This post is by Cara Devereux, who will be sharing about the short story brainstorming process. It is the first of three guest posts for the Turning Point Story Contest, which is open for writers age 9 to 13 until January 30th.
Stories are everywhere. We hear them and tell them all the time, but when it comes to writing them, it can be so hard to know where to begin. You have your notebook and your pen and you’re excited to get going, but. . . how do you get going? Where do the ideas come from and how can you find them? Well, don’t worry, we’re here to help.
Today, I have for you four short, easy questions to help you come up with a brilliant idea for your short story. By the time we’re done, you’ll be ready to get started.
What Do I Like to Read About?
This might seem like a weird question, but if there’s something you love to read about, you’ll probably really enjoy writing about it too. If you’re not sure what you want to write about, it helps to make a list of the things you like to read about. Here are a few examples:
- Medieval stories
Once you’ve made your list, try and pick one that makes you the most excited to think about and a character that fits into that thing. Once you’ve picked something from your list and a character to go with it, you’re ready to ask the next question.
What is a Choice They Would Find Hard to Make?
Short stories are supposed to be short, so your idea will work best if it’s simple. In the Turning Point Short Story Contest, we’re asking you to write about a choice your character has to make, so once you have your character, you have to decide what their choice will be. The choice doesn’t have to be big, but it should be hard for your character because that always makes the story more exciting. Here are some examples of choices that the people I listed in the last section could make:
- Superhero: Should he finish his burger because he’s hungry or go and fight the bad guy who is tearing up the city?
- Pirates: Should he steal all the sinking ship’s gold or should he rescue the crew?
- Medieval stories: Should the dragon eat the princess or rescue her?
- Ballerina: Should she audition for the Nutcracker or is she too afraid?
- Aliens: Should the alien blow up the planet or save it?
- Animals: Should you tell your parents about the llama you found in the garden or keep it as a secret pet?
Try and come up with a few different ideas and see which one you like best. Your best idea isn’t always your first one, and sometimes it’s helpful to ask other people which idea they think is the best one. Remember, if in doubt, go with the most awesome one!
Now you have a character and a hard decision they have to make, you’re halfway to writing your story. There are just two more questions.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Stories are always more fun when something goes wrong. Your character has made their choice, but it’s not as simple as they thought. What are some things that could go wrong?
Remember, your character can either do the right thing, or the wrong thing. If they do the right thing, it might not go to plan. If they do the wrong thing, they need to find out that it was a bad idea. Back to our examples (I’ll just give you two this time):
- The Superhero decides to leave his burger and go and save the city (right choice), but now he’s losing to the bad guy because he’s so hungry his stomach hurts.
- The little boy decides to keep the llama as a secret pet and not tell his parents (wrong choice), but now there’s a llama in his bedroom and it’s eating his curtains.
You’ve got your character and they’ve made their decision and it has all gone wrong, so what’s the final piece of the puzzle to finish your short story?
How Will They Fix It?
Think about whether your character made a good or a bad choice and how it all went wrong. How can you solve the problem for them so that they learn something from it?
- The superhero has a sore stomach, but a kid gives him their breakfast bar and he defeats the bad guy and learns that he should always keep snacks in his pockets or that he shouldn’t skip breakfast.
- The boy’s parents find the llama in his bedroom and he gets in trouble, but they send the llama back to the farm and the boy is allowed to visit him every week. The boy learns that his parents aren’t just being mean by not letting him have a pet.
And there you have it: you’ve just come up with someone to write your story about, a tough choice for them to make, a disaster for them to fix, and a solution.
Congratulations, you’ve just planned an epic short story in four easy steps! If you want to know more about how to go about writing the story and making it the best it can possibly be, keep an eye out for next week’s post. Good luck with your story, young writer!
About the author
Cara Devereux grew up in a house full of books and it has never occurred to her not to write. Her education came from reading novels tucked inside her textbooks and scribbling notes in the back of her jotter when she should have been paying more attention to French infinitives and quadratic equations.
To find out more about Cara, visit paperstrider.com
Learn more about the Turning Point Short Story Contest and its rules here, and stay tuned for future guest posts on the short story making process by subscribing to my newsletter.
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