Archive for the 'Writer’s block' Category

Writing prompts #9

Sometimes writers get stuck for ideas. This might just be a temporary blip on the radar screen. If it persists over a long period of time, the dreaded writer’s block might be the cause.

Whatever the situation, writers are left without ideas. This is where my very popular short story starters can help. Then we have this series of writing prompts to get you out of those writing ruts. Today I present the latest list of writing prompts.

Use these as writing warm up activities. Use them as jumping off points for stories, or magazine articles or even blog posts. Use them however you wish.

Twenty Writing Prompts

  1. Write about a career you have always dreamed about.
  2. Write a conversation between a cow and a blade of grass.
  3. What is your favourite household appliance? Write about its life from the point of view of the appliance.
  4. If you had a choice, where would you live and why?
  5. Write a list of ten things you would never write about.
  6. Write a list of menu items you would offer to an enemy who came into your restaurant.
  7. Choose an item in the room. Describe it without saying what it is and from the object’s point of view.
  8. Make a list of the ten greatest inventions ever.
  9. Write five things you would never tell your children – or your parents.
  10. You are alone in the house. Your cat/dog starts talking to you. Record your conversation.
  11. Choose a colour. Write about how it would feel if everything in the world was that colour.
  12. A stranger approaches you in an airport and asks for a thousand dollars. Record your conversation.
  13. Describe boredom. Make your description exciting.
  14. Assume that more ice creams are sold on Tuesdays. Write a short report on why this is so.
  15. Take on the role of your editor. Write the most devastating rejection letter you can imagine.
  16. What would you do if you could live for a thousand years? describe your life.
  17. Make a list of ten things that the world would be better off without. (“Things” – not people!)
  18. Describe the best party ever. Who would you invite? Where would you hold it? What would you have to eat?
  19. Describe what you would do if you found an elephant in your garden.
  20. Write down your thoughts about the most controversial current news item.

Further reading:

Short Story Starters

Okay – so you are trying to face a day of writing – but the ideas just won’t come.


It’s a frustrating feeling, knowing that you have to get a story written in the next two days and off to meet the magazine deadline or competition due date, but you have no ideas. The sinking feeling in the stomach makes the sinking of the Titanic seem like a hole ridden rubber duck in bath tub.

Sound familiar?

It’s a common feeling with too many writers. That’s where I come in. My most popular posts on this blog by far are the series I’ve called Short Story Starters. This is how it works: I give the first line or sentence or two of a story – you use that to get you started and before you know it, you have 200, 500 or even a thousand words and it’s taking over. Wonderful. Problem solved. Use any of the ideas here, adapt them to your own ideas, style, voice – whatever.

Short Story Starters

  1. “I’ve seen that face before.” Ken stared at the photo, trying to remember. That’s the thug who…
  2. Loretta knew she had one chance left. The butterflies were already dancing and the stomach churning threatened a further disaster of epic proportions. She gripped the pole tighter and…
  3. In the fog of trying to wake up Mickey was aware of someone else in his room. He tried to sit up but….
  4. ‘Neil? Are you there Neil?’ The voice was persistent and tinged with anxiety. ‘Are you in there?’ The knocking grew louder and Neil knew he had to respond, somehow. He….
  5. Paula had finished. With a smile of satisfaction she lightly brushed across her mouth with the back of her hand. ‘That was…
  6. The setting sun lit the vineyards stretched out across the valley. Rob watched as the golden glow deepened. He reached for…
  7. Susan hesitated. The door should have been locked. It gently swung open to reveal a…

Over to you. Time to get writing.

Good writing.

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.


I love Oxymorons.

They fascinate me. Sometimes they are really funny, sometimes serious and often thought provoking. Here is a brilliant one I came across recently in our daily newspaper. It  speaks volumes to writers.



Writers take note: procrastination will kill your writing career.

Stop dithering and get on with it.

Go on – stop wasting time here and get on with your writing.

Further reading:

  • Oxymorons – an article I wrote some time ago explaining what they are, with some examples.

Good writing: and stop putting it off.

What I learned from mowing grass

My home is situated on five acres (2 hectares) on the outskirts of a country town in South Australia. We have a small orchard, about two acres of bushland scrub and the remainder is open grassland. Many years ago it was used for grazing sheep.

We used to have five sheep, but they had an accident and ended up in the freezer. The sheep did a good job in keeping the grass down and mowing was unnecessary. It’s a different story now. In spring and early summer the grass and weeds grow quickly, sometimes up to waist high, depending on the winter rains. Of necessity I bought a ride-on mower a few years ago. It was a good move.

What has this to do with writing?


I learned a great deal about writing from mowing the grass.

Get a  spark of an idea

Last spring the grass needed mowing. It was becoming a fire hazard as it dried in the warm sun. I went to start the mower – nothing.

Not a spark. The battery was flat. It wasn’t going anywhere.

