10 SUPER STORY STARTERS

Trees as big and beautiful as this one start as seeds. Stories start from seeds too.

Here are some story seeds to plant in the garden of your imagination or memories.

These prompts can be used for both memoir pieces and fiction. For fiction just invent situations for a character, not yourself.

  1. A moment of joy. Big or small. Where were you? What was happening? Use all five senses to describe what was going on. Go into your body – how does the emotion of joy feel in your body? What happened just before this? What happened just after?

2. Shame. Not for the faint-hearted but great story material. A moment of shame, maybe one you’ve carried a long time. Get it out of your head and onto the page – or give it to a fictional character.

3. The biggest lie you’ve ever told and why. Again you can write from your own life or give it to a character.

4. The best decision you’ve ever made. Why was this decision so important? Great stories are born from these moments that change us.

5. An oxygen mask moment (or light bulb moment). A point in your life when you suddenly felt like you’d had a blast of oxygen, or a light had been turned on and you saw the situation you were in clearly for the first time.

6. A piece of clothing from childhood. This could be something you wore, (like my favourite Donald Duck T-shirt that I wore until it was in shreds and my mother threw it out), or a piece of clothing someone else wore. What story does it have to tell. Why do you remember it?

7. A smell you love, a smell you hate. Smell can open all sorts of doors. What story of yours starts with a smell?

8. Witnessing an act of small cruelty. Once, when I was living in Singapore, I saw a harried young businesswoman dragging her screaming five year old across the street, screeching at her, “After all I’ve sacrificed for you!”. It’s stuck with me all this time. A teacher at school? A mean girl at a party? Start there and see where it takes you.

9. A found object. Next time you’re on a walk, keep your eyes open for something. Anything. A scrap of paper with a few words on it. A rock. A piece of rubbish. A leaf or a feather. What story starts here?

10. Rewrite a favourite religious story or myth, updated to present day.

Okay! Pick one (or maybe two – see Thing 1 and Thing 2).

Now set a timer for ten minutes and write like a fury. Don’t stop for anything. If your pen breaks, write with your fingertip. Find your momentum and just keep going. If you’re still going when the timer goes off, ignore it!

Have fun and let me know how you go 🙂

Lots of love

Edwina xx

Thing 1 and Thing 2 Short Story Method

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Got a great story but it’s just not selling? Or you’ve got a great idea but the story just isn’t working somehow? Need a way to think about short stories so you can generate ideas quickly? Well, here’s my THING 1 and THING 2 STORY METHOD.

You can use this for larger pieces of writing too but it works best for short things.

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Thing 1

THING 1

Think of an incident or a turning point in your own life, or the life of someone else you know, or someone you just made up 🙂 This could be anything from a traffic accident to the birth of a child to discovering you have cancer. ANYTHING! Remember it only has to be a thing.

In my story “Mrs Sunshine” I thought of a family breaking down, a young mother on the verge of leaving her partner and children – that was my incident.

For my story “Last Days on the 15th Floor” in Bjelke Blues – it was the last few days of ex-Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s rule when it is rumoured that he locked himself in his office and refused to leave.

In “Something No One Else Can See” my Thing 1 was the climbing number of suicides among farmers here in Australia.

Thought of something you could try? Good!

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THING 2

Thing 2 is important. Thing 2 is what gives your story another layer of meaning and depth. Thing 2 can be anything, any – thing at all 🙂 Somehow whatever you choose your brain will find a way to link it to the themes in your story. Thing 2 will help to amplify the hidden truths in your story without you even having to try that hard.

For “Mrs Sunshine” – Thing 2 was a Sunshine Family set of dolls I was given for Christmas as a child and came to mean a whole lot more than just toys. Mrs Sunshine became a symbol for the impossibly perfect ideal of motherhood.

In “Last Days on the 15th Floor” – Thing 2 was Joh’s Vietnamese cleaner whose father had been governor of her hometown. Her perspective gave the story a whole new understanding.

In “Something No One Else Can See” – two sisters coping with the loss of their mother, building fairy houses and believing in magic, helped to bring lightness to what could have been a very dark tale.

So, what is your Thing 2? Nothing immediately coming to mind? Look around you and pick an object. Any object. Put that into your story and see if the magic of imagination doesn’t somehow build that simple object into a meaningful part of your narrative.

Flick open a book and stab at a word. That could just be the key to adding another layer to your story. Have a close look at some short stories – can you find the Thing 1 and Thing 2?

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But why stop there just because Dr Seuss did? Chuck in a Thing 3 if you feel like it!

THING 3 – an abstract noun  like LOVE or HATE or REVENGE or FAITH or REGRET or FORGIVENESS.

Put your incident, your character or object and the noun together and what have you got?

A STORY – that’s what!

This post is making me go all Dr Seuss so I’d better stop now 🙂

I hope you get lots of great stories from Thing1 and Thing 2 (and 3).

Let me know how you go, and if you discover any THINGS in stories you read.

GOOD LUCK!

Oh, and hurry! Only a few places still left in my next retreat – RELAX AND WRITE FEEDBACK AND REVISION RETREAT – December 11 – 13 2020 in beautiful Springbrook  – Gold Coast hinterland. See here for all the details.

Places are strictly limited to 15 so don’t miss out!

HAPPY WRITING!

Lots of love

Edwina xx