Archive for the 'Short Stories' Category

Writing prompt: you call that a bridge?

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Is that a bridge?

You call that a bridge?

No way.

That was my first reaction when I saw this structure over a river while on a holiday a few years ago. I was hiking through some interesting country with a small group when our leader took us to this location. He told us that this was where we had to cross the river.

We all hesitated at first, but our leader was adamant. We had to cross here or face a three-hour trek back to our starting point. It was either cross here or go back.  Our bus was waiting on the other side of the river, a short 50-metre walk. The only stipulation was that we had to cross the bridge one by one. He couldn’t guarantee that it would hold up more than one person at a time.

Great.

My wife, daughter and I were enjoying this adventurous holiday. That was part of the reason why we were there, faced with this little challenge. Thankfully, the bridge looked far worse than it actually turned out to be. All in our party crossed safely and we were soon on our way on the bus, heading for the next adventure.

Writing prompts

Use the information I have already given to kick-start your own writing. If this has not prompted some ideas already, use – or adapt – one of the writing prompts I have listed below.

  1. Relate the most adventurous thing you have ever attempted – successfully or otherwise.
  2. Write about the most dangerous activity you have ever undertaken.
  3. Has anyone else ever put you in a dangerous or potentially disastrous situation? Write about what happened.
  4. Use the photo as inspiration for a poem.
  5. Use my photo as a starting point for a flash fiction story (under 500 words – or whatever limit you place on your piece of writing).
  6. Imagine that you had been in the hiking party with me. Write about how I fell off the bridge and how you came to the rescue – or the bridge collapsed when you were crossing.
  7. Write a page or two leading up to this point where you have to cross a bridge. As you approach, someone blows up the bridge. Write a story featuring the events which follow.
  8. Imagine you are a poor farmer living in the place featured in the photo. Write about your life and struggles and how this bridge is critical to your survival.
  9. There is a path leading from the river crossing. Write about where you think that this path is heading, and what you will find there.

I haven’t stated where the photo was taken. I don’t want to restrict your thinking by telling you. If you really, really must know, use the “Contact” form at the top of the page to send me an email, and I will reply privately.

Conditions of use:

  • Feel free to use any of the story starters listed above.
  • Change anything to suit your needs.
  • Give it your best shot.
  • Edit your work carefully before sending it off to a publisher or posting it on your blog.
  • Let me know in the comments section how it went.
  • If you publish your story on your web site or on your blog let me know so I can make a link to it for others to read.
  • Now get writing.

Good writing.

Trevor

12 New Short Story Starters

If you are anything like me you are both a writer and a procrastinator.

Ouch.

Let’s be honest now – how many times have you told yourself, “I should be writing?” And then you go and do something else – like water the roses, trim the hedge, check your email, make a coffee, take the dog for a walk.

Until…

Until half the day is gone – and you haven’t written a word. I know that scene far too well. We all do it – unless you are one of those highly self-motivated beings from another planet who can write at the drop of the hat and make great progress all day, every day, month after month.

What can I do to help?

Below is a list of 12 new short story starters in my very popular series of story starters – go to the cloud of topics on the sidebar to access more of the same – or just do a search of this site.

The idea is to read through these ideas, pick one and then start your short story with the words that I have provided. Simple as that. Oh – you might want to read the ‘Conditions of use’ at the end of this post for more ideas.

12 Story Starters

  1. It had never occurred to me that this might be the scariest day of my life.
  2. ‘How could you be so stupid?’ I yelled. ‘The last thing we need right now is to have yet another cat!’
  3. I could see the line of animals steadily coming closer. At first, I thought that they were horses, but as they approached I realised that they were actually camels. At least five camels being led by someone wearing a djellabah.
  4. I instinctively ducked as the plane screamed low overhead. It missed me by barely five metres. The bus coming towards me braked hard, but still the plane ploughed nose first into it.
  5. The children, their scared eyes wide open, instinctively crouched under their tables as the explosions rocked their classroom.
  6. Our canoe slipped silently through a break in the reeds lining the river. We could see our destination ahead.
  7. Silence settled on our cottage as the snow wrapped us up in its soft, chilling beauty. I could tell that this was going to be a long wait.
  8. The almost imperceptible flutter of his hanky, like a small flag unwillingly waved, was the dreaded sign for us to move. I felt my heart thumping, like some demented elephant trampling inside me.
  9. On a better day, Pete might have made a saner choice, but this was turning into a disastrous day, and his brain had long ceased to function normally.
  10. As the ship forged out past the headland, I began to feel free at last. I was no longer under her spell which had kept me almost like a prisoner all those years.
  11. As I opened the door, I was aware of a strange rubbing on my leg. I looked down to see a kitten rubbing against my trouser leg. ‘Where did you come from?’ I asked. The cat didn’t reply.
  12. As the old clock in the hallway struck midnight, I realised that the events of the day would mean I might have trouble getting any sleep at all.

