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What to Write a Short Story About

What to Write a Short Story About

The blank page stares back, an empty canvas begging for creativity. You yearn to write a short story, but inspiration seems elusive.

Fear not, fellow storytellers! This guide will be your compass, helping you navigate through the vast landscape of ideas and discover captivating prompts to fuel your creative writing journey.

Exploring the Wellspring of Ideas: Where Inspiration Lies Hidden

Inspiration, like a hidden gem, can be found in the most unexpected places. Here are some ways to tap into the wellspring of ideas and ignite your creative fire:

  • Personal Experiences: Mine the rich veins of your own life for inspiration. Draw upon personal anecdotes, cherished memories, or even challenges you’ve faced. These experiences can offer a unique perspective and emotional depth to your story, allowing readers to connect with the characters and their struggles on a deeper level.
  • Observations and People Watching: Become a keen observer, transforming the world around you into a vibrant tapestry of potential stories. Step out into the bustling streets or the quiet tranquility of a park, and pay attention to the people around you. Observe their interactions, their fleeting expressions, and the unique mannerisms that set them apart. Capture snippets of conversations, interesting habits, or even a peculiar outfit that sparks a curiosity about the person’s story.
  • News and Current Events: Current events, historical happenings, or even local news stories can serve as springboards for fictional narratives. Imagine alternate perspectives on these real-world events, explore “what-if” scenarios based on news headlines, or use real-world challenges as the foundation for fictional settings and conflicts in your story.
  • Art, Music, and Literature: Immerse yourself in different art forms, allowing them to act as catalysts for your creativity. Visit museums and let the vibrant colors and intricate details of paintings spark a story about a hidden message within a masterpiece. Listen to music of various genres, letting the melodies and rhythms evoke specific emotions that could be woven into the fabric of your narrative. Delve into different literary styles, from the whimsical fantasy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez to the stark realism of Ernest Hemingway. Analyze how different authors use language, build characters, and craft their stories, allowing these techniques to inspire your own writing.
  • Dreams and Daydreams: Don’t dismiss the power of your subconscious mind. Pay attention to your dreams and daydreams, capturing recurring themes or intriguing fragments that could be developed into a full story. Dreams can offer surreal settings, bizarre situations, and unconventional characters that can be the starting point for a unique and captivating narrative. Even daydreams, those fleeting moments of fantastical escapism, can hold the seeds of a story waiting to be told.

Beyond the Obvious: Brainstorming Techniques to Uncover Hidden Gems

Sometimes, a little nudge is needed to push creativity beyond the typical brainstorming methods. Here are some unconventional techniques to help you unearth unique story ideas and unlock the hidden potential within you:

The Object Prompt: 

Choose a random object, like a coffee cup with faded lipstick stains, a worn-out shoe with a single untied lace, or a rusty key with an inscription in a forgotten language. Imagine the object’s history, its journey, and who might have used it.

This can lead to fascinating stories about the object’s past, the lives it has touched, or the hidden secrets it holds.

Character Prompt: 

Develop a character first, fleshing out their personality, appearance, and even a unique quirk. Give them a name, a defining personality trait, or a striking physical characteristic. Then, ask yourself questions about their life, desires, and conflicts.

This character-driven approach can help you build a story around their journey, struggles, and the choices they make that shape their destiny.

Setting Prompt: 

Imagine a specific setting, like a bustling marketplace in a foreign country where you can smell the spices and hear the cacophony of different languages, a secluded lighthouse on a stormy coast where the crashing waves and howling wind create an atmosphere of isolation, or a dusty library filled with ancient scrolls holding forgotten knowledge.

Immerse yourself in the details of the setting, its sights, sounds, and smells, and explore the stories that could unfold within its boundaries.

Genre Mashup: 

Play with established genres, blurring the lines between the expected. Blend elements of science fiction with a romantic comedy, or combine a historical setting with a mystery plot. This genre mashup can spark unexpected twists, innovative storylines, and narratives that defy traditional categorization.


Set a timer for 5-10 minutes and write continuously without stopping, regardless of grammar or sentence structure. Let your subconscious take the lead, and see what ideas emerge from this uninhibited flow of words.

Don’t be afraid to write nonsense at first, as it can often lead to unexpected connections and spark a story idea you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Freewriting allows you to bypass your inner critic and tap into your raw creativity, potentially unearthing hidden gems waiting to be polished into captivating stories.

From Idea to Story: Shaping Your Inspiration into a Narrative

Once you have a spark of inspiration, it’s time to fan the flames and shape it into a compelling story. Here’s where the real magic begins, as you transform your idea into a captivating narrative that resonates with readers:

Develop Your Idea: 

Once you have a basic idea, delve deeper. Ask yourself probing questions about your characters, their motivations, and the conflict they face.

Develop the plot, including a clear beginning that introduces the characters and setting, a middle that builds tension and explores the conflict, and an end that provides resolution or leaves a lasting impression.

Consider Your Audience: 

Who do you envision reading your story? Knowing your target audience can help you tailor the tone, themes, and complexity of your narrative.

If you’re writing for children, you might opt for a lighter tone and simpler language, while a story aimed at adults might delve into more complex themes and employ more nuanced language.

Embrace the Unexpected: 

Don’t be afraid to let your story evolve organically. Unexpected twists, character development that takes you by surprise, and unforeseen plot developments can add depth and surprise to your narrative.

Allow yourself to be guided by the characters and the story itself, and trust that unexpected turns can ultimately strengthen your work.

Read and Revise: 

Read your story aloud multiple times, listening carefully to how it flows and identifying areas that need improvement. Pay attention to pacing, character development, and the overall clarity of your message.

Seek feedback from beta readers or writing groups to gain different perspectives and refine your writing. Revision is crucial in crafting a polished and impactful story.


There’s no single “right” way to develop a story idea. The key is to find inspiration that resonates with you and allows you to weave a narrative that captures the imagination of your readers. Embrace the process, experiment with different techniques, and most importantly, have fun!

The journey of writing a short story is a process of exploration and discovery, so enjoy the ride and let your creativity flow freely. As you explore the wellspring of inspiration and nurture your ideas, you’ll be well on your way to crafting a captivating short story that leaves a lasting impact on your readers.

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