Our writing can be like that. It seems to be going nowhere; in fact, some days it just won’t even start. Sometimes it needs a jump start to get it going. Take a break. Make a cup of tea or coffee. Go for a walk.  Read a book for ten minutes. Then come back refreshed and ready to get it going again.

Get some outside help

Even though I charged the battery of my ride on mower, it still wouldn’t start. I tried everything I know about mowers and motors and batteries (which isn’t much – more of a short, short story actually). It needed professional help. I loaded it up on the trailer and took it to the dealer, a specialist in mower maintenance. That did the trick. He knew exactly how to solve the problem, giving me a few maintenance hints as well. Get some professional help with your writing. This is where networking and writers’ groups can be so beneficial. If necessary you may even need to pay to have your manuscript professionally assessed.

Eliminate the rubbish

When the mower was home again I got busy. There was plenty of grass that needed mowing before the summer fire danger season. Round and round I went mowing happily until… until the mower stopped mowing efficiently. What the… ? I stopped and looked down: the cutting area was clogged up with matted dry grass. The blades couldn’t do their job properly.

Is your writing clogged with rubbish? Words that don’t fit, or redundant sentences. Paragraphs that are really run-on sentences going nowhere. Wordy descriptions that “tell and don’t show.” Spelling and grammatical errors that readers – not to mention editors – will trip over and curse you for their sore knees.

Shed some light on your work

Sometimes I was enjoying the mowing so much the sun set on me and it started getting dark. The mower has two headlights but they don’t shed much light on the path ahead. I had to shut down, put the mower away and start again the next day.

Sometimes with our writing we get eyes that are dimmed through tiredness or trying too hard for too long. Put it away over night, or for a few days, and come back in the light of a new day. Instantly you will see where you were having troubles with a piece of writing and be able to correct it and move on.

Be sure to top up the fuel tank

My mower sometimes runs out of fuel. The gauge is on the side of the tank where I can’t see it from where I sit. It leaves me in no doubt about what is happening. It splutters to a stop with no warning. Sometimes it is a long walk back to the shed to get fuel.

Has your writing ever sputtered to a sudden stop, going nowhere? It is then time to refuel. Take a short holiday completely away from the work that is bogging you down. Go for a long walk every day. Set aside a day or two just for reading a novel. Stop and refuel by listening to music. Walk on the beach. Let the wind blow through your hair. See a movie or  two or three. Visit a friend and have a good yarn about anything except your writing. Then come back fully refueled and ready to go on with your writing.

Good writing.

Short Story Starters

It has been far too long since my last set of short story starters was published here. Entries in this series of articles have proved very popular with my readers for several years now.

Use them

I invite you to look through this latest list of short story starters. If anything grabs your imagination, run with it. Borrow my idea and use it for a short story (or even a novel).

Writer’s block

If you are suffering from the dreaded Writer’s Block, these ideas are the ideal way to write yourself out of that slump. Take one of the ideas and just write – anything that comes to mind. Don’t worry if it seems like rubbish. Just write – and soon the words will be flowing again.

New writers

If you are new to writing, here you will find some great ideas to get you going. Don’t worry too much about the technicalities of spelling, punctuation and grammar on your first, rough draft. You can go back over those things later, once you have the main bulk of the story written.

Here they are – more Short Story Starters:

  1. As Alice rounded the corner she could hear the train coming. She…
  2. Before I had a chance to fully grasp what was happening, Ben had whipped out his knife. Seconds later he…
  3. Considering his past record, this latest move was sure to create a new round of controversy. Peter knew this, but he was adamant that he must go on. He…
  4. ‘Don’t come in here!’ she shouted. ‘After what you’ve done I don’t want to see you again. Get lost.’
  5. Even as I entered the room I could tell that she was not happy. She had that certain look that spoke volumes. I knew…
  6. ‘Fine! You just go ahead and leave – tonight! Good riddance, I say. And don’t think I’ll come running after you.’
  7. Getting over the party was the least of my worries. The cleanup could wait; that mess wasn’t going anywhere. I had to find George and explain. He was probably wondering…

Show – don’t tell

Notice that I start in the middle of the story. Many short stories start in the wrong place. Beginner writers tend to give far too much background detail and the real story starts part way through.

In the example above I have tried to get the action going immediately. Pages of background information is fine if you are writing a novel. Short stories are just that – short. They are tiny glimpses into one scene, two at most.

Beginner and inexperienced writers want to tell everything, going into the minutest of details and their short stories have nothing interesting happening in them. ‘Show – don’t tell’ is a mantra repeated endlessly by teachers of writing. Show the character’s motives through what she does. Show your character’s emotions through what he says (see example 6 above). Notice that I’ve broken my own rule in number 5 above. Sometimes telling is needed; you have to know the rules before you know when to break them.

Good writing.

For more short story starters click 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.