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Topics for a short story? (1 Viewer)

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rlmoriguchi

Member
I've never been too keen on writing fictional stories (I'm very used to writing essays or journal entries), but I would love to try it and get more familiar with it. How do you all come up with topics or specific characters? I'm open to any suggestions or advice and any is greatly appreciated.

Thank you!
 

SueC

Staff member
Senior Mentor
I like to write about the unnoticed or the seemingly insignificant. A child taking the hand on an adult, a private conversation, a look across a room. You know, like the domino effects of such a gesture or conversation. Sometimes it doesn't take much to be inspired. Maybe you should try writing a short story in first person, since you are already used to journaling. You can always find some prompts on the internet, or you could try one of the prompts that are selected for the LM competition. This month is to write a story with the same sentence at the beginning, and at the end. If that doesn't suit or inspired, we are working on suggestions for the prompt for October. Let us know how you're doing!
Sue :)
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
I like to write about the unnoticed or the seemingly insignificant. A child taking the hand on an adult, a private conversation, a look across a room. You know, like the domino effects of such a gesture or conversation. Sometimes it doesn't take much to be inspired. Maybe you should try writing a short story in first person, since you are already used to journaling. You can always find some prompts on the internet, or you could try one of the prompts that are selected for the LM competition. This month is to write a story with the same sentence at the beginning, and at the end. If that doesn't suit or inspired, we are working on suggestions for the prompt for October. Let us know how you're doing!
Sue :)
A clear and discerning eye - from the smallest things can come the greatest stories.
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
There are several different ways to do it. I see different people get inspiration in different ways. Here might be a few of my ideas:

1. Something that happened that you thought about for a long while without quite knowing why it stuck. Is there an interesting story to develop from it.

2. Think of a topic that is controversial or requires societal change but that you have some experience with and have a developed opinion about. Think of a story that shows what you think others should know about this topic. This will take some bravery.

3. Think of something that emotionally impacted you. Is there a story there?

4. Think of a genre you like and an author you like. What were the most memorable parts of their book to you? Could you expand the thing you like into a short story in a different setting with different characters? Be careful not to steal too big of an idea, instead just the smaller thing you liked, hopefully. For instance, if you like a story about a boy and dog in the country, could you write about a woman and her pet during hurricane or on another planet?

5. I get a lot of inspiration from my dreams, the ones that seem to have more emotions at stake especially. Dreams are different for different people, but if you have a memorable one, this could be the source of a story.
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
One of my goals is to write at least one novel in most genres ... I'll write a ghost story, but I doubt I'll ever do true horror ... which is a different thing. It helps to be familiar with various stories already, whether from books or movies. I'll think about things that have been done in a genre, and then wonder what I could introduce to a typical story in that genre that turns it on its ear.

For example, in June I won the Literary Maneuvers competition for the month. The story began with a man on a quest crossing the desert, with grasping hands coming out of the sand. The first blush idea in my head was something scary, but before I got very far into it, I decided that was predictable. Zombie hands coming up out of the ground has pretty much been done (ha ha) to death. So what could be different? What if they're not a danger? What if he investigates one instead of evading it?

So that's where I go. I take a standard type of story and figure how to add something that will surprise the reader. And face it ... with all the millions and millions of stories that have been written, our base story is NOT going to be something new. We're going to start with a stock base that's been done before. So take one of those stock bases that interests you, and think about it until you find a twist that gives your version of the story its own identity. Often the combination of the two things will fill out the rest of the story.
 

TheMightyAz

Staff member
Mentor
I've never been too keen on writing fictional stories (I'm very used to writing essays or journal entries), but I would love to try it and get more familiar with it. How do you all come up with topics or specific characters? I'm open to any suggestions or advice and any is greatly appreciated.

Thank you!
A quick and easy solution I've used once in a while is to think of contrasts. I've mentioned this before but it's worth mentioning again. I take any character with what you'd consider a stereotypical option and imagine a scenario in which they're doing something opposite of what you'd expect them to do. Just an image does the trick and then you can extrapolate the ramifications.

A skinhead slowly rotating on a children's roundabout crying.
A vicar throwing stones through the stained glass window of his own church.
A miser giving away money and presents at Christmas ...

Your in is to ask 'why?' Your story is to answer logically.

The skinhead may have been abused when he was a child
The vicar may have had something happen that challenged his faith
The miser may have been visited by three ghosts ...
 

Lawless

Senior Member
Every now and then, an idea for a short story occurs to me. As soon as I can, I write the idea down in a separate file and store it with the others.

A few examples:
1. A friend told me how a woman, either insane or a con artist, approached him when he was going home from the pub at night and told him a crazy story. I took it as the beginning of a short story and made up the rest.
2. I used to work at a government office to which a woman wrote letters every once in a while complaining about one and the same thing and we replied her every time that it was nothing we could do anything about; it didn't stop her from writing over and over again.
3. I took a Chinese language course and it gave me the idea of a story involving a news agency Huanghua ("lie"), Professor Haoben ("very stupid") of the University of Buzhidao ("don't know"), a bank named Meiyouqian ("don't have money") etc.
 

JBF

Staff member
Global Moderator
I tend to use shorts as a means of demonstrating a particular facet of a character's personality. Which is a way of working backwards, I suppose - start with something I want to show and build a set-piece where the targeted elements can come to the fore.

I dunno. I make this up as I go.

Otherwise LM has been a pretty fair source of workable prompts, even if you don't enter and aren't a big fan of the word limit.
 
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