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Short story writing: inspiration, part 2

What kind of story?

Ideally stories should begin with the kind of inspiration which makes you feel they need to be written, so the question: 'What kind of story shall I write?' should not arise. If the question does arise the best way to answer it is to think of the kind of stories you have enjoyed in the past, and write a story which you yourself would like to read.

Personal experience

I doubt whether there has ever been a story written which was not based to some extent on a personal experience of the author's, though the original events may have become changed out of recognition, and fragments of events widely separated in time may have been combined. Even if an author maintains that the events are pure fiction, the emotional content, if it is at all convincing, must have come from reality.

So if you are stuck for an idea a good starting point might be to think back to some point in your past when you made a decision, or carried out some action, maybe in response to external pressures, which seems to have been a turning point, either for better or for worse, in your life. Then think in terms of a before, a turning point, and an after, and the dynamics of a potential story might begin to emerge from the mist.


If you're still stuck perhaps one of these suggestions will help:

1) Having lodged the intention of writing a short story firmly in the back of your mind, forget it, and give your undivided attention to everything that goes on in your everyday life. Observe everything. Listen to what people say, watch what they do, and perhaps most important, observe your own reactions. Watch the way your thoughts and feelings fluctuate during the day. Are there certain sets of thoughts which crop up again and again? Sooner or later something will click, and you'll think: 'That was interesting' or, 'I wonder why that happened!', and you could well be clutching a thread which, when unravelled, reveals the beginnings of a story.

2) Think of how you feel when you listen to your favourite piece of music, and try to imagine how you would write a story to convey that feeling.

3) Do any thoughts spring into your mind in response to any of the following questions, and where do they lead? Perhaps they will led to a seed of inspiration.

What do you most wish would happen to you in life?

Has your life turned out the way you expected it to when you were a child?

What is the best day you've ever had? Does it look different in retrospect from the way it was when it happened?

What was the worst day you've ever had? How has your memory of it changed through time?

< Inspiration part 1

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