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How to Write a Short Story: The Short Story Checklist

Rosemary Tantra Bensko and Sean Glatch  |  November 17, 2023  |  6 Comments

how to write a short story

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!

writing stories

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.

' src=

“ 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 […]

' src=

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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Craft Your Own Short Story: The Complete Guide

Last Updated: January 25, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Lucy V. Hay . Lucy V. Hay is a Professional Writer based in London, England. With over 20 years of industry experience, Lucy is an author, script editor, and award-winning blogger who helps other writers through writing workshops, courses, and her blog Bang2Write. Lucy is the producer of two British thrillers, and Bang2Write has appeared in the Top 100 round-ups for Writer’s Digest & The Write Life and is a UK Blog Awards Finalist and Feedspot’s #1 Screenwriting blog in the UK. She received a B.A. in Scriptwriting for Film & Television from Bournemouth University. There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 4,687,762 times.

For many writers, the short story is the perfect medium. It is a refreshing activity. For many, it is as natural as breathing is to lungs. While writing a novel can be a Herculean task, just about anybody can craft—and, most importantly, finish —a short story. Writing a novel can be a tiresome task, but writing a short story, it's not the same. A short story includes setting, plot, character and message. Like a novel, a good short story will thrill and entertain your reader. With some brainstorming, drafting, and polishing, you can learn how to write a successful short story in no time. And the greatest benefit is that you can edit it frequently until you are satisfied.

Sample Short Stories

writing stories

Brainstorming Ideas

Step 1 Come up with a plot or scenario.

  • For example, you can start with a simple plot like your main character has to deal with bad news or your main character gets an unwanted visit from a friend or family member.
  • You can also try a more complicated plot like your main character wakes up in a parallel dimension or your main character discovers someone else's deep dark secret.

Step 2 Focus on a complicated main character.

Making Characters that Pop: Finding Inspiration: Characters are all around you. Spend some time people-watching in a public place, like a mall or busy pedestrian street. Make notes about interesting people you see and think about how you could incorporate them into your story. You can also borrow traits from people you know. Crafting a Backstory: Delve into your main character’s past experiences to figure out what makes them tick. What was the lonely old man like as a child? Where did he get that scar on his hand? Even if you don’t include these details in the story, knowing your character deeply will help them ring true. Characters Make the Plot: Create a character who makes your plot more interesting and complicated. For example, if your character is a teenage girl who really cares about her family, you might expect her to protect her brother from school bullies. If she hates her brother, though, and is friends with his bullies, she’s conflicted in a way that makes your plot even more interesting.

Step 3 Create a central conflict for the main character.

  • For example, maybe your main character has a desire or want that they have a hard time fulfilling. Or perhaps your main character is trapped in a bad or dangerous situation and must figure out how to stay alive.

Step 4 Pick an interesting setting.

Tips on Crafting a Setting: Brainstorming descriptions: Write the down names of your settings, such as “small colony on Mars” or “the high school baseball field.” Visualize each place as vividly as you can and jot down whatever details come into your head. Set your characters down there and picture what they might do in this place. Thinking about your plot: Based on your characters and the arc of your plot, where does your story need to take place? Make your setting a crucial part of your story, so that your readers couldn’t imagine it anywhere else. For example, if your main character is a man who gets into a car crash, setting the story in a small town in the winter creates a plausible reason for the crash (black ice), plus an added complication (now he’s stranded in the cold with a broken car). Don’t overload the story. Using too many settings might confuse your reader or make it hard for them to get into the story. Using 1-2 settings is usually perfect for a short story.

Step 5 Think about a particular theme.

  • You can also focus on a more specific theme like “love between siblings,” “desire for friendship” or “loss of a parent.”

Step 6 Plan an emotional climax.

  • For example, you may have an emotional climax where your main character, a lonely elderly man, has to confront his neighbor about his illegal activity. Or you may have an emotional climax where the main character, a young teenage girl, stands up for her brother against school bullies.

Step 7 Think of an ending with a twist or surprise.

Creating a Satisfying Ending: Try out a few different endings. Outline a few different endings you could use. Visualize each option and see which ones feel more natural, surprising, or fulfilling. It’s okay if you don’t find the right ending right away—it’s one of the hardest parts of the story to write! How do you want your readers to feel when they finish? Your ending is the last impression you’ll leave on your reader. How will they feel if your characters succeed, fail, or land somewhere in the middle? For example, if your main character decides to stand up to her brother’s bullies but gets scared at the last second, the readers will leave feeling like she still has a lot of soul-searching to do. Stay away from cliches. Make sure you avoid gimmick endings, where you rely on familiar plot twists to surprise your reader. If your ending feels familiar or even boring, challenge yourself to make it more difficult for your characters.

Step 8 Read examples of short stories.

  • “The Lady with the Dog” by Anton Chekhov [7] X Research source
  • “Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You” by Alice Munro
  • “For Esme-With Love and Squalor" by J.D. Salinger [8] X Research source
  • “A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury [9] X Research source
  • “Snow, Glass, Apples” by Neil Gaiman
  • "Brokeback Mountain” by Annie Proulx [10] X Research source
  • “Wants” by Grace Paley
  • “Apollo” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • “This is How You Lose Her” by Junot Diaz
  • “Seven” by Edwidge Danticat

Creating a First Draft

Step 1 Make a plot outline.

  • You can also try the snowflake method, where you have a one-sentence summary, a one-paragraph summary, a synopsis of all the characters in the story, and a spreadsheet of scenes.

Step 2 Create an engaging opening.

  • For example, an opening line like: “I was lonely that day” does not tell your reader much about the narrator and is not unusual or engaging.
  • Instead, try an opening line like: “The day after my wife left me, I rapped on the neighbor’s door to ask if she had any sugar for a cake I wasn’t going to bake.” This line gives the reader a past conflict, the wife leaving, and tension in the present between the narrator and the neighbor.

Step 3 Stick to one point of view.

  • Some stories are written in second person, where the narrator uses “you.” This is usually only done if the second person is essential to the narrative, such as in Ted Chiang’s short story, “Story of Your Life” or Junot Diaz’s short story, “This is How You Lose Her.”
  • Most short stories are written in the past tense, though you can use the present tense if you’d like to give the story more immediacy.

Step 4 Use dialogue to reveal character and further the plot.

Quick Dialogue Tips: Develop a voice for each character. Your characters are all unique, so all of their dialogue will sound a little different. Experiment to see what voice sounds right for each character. For example, one character might greet a friend by saying, “Hey girl, what’s up?”, while another might say, “Where have you been? I haven’t seen you in ages.” Use different dialogue tags—but not too many. Sprinkle descriptive dialogue tags, like “stammered” or “shouted,” throughout your story, but don’t make them overwhelming. You can continue to use “said,” in some situations, choosing a more descriptive tag when the scene really needs it.

Step 5 Include sensory details about the setting.

  • For example, you may describe your old high school as “a giant industrial-looking building that smells of gym socks, hair spray, lost dreams, and chalk.” Or you may describe the sky by your house as “a blank sheet covered in thick, gray haze from wildfires that crackled in the nearby forest in the early morning.”

Step 6 End with a realization or revelation.

  • You can also end on an interesting image or dialogue that reveals a character change or shift.
  • For example, you may end your story when your main character decides to turn in their neighbor, even if that means losing them as a friend. Or you may end your story with the image of your main character helping her bloodied brother walk home, just in time for dinner.

Polishing the Draft

Step 1 Read the short story out loud.

  • Notice if your story follows your plot outline and that there is a clear conflict for your main character.
  • Reading the story aloud can also help you catch any spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors.

Step 2 Revise the short story for clarity and flow.

Parts to Delete: Unnecessary description: Include just enough description to show the readers the most important characteristics of a place, a character, or an object while contributing to the story’s overall tone. If you have to clip out a particularly beautiful description, write it down and save it—you may be able to use in another story! Scenes that don’t move the plot forward: If you think a scene might not be necessary to the plot, try crossing it out and reading through the scenes before and after it. If the story still flows well and makes sense, you can probably delete the scene. Characters that don’t serve a purpose: You might have created a character to make a story seem realistic or to give your main character someone to talk to, but if that character isn’t important to the plot, they can probably be cut or merged into another character. Look carefully at a character’s extra friends, for example, or siblings who don’t have much dialogue.

Step 3 Come up with an interesting title.

  • For example, the title “Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You” by Alice Munro is a good one because it is a quote from a character in the story and it addresses the reader directly, where the “I” has something to share with readers.
  • The title “Snow, Apple, Glass” by Neil Gaiman is also a good one because it presents three objects that are interesting on their own, but even more interesting when placed together in one story.

Step 4 Let others read and critique the short story.

  • You can also join a writing group and submit your short story for a workshop. Or you may start your own writing group with friends so you can all workshop each other’s stories.
  • Once you get feedback from others, you should then revise the short story again so it is at its best draft.

Community Q&A

Community Answer

You Might Also Like

Freewrite

  • ↑ https://www.writersdigest.com/there-are-no-rules/how-to-brainstorm-give-your-brain-free-rein
  • ↑ https://blog.reedsy.com/character-development/
  • ↑ http://www.nownovel.com/blog/how-to-write-a-short-story/
  • ↑ https://www.masterclass.com/articles/understanding-story-setting
  • ↑ https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-develop-a-theme-for-your-story
  • ↑ https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/102799.50_Best_Short_Stories_of_All_Time
  • ↑ https://www.grammarly.com/blog/need-a-pick-me-up-5-best-short-stories-of-all-time/
  • ↑ http://www.listchallenges.com/the-50-best-short-stories-of-all-time
  • ↑ https://writers.com/freytags-pyramid/
  • ↑ https://writingcooperative.com/how-to-write-a-short-story-17c615853bf2

About This Article

Lucy V. Hay

If you want to write a short story, first decide on the central conflict for your story, then create a main character who deals with that problem, and decide whether they will interact with anyone else. Next, decide when and where your story will take place. Next, make a plot outline, with a climax and a resolution, and use that outline to create your first draft, telling the whole story without worrying about making it perfect. Read the short story out loud to yourself to help with proofreading and revision. To learn more about how to add details to your story and come up with an interesting title, keep reading the article! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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How to Write a Story: 10 Tips for Writing Stories

Hannah Yang headshot

Hannah Yang

how to write a story

Everyone has a story to tell.

It might be a real-world story that changed your life, like a meaningful experience you had when you were a child.

Or it might be a fictional story spun entirely from your own imagination, like a fantasy novel or a rom-com screenplay.

No matter what kinds of stories you’re hoping to write, there are certain storytelling principles that can help you communicate your tale in a powerful and convincing way.

In this article, we’ll give you our top ten tips for how to write a story that resonates with readers.

What Is a Story?

10 tips for how to write a story that resonates, conclusion on how to write a story.

We all know what a story is. After all, we encounter stories every day.

We consume stories in books, movies, newspapers, advertisements, and songs. We hear real-world stories from our friends, family members, and coworkers.

The dictionary definition of a story is “an account of imaginary or real people and events.” But we all know there’s more to it than that.

One particularly powerful definition is from John Truby’s book The Anatomy of Story. Truby writes, “A speaker tells a listener what someone did to get what he wanted and why.”

From this definition, you can see that stories are fundamentally driven by their characters. A laundry list of events that happened doesn’t really feel like a story—the chain of events only becomes a story when you understand the “why” that caused those events.

When we consume stories, we learn about how different people handle different circumstances. Stories can entertain us, teach us, and help us relate to new ideas and experiences.

Different Types of Stories

There are so many different types of stories, and they can be classified in several different ways. Here are a few examples:

  • Fiction vs nonfiction: Some stories are made up while others are based on real-world events
  • Format: Stories can be told in different formats, such as novels, short stories, flash fiction, plays, movies, songs, television shows, and more
  • Genre: Stories can be classified by genre, such as romance, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and more
  • Style: Stories can have many different styles, such as realist, romantic, or modernist
  • Point of view: Stories can be told from different points of view, such as first person (told from the perspective of a character in the story) or third person (told from the perspective of an outside observer)

One story can belong to several different categories at the same time. For example, a true crime TV show counts as nonfiction, belongs to the crime genre, and fits the TV show format.

Now that we’ve discussed what a story is, it’s time to learn how to write a good one. Here are our top ten tips for writing a great story.

Tip 1: Start with an Idea that Excites You

If you’re not excited about your story idea, no one else will be, either.

