Most of us writers draw inspiration from anything or anywhere. A funny quote you found online or a picture you came across on google or pinterest. Why not turn this prompt into a short story or even develop a character for a new novel? With the beginning of The Blank Page Short Story Challenge, I’ve been asked a pretty tough question lately. How do you use a prompt for a short story?
There are a lot of different ways to use a story prompt. A photograph or quote can be interpreted to mean so many different things and because we have all faced different challenges in life, each story will be completely different. During this challenge, the panel of judges will be reading your novel and must see some kind of theme that could be interpreted from the prompt. Here are some ways to do that:
- Use the photograph as a photograph in your story. Maybe one of your character’s finds the photo and wants to figure out what is happening. Or maybe he receives the photograph in the mail as a postcard from a friend.
- Use the setting in the photograph as the setting for your short story.
- Use the person in the photograph and make up his/her story.
- Or just describe what you think is happening in the photograph.
Sometimes when I can’t think of a good story, I browse through pixabay and just find a picture that I like, then I start building on that. Writing a short story is an amazing way to hone your writing skills and also maybe jump start that novel you’ve been thinking about. Recently, I wrote a short story, Home, which now I’ve decided to turn into a full novel. You can check out some of my short stories on my blog.
Here are some simple steps to using a story prompt:
- Look at the photo or quote:
Take a few minutes to digest what you are looking at.
- What’s the first thing that pops into your head after reading or looking at the prompt?
- What is happening in the photo?
- How do you feel about what’s happening in the photo?
- What is the focus of the photograph?
- Are any memories resurfacing while looking at the photo or reading the passage?
- Are there any words coming to mind as you’re looking at the photo?
Absorb all this information and write down certain emotions and memories that the photograph brings up. I keep a journal where I jot down different ideas. Thankfully, no one will ever see it, or they might think I was insane to keep a journal with random words written in it.
- Draft a few ideas:
Take some time to think of different ideas. I normally spend the first 10-15 minutes deciding where I want my story to go. I know some of us are pantsers and some are outliners, so do what’s the most comfortable to you.
- Start writing:
Normally when I start writing a short story, the first thing that pops in my head is my last line. I write it down and then I just build the story around that idea. We all know the last line of a short story is so important. Even if you think the writing is stupid, keep writing. Your first draft is all about getting the idea onto paper and then you can go back and revise it.
Take some time to read the story you wrote. This is the part where we all either start crying at how beautifully written the story is or start smashing our computers in frustration. It’s okay if your first draft is bad. It’s not unusual and very few writers get everything right in the first draft. Pick parts of your story that you like and expand on them. Kill parts you don’t like or tweak them until you like them.
We all know how to edit a story. Look for any grammar or punctuation issues. Make sure your story stays consistent, your characters are fully developed, the story flows well.
- Get a CP or beta reader:
This step is optional, but most of us use critiques to improve our writing. Find someone willing to read your story and give you honest feedback. If you agree with their feedback, use it to improve the story.
- Submit your story:
After you are happy with your story, submit it here. The contest closes on February 28th at 11:59 PM EST.
I hope this helps you write the amazing story that I know you are capable of. I look forward to reading each and every one of them. I’ll will be cheering for each one of you.