More short story starters

Over the years, I have posted many of these articles. They have become some of the most popular posts on this site.

These story starters are designed to get your creative juices flowing. We all have those dreaded times when we just can’t think of an idea to write about. These story starters are designed to get you going. You may end up not using the exact wording I have given. You may even change any names I have used. The setting I have proposed could also change. It is really up to you. Accept my ideas if they suit you; change what doesn’t ring true for you.

These short story starters could be used exactly as I have suggested. They could be the start of a story which you finish, polish up, rewrite, edit, proofread and send off to a journal or magazine or even a writing competition. Or, you may just use some or all of these ideas just as writing exercises – warm-up writing attempts to flex your writing muscles before your work-in-progress gets attention for the day. It is entirely up to you how you use these ideas. Or not.

Short story starters:

  1. Frank found what he was looking for, but not where he had expected. He felt totally perplexed. How did it get in the washing machine?
  2. It was moments like these that Greta enjoyed. The sudden appearance of her best friend in the cafe opened up the day to untold opportunities.
  3. How on earth could Harry complete this task in the time allotted? He knew that his fate was in his own hands. What he did in the next hour would determine the course of his life, one way or the other.
  4. ‘What are we to do now?’ asked Ingrid. ‘That was the last chance we had.’
  5. Finding her husband lying on their bed in his pajamas was the last thing Jenny expected that day.
  6. Karen raced to the check-in desk and stopped. Hardly able to breathe she waved her boarding pass and waited to be served. ‘What if I’m too late?’ She suppressed the thought and smiled.
  7. Tony and Lauren knew from the first day that it was going to be a struggle. Despite the challenges ahead, they stepped out believing that they were up to the task set before them.
  8. At the beginning of the week, Murray had believed that he was on top of the workload for the month. What he hadn’t foreseen was the accident.
  9. Naomi blinked. She couldn’t believe what she had just witnessed.
  10. The children ran screaming towards the open door. They crowded around the visitor, jumping and reaching towards the box he carried.

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 website or on your blog let me know so I can make a link to it for others to read.
  • Now start writing.

Good writing.


Fiction #45 Alison

On reflection, I didn’t really trust Alison from the very first time I met her. The circumstances were unusual, granted, but there was no need for her to dismiss me in that way.

‘I’ve changed my mind.’ She stared at me for a few moments. ‘I’m not really interested in what you have suggested. I have never been interested in that sort of thing, so go away.’ She slammed the door.

I stood there open mouthed. ‘Well—of all the cheek…’ There really was no point in saying anything because I knew instinctively that the door wasn’t going to answer me—nor was she about to fling open the door again and invite me in—out of pure and simple sympathy.

I slouched my way back to my car, parked some distance down the street. Why I had parked away from her house escapes me. I guess I had my reasons at the time but events since that morning have blurred those reasons into insignificance. I sat in the car for maybe fifteen minutes. I’m inclined to think too much about events, people, situations and such things.

‘This is a situation,’ I said to the steering wheel. ‘At least—I think it is a situation.’ She doesn’t want to be involved, that’s painfully clear, I thought. I really don’t understand why. After all, she had appeared very keen when she broached the subject at work only yesterday. She’d even given me her address. I flicked on the radio but the music was so mournful I switched it off after thirty seconds.

My mind slipped back to the day we first met. It was at work in the bank three months earlier. I’d been on teller duty that morning because our regular, reliable, trustworthy teller had decided to take a day off unexpectedly that day and no relief teller could be arranged at such short notice.

‘Good morning. How can I help you?’ Our stock query to all customers was met with narrowed eyes and a mumble.

‘Deposit this cash,’ was her terse reply. She shoved over a bulky calico bag. I emptied the bag on to the counter in front of me and gave a low, barely audible whistle.

‘Cut the music,’ she snapped. ‘Just count it.’

The pile of cash was mostly fifty and twenty dollar notes, some loose but most in bundles.

‘This will take a few minutes to count,’ I said, beginning to sort the notes into piles, ‘because the piles are uneven numbers of notes.’

‘Just count.’

I began sorting the notes, and then flicked through each pile in the expert manner most competent tellers are expected to display. Haven’t lost the old skills even though I don’t do much teller work these days.

‘Fifty thousand, five hundred and seventy dollars,’ I announced. ‘Sell something valuable?’

‘Ssssh! Not so loud.’

I raised my eyebrows – just a little – and placed the notes in the special safe under the counter. There was no need to keep that much cash in the tray at my hip. I took her card and entered the amount.

‘Thank you Alison, all done,’ I said as I glanced at the name on the card and handed it back, along with her receipt. ‘Will there be anything else?’

She turned away and marched out of the bank without a word. Ungrateful floozy. I turned to the next customer and dismissed any further thoughts of her for the rest of the day.

Our normal teller returned the next day and I was back at my usual position at the help desk. Things went well until an hour after opening time. I had just spent fifteen minutes struggling to understand a customer on the phone, trying to get through to him that he really needed to come into the branch and attend to the matter in person. Some customers just didn’t understand.

I looked up as the manager Adrian approached my desk.

‘Tony—I’d like you to meet Alison,’ he announced. ‘She’s your new assistant.’

I must have done a double take. I know my jaw dropped and as I picked it up again Alison spoke.

‘We’ve already met,’ she said sweetly.

‘How did you…?’