Conditions of use:

  • Feel free to use any of the story starters listed above.
  • Change anything to suit your needs.
  • Give it your best shot.
  • Edit your work carefully before sending it off to a publisher or posting it on your blog.
  • Let me know in the comments section how it went.
  • If you publish your story on your web site or on your blog let me know so I can make a link to it for others to read.
  • Now get writing.

Good writing.

Trevor

Short story starters

Over the last few years I have written many posts similar to this one. Many of them have proved to be very popular with my readers and consistently draw many readers. I have also had good feedback from readers who have used them.

The idea behind these lists is to start your thinking off on a certain track – and then to let your imagination run wild. Use any of these ideas as you like, adapt the ideas to suit your thinking and away you go.

Each one could be used as an opening line, or a finishing line, or a sentence somewhere in your story.

Story starters

  1. ‘How on earth could you think that about me?’ shouted Nancy.
  2. Olivia hesitated as she came into the room. Her handbag was not where she had left it.
  3. ‘Now where have I put my glasses?’ muttered Peter.
  4. It was strange how Queenie always found a way out of her frequent moments of embarrassment. Like yesterday.
  5. As Robert closed his front door, he drew his coat tighter against the bitter wind. ‘What a night.’
  6. Sam raced to the letter box, flung it open and grabbed the only letter. “Yes! This must be it!’
  7. ‘How can you be so sure it was me?’ demanded Tina. ‘I wasn’t anywhere near you when it happened.’
  8. ‘If that is how you feel,’ said Ursula, ‘this is the final straw.’
  9. Vince was completely flummoxed. How was he going to get out of this toxic relationship?
  10. ‘That will do!’ yelled William. ‘That is the perfect spot for my pride and joy.’

You can access many more short story starters here.

Conditions of use:

  • Feel free to use any of the story starters listed above. Change anything to suit your needs.
  • Give it your best shot.
  • Edit your work carefully before sending it off to a publisher or posting it on your blog.
  • Let me know in the comments section how it went.
  • If you publish your story on your web site or on your blog let me know so I can make a link to it for others to read.

Writing prompts

Farmer in the Ziz Valley, Morocco

In the Ziz Valley, Morocco

I took the photo above while on a tour of Morocco in December 2011. You can read more about my travels on Trevor’s Travels.

My wife and I found that our experiences over just two weeks in Morocco were not only fascinating – they were almost overwhelming. The colours, the sounds, the aromas, the food, the masses of people in the medinas, the amazing mosaics everywhere and the silence of the Sahara. Everywhere we looked we saw new things, different things, amazing and downright perplexing things.

I found it easy to write a daily journal during our trip. I also wrote many poems along the way. (You can read some of my poetry here.) Unusual experiences, or undertaking activities which are out of our usual realm of experience are often excellent stepping off points for writing.

Today I want you to focus on the photo of the farmer shown above. I am assuming he is a farmer on his way to, or just coming back from, the market place. Here are some ideas to help you with your writing.

Writing prompts:

  1. Imagine you are the farmer in the photo. Reminisce on your day so far.
  2. Write a poem (or poems) inspired by the photo.
  3. Imagine the man in the photo has had a tragedy in his life recently. Describe how he is feeling, what happened and how he is going to respond to his changed circumstances.
  4. Use the photo as a jumping off point for a short story. It does not have to be set in Morocco.
  5. Where is the man going? Where has he been? What is his purpose in travelling along this road? Let your imagination soar.
  6. Imagine that the man has just heard some bad news. Describe his feelings, trying to get inside his head, his thoughts, his emotions.
  7. Write a story about the man in the photo assuming that he is not a farmer. What is he doing? Where is he going? What is his background? What happens next?

