February is a short month so I decided to talk about short stories. No, that’s not the only reason why, but I think it’s a cool reason anyway.
I never imagined myself writing short stories or flash fiction of any kind. However, when I started this blog I wanted to get more of my writing out there in the world. I very well couldn’t post full-length novels onto the blog. Short stories were the way to go and they’re all starting with a prompt.
Short Story Sunday
I started this blog in 2012 and had the idea for Short Story Sunday in late 2014, early 2015… I believe. If I’m remembering correctly. I had never really written any short pieces before. I tried but the ideas always expanded into bigger, better plots. Thus, I had a five-page list of “novels to write.”
I think it was Kris who told me to start writing short stories and/or flash fiction and post it on the blog.
“What am I supposed to write about?”
All my great ideas were turned into novels – or were being saved for novels. So, how could I give up those “brilliant” ideas and publish them on the Internet in just a few hundred words?
Creative Writing Prompts
You can use writing prompts for whatever you want – whether you’re writing a short story, novel, poem, whatever. However, I’ve never really used writing prompts before. I always felt as though I was stealing someone else’s ideas and, if I turned it into a novel and published it, I’d feel like it wasn’t my own, original idea.
That’s not true, of course. The words are still your own and you turn the prompt into your own ideas. Still, it was a weird concept for me at the time.
So, I found prompts online. I bought a couple of prompt books. Kris would give me a random prompt or I’d make one up myself at the top of my head. Thus, short stories were born for me.
There have been plenty of shorts I’ve written where I’ve taken the idea and set it aside in case I want to expand on it into a longer piece – a novel or even just a novella. However, most of them have just remained as shorts. Some are good, some are bad, and some are just plain ugly. But they’re all ideas nonetheless.
How To Begin A Short Story
Like I said, I never imagined myself being a “short story writer.” I thought I would keep it strict to the blog. I didn’t think I would ever submit short pieces to magazines or contests, let alone self-publish a collection. They’re not easy to write. For novels, you have 50,000-plus words to develop characters, establish the setting, elongate the plot, and even throw in some sub stuff. You need to do all that for a short story in about 5,000 words – obviously sometimes more, sometimes less. Sometimes way less.
So, how do you begin a short story? Well, it’s the same as starting a novel. You just do. I know there are people out there who always say that there’s a “right” way to begin a novel and a “wrong” way to begin it to hook your readers. But still, I always just start them. Sometimes my character is just waking up – which even I find annoying most of the time, but hey – I’m writing.
When it comes to writing shorter pieces, I begin with the prompt. The prompt maybe a character’s name or a single word or phrase. It could be a dialogue cue or a snippet of a potential plot.
Whenever I try to write something without beginning it with the prompt, I always find myself stuck. Then I wonder, “where do I fit in the prompt?” Of course, if you come up with a different idea, then you don’t need to worry about throwing the prompt in somewhere, but that’s beside the point.
Why I Love Prompts For Short Stories
I feel like writing prompts are perfect for short story writing. There’s room to explore your own creativity, but it doesn’t take over. It doesn’t take too long for the story to be told for the most part, either.
If you’re interesting in trying to write short stories, I think using a prompt is the way to go. Not to mention, it opens your mind more to things you wouldn’t normally write. If I didn’t use writing prompts, I wouldn’t have nearly 300 shorts written to this day.
Plus, I love looking back at my old stories and seeing how far I’ve come and how much I’ve improved in my writing since then.