I stared at her like a monkey caught stealing bananas from the fruit shop.

‘Tony served me yesterday when I had a little cash to deposit,’ she said. She winked at me, but not so Adrian could see.


From that point on our working relationship had been hard work. For the next three months we worked at close quarters on most days. The help desk was a busy spot in the bank and while I was grateful for the extra assistance, our working relationship was, at best, strained. I had only once made a tentative query about the fifty grand, but either she didn’t hear me, or she was hiding something. She never answered me, and I decided never to broach the subject again. Still, I was mighty curious about how she had come by so much cash, and why she was being so secretive about it.

I was therefore quite surprised – perhaps even delighted – when our relationship took a turn for the better some two months after she started to work alongside of me. There was a gradual thawing and a much friendlier atmosphere, not that Alison was ever totally frosty towards me or any of the other workers. I must say that her treatment of every customer was faultless. She was ideally suited to the position of helping people; patient, understanding and efficient with just the right balance of casual friendliness and astute business acumen.

‘Hey, Tony?’ she asked suddenly as we were closing up for the day. ‘I didn’t realise that you were so into philately. Brian told me during lunch.’

‘Yeah,’ I said, a little sheepishly. ‘It’s not something I generally broadcast much. I used to be teased about it a bit as a teenager.’

‘So – do you attend the local stamp club?’

‘I go to most meetings. I’ve made a few friends there, but really – they are all just acquaintances – not what you’d call close friends.’

‘I’ve got a few albums too,’ she admitted, eyes sparkling as she smiled at me. ‘When’s the next meeting?’ She hesitated. ‘I think I’d like to go with you.’

‘Tomorrow.’ I looked at her. No, she wasn’t teasing me. I think she was quite genuine. ‘Always the last Friday of the month. Want me to pick you up?’ She nodded, and we made the arrangements.


I slowly drove off down the street, glancing across at her house as I went by. The door was still firmly shut and there was no sign of Alison having changed her mind. I drove to the Philately Club meeting with confused feelings. I was not sure what had just happened, and why the sudden change in her manner. She had seemed so keen to go to the meeting with me.

The meeting was a bit of a blur, but I managed to get through it without too much extra trauma. In fact, one interesting matter of business made me sit up and take extra notice. Several members had recently had break-ins in their homes with valuable collections being stolen. One was estimated to be valued at around forty to fifty grand. While this was of interest to me in so much as I realised that I was somewhat careless about my own security, I really gave it not much thought after that.


The rest of the weekend that followed was a flurry of activity for me. A family reunion kept me away for most of the time. It was only late on the Sunday evening that I finally retreated to my study to work on my stamp collection, thinking I needed a little peaceful activity before the stresses of the work week.

‘What the…?’ I realised at once that something was missing. The filing cabinet where I kept my stamp collections was open. All my albums were missing. I’d been robbed. The next hour or so was taken up with helping the police with their investigations. I went to bed later than usual before a work-day, and never really slept all that well. It felt like I had been robbed twice: my collection and my sleep.


Monday morning added to my confusion. Alison didn’t turn up for work. She sent no message and her mobile went unanswered when I called. I feared something must have happened to her, so Adrian, ever the concerned boss, suggested I cruise over to her house and check on her after work.

The afternoon was terribly draining, as I was kept busy without Alison’s help at the desk. I was also constantly feeling like curling up in a corner and having an afternoon nap. It took quite an effort not to yawn in customers’ faces, especially those who were rude, or didn’t really know what they wanted.

Eventually I made it over to Alison’s home. There was no answer to my knock on the door. I went around the back and knocked there. Still no answer. I peered in through several windows – the house was totally empty. Unoccupied. Devoid of furniture.

The next day was even more perplexing.

‘She’s emptied her account.’ Adrian showed me a print-out. ‘Nothing left in her account. She had over a quarter of million in it. All gone – transferred to an overseas bank.’ He stared at the paper, and then at me.


We never saw Alison again. I still have no idea where her fifty grand came from, but I have my suspicions. And I never saw my stamp collections again, either.


All rights reserved.

Copyright 2015 Trevor W Hampel.

You can read more of my short stories here.

Writing flash fiction

A few years ago I went through a period of writing dozens of flash fiction pieces, some of them published here on this site. Some of them have also been published in journals, magazines and anthologies. I haven’t written any short fiction in quite some time, something I should correct.

As I see it, writing short fiction, also called flash fiction, is an excellent practice for any writers of general fiction. These short writing activities – from a mere handful of words up to about a limit of 1000 words – are good exercises for developing the various skills for longer fiction, or even for writing interesting non-fiction. At one stage I limited myself to a mere 50 words. That does not give you much room to move; every word must count.

I recently came across a short article about flash fiction here.

You can read flash fiction on the bus, or while you’re travelling between two train stations. You can read it while you’re waiting at the dentist.  You can read it in that short time between sex and dozing off. It’s a small involvement for a much larger pay-off.

Good writing.

Further reading:

Short Fiction #3 The Open Door

The Open Door

Blake stopped.

He stared at the door.

He could tell at once that all was not well.

“What have we here?” he asked the open portal.

There was, of course, no reply.

Blake entered the house.

All was silent save for the dripping from the bathroom.

It was there that he found her body.

In the tub.

All rights reserved.

Copyright 2006 Trevor W. Hampel

Read more of my short fiction here.

Edited November 2013