How to Write a Short Story: Get Short Story Ideas

Writers often want to know how to write a short story when they have trouble getting short story ideas.

The secret to finding ideas is this: they are everywhere. You just have to know how to tease them out of your memory, and I’ll tell you how to do that below.

How to write a short story bookI’ll share 3 story-generating ideas with you that I first learned about in Behind the Story by Ryan G. Van Cleave and Todd James Pierce.

  1. Character Details: Think of an intriguing person you met recently or even a long time ago. Write down 25 details about them. Describe how they look, what they wear, gestures, and their general attitude. How many of your descriptions offer concrete details about the person’s character as opposed to fuzzy impressions. Doing this exercise can give you a start on creating a character in your short story.

2. Freewriting: Use a pen and paper or your computer for this exercise. Write “I remember” at the start of the page and then write with no preconceived notion of what you’ll write about. Continue writing even if you have to write “blah blah blah” for a bit. The goal is to keep going and to get those subconscious ideas out and on paper. Do this for 10 minutes. It may sound difficult, yet it’ll produce some ideas and some results – and it sure beats staring at a blank sheet of paper and getting discouraged!

3. Describe a Scene: This next idea comes from John Gardner’s Art of Fiction. “Describe a building as seen by a man whose son has just been killed in a war. Do not mention the son, war, death, or the old man doing the seeing.”


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