Besides, it’s much easier to write a good story if you’re passionate about your story ideas. The story writing process often takes several months or even several years, so you need enough motivation to keep you going.

When you have an initial idea, make it even stronger by emphasizing the parts of it that excite you.

Which parts of the story idea hook you in? Is it the character arc of someone who has to learn an important lesson? Is it a beautiful or unique setting? Is it an intense or thrilling conflict?

At the same time, look for any aspects of the idea that don’t excite you so you can strengthen or remove them. Can you make the conflict more exciting? Can you choose a more interesting setting?

The more excited you feel when you start writing, the more likely you’ll be able to finish the writing process with a story that you love.

Tip 2: Know Your Audience

Your favorite movie might not be your grandma’s favorite movie.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that either you or your grandma have bad taste in movies—it just means that different stories appeal to different audiences. In fact, it’s impossible to find a story that everyone in the world likes.

When you’re telling a story, it’s important to figure out your target audience and what they want to see.

How old is your ideal reader? What topics and philosophical questions do they find interesting? How long is their attention span? Which novels, films, and TV shows do they enjoy?

Knowing the audience you’re writing for can help you make the right choices, such as deciding what tone to use and how long to make your story.

Tip 3: Develop Your Characters

Character development is essential in fiction writing.

Take the time to think about your characters’ personalities, motivations, goals, and fears. You need readers to relate to your characters and to feel invested in what happens to them.

You should know what each character wants and why they desire it before you even begin to write the first draft. What is it that each character desires most in the world? What do they fear the most?

Remember that each character sees themselves as the main character of their own story, even if they’re just a side character in the story you’re writing. Make sure they all have their own goals and motivations, and keep those goals in mind as you’re writing the story.

Tip 4: Establish a High-Stakes Conflict

A good story needs conflict to create tension and keep the reader engaged.

Many amateur writers assume that the word “conflict” refers to bad things happening to the main character, but conflict is actually much more specific than that. You can’t just throw in a bad hair day and call it conflict.

The real meaning of conflict is any obstacle that the main character faces while trying to achieve their goals.

For example, if there are no goals involved, a bad hair day is just a bad hair day. But if the main character is a fashion model trying to land a lucrative modeling job, and they need their hair to look good in order to get the job, then the bad hair day becomes a real conflict.

If your conflict doesn’t feel interesting enough, you can raise the stakes. Maybe the character needs to get the modeling job so she can afford to pay for her dad’s heart surgery. Now, the bad hair day matters much more than it did before because her dad’s life could be at risk if she fails.

The higher the stakes are, the stronger the conflict will be, and the more invested the reader will feel.

There are seven types of conflict: character vs character, character vs self, character vs society, character vs fate, character vs nature, character vs supernatural, and character vs technology.

Tip 5: Choose a Compelling Setting

The setting of your story can help you create the right atmosphere.

On a large scale, your setting might refer to the country your characters live in and the decade the story is set in.

On a smaller scale, your setting might refer to the specific apartment your character lives in and the time of day a scene takes place.

The more unique you can make your setting, the more interesting the rest of the story will become. For example, a conversation that happens in a coffeeshop in the middle of the afternoon might feel more interesting if it takes place in a cemetery at night, even if it’s the exact same conversation.

You can even treat the setting as a character in its own right. For example, in horror stories that include a haunted house, the house often acts as an antagonist with its own desires and goals.

Tip 6: Show, Don’t Tell

The renowned Russian novelist Anton Chekhov once said: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining. Show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

If you “tell” someone about what’s happening in your story, they’ll simply understand a summary of the story.

On the other hand, if you “show” someone the story through actions, sensations, and other descriptive language, they’ll feel like they experienced that event alongside the characters.

Showing has a lot of benefits. It can engross your readers, convey more depth, and make your story feel more immersive.

If you’re not sure how to follow the “show, don’t tell” rule, start by trying to use all five senses when describing your scene. What is the main character seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and touching?

ProWritingAid’s Sensory Report can help you make sure you’re using all five senses in your writing. The tool highlights words that relate to the senses, such as “bitter” for taste or “silence” for sound, so you can see how well you’re “showing” instead of “telling.”

ProWritingAid detecting sensory words

Tip 7: Learn Story Structure

Different formats of stories have different structures. For example, many plays, films, and novels follow a three-act structure that suggests placing specific plot points, or “story beats,” at specific points in the story.

If you’re writing a short story, on the other hand, you have much less room, so you don’t need to hit a lot of different story beats to create a story arc. Most of the time, you only need two major story beats: the inciting incident and the climax.

You don’t necessarily need to create a story outline in advance if you don’t enjoy the outlining process. However, you do need to understand how to create a satisfying story arc.

A great way to start learning story structure is by studying three-act structure, because it’s a simple option that follows your intuitive understanding of a story’s beginning, middle, and end.

Tip 8: Explore a Thematic Question

Many stories raise interesting philosophical questions.

You can explore your theme through your protagonist’s character arc by having them struggle with that question throughout the movie.

For example, the protagonist of the movie Whiplash is Miles Teller, an aspiring jazz musician at a prestigious music conservatory. Miles struggles with the question of whether the pursuit of greatness is worth sacrificing his happiness.

You can also explore themes by having different characters in your story represent different answers to a thematic question.

In Whiplash , the maestro of Miles’ jazz band abuses his students both physically and emotionally to try to make them great. Meanwhile, Miles’ father is an engineer who seems content with living a boring, unremarkable life, and discourages Miles from pushing himself too hard.

You can use themes to make your story resonate more deeply with readers.

Tip 9: Use Subtext to Add Depth

Subtext refers to a hidden or less obvious meaning within your creative work, rather than what’s announced explicitly on the page.

In real life, we rarely say exactly what we mean. All our interactions have subtext underneath the surface.

For example, you might say, “I’m fine” when what you really mean is, “I’m extremely annoyed, but I’m too polite to say so.” Or you might say, “I’m fine” when what you really mean is, “I’m a little sad, but I don’t want to talk about it right now.”

The same should be true for the characters in your stories. Think about what they’re leaving unsaid, and try to convey that through subtextual clues like body language and emotional tells.

Using subtext can help add depth to your story and make your writing feel more nuanced and realistic.

Tip 10: Edit and Revise Your Work

A good story often requires multiple drafts and revisions to get it just right. Don’t be afraid to cut or change things that aren’t working.

You can ask friends and writing partners for feedback on your story to see if they have suggestions for how to revise.

A grammar checker can also help you revise your story more efficiently. You can use ProWritingAid to catch mistakes, improve your sentence structure, search for clichés, and more.

There you have it—our top ten tips for writing a great story, whether it’s a novel, a screenplay, or something else entirely.

Check out our article on how to start writing a book if you need more ideas.

Good luck, and happy writing!

writing stories

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Hannah Yang is a speculative fiction writer who writes about all things strange and surreal. Her work has appeared in Analog Science Fiction, Apex Magazine, The Dark, and elsewhere, and two of her stories have been finalists for the Locus Award. Her favorite hobbies include watercolor painting, playing guitar, and rock climbing. You can follow her work on hannahyang.com, or subscribe to her newsletter for publication updates.

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August 29, 2020

How To Write A Story For Complete Beginners

by Argentina Botezatu , under Writing skills

writing stories

Everyone loves to be entertained by a good story. You often find yourself reading the same novel several times. In the same way your friend’s story seems so funny, even if they already told it.

How about kids? They love stories and can listen to one a hundred times and still ask you to read to them again. 

But repeating the same story gets them bored and to be true, we get bored by it too. Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could tell your kids a story of your own? 

How To Write A Story?

Oh. That’s simple. You write it. Sit down, get a pen and paper, or a laptop if you prefer to, and start writing. 

The story may start with “Once upon a time… ” or you may even get a little bit creative. That sounds funny, but in reality, you might never get a sincere smile from your kids. 

Still, we have great news for you! There is a simple way to write a great story, easy, and step by step. You don’t need a sudden burst of inspiration. You might get away with your creativity and life experience.

How To Write A Great Story?

Now that’s a little bit more complicated. No, it’s not hard or “impossible”, but you are going to use your brain for this. You’re ready? Let’s get started!

Step 1: Choose The Main Character

How do you do it? Simple. Try to recall some of your favorite childhood memories. Is there something you would like to write about? Great. Choose one and define the main subject line. 

You don’t have to make it perfect. All you need to do is to write down who is the main character. Describe in one sentence what he is going through. Add details about the time and location. Make it short.

Step 2: Add More Characters

Now that you got your starting point, choose the other characters. Split them into two categories: secondary and other ones. Describe each one in 10 words. Write about what they like and don’t like, how they look and act. 

You can use more than 10 words, but don’t expand the limit too much. Describe all your characters, by following up the next formula: 

Name + Look + Personal qualities + Likes/Dislikes + Actions = Character

Step 3: Write The Outline

You want to make it short and clear. Write down one sentence for each of the story elements. Answer shortly to the questions down below. For more clarity, we’ll look at the Brothers Grimm story “Cinderella”.

Introduction: When and where is the action taking place? Who are the main characters? What is the main point of conflict here?

Example: Once upon a time, there lived a girl named Cinderella. She lived with her evil step-mother and evil step-sisters in a land far away.

Rising action: What happens? Describe the actions going on.

Example: Every day, the evil step-mother, made Cinderella work all day long and into the night. 

One day, an invitation to a ball was sent to all the young ladies of the kingdom. The evil stepmother locked Cinderella in her room so she could not attend it. She thought all hope was lost until her fairy godmother appeared. 

Cinderella attended the ball, dressed up in a beautiful gown and glass slippers. She met the prince and danced with him. 

Climax (turning point): What turned the situation upside down? How did the main characters react? 

Example: As the clock turned 12, Cinderella rushed off back home and left the prince only with a glass slipper.

Falling action: How do the characters solve the problem? What do they try to do?

Example: Prince Charming looked for Cinderella throughout the entire kingdom. He tried the slipper on every girl to see if it fit one of them. 

Resolution: How was the conflict solved? What was the solution? How did the story end?

Example: The prince gently slipped the glass slipper on Cinderella’s foot. He took her by hand and made her his bride. Cinderella and Prince Charming lived happily ever after.

writing stories

Step 4: Fill in The Story

Don’t be overwhelmed by this step. It is not as hard as it seems, and we’ll help you with this. Here are some tips for you:

  • Write In One Sitting

Write everything in one sitting. This is a solution. Do like this not only the draft but also the whole process. You will notice how easy it is when you will get from one step to another. 

Don’t be afraid of the writer’s block. If you experience one, pass on to the next part of the step, and then return to it later. Write whatever comes to your mind. Don’t try to make it perfect or to sound good, you will edit the text later.

  • Show The Scene

Instead of talking about something that changed the life of the main character, show it. Present the scene to the reader. 

Describe the location and the weather. Write about the main character’s emotions. We promise you, the reader will love this part.

  • Schedule Time To Write
“Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.” Winston Churchill

You want to schedule the time you are going to be writing. Choose a time when you are not going to be distracted by chores, work tasks, or other responsibilities. 

The best time to work is in the morning, scientists say. Yet, the burst of creativity is very big after lunch, 4:30 pm, some say even 10 pm. Outline your story in the morning when your mind is clear and you don’t have urgent tasks. Leave the editing for the “creative time” of the day.

  • Use Online Tools To Check Your Grammar 

A great writer is known not only by his amazing works but also by the correctness of his sentences. A grammar tool makes your story better. 

It helps you choose the right words, avoid misspelling, and other awful mistakes. If you want to write a great story, you want to write correct words. Try Virtual Writing Tutor . Don’t mess up your great story.

  • Choose A Point Of View

Do you remember back in the day when you had to write a short story about your summer vacation? It was interesting, but still, homework is homework. 

Oh, and those confusing points of view? He, She, I. It was overwhelming. Don’t repeat those mistakes. Choose a point of view . 

writing stories

Here is a cheat sheet for you:

First Person – It’s a type of narrative when the reader feels like he is in the character’s mind. The I and we perspective . It makes the reader feel connected.

Second Person – It is rarely used in storytelling but still has a connection with the reader. The you perspective , makes the reader feel like you are talking to him.

The third person – From this point of view, you describe the life of the characters. Writing about their emotions and actions from he/she/it/they perspective. Specifically this perspective will still make the reader feel connected to the character in a witness’s way.

Step 5: Edit Your Masterpiece

We are not kidding. You wrote a masterpiece. We are sure your readers or listeners will appreciate your hard work. Finally the last thing you need to do is editing. 

