Short Story Ideas | Writing Prompts | Lore Publication

Writing Prompts For Short Story Ideas 

writing prompts for short story ideas

Every writer struggles when it comes to short story ideas. I've shared the feeling of sitting there staring at the page willing the words to form. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, it just doesn't come to you. That's okay! That's why writing prompts exist.

In this article I will be detailing what helps me when I suffer from things like writer's block, choice paralysis, or when my overthinking gets to me. As someone that has worked as a professional writer since I left University - either on a freelance or full-time capacity - these don't just get annoying, they can threaten my livelihood. 

But when it comes to fiction, that is a different ball game all together. Fiction comes entirely from you and is your unique perspective on an idea or a concept. It is the accumulation of years of reading other fiction, watching TV or Films, learning about jaw-dropping true stories, and indulging in your own personal learning journey.

So, without further ado, let's get started with some good short story ideas, short story prompts and fiction writing exercises that can help you develop that idea into a fully fledged story!

Where To Start With Short Story Ideas

Before we delve down the rabbit hole of the writing prompts themselves, we need to know what to do with them. This is all dependant on your own mindset, what you are looking for, and what you aim to get from these prompts.

Too often do I see new writers or people wanting to be writers posting on writing forums with questions such as how do I write a book? Or, How do I know if I can write?

These questions are valid, especially for those just dabbling in the writing craft for the first time on a journey of personal discovery. That said, this article assumes that you are already a writer, even a novice one, and that you are looking for further your craft. 

As for the advice, prompts, and exercises in this article - they are all from my own personal experience. They may work for you and I encourage you to try them, just don't be disheartened if they don't work miracles for you.

Some of the prompts on here may not help you at all, other prompts may help you develop an aspect you have been struggling with in your short story. I've even had people contacting me about an article on Lore to thank me, as it gave them inspiration for a whole new idea.

Keep an open mind and keep yourself free of expectations. Read the article, try the prompts and methods, and see what works best. If nothing works for you in this article, you can always try:
Have a browse at our other prompt articles and see if they work. Half the battle when using prompts and exercises is finding what works for you. For me, it took a few years to learn what consistently works for me. The whole point of all these articles I write is to help you find what consistently works for you!

Getting Writing Prompts From Other Short Stories

And no, I don't mean copy their idea. Well, at least, not fully. If you stomach churned at that last sentence, that's good, but the reality of the writing world is that there are no original story ideas anymore.

What I mean when I say that is that there are only a few types of 'story' that you can tell. It is how you tell them and how creative you are in this process that makes your work different from other writers. We'll delve into these types of story another time and focus on the prompts for now.

Think about your favourite book, film, or show, and think about the different characters in it. What makes the protagonist so compelling? Equally, what makes the antagonist so dangerous? Is the hero of the story the antagonist or protagonist? What are they struggling against and why is it important to them?

Asking these questions won't immediately help you get writing again. But exploring these ideas in stories you love can help you realize what direction you need to develop your characters, plot, and narrative in.

Just becuase a short story isn't a full length novel doesn't mean there's no room for these aspects. You have more room to work with that you may think with a short story - and if it develops into a novella? Even better!

So, don't be afraid to dabble in other works of fiction you are fond of. But do expand your horizons and force yourself to get familiar with genres you don't like too. Variety is the spice of life, as they say, and this is true in the wrtiting world too.

Understanding Short Story Themes

This is another subjec that can be dissected in another article fully, but for the purposes of this article we need to touch on a few things. Your short story, no matter what it is about, must have a theme. And when I say theme I mean that the story must teach your reader something.

Novels are wonderful for telling compelling character driven stories but they have the length to enable you to do that. In a novel you can dig deep, get to the nitty gritty of your characters and the human condition. You can develop all of this in your oqn unique setting with a world you create.

But with short stories, you don't have that luxury. Unless your story is an extension of a world you have already built or characters that you have already written, it can't just tell a story. A compelling short story, in my opinion, always leaves me pondering about the themes and questions raised in it. 

Having a ghost story, for example, is fine. Writing about how your characters encounter a ghost and what happens as a result is great. But, for instance, using this ghost story to teach your character a lesson or develop the charatcer in some way can inspire your reader to ask questions - not only about the character's human condition but their own.

For me a short story falls flat when it doesn't really leave me with questions about myself or the world around me. Short stories are great because of this very aspect. Novels can, of course, do the same but I have always felt that is the domain of the short story.

With that out the way, it is finally time to get to some writing prompts to inspire you.

List Of 5 Quick Short Story Prompts To Try

Now that we have a bit of background when it comes to using the prompts, let's take a look at 5 quick short story prompts that you can try. 

  1. Think about the last piece of technology you used (aside from the one you are using right now). Phones and computers don't count. Now try to imagine how this tech could be improved. Is there a way it could be more efficient? Or, maybe there is a way to make it smaller and more portable? What new features would you add, and why? How would people use it in the future?
  2. Get a sheet of paper or a computer note pad open. When ready, think of the colour lilac and write down the first thing that pops into your head. Now, think of the number 84 and do the same. Finally, think of the last person you spoke with. Create a character that is the inverse of them and start writing. Include the things you wrote down in the story and see where it goes.
  3. For this prompt, I want you to imagine you are out on a busy street. It can be anywhere you'd like. You are walking in the crowd when you get a text message reading, "I'm watching." - write a short story about your next steps. Let the story take any twists and turns you feel like. Let's see where it goes!
  4. This is another one where you will need to imagine you are in a busy place. Again, it can be anywhere. You are going about your daily business keeping yourself to yourself. You look down to check your phone notifications and when you look back up, everyone has turned into a zombie spontaneously. What do you do?
  5. For this prompt, try and write from the point of view of a fish. Choose what kind of fish you are. Now try and write what you think the daily life of that fish would be like. Try to be as descriptive as possible and add as much detail as you'd like. After you are done, do some research into this type of fish you have chosen and see how accurate you were with your story.
These short story prompts above are a bit varied and specific but this will help you break free of any limiting or restricting thought patterns. Give it a go and see what you can come up with.

Bonus Writing Prompt

As a small little bonus prompt, watch this video and take notes about some things that interest you. Now think about what drew you to those visuals and begin using these visuals to construct a scene in your head. What is happening in the scene? Why is it happening? Who is it happening to and why?

Some Parting Advice

Don't get too bogged down in forcing yourself to write. If you haven't figured out what can inspire as well as motivate you when you are feeling stuck with your writing, that is fine. It can take time to understand what works for you - as every writer writes differently.

If it gets to the point it is no longer fun, you can always come back to it another day or later in the same day. Go and switch things up, take a walk, read a book, watch a show, make some tea, and distract yourself for a while. Often times I find that is all that is needed to reset my brain ready to get working away at my writing again.

This article was written by Stewart Storrar, a writer by trade and author of published short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. Be sure to follow Lore on Twitter!

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