I’ve always struggled with short stories. I have a hard time coming up with ideas and a hard time executing them. But, it’s nice to have short stories in your stable of horses, especially when you work mostly on novels. The payoff on a novel can sometimes seem so distant it’s as if it’s in another galaxy. It helps alleviate the endlessness if you have some shorter term projects to work on and send out. Plus, it’s good writing practice.
So, I have resolved to take a brief break from my novel projects and write a short story every day this week. That’s a complete rough draft, with a beginning, middle, and end, completed each day, Monday through Friday.
Since the biggest challenge will be coming up with 5 ideas, I’ve given myself a little help by creating my very own story idea generator. This is a low-tech generator (not one of those fancy online ones), and it’s filled with things I think would be good story elements. I came up with 5 lists, one each for plots, characters, settings, mood or tone, and a wildcard list. I printed them out, cut them up (told you it was low-tech), and put them in envelopes. Then I drew one from each envelope and…boom, 5 elements to work into a story.
Monday’s included a chance meeting, a toll collector, the fjords, and a murder. The mood? Adventurous. I drew the elements Sunday night so I could sleep on this hodgepodge of nonsense. By morning, I had my idea. The result? A 2,600 word story about Irv Bockleman, a 68 year old man who dreams of traveling to the Norwegian fjords but works instead as an intergalactic toll collector…until he has an unexpected encounter with a murderess on the run that changes his life forever. Not sure it’s the greatest story of all time, but it was fun to write.
Today’s elements are: stolen goods returned improved, a bearded lady, an English garden, and a transformation. The mood? Dreamy, but not a dream. Hmmm…
I’m having such fun with this so far that I thought I’d used my “story elements generator” to provide the occasional story prompt for YOU here on the blog.
Soooo….here is your first prompt. I challenge you to turn it into an awesome story.
- Plot: Events on the last day of a war
- Character: a shop girl
- Setting: future earth
- Wildcard: saltwater taffy (?!)
- Mood: magical
If you come up with something, please say a little about it in the comments, if you like. Also, if you think the idea of story prompts is a good one, please let me know and I’ll keep them coming.
Now, off to write!