Indeed, don’t touch the story for the next two days, or at least do it in the morning. This way, your impression will be gone and you will edit with a clear mind. 

Choose a quiet space, read your work, and underline the words or parts you don’t like. Write down any commentaries you have. In the end, rewrite the needed parts and read your story out aloud. 

You will see how it sounds and train yourself for a storytelling night with your kids. You can listen to Stuart Mclean, the Canadian radio broadcaster for inspiration. 

Bonus: How To Stay Motivated To Write?

Yet, if the spark in the eyes of your kids isn’t enough then what is then? Or maybe you don’t have kids or any family friends with children. 

If you want to write a story for yourself or even your life story you need to know one thing. Make it a habit. We know right? A habit? Try to tie your writing habit to another one you already do. 

For example, when you drink your morning coffee bring your pen and paper with you. You may use your phone for this.

Write for a short time, even 5 minutes will be enough. Motivation will help you start something, but only habits make you achieve it.

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The Complete Guide to Writing Short Stories

Publishing your work doesn’t have to be a difficult, complex process..

Publishing a book can feel like a monumental task, especially when you do it on your own. There’s a whole world of design choices, marketing strategies, and printing options that you need to navigate before your book finds its audience. Count on Palmetto Publishing to guide you along the way.

Anyone can write short stories. You don’t have to be a world-class talent or have bestselling hardcover books on the shelves. You don’t even need writing experience.

Like any other type of writing, short stories are a craft. This guide will help you learn that craft and create the kind of short stories people love to read.

What is a Short Story?

A short story is a self-contained piece of fiction told in 1,500 to 7,500 words. Any shorter, and you’re writing flash fiction. Any longer, and you’re in novella territory.

A short story might share characters or a world with another story or novel, but readers should be able to understand it on its own.

Short stories can be any genre of fiction. Some of the most popular short story genres include:

  • Literary fiction
  • Science fiction
  • Children’s fiction
  • Young adult

Feel free to use this list as inspiration, but don’t worry if you don’t have a genre in mind. Focus on the story.

Get Started On Your Publishing Journey Today!

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How to Write a Short Story, Step By Step

Non-writers often think of short story writing as a mysterious process. You feel the muse, and suddenly, a short story exists.

That’s rarely how it works. By following this simple process, you can get your short story on the page.

Step 1: Develop Your Idea

An idea is your jumping-off point, but you need to develop it before it becomes a short story.

Any story has a beginning, middle, and end. “A man gets a concussion and wakes up in the year 1652” isn’t a story — it’s an idea. From there, you have to add conflict and narrative.

“A man wakes up in 1652 and has to figure out how to get home” is a good next step, but it still needs more. Without a narrative, your story will get stuck.

To create one, ask yourself two questions:

  • What’s at stake? Maybe the man wants to get home so badly because his wife is having a baby, or he has a date with the man of his dreams.
  • What’s getting in the way? Your main character needs to overcome obstacles to get what they want. These obstacles can be internal (he’s too stubborn), or external (he’s trapped in a dungeon) — or both.

Your conflict can be extremely small-scale in a short story. It’s a great format to explore writing a vignette — a snapshot of a character’s life focused on one fleeting moment.

Don’t go too large-scale. Too many characters, scene changes, and layers, and you have a novel.

Aim for no more than five or six short scenes. You can write a great short story in a single scene if it’s well-developed.

Step 2: Develop Your Main Characters

All great short stories have a well-developed protagonist — the person who moves the story forward as they pursue their goal. Remember the time traveler from Step 1?

If you want people to engage with him, you have to develop him as a person. You’ll write a better story about a character you know intimately versus one who only exists as a name on paper.

Think about what makes a person who they are, such as:

  • Backstory. Where are they from and how did they get to where they are today?
  • Personality. If this character was a real person, how would you describe them to a friend?
  • Values. What matters to this character?
  • Social circle. Who’s important in their life?
  • Circumstances. What’s their age, hometown, job background, etc.?

The more you know, the richer your story will be. Plus, it’s a fun process.

Step 3: Outline the Story

Not all writers create formal outlines, but it’s a smart way for new writers to stay focused.

With an outline, you don’t have to worry about getting halfway through your narrative and not knowing what comes next. You’ll have that down on paper already so you can focus on development.

The format doesn’t matter. This is just for you. Just begin writing how the story will go, from the opening to the action’s climax and through to the end.

Step 4: Write the First Draft

This will be your messiest, least polished version of the story. That’s okay. At this point, your goal is to get the story down on paper, not to make it perfect.

Don’t second-guess yourself or try to make any edits. Just write the story — there’ll be time for editing later.

And don’t go back to read what you wrote. If that’s hard, cover your computer screen or hand-write your story.

Step 5: Edit Your Story

After you’ve finished your draft, set it aside for a while — at least a few days. Then pull it back out and read it out loud to yourself. Don’t stop to edit. When you finish, write down your initial reactions.

Remember, you’re not supposed to be fully happy with it yet. This stage is about analyzing what doesn’t work and making it better.

Then read through it again, this time taking notes in the margins as you go. Mark when something works and when it’s confusing or takes you out of the narrative.

Put the story aside again for a few days, then read it through a third time. This time you’ll go paragraph-by-paragraph, taking notes on how each one advances the story.

If something doesn’t build the character, tell the reader about the world, or move the plot forward, mark it for cutting.

On the next read-through, focus specifically on character development. Notice whether their objective is clear and their thoughts and behavior are consistent.

For example, if your character desperately wants to escape 1652 and go home to his new baby, it doesn’t make sense for him to ask a village woman to marry him.

Finally, it’s time to edit the prose. Read each sentence aloud and listen to its flow. If something doesn’t work, mark it.

Step 6: Get a Second (and Maybe Third) Opinion

You might be the best editor in literature, but you can’t ever be completely objective about your own work.

Once you’ve done a few rounds of edits, give your story to a writer or editor friend — someone you trust to be constructively critical — and ask for their thoughts.

Ask them to tell you what works and doesn’t work for them, and why. You don’t have to take every suggestion, but be open to their feedback. If they say something is confusing or clunky, someone else could easily have the same opinion.

Many writers repeat this step multiple times before they publish. Some never release their stories to people they don’t know. It’s up to you as the writer.

Step 7: Rewrite and Repeat

When you have all your notes on your first draft, it’s time to work on your second. The easiest method is usually to write it all out a second time.

Copy the sections that don’t need edits and write from scratch when you do. Then, go through the editing steps for the second draft.

Repeat as necessary.

Tips for Writing Great Short Stories

A great short story engages the reader from beginning to end. It’s a brief experience that stays with you and makes you think, “What else does this author have to say?”

Start in the Thick of the Action

When you only have 4,000 words, you don’t have time to indulge in “how we got here.”

Think of your story as a mountain. The climax is the peak, and your rising action is the uphill slope.

A novel can afford to start a few miles away from the mountain, walking the reader through the normal life that leads up to it. With a short story, you need to already be moving uphill.

Look at your outline and the incidents that move toward the climax. Start with the first exciting incident and throw the reader into it.

Raise the Stakes

The short story format is digestible in one sitting. Your readers should need to keep going either to find out what happens next or because they’re so invested in the character that they can’t put the book down. Up the interest level by making everything more critical.

Keep It Moving

Every story has its rising and falling action, but short stories don’t have a lot of breathing room.

The more you write, the more familiar with pacing you’ll get and the easier it will be.

Show, Don’t Tell

This is the golden rule of fiction writing. You may have heard it before, but it’s the kind of advice you can’t hear too many times.

Your goal is to immerse the reader in your story. That means avoiding the temptation to explain or describe what’s going on. Instead, paint a picture for them. Write so that your words create a movie in their minds, then lead them through that movie.

Instead of:

She could tell he was drunk the moment he walked through the door,

The smell of stale whiskey wafted through the door as he stumbled through.

Use strong verbs and vivid imagery anywhere you can. Look for ways to replace adjectives with word pictures. Instead of:

Sam was tired,

Sam yawned, his eyelids drooping under the fluorescent office lights.

The more you practice this skill, the easier it becomes.

Getting Your Short Story Published

Anyone can share a short story with the world. As with novels, there are two ways to go about it — pursue traditional publication or take matters into your own hands.

Submit to Journals and Anthologies

This is the conventional way of publishing your short story. There are hundreds of literary journals and short story anthologies that accept submissions. Some want stories along a particular theme. Some accept certain genres and others are completely open.

If you’re new to short story publishing, the best way to find a publication is usually through a directory. Some of the most well-known include:

  • Duotrope.com
  • Submittable.com
  • Poets and Writers
  • Writer’s Market

You can also contact some of your favorite journals and literary magazines directly.

If you don’t know any, start familiarizing yourself. Reading journals in your chosen genre helps you learn what kind of material sells.

When you find a journal that’s a good fit, check the submission guidelines. Most publications have specific accepted formats, and some only accept pieces during certain periods of the year.

Don’t get discouraged if a publication doesn’t accept you. Most reputable journals reject far more pieces than they accept. Even accomplished writers get a story rejected 20 times or more before publication.

If your goal is to share your short stories, self-publishing with a company like Palmetto is the way to go.

Publish to a Platform

The internet has made it easy to publish your short stories online with no application process needed. Most online platforms have active user bases who comment on stories and offer feedback. It’s a great way to refine your latest story, whether or not you’re aiming for traditional publication.

Some of the most active platforms include:

  • Medium (better known for the business genre but has a thriving short story category)

You can also start a blog to publish your short stories. But unless you have an established reader base, you’ll have to promote it.

Self-Publish a Short Story Collection

If you’ve written multiple short stories, consider publishing them as a print collection. Include your own stories exclusively or collaborate with writer friends to create a collection.

Publishing a collection lets you release your short stories and enjoy the experience of book publishing. If you work with a top self-publishing company like Palmetto Publishing, that can include:

  • Professional book editing
  • Book cover design
  • Book layout and formatting
  • Paperback or hardcover book printing
  • Book marketing services

Palmetto’s editors and designers know the industry and can help you present your short story collection in its best light.

Getting Started as a Short Story Writer

Before you work with a book editor or think about book design, you need stories to share with the world. Get a notebook or create a file on your computer and start developing your ideas.

If you’re short on ideas, Google “short story prompts” and play with the ones that inspire you.

Publishing is great, but writing is the fun part. Enjoy it! And when you’re ready to share your stories, reach out to Palmetto. We’ll help you release something that reflects your hard work.

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Writing Forward

How to Write Better Stories

by Melissa Donovan | Apr 15, 2021 | Story Writing | 20 comments

how to write better stories

A few insights to help you write better stories.

You know that feeling you get when you read a novel and become completely lost in it? You can’t put it down, so you lose track of time. When you finally finish, you wish it would just keep going.

Isn’t that the kind of story you want to write?

Over the past year, I’ve read only a few books that I couldn’t put down. Unfortunately, several of the books I started to read didn’t keep my interest past the first few chapters. There was a time when I forced myself to finish every book I started, no matter how boring it was. But I don’t have time for that anymore. My book pile is big and my reading list is long, so if I’m not compelled by the time the second act gets underway, I move on and find something more intriguing.

The Best Fiction Sticks

I’ve been thinking about what makes some books so easy to put down and what makes others impossible to let go of. After reading The Catcher in the Rye , for example, I had the strangest feeling that Holden Caulfield was a real person. I expected him to come walking around some corner and start mumbling about the lousy week he was having. This sensation lingered for a few days, both times I read the book.

But let’s go back further. I read Charlotte’s Web when I was about six years old. Then I read it again. And again, and again. I watched the animated film over and over. No matter how many times I read the book or watched the movie, I always cried at the end. To this day, quotes from the book and scenes from the film get me choked up. It’s a story that sticks.

A few years ago, I couldn’t put down  The Hunger Games . I’m a science-fiction fan, so the dystopian world intrigued me, but what really kept me glued to the page was the heroine, Katniss Everdeen. She wasn’t fearless, but she was brave, strong, and honorable.

Stories like these haunt readers, lingering in hearts and minds. These are the best kinds of stories.

Writing Better Stories

If we want to write better stories, we need to read the best fiction and figure out what makes it so excellent. When I’m absorbed in a book, I always try to keep one corner of my mind focused on what the writer is doing so brilliantly to keep my full attention on the story. Some things are obvious: compelling characters, an interesting plot, realistic dialogue. Other elements of the best fiction are more elusive. Here are some observations I’ve made about how to write better stories:

Give People a Reason to Read

If I get to the third chapter of a book and still don’t care about it, I’ll probably put it in the donation pile. The characters have to want something badly enough to go out there and try to get it. They must have purpose, an objective if you will. The characters’ purpose gives me a reason to read their stories. Intriguing mysteries and unanswered questions are also good reasons to keep turning pages.

