Tip #113: Short treasures!
If you are working on your first book or feel you don’t have a full-length novel inside of you, one way to get your writing and your name as an author into the world is to offer short stories. Many writing professionals simply call these “shorts” because they can include a multitude of writing pieces.
By sharing shorts you allow your readers (and potential readers) to sample your writing talents in general rather than limiting them to one specific genre.
Some examples of shorts are:
- character (or other) interviews
- short stories / flash fiction
- journal entries
- short plays
- children’s books or tall tales
Many of the same writing practices of longer selections apply to shorts as well; the main difference is the length. Shorter pieces require the author to “get to the point” much sooner, as readers are expecting a quick payoff.
Rather than offering tips on writing short pieces, here are some writing prompts to get your juices flowing:
- Put a twist (maybe even a dark one) on a favorite children’s nursery rhyme or story.
- They say everyone has a doppleganger (look alike). You’ve just met yours. How do you feel?
- You’ve just been informed that you have three days to live. What do you do?
- You and your teenager swap lives for a day? What happens?
- You’ve just accomplished one of your life’s goals. What is the goal? How do you feel?
- You’re in the bank and a robbery takes place. You’re wearing a gun. Your kids are right beside you. What do you do?
- Write a poem inspired by nature.
- What would you say in a letter to your younger self?
- A fugitive breaks into your home during the day while you and your kids are there. What do you do? How do you escape?
- You take a trip to heaven or hell. What do you see?
- You were involved in a horrendous auto accident and remain in a coma for two weeks. No one knows you can hear and remember everything going on around you, but you aren’t able to respond. What do you experience while in the coma?
- You get a chance to meet your country’s leader (President). What do you talk about?
- Write a poem or short story about your childhood.
- You’re an employee who is boss free for the day. What do you do?
- You are a stay-home parent who is kid free for the day. What do you do?
- Write about your first trip to the circus, a hockey game, a national landmark. What do you see, feel, hear, smell, and taste?
- You’re a five year old who gets lost at the local fair. What do you see, hear, feel?
- You’ve been kidnapped. How do you escape?
- You’ve been given the power to fly. Where do you go? How do you feel?
- You’ve won a million dollars, but you MUST spend it all in one day. How do you spend it?
- You overhear your best girlfriend talking to your husband in hushed tones. You can’t make out exactly what they are saying but you hear giggling. What are they talking about? What is the big secret?
- You have an accident during which you hit your head. The doctor says you have amnesia. You don’t remember being married to your spouse. Instead, you think you are married to your spouse’s best friend, who happens to be single. What do you do?
- Your pet can talk. What does it say?
- Write about the worst day of your life.
- Write about the best day of your life.
- Write about the worst vacation you’ve ever had.
- Write about the best vacation you’ve ever had.
- You have a medical procedure performed that leaves you blind. The doctor says it will only last for three days. What do you do?
- You are given one superpower for a day. What will it be?
- You’ve been given the chance to go back in time and change one decision you’ve made. What do you change and why?
- You have to live in the middle of nowhere without technology of any kind for one month. What do you do?
- Describe your first real kiss.
- You receive an all-expense-paid trip to any one place in the world. Where do you go?
- Your teenage boys are home alone and you come home from work to see police cars lining your driveway. What happened?
- You are lost in a strange city. What happens?
- You get the chance to meet one celebrity. Who is it and why?
- You get the chance to live someone else’s life for one day. Who is it and why?
- A deceased loved one visits you from beyond. Who is it and why?
- Describe the ultimate marriage proposal.
- You’re at the park with your own kids one day and you see a two-year-old baby in a swing, all alone. There are no other adults around. What do you do?
- You discover a secret passage in your house. Where does it lead? What do you disover?
- Your parents share a huge secret with you on your eighteenth birthday, but it’s not about you being adopted. What is the secret?
- You are a videographer for a day. What do you film?
- Rewrite a previously published piece in a different POV, perhaps that of a different gender or tense.
- You’re a ten-year-old child and your backyard playground transforms into a video game. Go!
- You’re on a public bus and as a stranger exits the bus, he passes you a piece of paper that contains an address and a picture of someone you know. What do you do?
- You receive an anonymous phone call and a voice says, “I’m watching you,” and the caller identifies you by your name. Who is tormenting you and why?
- Every object in your house comes alive for a day! What do they say?
- Write a short story or poem using nothing but clichés. Then rewrite it to eliminate the clichés but keep the same theme.
- Literally vs. figuratively. For one day, everything you say or think comes to pass in real time. What happens?