Good writing.

Trevor.

Fiction #49 The Storyteller

Fiction #49 The storyteller

The chatter in the lunch shed at my primary school was noisy without being overbearing. It was the heat that was overbearing. This was an era when air conditioning was almost unheard of, certainly in the rural community where I grew up in the Murray mallee region of South Australia.

‘I need a drink,’ I muttered to anyone who was listening. Sweat made my shirt and shorts clammy and uncomfortable. I took the tin mug from my school bag and walked to the end of the veranda attached to the single classroom. This doubled as a lunch shed, a place to keep our bags on the dozens of hooks hanging on the wall like two rows or upside down question marks. Two low wooden and very splintery benches ran the entire length of the partially enclosed veranda, one against the stone wall and the other against the tin wall opposite.

I reached up to lower the spout of the water bag hanging from the rook. Its canvas sides were darkened by the rain water seeping through. The occasional drip added to the small pool wetting the cement underneath. I filled my mug and took a long swig of cool water. It was far cooler than the rain water from the tank a few steps away.

‘Fill up me mug, too ferret face,’ Rodney demanded. ‘Gotta broken arm so it hurts to get a drink.’

I knew that he could manage very well without my help, but ever since the accident in the cricket game a few weeks ago, he played on everyone’s sympathy. His plaster cast was grubby and tattered top and bottom. I can still remember the crack as the ball hit the bone and broke it. I can still hear him screaming for his mummy, like a two year old in terrible pain, not the bully boy we had grown to know over the last few years.

Rodney swallowed the water without thanking me for helping him. He hung the mug on the first hook on the top row. He always demanded the same hook, punching anyone who violated this unwritten law of the school playground. He wheeled around the corner and headed off down the hill to the oval. He still played cricket despite the fresh memory of his recent accident.

‘Anyone for a story?’ I said as turned to the remaining children in the lunch shed. I knew that Rodney would not return to bother me until the teacher blew his whistle to mark the end of play time. About half a dozen of the younger children still loitered over their cheese or apricot jam sandwiches. All of them nodded enthusiastically.

‘Sit closer together – there next to Peter,’ I instructed. ‘When you are ready I will start the story.’ I reached into my bag for a shoe box. The bottom of the box had been cut out in the shape of a television screen. Television had just started broadcasting in the eastern states but no-one in our community had ever seen a television set, except in glossy pictures in the Woman’s Weekly magazine. Even if there were broadcasts available in our district, none of the farmers in the area could have afforded a set anyway.

‘Is everyone ready?’ I looked at my expectant audience, their eyes wide open and their mouths gaping with half eaten bread crusts, or pieces of apple. I turned one of the dowels stuck through from the top to the bottom of the box. As it turned the attached strip of paper moved like a film strip across the front of the box. A picture I had drawn appeared in the opening and I stopped turning. I started telling my latest story…

‘Once upon a time there lived a…’ I was a firm believer in traditional beginnings. For a few minutes I related the story shown in the picture, before turning the rod again to reveal a new picture. And so the story continued. The young children laughed at the funny parts, gasped at the frightening bits and applauded wildly when I announced the end of the story.

I had just finished the story when Mr. Ewing the teacher came out of the classroom and blew his whistle. For some reason we didn’t have a school bell, and with no mains electricity in the district yet – power was to arrive here some years later – a siren was out of the question. Any meetings at night were conducted using kerosene lanterns.

I was about to pack my story box – my pretend television set – back into my bag when Rodney and the rest of the boys stormed around the corner and into the lunch shed. He raced over to my bag and snatched the box from me.
‘Whatcha got there, ferret face?’ he sneered. ‘You been playing with the little kids again? Cricket not good enough for you?’ He looked at my diorama, peering at the drawings I’d done. ‘You’re a pathetic little mousey worm. This is worse than dog poo.’

‘Give it back, Rodney,’ I protested, ‘that’s mine. No don’t pull it apart.’