Don’t Bore Your Readers

Pages of description, minute details that are neither interesting nor relevant to the plot and dull scenes that have no essential function to the story will bore readers. Keep the conflicts coming and the action moving, and your readers will stay up to read your book rather than reading it to help them fall asleep.

It’s the Little Things

Too much detail and description gets boring, but the right details can make an otherwise average scene extraordinary. One-liners that make readers laugh, subtle (or overt) pop culture references, and symbolism that has deeper meaning keep readers stimulated.

Stimulate Imagination, Provoke Thought, and Pull Heartstrings

Speaking of stimulation, it’s one of the main reasons people enjoy reading so much. Sure, lots of readers are just looking for escape and entertainment, but plenty of us want to engage our imaginations and have our intellects challenged. Get readers emotionally involved, and not only will they enjoy your book; they’ll also become loyal fans of your work.

Do Something Different

Forget about trying to be completely original. I doubt that’s possible anymore. Every story is the result of stories that have come before. But that doesn’t mean you can’t put your unique stamp on the canon. Give old story premises new twists and your stories will feel fresh and invigorating.

Write Smooth Sentences That Make Sense

This one is last on the list for a reason. One of the best novels I recently read did not have the best sentence structures. In fact, some paragraphs were fragmented and disjointed — not so much that I couldn’t understand what was going on, but it was jarring at times. The story was strong enough that I didn’t care that much, but this type of oversight can mean the difference between a four-star and a five-star review.

How Do You Write Better Stories?

When you’re reading and writing fiction, do you think about the little things that make the difference between a mediocre story and a mesmerizing story? What was the last book you read that you couldn’t put down? What was it about that book that made it so potent? How do you apply what you’ve learned as a reader to your own fiction? How can authors learn to write better stories? Share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment, and keep writing!

whats the story building blocks for fiction writing

20 Comments

Kelvin Kao

I am reading the Three Musketeers right now. I’ve never read it before, but I have an audio tape of the story since childhood. Now, the tape told the entire story in an hour while the book is a thousand pages long on my iPad. So, of course, I kept thinking “wow, the tape sure left out a lot of details” while reading it.

I noticed that it’s like many of the classic books in that it has lots of descriptions. Nowadays, an editor would probably read it and ask, “what’s with all the descriptions? Why is it so slow?” Tastes and attention span of people sure have changed. I just read a chapter that described the servant of every Musketeer. And right after that, it’s something along the line of “Okay, now we are done talking about the servants. It’s time to describe the apartment of every Musketeer.” It’s hard to imagine a book nowadays being published that way.

Melissa Donovan

I’ve noticed that older books are dense with description. I have a theory that because we didn’t have photos and videos back then, descriptions were necessary. For example, nowadays, if you tell an audience in middle America that the story is set on a tropical island, they automatically have an idea of what it looks like due to their exposure to media. However, a few hundred years ago, the people in that same location would have no idea how to imagine such a setting without a ton of description.

I don’t know if my theory applies to the example you gave, since the descriptions deal with people and apartments.

roopy

that’s probably it. i like abridged versions or whatever. the shortened version. but i agree. we know so much from media that it’s pointless to write tons.

Louise Broadbent

‘Better’ fiction is surely a matter of taste, though. One of my favourite books is The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – I didn’t want to put it down, even when I finished it – but there are plenty of reviews out there that say it’s dull and nothing happens and the reader couldn’t get through the first few chapters. Similarly, you mentioned The Hunger Games as an example of ‘better’ fiction but I’ve heard it’s terribly written (although, I haven’t yet read it, so might love it too.)

Kelvin’s not a fan of classics but I generally prefer them to contemporary novels. To me, they’re just better written – and yes, sometimes a classic does seem to be in need of a good edit (The Brothers Karamazov springs to mind – I don’t need a back-story every time you introduce a new character, thanks Dostoevsky) but only ever for cutting. Whereas The Hunger Games is riddled with typos and grammatical errors – sometimes I wonder if contemporary fiction is edited at all.

I would agree that there are spots in The Hunger Games where the text is a little fragmented. In my opinion, the quality of the story outweighed those issues. I wouldn’t say it was riddled with typos and grammatical errors. The style of writing was different, and for all I know, the author did that intentionally since the voice of the narrator belongs to a teenager in the distant future (who would not write or talk the same way we do).

Taste is definitely a factor, but there’s nothing an author can do about that. I wanted to focus on the techniques we can use to write the best stories possible. In the end, no matter how good a story is, some people won’t like it (and conversely, no matter how bad a story is, some people will like it).

Paul Atreides

I don’t think The Hunger Games is poorly written. I have to agree with Melissa; the language reflects the teenage character. I did find a few typos spread throughout the three books, but nothing jarring enough to make me want to stop reading.

LOL! If you’ve heard from others the books are poorly written, suggest they give the Fifty Shades trilogy a try. Talk about poorly written! They’re so cliche-ridden and so full of poor sentence construction that anyone who has any sense of writing skills at all would be very hard pressed to read more than five pages without groaning (if not laughing out loud!). Of course, the author is laughing all the way to the bank…

I thought about reading Fifty Shades but decided not to. There’s just nothing about it that matches my tastes and interests, based on its synopsis and all the reviews. I am sort of curious to see what all the fuss is about though.

The last one I couldn’t put down was King’s “11-22-63.” Vivid characters and interesting plot, interesting subplots and enough sensory details to put you in the scene. Kelvin (above) hit the nail on the head, though. Past literature was full of beautifully painted pictures – JRR Tolkien, in particular, comes to mind. He paints such detailed portraits of his characters and landscapes you can “see” them in your head. Today’s editors and publishers would toss the manuscripts of “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Silmarillion” into the trash bin after reading the first chapter – if they bothered to venture that far. Ann Rice’s “Lasher” and “Blackwood Farm” would have never been printed if it hadn’t been for the popularity of “An Interview With a Vampire.”

Melissa, what did you think of the ending of “The Hunger Games”? The end of the final book left me literally saying aloud, “Really?” I read all three in a week’s time. The end of the final book (for me) felt as if the author lost interest in her own story! Here we had a heroine just as you describe and, suddenly, the revolution is resolved in a single, short chapter and a sedate life of marriage and children is the perfect pastoral existence. I was highly disappointed.

I think the ending could have been better, but I also think that is a matter of my personal taste rather than quality of the story. My opinion on the matter is steeped in feminism. First of all, there are not enough strong female heroines in literature (and pop culture in general). Then when we finally get strong female characters, they save the world and then settle down in marital maternal bliss. It’s like our culture just can’t let go of the fairy tale (“happily ever after”). I have a hard time imagining someone who’s been through what Katniss endured would be able to settle into a domestic life (and she never really wanted that life anyway, from my understanding). As much as I love the Harry Potter series, I also had a hard time with how that ended (but for completely different reasons). Again, I don’t think this has to do with the quality of the story so much as my personal preference with regard to how I’d like to have seen these tales end.

I happily endorse Hunger Games because it contains some refreshing and much-needed insights about our culture, which is something that most fiction is sorely missing these days. Most recent phenomena in literature have been entertaining but few have actually provoked thought or concern about who we are as a society (and where we are going), and that is something I require from a story if I’m going to give it more than three stars. I also think the story itself was quite ambitious, and I’m willing to give authors a little leeway when they are tackling such complex concepts. There are a lot of interesting ideas packed into the Hunger Games, and I can sleep easier at night knowing that while some young girls are fawning over YA paranormal romances, others are getting a taste of adventure and heroism via Katniss Everdeen.

IWannaWrite

I definitely agree with you about The Hunger Games. I loved the first book, the second was pretty good, but by the third book it was just not. And about classics having more vivid imagery involved, personally I like that better. Rather than assuming that the reader know what you’re talking about, tell them all about it so there’s no doubt. I’d they’re bored enough, they can skip the paragraph. Anne of Green Gables is still one of my favourite books because of its many descriptions. I love how Ms. Montgomery managed to get away with so many run-on sentences! Just read the first sentence! When I ‘step into’ a book, I expect the author to show me the characters’ most important traits rather than telling me (as all our Grade 3 teachers have told us). I find that this requires more descriptive words and imagery, with extended paragraphs to fulfill that.

Beckie

That last book that I feel deeply in love with was Friends & Foes by Sarah M Eden. Sarah’s style reminded me lightly of The Scarlet Pimpernel. The time and language of the characters was elegant but clever and so engaging. She created the type of heroine that you not only root for but wish could be your best friend. So many leading ladies these days traipse around with perfect bodies, have all the money and connections and always get the guy, in a steamy too manydetails sort of way. Not this time and I adored it! I reread the ending three times because I couldn’t bear to leave the characters behind. Lessons I’ve learned from Sarah (who by the way I’ve had the pleasure of meeting!) Give your characters time to fall in love. Let them say clever things and then turn around stuff their entire foot in their mouth. Let love triumph in the end. Detail the world so that you could stand at the bottom of the stair case and remember what happened on it that made you cry. I’m trying 🙂 Thanks for the post 🙂

As much as I study the craft of writing, I think the best way to learn is to find your own mentors and read their work. It sounds like you’ve found yours, which is awesome!

Robert

I always feel it’s a risk saying some fresh, popular work is well-written or an excellent read. It always seems that there is some person ready to scoff at my choice of read–sometimes they haven’t even read the piece in question.

Much like you Melissa, I found the Hunger Games Trilogy to be a great read for many of the same reasons you stated: vivid characters, masterful plotting, and *substance*. I fully enjoyed the ending; I thought it was just disgruntled enough to avoid resolving *all* the conflict into a nice tidy package. You know, the type people can just pack away and never think about again.

I think many people put all their faith in the classics simply because it’s a safe choice. Of course it’s good, it’s stood the test of time. Someone dares challenge the quality of the writing? They must not have the mental faculty to really “get” the author.

I think the first few chapters of a book are like a first date. I need the author to give me enough to want a second date, but not so much that i feel like they’re trying to take me home to meet the parents.

Likewise I think every reader “interacts” with the writer through the writing. Just like people, every match isn’t made in heaven. In fact there’s people (and authors) I can’t stand to be around. However who doesn’t like to be around articulate, good looking people that are easy to talk to? I think that’s what the tips Melissa has written here are trying to help us all be as writers–articulate and easy to be around for the reader.

Thanks, Robert. It sounds like we’re on the same page in our approach to reading (pun fully intended). I find it quite interesting when people criticize books they haven’t read. On one hand, we need to pass some kind of judgement to decide whether we want to read a book or not. On the other hand, going around openly criticizing something we haven’t read means we’re forming opinions without being informed (never a good thing, in my opinion). I love your analogy of a first date. Henceforth, I’m going to consider the first few chapters of new books as if I’m being courted by the author.

Jessica Millis

I think that ‘Stimulate Imagination’ is the top advice. The reader must use his imagination. Often books are written drily and overly realistically. Of course, if this book is about First WW or something like – it is ok. But not in the fiction. Book should help to fly away from this world.

I agree. The best books take us away to another world and we get lost in it. Those are the ones I can’t put down.

Rod Raglin

Writing better stories is obviously far easier said than done, and what makes a compelling read is totally subjective, but still some good insights, Melissa.Thanks.

I agree that it’s easier said than done. Writing stories is hard. Writing good stories is even harder. But I think there are a few things we can do to improve our work. Thanks for commenting, Rod.

Catherine

I loved The Hunger Games when I first read it but I keep trying to reread it – it’s short and I know the plot so it shouldn’t be too much to tackles, I tell myself – and find both the writing and characters bland.

I noticed something you said in response to another comment about finding your mentors and studying them and I must say, that’s what I’ve been feeling & failing to describe from the moment I picked up my first book by the historical fiction author Stephanie Dray, especially her Cleopatra’s Daughter trilogy.. There’s just something about how she turned certain historical events, such as the death of Drusus and Augustus never visiting Mauretania, into what seems like logical explanations that match both her plots and history itself. Now that was a series I couldn’t put down. I was crying so haard at the end that I had to reread the epilogue after spending a week recovering from the shock an heartbreak, as well as writing depressing fanfiction for my favorite couple.

