 Writing Freedom Fellows

By Jim Plank / February 13 2024

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NEW VIDEO COURSE 🎉

How to Write a Novel

Join Tom Bromley for a writing master class and finish your first draft in 3 months . Learn more →

✍️ 100+ Creative Writing Exercises for Fiction Authors

This curated directory of creative writing exercises was conceived thanks to a collaboration between the top writing blogs of 2024. Use the filters to find and practice specific techniques — and show that blank page who’s boss!

We found 119 exercises that match your search 🔦

The Hammer and the Hatchet

A stranger walks into the general store and buys a hammer, a hatchet, some rope, and an apple. What does he do with them?

Writer's Block

Picket fence.

Describe your house - or the dream house you hope to get some day.

Telephone Directory

It is commonly known that a telephone directory might be the most boring text in the entire world. Here is your challenge: write a page of a telephone directory and figure out SOME way to make it interesting.

short creative writing story

NEW VIDEO COURSE

Your story matters. Unlock your potential with daily video lessons from bestselling ghostwriter Tom Bromley, and finish your first draft in just 3 months. Learn more →

Pick a fiction book from your shelf. Go to page eight and find the eighth sentence on the page. Start with that sentence and write an eight-line poem that connects in some way to your work-in-progress. For instance, write from the POV of a character, or set the poem in a story setting. Don't worry about poetry forms. Just write eight lines of any length that flow and explore some aspect of character, setting, or theme.

  • Why are you grumpy? I have a hangover.
  • Why do you have a hangover? My friend was in a bad accident and I thought he might die?
  • Why did you think he might die? His girlfriend lied to me about how serious the accident was.
  • Why did she lie about that? She's jealous of our relationship.
  • Why? I think she's insecure and has trust issues.

Character Development

The ellen degeneres show.

A talk show is scripted to promote the guest and discuss topics with which the guest is comfortable. Imagine your protagonist on the Ellen Degeneres Show (or The Late Show With Stephen Colbert - whichever show you're familiar with). What questions would be asked of your protagonist? What funny anecdotes would your protagonist share? Write down the reactions of both your protagonist and the host.

  • You could say it began with a phone call."
  • Michael had watched them both for weeks."
  • She remembered the way it was the first time she saw the prison."
  • Midsummer, no time to be in New Orleans."
  • With the dawn came the light."

Thank you to all our contributors: Almost An Author, Alyssa Hollingsworth, Anne R. Allen, Bang2Write, Christopher Fielden, Darcy Pattinson, Elizabeth S. Craig, Flogging The Quill, Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips, Helping Writers Become Authors, Katie McCoach, Lauren Carter, Insecure Writer’s Support Group, Mandy Wallace, NaNoWriMo, Nail Your Novel, Novel Publicity, One Stop For Writers, Pro Writing Aid, PsychWriter, re:Fiction, The Journal, The Writer’s Workshop, Well-Storied, Women On Writing, writing.ie, Writing-World.com!

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short creative writing story

The Brick Lane Bookshop Short Story Prize 2024

Competition Information

Category: original short fiction by writers without previous publication.

Word Count: between 1000 and 5000 words

IMAGES

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COMMENTS

  1. Top 100 Short Story Ideas

    by Joe Bunting | 607 Comments Do you want to write but just need a great story idea? Or perhaps you have too many ideas and can't choose the best one? Well, good news. We've got you covered. Below are one hundred short story ideas for all your favorite genres.

  2. 1800+ Creative Writing Prompts To Inspire You Right Now

    Angst - 45 stories Write a story about a grown-up sharing their favorite childhood video game with their child. Funny - 17 stories Write a time-travel story where a character from the present finds themselves in the 80s or 90s. Historical Fiction - 36 stories

  3. 200+ Short Story Ideas… And How to Brainstorm Your Own!

    200+ Short Story Ideas… And How to Brainstorm Your Own! ️ 200+ Short Story Ideas (and How to Come Up With Your Own) Are you ready to write but don't know what to write about? Prepare to kick your writing into gear by browsing through our list of 200+ short story ideas. New prompts are added each week, and you can search by genre.