He placed his hands on the edges of the box and pulled, ripping the box into two pieces. He then ripped out my careful drawings and ripped them too. I tried to stop him, but he was both taller and stronger and kept it all at arm’s length.
Rodney ran across to the rubbish bin and stuffed my pride and joy into the food scraps.

‘There you are maggot,’ he yelled. ‘I’ve put it in a safe place for you.’

He hadn’t noticed Mr. Ewing coming up behind him. ‘Rodney Henschke. Come with me.’

‘Ye-ow – that hurts teach!’ He screwed up his face as the teacher’s firm grip on his ear took effect. ‘Leg-go of me ear.’

Mr. Ewing dragged the reluctant ear – and its owner – into the shed next to the classroom. This was the woodwork and craft shed. Our teacher fancied himself as a carpenter and gave the boys weekly lessons in the craft. Meanwhile, his wife took the girls in sewing and basket making classes.

‘Stand there!’ he demanded. ‘Not a move.’

Rodney rubbed his sore ear making it even redder. ‘You’ll pay for this Ewing. Wait ‘til my father hears about this.’
‘Then I’d better give you something else to tell your father.’ The teacher had reached into a storage space and had retrieved a yard long piece of dowelling. He lightly tapped the rounded wood into the palm of his hand. ‘Make sure you tell your father everything, about how you teased a fellow student, how you snatched his property from his bag and how you not only destroyed it but disposed of it in the rubbish bin.’ He paused for his words to sink in, gently tapping his palm for effect.

‘You’re not going to…?

‘Yes, Rodney.’

‘But what did I do wrong?’ he whined.

‘Are you deaf as well as stupid?’

‘Don’t call me stupid! I’m not stupid!’ He spat the words out with venom. I watched spellbound and noticed that these words took the normally mild Mr. Ewing by surprise.

The tapping continued while Mr. Ewing considered his options. ‘What I’ve called you is nothing compared with what you called your classmate Thomas.’ The teacher turned to me. ‘Thomas? You okay?’

I nodded and moved a little closer to the open door.

‘Rodney – you need to apologise to Thomas.’

‘I won’t. That weasel stinks like a fox’s bum. He only wants to play with the little kids. He is such a baby.’ For his last word he used a babyish, whinging sound. He thumped his plaster cast down on the bench. Chips came off and fell like confetti to the floor.

‘So – no apology?’

‘Stuff you teach. An’ stuff that baby too.’

‘You leave me with no choice.’ Mr. Ewing caressed the stick in his hand. I noticed how stained his finger tips were. From tamping down his pipe I figured. He was the first person I’d ever know who actually smoked a pipe. I had seen plenty in photos in magazines and books, but not in real life.

‘Whatcha gonna do?’

I noticed Rodney’s eyes narrow into those cunning slits he often displays.

‘Bend over.’

‘What?’ he said, as if he didn’t comprehend this simple instruction.

‘Bend over with your hands on your knees.’ The teacher continued stroking the wood. I momentarily saw a cloud of sadness drift over his craggy face. It was deeply tanned from many hours spent out in the wheat fields of the district. He picked up some extra money in the summer holidays sewing wheat bags for the local farmers. I’d spent several happy days helping him and my father bag sewing.

Rodney backed towards the corner of the shed. Mr. Ewing grabbed him behind the neck, forcing his head down. ‘Bend over with your hands on your knees.’

Finally Rodney, resigned to his fate, complied.

Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!

I watched in horror as the piece of dowelling swung rapidly into contact with Rodney’s buttock. Mr. Ewing straightened up, ran his fingers gently over the wood once more, and replaced it on the rack. The victim backed white-faced against the wall. His lips trembled, a sliver of saliva dribbled to his chin and I thought I detected a hint of tears shimmering in his eyes. In all of our years together in the same class, I’d never known him to be caned, no matter how much he had teased, taunted and annoyed the other children.

As we proceeding back into the silent classroom, I couldn’t help thinking how life with Rodney Henschke had taken a sudden nightmarish turn.

© 2015 Trevor Hampel

All rights reserved.

Notes:

  • Although I have listed this piece of writing under fiction, some of it is true, based on a real life – mine.
  • This piece was originally written as a warm-up writing exercise.
  • You can read more of my stories here.