Another nice read, one that I only finished a couple of hours ago actually, was What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera & Becky Albertalli. It wasn’t as remarkable, although I suppose I did ship the couple it was about..

I think that even more remarkable than the books you can’t put down is the ones that you can’t finish because you dont want them to end but finish anyway so you can see what happens to all of the amazing characters. I litterally had to reread the first 2 3/4 books of Cleopatra’s Daughter for that reason… 🙂 Writing this has improved my day. Happy technically-not-Easter-because-insomnia.

I also loved the Hunger Games when I first read it. I find it interesting that it didn’t hold up for you the second time around. I tend to wait many years before rereading a book, to give myself time to forget the details of the story. That way, I can rediscover it. Thanks for sharing some of your favorite reads!

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“ Goldfish ” by Mallory Jones

🏆 Winner of Contest #225

4 pm Miss Lucy and Dr. Singh are letting me visit my house tonight! Normally I get to go home for twelve hours on holidays, and an aide comes with me to monitor my equipment, but today is different. It’s not a holiday, it’s not my birthday, it’s not even the weekend— but I’m going home! Mommy says Lily will be home too even though she goes to college in Iowa. She’s coming home just for me for my ...

“ Cerulean ” by AnneMarie Miles

🏆 Winner of Contest #224

The door is cerulean, a bright and vibrant blue, but really it is the color of my sudden uneasiness. The feeling creeps up me slowly, jumps out at me dauntingly, and I am frozen in it. If the door were a mirror – and how I wish it were as innocent as a mirror – I would see my face reflected back to me, and it would tell me to run.I’m not sure what’s more jarring: the fact that this door is a clashing contrast to the rest of the library décor, or the fact that I’ve never noticed the path we took to get here before. I supp...

“ Just Like Him ” by Audrey McKenna

🏆 Winner of Contest #223

Content warning: sexual violence, languageWhen I was four years old, my sister and I were messing around at the pool. I slipped and hit my head on the concrete. It split open in the back. I remember the lifeguard gave me a squishy ball to squeeze. I remember she said I could keep it. I remember my dad scooped me up in his arms. It doesn’t make sense that it happened this way, but I remember he carried me all the way to the emergency room. I remember the pressure of my face pressing into a pillow as the doctor staple...

“ Clearance Aisle Libations ” by Bay Colt

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The worst part about being an amateur necromancer is that no one respects you, not even the dead. My older brother, Joseph, is practically crying over the phone, struggling to speak through great gasps of heaving, wheezing laughter. After way too many seconds of this, he finally manages to choke out, “Really? Goddamn—Mountain Dew?” Irritated, I switch the phone to my other ear, tipping my head a...

“ Fae Touched ” by D. Grimes

🏆 Winner of Contest #221

Siobhan awoke to the Irish sun spilling in the open doorframe of their single-room cottage. Her back pressed against Sean’s, and she moved carefully so as to not wake him on his day off morning duties— today, she would feed the cattle and chickens. She rolled over, a stray mattress feather poking her side, and saw Aoife’s small body in her basket, enveloped by a blanket. A surge in Siobhan’s chest shot her awake—Aoife hadn’t cried once through the night. Siobhan scrambled to her feet, bare soles pressed into the cool packed dirt, no longe...

“ Cell 3.47 ” by Kate Hughes

🏆 Winner of Contest #220

Cell 3.47 was situated on the third floor of B wing in Stocken Gate prison, slap bang in the heart of London’s east end. Known as The Gate, the prison had a reputation for being a tough place to do time. The inmates behind the doors at The Gate endured long cold winters in the Victorian slammer that had been condemned many times but had always escaped closure. It was harsh, it was hard, and it was overrun by rats.Paula Pritchard was the sole resident of cell 3.47, but due to the rodent crisis she ...

“ Whale Song ” by Danielle Barr

🏆 Winner of Contest #219

Agony broils, but anguish simmers. I have known them both well and in equal measure. In the early days, my brain felt blurry and disjointed; I had the sense of being deep underwater, all undulating shadows and echoing whale song. The darkness was expansive, and the staticky, dull sense of confusion I felt was sometimes intercut with crippling panic. BP is spiking, ...

“ Who Are We to Judge the Music of an Octopus? ” by Paul Crehan

🏆 Winner of Contest #218

               Who Are We to Judge the Music of an Octopus?                                A short story by Paul Crehan The octopus swam up the aquarium like an arpeggio up staff paper. Bob listened as he watched. What did he hear? I’ll be damned, he thought. Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. With a discordant note here; ...

“ Long Live the King ” by Hazel Ide

🏆 Winner of Contest #217

"I was eight years old the first time I heard his name." Shifting in the hard plastic seat, my wrists are shackled to a metal chain link at the center of the table, limiting my mobility.The officer observes my discomfort passively, already impatient and annoyed with my recollection of events."I was thinking a little more recent, Miss Clark. Like why you were caught standing outside his home with a bloody—""No, no, you d...

“ What Kind of Mother ” by Danielle Barr

🏆 Winner of Contest #216

Trigger Warning: infant/child loss, drowning The day my daughter died, I became the villain of my own life story. When your child dies of cancer, there are fundraisers and flower delivery vans and friends taking shifts sitting up with you through the long black nights and washing your hair. When your child dies and it’s your fault, there are no homemade casseroles filling y...

“ Departed, Return ” by Emily Holding

🏆 Winner of Contest #215

“And then there was another Mark,” Dad recalls, sending the table into an encore of laughter.  “Stop it!” Hannah pleads, tears rolling over sun-reddened cheeks. She perches opposite him, one leg hiked on the serrated bistro chair, a rum and coke bubbling in her left hand, the right clutching her stomach. She is 18, the spit of her mother – so she’s told – and will be off to university in two mont...

“ The Porcelain Village ” by Jonathan Page

🏆 Winner of Contest #214

My clay hands are becoming solid porcelain. I have always had potter’s hands. The throwing water absorbs the moisturizing oils of the skin. Leaves the hands rough. The clay paste dries and cracks the skin. Leaving it red. But now my hands are hardening. In the bisque firing, my hands harden like porous greenware. The cremated carbon and sulfur escape, exhuming my soul from the earthen clay, little by little, drawing it back to its source. The soul stews out in a boiling whistl...

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Short Stories from Reedsy Prompts

Short stories may be small, but they are mighty! With the weight of a novel stripped away, great short stories strike directly at the heart of their topics. Often maligned as the novel’s poor cousin, the short story medium has produced some of the most beloved works of fiction. From the eerily-accurate predictions of Ray Bradbury to the spine-chilling thrills of Stephen King and the wildly imaginative worlds of N.K. Jemison, some of the best authors in the business have made their mark writing short stories .

Whether the stories are sweeping explorations of the human condition, or slices of life vignettes that move us to tears, short fiction has the power to dazzle from first word to last.

Who writes Reedsy’s short stories?

Here at Reedsy, we're looking to foster the next generation of beloved authors. To that end, we've been running a weekly writing contest for over six years — and these short stories are the thousands of entries we've received over that time. Our writers come to the contest from all experience levels to hone their skills through consistent practice and friendly feedback. Some of them have even gone on to write and publish novels based on their short story submissions !

Discover short stories of all genres and subjects

Centered around themed writing prompts, these short stories range across all forms, genres, and topics of interest. Simply filter by the genre that appeals you most, and discover thousands of stories from promising new writers around the world.

Maybe you want to read something new, but don’t want to choose a genre? We’ve gathered our favorite entries in our literary magazine, Prompted . Each issue is packed with prize-winning stories that have been introduced and edited by a guest editor. Grab a free copy of our first issue here . Who knows, you could even discover your next favorite author before they even hit the big time!

(And if you’re a writer, consider heading over and entering the short story contest yourself! You may just walk away with the weekly cash prize, plus the chance to appear in Prompted . )

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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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More From Forbes

How to write success stories that sales actually uses and buyers read.

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Do your success stories enable sales and draw prospects in? This article will show you an approach ... [+] that works.

Have you ever tried to pick your way through a poorly planned, poorly written customer success story? You know, one of those stories filled with vague benefits and jargon few can relate to? Such stories usually feature sentences and paragraphs that don’t quite connect. They have challenges buried in the results section, and results in the challenges section. They give you a sickly feeling that the publishing company lacked someone on the team with editing skills. Or even someone to provide strategic editorial oversight on briefs before they wound up in writers’ hands.

Been there. Experienced that.

The problem is that generic customer wins leave buyers yawning. Bland success stories leave all but the most determined readers clicking “X” before arriving at the solution part of the story. Buyers don’t relate because the stories fail to speak to the headaches they’re experiencing now. Poor stories fail to tap into late-night anxieties and the urgent goals everyone in your target market understands. For your stories to carry those elements and have those effects, you need a laser-like focus on buyers — through your personas.

Personas help you visualize your buyers so you can bring their tales to life. They’re your blueprint for compelling, relatable success stories, the kind sales reps like to share — and buyers like to read. Understanding how each persona feels, their goals, and the unique struggles that frustrate them daily is the secret sauce that transforms generic wins into stories buyers can't help but engage with.

But… there’s a common obstacle people trip over when working with personas: They get sidetracked by the fluff, wasting time and missing the true strategic gold.

Best High-Yield Savings Accounts Of 2024

Best 5% interest savings accounts of 2024, the persona trap: when details distract.

Buyer personas needn't discuss everything about your ideal customers. They just need to hit on the ... [+] use cases, pain points, KPIs, and 'AHAs' that matter.

It's easy to get bogged down in persona minutiae – favorite sports teams, life-long hobbies, pet peeves, and even stock photos purporting to remind you that, yes, your persona is, indeed, a real person. But all that extraneous detail is unnecessary fluff that can cause you — and your buyers — to miss the forest for the trees. You’re not writing fictional biographies but unlocking the secret anxieties and hidden aspirations that fuel business decisions.

What truly sparks action for buyers? The answer lies in dissecting:

  • Workday disasters — Those pain points that derail smooth operations, cause lost revenue, and keep KPIs stubbornly out of reach.
  • KPI worries — The specific benchmarks haunting your ideal buyers, metrics that affect bonuses, promotions, and perhaps even job security.
  • Solution triggers: What's the tipping point? It may be a quarterly review gone awry or a rival's success story. Triggers are events that light a fire, making slow burns turn into an urgent needs.

It's within this problem-outcome space that your success stories gain traction. When the opening paragraphs depict relatable chaos, buyers don't just nod along; they lean in, hoping for a tale of danger, escaped.

Let's look at how this approach translates in practice through the lens of an example — a SaaS company specializing in robotic process automation (RPA). A winning success story strategy for that company might target these key personas:

  • The CIO, who struggles with IT backlog, efficiency demands, and pressure to reduce costs.
  • The operations manager, who battles customer complaints, delays, and bottlenecks that affect the overall customer experience.
  • The business analyst, who drowns daily in manual data manipulation and reporting with limited time for valuable strategic analysis.

So, how do you write lead-generating, sales-enabling success stories tailored to your unique personas? The secret is to write like a columnist.

Anatomy of a sales magnet: Writing success stories that resonate

Great columnists do more than inform and report facts. They transport. They draw you in with relatable characters, rising tension, and satisfying resolutions. Your success stories can do the same.

Imagine yourself as an experienced columnist for your company. You have a scoop on a customer's transformation. You interview them using questions that shape the story you want to tell. (The success story interview is a separate article for another time.) Then, armed with your interview insights, use this winning organizational structure to write your story:

The painful hook

The messy middle.

  • The “aha!” moment

The aspiration-raising results

Why that structure? Because each element in it mirrors the reader's own emotional journey from frustration to aspiration. Let’s look at each story element more closely so you can see how to use the structure to appeal to your personas.

The hook is a powerful, short statement of what’s most likely to capture your audience's attention. It’s what’s most compelling about the story. Use the hook to capture your reader's attention by opening your story with a painful scene in your customer’s daily life. Show their pre-solution struggles as they attempt to execute a use case but can’t because of some pain or challenge. This is where your persona insights come alive.

What might a painful hook look like for each of your personas? Let’s return to our example — a SaaS company specializing in RPA. In the table that follows, I outline what a hook might look like for a success story about Acme Corp, one of our SaaS company’s customers.

Note that this exercise isn’t about the writing; it’s about the elements to include when writing your success stories. In other words, don’t expect to be able to tack together a seamless story using the hook, middle, aha, and results presented here. You’d still need an expert writer to accomplish that.

The painful hook speaks to the use cases and unfulfilled KPIs your buyers struggle to reach thanks ... [+] to lingering pain points.