  4. Short Stories

    Single by Finlay John of Wyedean School. This was one of two shortlisted stories in our schools' competition, July 2020. It was another day walking down the road for Mitsuki. The wind softly brushed her hair as she walked home alone. She was independent and self-reliant. Her eyes invited friendships, but she never allowed them.

  5. 104 Short Story Prompts (Genius Story Ideas For Writers)

    104 Short Story Prompts (Genius Story Ideas For Writers) 104 Of The Best Short Story Ideas And Prompts To Grab Your Readers November 3, 2023 by Barrie Davenport So, you want to write a short story — and not just a mildly entertaining short story but one your readers can't put down until they've finished it.

  6. How to Write a Short Story: The Short Story Checklist

    Of course, short stories also utilize the elements of fiction, such as a setting, plot, and point of view. It helps to study these elements and to understand their intricacies. But, when it comes to laying down the skeleton of a short story, the above elements are what you need to get started. Note: a short story rarely, if ever, has subplots.

  7. How to Write a Short Story in 9 Simple Steps

    How to write a short story: 1. Know what a short story is versus a novel 2. Pick a simple, central premise 3. Build a small but distinct cast of characters 4. Begin writing close to the end 5. Shut out your internal editor 6. Finish the first draft 7. Edit the short story 8. Share the story with beta readers 9.

  8. Take risks and tell the truth: how to write a great short story

    Short stories This article is more than 2 years old Take risks and tell the truth: how to write a great short story Drawing on writers from Anton Chekhov to Kit de Waal, Donal Ryan explores...

  9. How to Write a Short Story from Start to Finish

    A Preview of My How to Write a Short Story Series. My goal in this blog series is to walk you through the process of writing a short story from start to finish and then point you in the right direction for getting that story published. By the end of this series, you'll have a story ready to submit to publishers and a plan for how to submit.

  10. Short Story Ideas and Creative Writing Prompts

    Use our free worksheet to develop your story plot. Our online writing course Irresistible Fiction will show you how to write stories people can't put down. Click here for a list of CWN pages with creative writing prompts and short story ideas. "I am so enjoying the course.

  11. 121 Short Story Prompts to help You Write Unforgettable Stories

    1. A thief attempts to steal a magical object from a powerful wizard's tower but is caught and forced to make a deal to avoid imprisonment. 2. A young woman inherits a cursed ring from her grandmother and must decide whether to keep it and its power or destroy it and break the curse. 3.

  12. How to Write a Short Story: Step-by-Step Guide

    Short stories are a form of narrative writing that has all the same elements as novels—plot, character development, point of view, story structure, theme—but are delivered in fewer words. For many writers, short stories are a less daunting way to dive into creative writing than attempting to write a novel.

  13. Short Story Writing For Beginners

    Step 4: List your ideas at the end of your document and start writing. Transfer your best ideas, plot points, pieces of dialogue or other phrases to the bottom of your document. Now it's time to write. At this point, you probably have an image in your mind as to how you want to start off your story. Go from there.

  14. Fun-tastic! 330 Short Story Writing Prompts to Inspire

    Creative Short Story Writing Prompts, Topics, and Tips For Kids and All Writers — Oh yeah! Writing a creative short story can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start. One of the best ways to kick-start your creativity is by using writing prompts. Yes!

  15. 100+ Epic Short Story Ideas That'll Inspire Your Own in 2024

    100 Short Story Ideas That'll Capture Your Imagination. From mysteries that raise goosebumps to tender tales of love, there's no end to the creative ideas waiting to be penned. Below, we've handpicked a plethora of great short story ideas across varied book genres to kickstart your writing journey and tackle writers block.

  16. 100 Creative Writing Prompts for Writers

    100 Creative Writing Prompts for Writers 1. The Variants of Vampires. Think of an alternative vampire that survives on something other than blood. Write a story or scene based on this character. 2. Spinning the Globe. Imagine that a character did the old spin the globe and see where to take your next vacation trick.

