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.

Happy birthday to this blog

Trevor’s Writing is three years old today.

Three years, almost 800 articles about writing, reading and blogging and nearly a thousand comments has been a challenge. In the middle of that I’ve had some serious health issues and I’ve taken on full time study. I must be a little crazy. The journey has been exhilarating.

To celebrate I’d like to highlight a few features of my blog, especially for newer readers. Here are some links for further reading.

  • About me – some background about me as a writer.
  • My poetry – some samples of the many hundreds of poems I have written, some of which have been published.
  • Short fictionsome of my short fiction that I’ve published here for you to read.
  • Writing hints – just what it says – hints to help you with your writing.
  • Short story starters – stuck for an idea for a short story? Check out these very popular story starters.
  • Writing a Novel – links to the journal I am writing about writing a novel in 2009.
  • Archives – a complete list of every article ever to appear here on this blog – all 800 and counting.

There you have a veritable smorgasbord of reading to help you with your writing.

Good writing.

Crafting your words

“Words need to be crafted, not sprayed. They need
to be fitted together with infinite care.”

~ Norman Cousins

When I am writing a short story, novel or blog post I generally just blaze away with the writing, trying to get down the ideas or story before it escapes.

After finishing, I go back over the text and edit, edit, edit until I’ve ironed out all of the spelling mistakes, typos, grammatical blunders and missing or wrongly used punctuation. All in a day’s work.

Then starts the interesting stage: rewriting.

Some sentences or even whole paragraphs or passages just don’t work, they don’t sing, they lack sparkle. They are limping along barely able to support themselves, let alone adding to the story. (Notice that last sentence? Originally I had ‘dead in the water.’ Shoot those over worked cliches. )

I used to hate rewriting. Now I look forward to the process because I know that it will certainly add so much to my writing.

Writing poetry

When writing poetry you are faced with a totally different world.

  • Poetry is concise; there is no room for waffle.
  • Poetry is precise; it has to use the exact right word in the right place.
  • Poetry is concentrated language; every word must count.
  • Poetry must be ‘carefully crafted’ and not words sprayed at random.
  • Poetry must consist of words ‘fitted together with infinite care.’

To approach poetry in any other way is not only careless, it is laziness.

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.

Short Story endings

One of the lecturers I have this year often starts her lecture with a writing exercise. It is a creative writing class in prose fiction after all, so this is entirely appropriate. Rosanne uses a variety of approaches, each writing exercise is stimulating. It is also very good writing practice under pressure. I love these exercises, and I have become keen at sharing my writing later during the workshop session after the lecture.

Last week Rosanne wrote a sentence on the whiteboard. She then challenged us to write for about five minutes – ending our piece with that sentence. Here are some interesting (I hope) and challenging (I hope) story endings.  Use them in whatever way you like. Try them as warm up activities for your current writing project.

  1. Which one will I poison first?
  2. That is how the school burnt down.
  3. I will never go there again.
  4. That is the last time I ever saw her.
  5. It still amazes me that I lived to tell this tale
  6. I never expected to hear from him again.
  7. The precious key slipped from her hand, bounced once and disappeared over the edge of the jetty.
  8. Just when I’d given up all hope, the phone rang.
  9. Sometimes life is stranger than fiction.
  10. I was left staring at the solid door that had just been slammed in my face.

It was the first one we were challenged with. Here is what I wrote. Remember that we only had five minutes. This left little time for story or character development and none for rewriting.

Tuesday started like any other day: shower, breakfast, cuppa, paper, crossword and then don’t forget the teeth. All was going well, on schedule, according to plan, just like any other Tuesday.


Until my brother-in-law came to stay with his tribe of brats. All seven. Four boys and three girls plus two over active Jack Russells who always decided to wait until getting here to relieve themselves – on the new carpet.

‘I’ve left Susanna,’ he announced matter-of-factly. ‘Nowhere else to go. So I’ll have to move in with you. I’ll use the spare room shall I?’

I stared in disbelief. This was the fifth time it had happened. I couldn’t stand my brother-in-law. The Brat Pack was uncontrollable. The Jack Russells beyond control.

‘Which one will I poison first?’ was my immediate thought.

Have a go – let me know in the comments how it went.

Good writing.