Prospective buyers might run across your success story when they’re in the messy middle. At this point, they’re thinking deeply about problems and exploring solutions — yours included.

What happens when they read about others with their pains and challenges? What’s the decision process like? Do they have obstacles or competing technologies to consider? Are there IT hurdles to overcome? By injecting such challenges, you show that your solution didn't magically appear as a quick fix, which is, sadly, how many success stories present the customer story.

Here’s how our sample SaaS vendor might write about the messy middle for various personas.

In the messy middle, stir your buyer's pains — including the pains of finding and implementing a ... [+] solution that works.

The 'aha!' moment

The “aha!” moment is when your prospect hits a trigger — the pivotal moment when the prospect moves into action and decides to purchase your solution. Share their words about this golden moment, as powerful customer quotes speak more loudly than any words you might write.

Here’s how our hypothetical RPA vendor might talk about the ah-ha moment for its various personas.

The "AHA" moment is when your buyers see that a solution — your solution — is possible.

The results section is all about proving your value. Use metrics that tie back to your persona’s KPI goals, whether cost savings, improved efficiency, or faster insights. And frame those results in terms of your customer’s daily life after your solution.

Here’s how our hypothetical SaaS vendor might present the results its customer achieved.

The results of your success story should raise the aspirations of other buyers in similar ... [+] circumstances and with similar pains.

Isn’t that a lovely ending to the story? The CIO is relieved, the operations manager breathes easier, and the analyst is beaming. Now, I’ll give you a few additional tips for writing powerful success stories that appeal to readers and drive sales.

Secrets of success story success: Additional tips for elevating your stories

Now you understand the core anatomy of a compelling success story. But how do you make them visually appealing and ensure each story feels unique to the reader? Use these proven tactics to make waves with your success stories.

  • Use customer quotes as design power . Incorporate powerful quotes as pull quotes or place them in a sidebar for emphasis. Let the customer's words grab attention and reinforce key pain points or results.
  • Create a story snapshot sidebar . A quick-reference sidebar (alternating from left to right on subsequent stories) is an instant orientation for busy readers. Include the company’s name, the buyer’s title, the industry, and a summary of pains and benefits.
  • Interview with messaging enabled . Don't approach customer interviews as simple fact-gathering missions. Weave elements of your brand messaging into your questions to draw out the stories you want to tell and the messages you want out in the market.
  • Appeal to multiple stakeholders . A winning solution affects various roles. Interview those directly touched by the change. If you can, interview your customers’ customers, too, to show just how far the benefits reach. Doing so lets you offer powerful proof points at multiple levels.
  • Avoid using same-same templates . Although templates ensure consistency, the same look on each success story can make each story feel just like the last. Rotate visuals like sidebar placement, quote styles, and subheading colors so each story isn't a cookie-cutter replica.
  • Ditch generic and passive phrases. Choose action verbs that vividly capture the transformation your solution offers. Tailor verbs so they resonate with each persona's anxieties and desired outcomes. For example, a CIO might respond to words like fortified security and and turbocharged innovation , while an operations manager might be drawn to phrases like transformed customer experience and salvaged employee morale . Using an active writing style makes your success stories more engaging and forceful.
  • Include compelling visuals . Infographics, screenshots, data visualizations, and customer photos and quotes add visual interest and reinforce key points. A carefully selected image or two can break up text blocks and highlight powerful statements and metrics.

Well-planned, well-written success stories provide wins and successes for everyone — for you, your ... [+] writers, your company, your customers, and your buyers.

A final note

This article provides a solid foundation for your success story practice. As you create success stories specific to each offering, collect a library of 'gold star' customer quotes and metrics that resonate most with each of your personas. Doing so will help you to infuse proven content into future stories with ease — and for maximum impact.

Renae Gregoire

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David Nield

17 Tips to Take Your ChatGPT Prompts to the Next Level

5 blue balls riding on 5 randomly arranged curved black tubes against a bright green backdrop

ChatGPT, Google Gemini, and other tools like them are making artificial intelligence available to the masses. We can now get all sorts of responses back on almost any topic imaginable. These chatbots can compose sonnets, write code, get philosophical, and automate tasks.

However, while you can just type anything you like into ChatGPT and get it to understand you. There are ways of getting more interesting and useful results out of the bot. This "prompt engineering" is becoming a specialized skill of its own.

Sometimes all it takes is the addition of a few more words or an extra line of instruction and you can get ChatGPT responses that are a level above what everyone else is seeing—and we've included several examples below.

While there's lots you can do with the free version of ChatGPT, a few of these prompts require a paid ChatGPT Plus subscription —where that's the case, we've noted it in the tip.

ChatGPT can give you responses in the form of a table if you ask. This is particularly helpful for getting information or creative ideas. For example, you could tabulate meal ideas and ingredients, or game ideas and equipment, or the days of the week and how they're said in a few different languages.

Using follow-up prompts and natural language, you can have ChatGPT make changes to the tables it has drawn and even produce the tables in a standard format that can be understood by another program (such as Microsoft Excel).

If you provide ChatGPT with a typed list of information, it can respond in a variety of ways. Maybe you want it to create anagrams from a list of names, or sort a list of products into alphabetical order, or turn all the items in a list into upper case. If needed, you can then click the copy icon (the small clipboard) at the end of an answer to have the processed text sent to the system clipboard.

Screenshot of ChatGPT

Get ChatGPT to respond as your favorite author.

With some careful prompting, you can get ChatGPT out of its rather dull, matter-of-fact, default tone and into something much more interesting—such as the style of your favorite author, perhaps.

You could go for the searing simplicity of an Ernest Hemingway or Raymond Carver story, the lyrical rhythm of a Shakespearean play, or the density of a Dickens novel. The resulting prose won't come close to the genius of the actual authors themselves, but it's another way of getting more creative with the output you generate.

ChatGPT can really impress when it's given restrictions to work within, so don't be shy when it comes to telling the bot to limit its responses to a certain number of words or a certain number of paragraphs.

It could be everything from condensing the information in four paragraphs down into one, or even asking for answers with words of seven characters or fewer (just to keep it simple). If ChatGPT doesn't follow your responses properly, you can correct it, and it'll try again.

Another way of tweaking the way ChatGPT responds is to tell it who the intended audience is for its output. You might have seen WIRED's videos in which complex subjects are explained to people with different levels of understanding. This works in a similar way.

For example, you can tell ChatGPT that you are speaking to a bunch of 10-year-olds or to an audience of business entrepreneurs and it will respond accordingly. It works well for generating multiple outputs along the same theme.

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Tell ChatGPT the audience it's writing for.

ChatGPT is a very capable prompt engineer itself. If you ask it to come up with creative and effective inputs for artificial intelligence engines such as Dall-E and Midjourney , you'll get text you can then input into other AI tools you're playing around with. You're even able to ask for tips with prompts for ChatGPT itself.

When it comes to generating prompts, the more detailed and specific you are about what you're looking for the better: You can get the chatbot to extend and add more detail to your sentences, you can get it to role-play as a prompt generator for a specific AI tool, and you can tell it to refine its answers as you add more and more information.

While ChatGPT is based around text, you can get it to produce pictures of a sort by asking for ASCII art. That's the art made up of characters and symbols rather than colors. The results won't win you any prizes, but it's pretty fun to play around with.

The usual ChatGPT rules apply, in that the more specific you are in your prompt the better, and you can get the bot to add new elements and take elements away as you go. Remember the limitations of the ASCII art format though—this isn't a full-blown image editor.

Screenshot of ChatGPT

A ChatGPT Plus subscription comes with image generation.

If you use ChatGPT Plus , it's got the DALL-E image generator right inside it, so you can ask for any kind of photo, drawing, or illustration you like. As with text, try to be as explicit as possible about what it is you want to see, and how it's shown; do you want something that looks like a watercolor painting, or like it was taken by a DSLR camera? You can have some real fun with this: Put Columbo in a cyberpunk setting, or see how Jurassic Park would look in the Victorian era. The possibilities are almost endless.

You don't have to do all the typing yourself when it comes to ChatGPT. Copy and paste is your friend, and there's no problem with pasting in text from other sources. While the input limit tops out at around 4,000 words, you can easily split the text you're sending the bot into several sections and get it to remember what you've previously sent.

Perhaps one of the best ways of using this approach is to get ChatGPT to simplify text that you don't understand—the explanation of a difficult scientific concept, for instance. You can also get it to translate text into different languages, write it in a more engaging or fluid style, and so on.

If you want to go exploring, ask ChatGPT to create a text-based choose-your-own adventure game. You can specify the theme and the setting of the adventure, as well as any other ground rules to put in place. When we tried this out, we found ourselves wandering through a spooky castle, with something sinister apparently hiding in the shadows.

Screenshot of ChatGPT

ChatGPT is able to create text-based games for you to play.

Another way to improve the responses you get from ChatGPT is to give it some data to work with before you ask your question. For instance, you could give it a list of book summaries together with their genre, then ask it to apply the correct genre label to a new summary. Another option would be to tell ChatGPT about activities you enjoy and then get a new suggestion.

There's no magic combination of words you have to use here. Just use natural language as always, and ChatGPT will understand what you're getting at. Specify that you're providing examples at the start of your prompt, then tell the bot that you want a response with those examples in mind.

You can ask ChatGPT for feedback on any of your own writing, from the emails you're sending to friends, to the short story you're submitting to a competition, to the prompts you're typing into the AI bot. Ask for pointers on spelling, grammar, tone, readability, or anything else you want to scrutinize.

ChatGPT cleared the above paragraph as being clear and effective, but said it could use a call to action at the end. Try this prompt today!

Screenshot of ChatGPT

Get ChatGPT to give you feedback on your own writing.

In the same way that ChatGPT can mimic the style of certain authors that it knows about, it can also play a role: a frustrated salesman, an excitable teenager (you'll most likely get a lot of emoji and abbreviations back), or the iconic western film star John Wayne.

There are countless roles you can play around with. These prompts might not score highly in terms of practical applications, but they're definitely a useful insight into the potential of these AI chatbots.

You can type queries into ChatGPT that you might otherwise type into Google, looking for answers: Think "how much should I budget for a day of sightseeing in London?" or "what are the best ways to prepare for a job interview?" for example. Almost anything will get a response of some sort—though as always, don't take AI responses as being 100 percent accurate 100 percent of the time.

If you're using the paid ChatGPT Plus tool, it will actually search the web (with Bing) and provide link references for the answers it gives. If you're using the free version of ChatGPT, it'll mine the data its been trained on for answers, so they might be a little out of date or less reliable.

Your answers can be seriously improved if you give ChatGPT some ingredients to work with before asking for a response. They could be literal ingredients—suggest a dish from what's left in the fridge—or they could be anything else.

So don't just ask for a murder mystery scenario. Also list out the characters who are going to appear. Don't just ask for ideas of where to go in a city; specify the city you're going to, the types of places you want to see, and the people you'll have with you.

Your prompts don't always have to get ChatGPT to generate something from scratch: You can start it off with something, and then let the AI finish it off. The model will take clues from what you've already written and build on it.

This can come in handy for everything from coding a website to composing a poem—and you can then get ChatGPT to go back and refine its answer as well.

You've no doubt noticed how online arguments have tended toward the binary in recent years, so get ChatGPT to help add some gray between the black and the white. It's able to argue both sides of an argument if you ask it to, including both pros and cons.

From politics and philosophy to sports and the arts, ChatGPT is able to sit on the fence quite impressively—not in a vague way, but in a way that can help you understand tricky issues from multiple perspectives.

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I've made over $3,500 editing ChatGPT-generated content. Here are 4 tips on how to make AI's writing sound more human.

  • Sultan Ali has made more than $3,500 editing AI-generated content for students and professionals.
  • The 25-year-old's part-time job on Fiverr is to make ChatGPT's writing sound more human. 
  • Here's what it's like to be an AI content editor.

Insider Today

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Sultan Ali, a 25-year-old AI content editor based in the city of Bahawalpur in Pakistan, about how he makes ChatGPT-generated text sound more human. Insider verified his earnings through screenshots of his earnings and his client work through PDFs of the articles he edited. This story has been edited for length and clarity.

I started using OpenAI's ChatGPT to help with my classwork. Now I make thousands of dollars editing AI-generated text so nobody could tell a machine made it.

My journey into AI content editing began a little after ChatGPT came out. I was months away from completing my MBA, and during the school year, I turned to the AI chatbot for assistance with my assignments. As a result, I received high marks in two of my classes, which made me realize the potential of how useful AI can be.