  17. The 35 Best Short Story Prompts That Will Surely Inspire You To Write

    Short Story Ideas and Writing Prompts to Help You Get Started. ... More Creative Writing Prompts. We have included some genre-specific short story ideas below, including fantasy, science fiction, and romance. Even if these are not your go-to genres, it is worth checking them out. In attempting to write one of the following, you may find ...

  18. 222+ Short Story Writing Prompts

    A short story writing prompt is a topic, idea, or starting point that helps kick-start your creative writing process. These prompts can be a single word, a sentence, a question, or even a dialogue. They serve to inspire and guide you to write a short story. How do I use a writing prompt? You can use a writing prompt as the main theme or central ...

  19. How to Write a Short Story: Your Ultimate Step-by Step Guide

    1 - You learn the skill of showing. Short story writers have a challenge that requires some patience to overcome, but it's worth it. When you only have a few pages to hook readers, paint a clear picture of the main character, and tell a story, you end up mastering the skill of showing instead of telling.

  20. 4290+ Creative Nonfiction Short Stories to read

    This letter isn't to you, the band. This letter is for the band's front man.My apologies. Let's start over.Dear Chris Martin,I love you. But we need to break up.You don't know me, Chris. We've never met. You grazed my hands at a concert once, but I'm told that doesn't count.

  21. 40 Short Story Prompts You Can Write in a Day

    Short stories usually range from 2,000 words to about 8,000 words, with longer ones reaching as many as 20,000 words. When done well, writers can even make money writing short stories. This means that whatever idea you come up with for a short story, you need to be able to tell it succinctly.

  22. Short Story Workshop: Write a Riveting, Stylish, Singular Short Story

    Writing a good short story involves a steady hand with suspense, close attention to language, a near-obsessive grasp of detail, and an underlying yet palpable sense of direction. All characters want things—love, sex, money, Cheez-Its—and a particular character's search for that thing, those things, forms the basis of plot.

  23. 150+ Story Starters: Creative Opening Lines (+Free Generator)

    62+ Story Starters For Creative Writing - Inspiration OVERLOAD!! 🤯 150+ Creative Story Starters Here is a list of good sentences to start a story with: I've read about a million stories about princesses but never thought I could ever be one. There was once a man who was very old, but he was wise.

  24. The Best Short Story Collections That Keep You Reading

    The short story collection's compact form delivers concise, impactful ideas and can free authors to explore a multitude of themes, characters, story arcs and styles within a single collection ...

  25. Curtis Brown Creative launches new short story writing course on Zoom

    Curtis Brown Creative (CBC) is expanding its Zoom courses, with Writing Short Stories - Advanced, taught by 2023 BBC Short Story Award winner Naomi Wood. It will take 15 students and last for ...

  26. Meet the 2024 Writing Freedom Fellows

    Haymarket Books and the Mellon Foundation are thrilled to announce the inaugural cohort of the Writing Freedom Fellowship, an opportunity to support emerging and established poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers impacted by carceral systems. The Writing Freedom Fellowship aims to recognize and elevate the voices of system-impacted writers. The fellowship's first cohort ...

  27. ️ 100+ Creative Writing Exercises for Fiction Authors

    Eight. Pick a fiction book from your shelf. Go to page eight and find the eighth sentence on the page. Start with that sentence and write an eight-line poem that connects in some way to your work-in-progress. For instance, write from the POV of a character, or set the poem in a story setting. Don't worry about poetry forms.

  28. The Brick Lane Bookshop Short Story Prize 2024 » Creative Writing Ink

    The Brick Lane Bookshop Short Story Prize 2024 Category: original short fiction by writers without previous publication. Word Count: between 1000 and 5000 words Prizes: - First Prize is £1,000 - Second Prize is £500 - Third Prize is £250 The three prize winners will each receive a development meeting with a member of the