- You are given the chance to travel back into one famous moment in history. What moment do you choose? What happens?
I’ve provided fifty-one writing prompts here today. If you’ve never written a “short” fiction or non-fiction piece, try it out. Shorts can be fun way to jump start your creativity. They may even turn into full-fledged stories if you are persistent.
Just for fun, here is a short fiction piece by Stephen Geez:
Short Fiction by Stephen Geez
I just figured out something all superheroes should know about our sidekicks.
I happened upon my own sidekick long before I grew up and stepped into the role of hero, way back when I was just a regular suburban kid with no inkling of my destiny as the savior of countless lives. Never a fan of those other heroes who star in their own comic books, I had no idea what a sidekick is supposed to do, let alone how much I would even need one.
And now, after decades working with my own sidekick for the common good, something has gone horribly wrong, and the blood is coming too fast, the injuries too severe, time too short. It’s breaking my heart that our era as superhero and sidekick is about to end.
I was nine or ten years old when the world’s most unlikely wannabe sidekick and his single-parent mom moved to our town. They set up housekeeping in that leaky rat’s nest of an old farmhouse down the dirt road where overgrown fields pushed feebly against encroaching scrub. Two years younger than I, skinny and smallish for his age, he tried to look passable in tattered second-hand clothes usually sized too big or too small. Ever the bully magnet, he liked to pedal around on his chain-throwing rattletrap bicycle, a mismatch of old parts he’d scavenged. Since I was the only boy who didn’t taunt him or push him down, he got to where he’d follow me about, hoping to join in while I hung out with others, but mostly content to hover at the periphery. He knew his place, but never acted resentful, instead appearing grateful for the tolerated proximity. No matter how much I ignored him, though, he often seemed to be watching me intently, studying me, as if appraising something only he could see.
Catching me alone with nowhere particular to go one day, he said he had a secret to tell me. He looked around as if worried someone might approach with bad intent. “Not here,” he whispered.
Read more of this story by clicking here.
And here is one more if you’re in the mood for something humorous.
A Match Met
By Beem Weeks
Nobody around these parts could ever recall a time when Charlie Tricklett had been anything less than fit as a proverbial fiddle. Even as a child, when every other kid in the fifth grade over at Sumpterville Elementary School let those Gawd-awful chicken pox come home to roost, amazing Charlie didn’t find a single bump on his skin. So it became quite a curious thing when the man took to his sickbed late last month.
Now, nobody expected much would come of this rare bout with illness. It started right after Charlie had gone to bed one evening after his nightly pipe. He smoked out on his front porch, the way he’d done for most of his adult life. Next morning, though, the man complained of a busy stomach. Like maybe he’d ate a thing or two that didn’t quite sit well with him.
“I’ll get over this in a few hours,” Charlie told his wife Elmira. “It ain’t like I’m dying.”
Elmira just gave up a short nod, handed the man his pipe, thus granting her approval for a rare indoor smoke.
Two days later old Charlie hadn’t gotten any better. In fact, some might even say the man had taken a turn for the worse. He’d gone past vomiting, pushing up only air and a little spit from time to time. He didn’t bother with food or drink, either; it’d only just have come right back up.
Two weeks into his ordeal Charlie sought the advice of Doctor Ronanberg—a rare occurrence indeed! The only time the good doctor ever entered the Tricklett home was on those once-monthly Friday night poker games.
Doc Ronanberg gave the man a thorough twice-over, gathering statistical details on things referred to as vitals, swiping a fair amount of blood and urine—of which old Charlie was none-too-pleased to part—before proclaiming the situation perplexing.
“Suppose it’s some new plague,” Charlie suggested to his wife. “Maybe they’ll name it after me if I die from it.”
“Doubtful,” is all Elmira said of the subject, handing the man his nightly pipe.
* * *
The good people of Sumpterville took turns helping put Charlie’s crops into his fields. The man himself couldn’t so much as raise his head up off his pillow by that third week. But there’d be food on the table come harvest.
“Never could stand the smell of that awful poison,” Charlie said, concerning the stink of herbicide coming off the freshly turned field next to the house. “Always makes me sick to my stomach.”
* * *
By the end of the month, Charlie had reached his end. All the life had sneaked away during the previous weeks, leaving the man ready for his face-to-face with the Almighty.
It was here, on what would most certainly be his deathbed, that Charlie opted to ease his conscience, to make confession of what he’d been up to during that last month before he took sick.
Read more of this story by clicking here.
Do you all have any interesting writing prompts for shorts? Feel free to share them in the comments below!
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