Interested in writing, I decided to offer AI content editing services through the freelance gig platform Fiverr. Since receiving my first order in March 2023, I've completed more than 150 assignments from clients across the US and Europe.

The projects I edit include academic essays, business reports, blogs, and product descriptions — all generated by ChatGPT. The goal is to make these AI-generated texts sound like it was written by a human.

How I edit ChatGPT-generated content

Here's how it works. First, I read the AI-generated text closely to figure out what it's trying to say. Since clients give me texts related to topics like philosophy, medicine, and engineering that I'm often unfamiliar with, I need to make sure I understand the subject matter enough so I can edit the content effectively.

After that, I put the text through Grammarly, an AI writing software, to correct all the grammatical errors. Once that's done, I manually go through the text line-by-line to make each sentence sound more human. To do so, I add three to four descriptive words to each line.

For instance, I would edit the AI-generated sentence "I live in a house that is located on Street 30" to "I live in a beautiful house that's located near the fountain on Street 30." I also like to add humor to make the text sound less boring. This process takes a minimum of two hours.

After adding the words, I go through the entire piece again to delete lines and continuously run it through Grammarly. If the assignment includes citations, I make sure each one is actually real.

Once the text is polished, I run it through programs like Turnitin to check for plagiarism, GPTZero to ensure it doesn't sound AI-generated, and Originality.ai to identify factual errors. If the text doesn't pass these tests, I go back and continue to edit. If it does, I send the edited version of the text — including the Grammarly and AI-detection reports — to my client for review, adjusting the text until they're satisfied.

My 4 tips for how to make AI-generated text sound more human:

1) Do your research: Make sure you read the original studies and articles required for the assignment so you know what ChatGPT is talking about. The AI can be wrong.

2) Check the citations: ChatGPT can create fake references. Make sure they're legit.

3) Add a few words to change the scene: That way, the text is more interesting.

4) Try to write manually: Ideally, you should only rely on ChatGPT if you're short on time.

My clients range from students to fitness instructors to entrepreneurs

Most of my clients are students who need to complete their class assignments under time constraints. However, I do have professionals come to me with bigger, longer-term projects.

One was a guy who asked me to edit a series of AI-generated e-books on child psychology. Another was a fitness instructor who gave me between 50 to 60 articles to edit for his website.

The biggest project I've worked on was with a startup that gave me a 50,000-word aviation instructional manual to rewrite. It took six months to complete.

Still, the job comes with its challenges.

Sometimes, I don't understand what the AI text is trying to say. Other times, clients will ask me to complete assignments in 8 to 12 hours that just aren't feasible within that time frame. There have even been incidents where clients were disappointed by the final product. One client got mad at me for rewriting his text in British English when he wanted it to be American.

So far, I've made more than $3,500 from my AI content editing services through Fiverr.

My rates start at $5 per assignment and increase based on the number of words and delivery time. Still, I only do this part-time as I hunt for a full-time job.

Nevertheless, I don't see myself stopping anytime soon. Artificial intelligence is still new, and the demand for AI content editors will only continue to grow, especially among lazy or busy people.

I think the demand for my services will last for at least another six to seven years.

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  • February 23, 2024   •   38:34 The Rise and Fall of The Village Voice
  • February 16, 2024   •   44:25 Book Club: Let’s Talk About Barbara Kingsolver’s ‘Demon Copperhead’
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  • February 2, 2024   •   40:55 ‘Killers of the Flower Moon,’ From Page to Screen
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  • January 19, 2024   •   27:41 15 Books Coming Soon to a Shelf Near You
  • January 12, 2024   •   44:59 Steven Soderbergh’s Year in Reading
  • December 22, 2023   •   41:01 Reading James McBride’s ‘The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store’
  • December 15, 2023   •   42:48 How to Tell the Story of a Giant Wildfire
  • December 8, 2023   •   38:26 Our Critics’ Year in Reading
  • November 28, 2023   •   1:14:23 Talking About the 10 Best Books of 2023
  • November 10, 2023   •   33:57 The Success of Rebecca Yarros and Barbra Streisand’s Mammoth Memoir

The Rise and Fall of The Village Voice

Dwight garner discusses a new oral history of the venerable alt-weekly, tricia romano’s “the freaks came out to write.”.

Hosted by Gilbert Cruz

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Tricia Romano’s new book, “The Freaks Came Out to Write,” is an oral history of New York’s late, great alternative weekly newspaper The Village Voice, where she worked for eight years as the nightlife columnist. Our critic Dwight Garner reviewed the book recently — he loved it — and he visits the podcast this week to chat with Gilbert Cruz about oral histories in general and the gritty glamour of The Village Voice in particular.

“You would pick it up and it was so prickly,” Garner says. “The whole thing just felt like this production that someone had really thought through, from the great cartoons to the great photographs to the crazy hard news in the front to the different voices in back. It all came together into a package. And there are still great writers out there, but it doesn’t feel the same anymore. No one has really taken over, to my point of view. ... There’s no one-stop shopping to find the great listings at every club and every major theater, just a great rundown of what one might be interested in doing.”

We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected] .

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Want to know about the best books to read and the latest news start here..

In her new memoir, “Splinters,” the essayist Leslie Jamison  recounts the birth of her child  and the end of her marriage.

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Do you want to be a better reader?   Here’s some helpful advice to show you how to get the most out of your literary endeavor .

Each week, top authors and critics join the Book Review’s podcast to talk about the latest news in the literary world. Listen here .

Chrome gets a built-in AI writing tool powered by Gemini

writing stories

Google Chrome is getting a new AI writing generator today. At its core, this Gemini-powered tool is essentially the existing “ Help me write ” feature from Gmail, but extended to the entire web and powered by one of Google’s latest Gemini AI models. The company first announced this new tool in January and it remains in its “experimental” phase, meaning you must explicitly enable it.

To get started, head to the Chrome settings menu and look for the “Experimental AI” page. From there, you can easily enable the new writing feature, as well as Google’s new automatic tab organizer (which I haven’t found particularly useful or smart so far) and the new Chrome theme manager). For now, the AI writer is only available in English on Windows, Mac and Linux. After that, right-click on any text field and select “Help me write.” You can use this to write something completely new and Gemini can also rewrite existing text.

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Image Credits: Google

If you’re subscribed to Gemini Advanced, this new tool will not give you access to an enhanced writing model, a Google spokesperson told us. It’s very much meant for short-form content like emails or support requests and a bigger model may not even be of much help there anyway.

One nifty feature here is that the tool will take into account the site you are on when it makes its recommendations. “The tool will understand the context of the webpage you’re on to suggest relevant content,” Google engineering director Adriana Porter Felt writes in today’s announcement . “For example, if you’re writing a review for a pair of running shoes, Chrome will pull out key features from the product page that support your recommendation so it’s more valuable to potential shoppers.”

As with the “Help me write” feature in Gmail, it’s easy enough to change the length and tone of the results, too.

It’s important to note that the text, content and the URL of the page you are using the service on will be sent to Google under its existing privacy policy. Google explicitly notes that this information “is used to improve this feature, which includes generative model research and machine learning technologies,” which includes a review process with humans in the loop. Caveat scriptor.

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Google’s Duet AI can now write your emails for you

The Write Practice

100 Writing Practice Lessons & Exercises

by Joe Bunting | 50 comments

Want to become a better writer? Perhaps you want to write novels, or maybe you just want to get better grades in your essay writing assignments , or maybe you'd like to start a popular blog .

If you want to write better, you need practice. But what does a writing practice actually look like? In this post, I'm going to give you everything you need to kick off your writing practice and become a better writer faster.

100 Top Writing Practice Lessons and Exercises

What Is Writing Practice?

Writing practice is a method of becoming a better writer that usually involves reading lessons about the writing process, using writing prompts, doing creative writing exercises , or finishing writing pieces, like essays, short stories , novels , or books . The best writing practice is deliberate, timed, and involves feedback.

How Do You Practice Writing?

This was the question I had when I first started The Write Practice in 2011. I knew how to practice a sport and how to practice playing an instrument. But for some reason, even after studying it in college, I wasn't sure how to practice writing.

I set out to create the best writing practice I could. The Write Practice is the result.

I found that the best writing practice has three aspects:

Deliberate . Writing whatever you feel like may be cathartic, but it's not an effective way to become a better writer or build your writing skills. You'll get better faster by practicing a specific technique or aspect of the writing process each time you sit down to write.

This is why we have a new lesson about the writing process each day on The Write Practice, followed by a practice prompt at the end so you can put what you learned to use immediately.

Timed . It's no secret writers struggle with focus. There are just too many interesting distractions—Facebook, email, Kim Kardashian's Instagram feed (just kidding about that last one, sort of)—and writing is just too hard sometimes.

Setting a timer, even for just fifteen minutes, is an easy and effective way to stay focused on what's important.

This is why in our writing practice prompt at the end of each post we have a time limit, usually with a link to an online tool egg timer , so you can focus on deliberate practice without getting distracted.

Feedback . Getting feedback is one of the requirements to deliberately practice writing or any other craft. Feedback can look like listening to the reactions of your readers or asking for constructive criticism from editors and other writers.

This is why we ask you to post your writing practice after each lesson, so that you can get feedback from other writers in The Write Practice community. It's also why we set up The Write Practice Pro community , to provide critique groups for writers to get feedback on each finished piece of writing.

How to practice writing

Our 100+ Best Creative Writing Practice Exercises and Lessons

Now that you know how we practice writing at The Write Practice, here are our best writing practice lessons to jumpstart your writing skills with some daily writing exercises, for beginner writers to even the most expert writers:

All-Time, Top 10 Writing Lessons and Exercises

These ten posts are our most viewed articles to boost your writing practice:

1. What is Plot? The 6 Elements of Plot and How to Use Them . Great stories use similar elements in wildly different ways to build page-turning stories. Click here to read what they are and learn how to start using them !

2. Top 100 Short Story Ideas . Here are over a hundred writing prompts in a variety of genres. If you need ideas for your next story, check this out!

3. How To Use Neither, Nor, Or, and Nor Correctly . Even good writers struggle figuring out when to use neither/nor and either/or. In this post, our copy-queen Liz Bureman settles the confusion once and for all. Click to continue to the writing exercise

4. Ten Secrets To Write Better Stories . How does Pixar manage to create such great stories, year after year? And how do you write a good story? In this post, I distill everything I've learned about how to write a good story into ten tips. Click to continue to the writing exercise

5. 35 Questions To Ask Your Characters From Marcel Proust . To get to know my characters better, I use a list of questions known as the Proust Questionnaire, made famous by French author, Marcel Proust. Click to continue to the writing exercise

6. How a Scene List Can Change Your Novel-Writing Life . Creating a scene list changed my novel-writing life, and doing the same will change yours too. Includes examples of the scene lists from famous authors. Click to continue to the writing exercise

7. Why You Need to be Using the Oxford Comma . Most people I've met have no idea what the Oxford comma is, but it's probably something that you have used frequently in your writing. Click to continue to the writing exercise

8. Six Surprising Ways to Write Better Interview Questions.  The interview is the most-used tool in a journalist's bag. But that doesn't mean novelists, bloggers, and even students can't and don't interview people. Here's how to conduct a great interview. Click to continue to the writing exercise

9. Why You Should Try Writing in Second Person . You've probably used first person and third person point-of-view already. But what about second person? This post explains three reasons why you should try writing from this point-of-view. Click to continue to the writing exercise

10. The Secret to Show, Don't Tell . You've heard the classic writing rule, “Show. Don't Tell.” Every writing blog ever has talked about it, and for good reason. Showing, for some reason, is really difficult. Click to continue to the writing exercise.

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12 Exercises and Lessons To Become a Better Writer

How do you become a better writer? These posts share our best advice:

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If you want to be a writer, learn from the great writers who have gone before you:

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Here are our best writing lessons for specific types of writing, including essays, screenplays, memoir, short stories, children's books, and humor writing:

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  • How to Write a Children's Book
  • How to Write a Love Story
  • How to Write a Coming of Age Story or Book
  • How to Write an Adventure Book
  • 5 Key Elements for Successful Short Stories
  • 4 Tips to Write a Novel That Will Be Adapted Into a Movie
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14 Characterization Lessons and Exercises

Good characters are the foundation of good fiction. Here are our best lessons to create better characters:

  • Character Development: How to Create Characters Audiences Will Love
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  • The Most Important Character Archetype
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  • Heroes vs. Anti-Heroes: Which Is Right For Your Story?
  • The Weakest Form of Characterization
  • How to Write With an Accent
  • How To Create a Character Sketch Using Scrivener

15 Grammar Lessons and Exercises

I talk to so many writers, some of whom are published authors, who struggle with grammar. Here are our best writing lessons on grammar:

  • Is It Okay To End A Sentence With A Preposition?
  • Contractions List: When To Use and When To Avoid
  • Good vs. Well
  • Connotation vs. Denotation
  • Per Se vs. Per Say
  • When You SHOULD Use Passive Voice
  • When Do You Use “Quotation Marks”
  • Polysyndeton and Asyndeton: Definition and Examples
  • The Case Against Twilight
  • Affect Versus Effect
  • Stop Saying “Literally”
  • What Is a Comma Splice? And Why Do Editors Hate Them?
  • Intra vs. Inter: Why No One Plays Intermural Sports
  • Alright and Alot: Words That Are Not Words
  • The Poor, Misunderstood Semicolon

4 Journalism Lessons and Exercises

Want to be a journalist? Or even use techniques from journalism to improve your novel, essay, or screenplay? Here are our best writing lessons on journalism:

  • Six Ways to Ask Better Questions In Interviews
  • How Should You Interview Someone? Over Email? In Person?
  • What If They Don’t Want to Talk to You?
  • Eleven Habits of a Highly Effective Interviewers

16 Plot and Structure Lessons and Exercises

Want to write a good story? Our top plot and structure lessons will help:

  • The Ten Types of Story and How to Master Them
  • Points of a Story: 6 Plot Points Every Story Needs
  • How to Shape a Story: The 6 Arcs
  • 7 Keys To Write the Perfect First Line of a Novel
  • The Secret to Creating Conflict
  • 4 Tips to Avoid Having Your Short Story Rejected by a Literary Magazine
  • 7 Steps to Creating Suspense
  • 5 Elements of Storytelling
  • 3 Important Rules for Writing Endings
  • A Writer’s Cheatsheet to Plot and Structure
  • Overcoming the Monster
  • How to Satisfy Your Reader With a Great Ending
  • Pow! Boom! Ka-Pow! 5 Tips to Write Fight Scenes
  • The Dramatic Question and Suspense in Fiction
  • How to Write a Memorable Beginning and Ending
  • How to Write the Perfect First Page

6 Lessons and Exercises to Beat Writer's Block

Writer's block is real, and it can completely derail your writing. Here are six lessons to get writing again:

  • How To Write Whether You Feel Like it Or Not
  • This Fun Creative Writing Exercise Will Change Your Life
  • When You Should Be Writing But Can't…
  • What to do When Your Word Count is Too Low
  • 7 Tricks to Write More with Less Willpower
  • When You Don’t Know What to Write, Write About Your Insecurities

7 Literary Technique Lessons and Exercises

These writing and storytelling techniques will teach you a few tricks of the trade you may not have discovered before:

  • 3 Tips to “Show, Don’t Tell” Emotions and Moods
  • 3 Reasons to Write Stream of Consciousness Narrative
  • 16 Observations About Real Dialogue
  • Intertextuality As A Literary Device
  • Why You Should Use Symbolism In Your Writing
  • 6 Ways to Evoke Emotion in Poetry and Prose
  • 3 Tips To Write Modern Allegorical Novels
  • Symbol vs. Motif: What’s the Difference

3 Inspirational Writing Lessons and Exercises

Need some inspiration? Here are three of our most inspiring posts:

  • Why We Write: Four Reasons
  • You Must Remember Every Scar
  • 17 Reasons to Write Something NOW

3 Publishing Blogging Lessons and Exercises

If you want to get published, these three lessons will help:

  • The Secret to Writing On Your Blog Every Day
  • How to Publish Your Book and Sell Your First 1,000 Copies
  • How to Get Published in Literary Magazines

11 Writing Prompts

Need inspiration or just a kick in the pants to write. Try one of our top writing prompts :

  • Grandfathers [writing prompt]
  • Out of Place [writing prompt]
  • Sleepless [writing prompt]
  • Longing [writing prompt]
  • Write About Yourself [writing prompt]
  • 3 Reasons You Should Write Ghost Stories
  • Road Trip [writing prompt]
  • Morning [writing prompt]
  • The Beach [writing prompt]
  • Fall [writing prompt]
  • How to Use Six-Word Stories As Writing Prompts

Is It Time To Begin Your Writing Practice?

It's clear that if you want to become a writer, you need to practice writing. We've created a proven process to practice your writing at The Write Practice, but even if you don't join our community, I hope you'll start practicing in some way today.

Personally, I waited  far  too long to start practicing and it set my writing back years.

How about you? Do you think practicing writing is important?  Let me know in the comments section .

Choose one of the writing practice posts above. Then, read the lesson and participate in the writing exercise, posting your work in the Pro Practice Workshop . And if you post, please give feedback to your fellow writers who also posted their practices.

Have fun and happy practicing!

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Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris , a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

Want best-seller coaching? Book Joe here.

How to Write a Memoir: How to Start (and Actually Finish) Your First Draft

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IMAGES

  1. Writing Stories With Your Kids • The Growing Creatives Kids Learning

    writing stories

  2. How To Write A Narrative Essay On A Book

    writing stories

  3. Creative Writing Story Steps

    writing stories

  4. How to Write a Good Story (with Examples)

    writing stories

  5. Tips On How To Write A Good Narrative Story

    writing stories

  6. 29 Writing Stories

    writing stories

VIDEO

  1. Let's write a story

  2. how to write stories

  3. Story writing

  4. Write a story!

  5. Story Writing Tips/कोई भी बना लेगा/How to create Story/Story Writing अब बच्चो का खेल/Rahul Awasthi

  6. Story Writing

COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a Great Story in 5 Steps

    Learn the five elements of a story, the seven plot types, and the steps to write a story in 5 steps. Find inspiration, brainstorm, outline, write, and edit your story with Grammarly.

  2. How to Write a Story In 6 Steps: A Complete Step-By-Step Guide to

    Learn how to write a good story in 6 steps with this step-by-step guide and writing tips from MasterClass. Explore different voices, styles, and techniques for your creative writing skills. Find out how to structure your story, choose your characters, and write a captivating plot.

  3. How to Write a Story: The 10 Best Secrets

    Learn ten secrets about how to write a story, from writing in one sitting to editing like a pro. This article covers the basics of character development, conflict, suspense, dialogue, and more. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, this article will help you write a good story that engages your readers.

  4. 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.

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

    Learn the basics of writing a short story, from coming up with ideas to fleshing out a plot to getting your work published. Find tips for character, plot, theme, conflict, and setting, as well as examples of famous short stories and how to write them.

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

    Learn how to write a short story with this guide from a published author who shares her personal experiences and suggestions. Find out why you should write short stories, what a short story is, and how to write one in five steps: planning, writing, editing, publishing, and marketing.

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

    What are the 12 steps of writing a short story? If you're ready to tackle this avenue of creative writing, or you just want to learn how to write a short story to strengthen the overall quality of your book, here's how you can do that. How to Write a Short Story | Writing a Good Short Story Step-by-Step Watch on

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

    How to Write a Short Story: The Short Story Checklist Rosemary Tantra Bensko and Sean Glatch | November 17, 2023 | 6 Comments 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.

  9. How to Write a Good Story (with Pictures)

    1 Brainstorm to find an interesting character or plot. The spark for your story might come from a character you think would be interesting, an interesting place, or a concept for a plot. Write down your thoughts or make a mind map to help you generate ideas. Then, pick one to develop into a story.

  10. How to Write a Short Story: Drafting, Edit, and Polishing

    1 Come up with a plot or scenario. Think about the concept of the story, what the story is going to be about and what is going to happen in the story. Consider what you are trying to address or illustrate. Decide what your approach or angle on the story is going to be.

  11. How to Write a Story in 6 Spellbinding Steps

    1. Start with a character or concept. A strong character or interesting concept: all great stories start with one or the other. Most writers tend to begin with a concept, then build out the story and characters from there. But some writers prefer to start with a distinctive character and shape the story around them.

  12. How to Write a Story: 10 Tips for Writing Stories

    Tip 4: Establish a High-Stakes Conflict. A good story needs conflict to create tension and keep the reader engaged. Many amateur writers assume that the word "conflict" refers to bad things happening to the main character, but conflict is actually much more specific than that.

  13. Top 100 Short Story Ideas

    Top 10 Story Ideas Tell the story of a scar. A group of children discover a dead body. A young prodigy becomes orphaned. A middle-aged woman discovers a ghost. A woman who is deeply in love is crushed when her fiancé breaks up with her. A talented young man's deepest fear is holding his life back.

  14. 16 Writing Tips for Fiction Writers

    Writing a fictional story is an adventurous undertaking that allows your imagination to run wild as you create characters and build worlds. While there is no definitive list of rules you should follow for fiction writing, there are a number of widely-used techniques to help you start writing, write better, and craft a great story.

  15. How To Write A Story For Complete Beginners

    How To Write A Great Story? Now that's a little bit more complicated. No, it's not hard or "impossible", but you are going to use your brain for this. You're ready? Let's get started! Step 1: Choose The Main Character How do you do it? Simple. Try to recall some of your favorite childhood memories. Is there something you would like to write about?

  16. Short Story Writing For Beginners

    First, what is a short story? Neil Gaiman has a good definition: "Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner." Why should you write a short story?

  17. The Complete Guide to Writing Short Stories

    Just write the story — there'll be time for editing later. And don't go back to read what you wrote. If that's hard, cover your computer screen or hand-write your story. Step 5: Edit Your Story. After you've finished your draft, set it aside for a while — at least a few days. Then pull it back out and read it out loud to yourself.

  18. How to Write Better Stories

    Writing Better Stories. If we want to write better stories, we need to read the best fiction and figure out what makes it so excellent. When I'm absorbed in a book, I always try to keep one corner of my mind focused on what the writer is doing so brilliantly to keep my full attention on the story. Some things are obvious: compelling ...

  19. Create Your Own Story Online: Free Story Creator ️

    Writing stories has never been so easy! Try out our story generator and step-by-step story maker tool now! Get Started Daily Writing Challenges Our daily writing challenges aim to inspire and encourage young writers to write daily. Each day the challenges will update to show a new inspirational prompt for you to write about.

  20. Wattpad

    1 Create Share your unique voice and original story on Wattpad. Find the writing resources you need to craft a story only you can tell. 50+ Writing Resources 2 Build Establish a global fan base as your story gains readership and momentum. Connect with other like-minded writers through storytelling. 97 MILLION People² 3 Amplify

  21. Thousands of Short Stories to Read Online

    25000+ Best Short Stories to Read Online for Free with Reedsy Prompts Thousands of Short Stories to Read Online Looking for a steady supply of short stories? Every week thousands of writers submit stories to our writing contest. Submitted by writers on Reedsy Prompts to our weekly writing contest . Recently featured

  22. 150+ Story Starters: Creative Opening Lines (+Free Generator)

    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.

  23. How To Write Success Stories That Sales Actually Uses And ...

    Using an active writing style makes your success stories more engaging and forceful. Include compelling visuals . Infographics, screenshots, data visualizations, and customer photos and quotes add ...

  24. 17 Tips to Take Your ChatGPT Prompts to the Next Level

    You can ask ChatGPT for feedback on any of your own writing, from the emails you're sending to friends, to the short story you're submitting to a competition, to the prompts you're typing into the ...

  25. How I edit ChatGPT-generated content

    Interested in writing, I decided to offer AI content editing services through the freelance gig platform Fiverr. Since receiving my first order in March 2023, I've completed more than 150 ...

  26. The Rise and Fall of The Village Voice

    Tricia Romano's new book, "The Freaks Came Out to Write," is an oral history of New York's late, great alternative weekly newspaper The Village Voice, where she worked for eight years as ...

  27. Chrome gets a built-in AI writing tool powered by Gemini

    At its core, this Gemini-powered tool is essentially the existing "Help me write" feature from Gmail, but extended to the entire web and powered by one of Google's latest Gemini AI models.

  28. 100 Writing Practice Lessons & Exercises

    Writing practice is a method of becoming a better writer that usually involves reading lessons about the writing process, using writing prompts, doing creative writing exercises, or finishing writing pieces, like essays, short stories, novels, or books. The best writing practice is deliberate, timed, and involves feedback.