This prompt is a great one for the first day because this is a day when you’re probably the most excited about the challenge and your ambitions are high and you’re quite likely to try and do too much.
Write a story in 30 minutes
I would rather you try to do too little and succeed and try to do too much and fai. Hence the limit on timing.
- Set a timer. I know you probably have a phone clutched in your hand right now. Tell it to set a timer for 30 minutes. Don’t start it yet.
- Every story starts with character. Think of your favorite type of character from somebody else’s fiction. Do you like Jack Reacher? He’s heroic he’s almost impossible to beat in a fight. And yet Lee Child manages to make him an interesting character. Is this the kind of character you like? If not what do you like? Write down qualities of characters that you love to read about, now.
- Once you have a character, think about something that this character would never ever do.
- Think of a way to back this character into a corner where they must do the thing they would never do.
- For example all Harry Potter wants to do is find a place to belong, a place to call home. He finds it at Hogwarts. The last thing he would ever do is risk getting kicked out of Hogwarts. But what does he do in every book? He risks getting kicked out of Hogwarts. He does it to save his friends, to further the course of right, and ultimately to save his world.On a smaller scale in All The Light You Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, the main character is a young blind girl who relies utterly on her doting father. The last thing she would want is to be separated from her father and have to cope with life on her own. But along comes World War II and the Nazis and guess what she has to do? It’s not a big adventure novel there are some explosions (not in a Bruce Willis kind of way), but the tension is very real because were worried about this poor vulnerable girl and what she’s going to do in her circumstances. Pick something for your character that will push them beyond their comfort zone.
- Think about this for a little while. It might be best if you think about this while you go off and do whatever it is you have to do today, and then come back to writing later.
- think about how late you can start the story. You don’t have to write background, telling us who the character is, what her daily life is all about. That’s for movies. This is a short story. We don’t have the space for that. Short story writers can start closer to the middle of the action — we can start in medias res, the middle of the action. Later, we show the reader the stakes, through conversation or actions. They don’t need to know everything in the opening paragraph.
- OK, you have a few ideas? Great! Start your timer.
- How to write a story in 30 minutes Write for no more than 10 minutes on the opening of the story. At the 10 minute mark make sure that you’re moving into the main action of the story: the complications, making things worse for your protagonist, making things funnier/more harrowing/more interesting. At the 25 minute mark, start wrapping up: even if the story isn’t completely finished, even if you have to write [something cool happens here], draw a line under the middle part of your story and get the resolution. Wrap it up by the time you hit the 30 minute mark. First draft: done!
- This is difficult, and you’re not going to end up with a fabulous polished story. (You might, but you shouldn’t expect to.) However writing to the end of the story gives you a first draft that you can go back and clean up later. The experience of going from beginning to end in 30 minutes proves to you that you can do this. Congratulations! You have a complete story. Now start thinking about what you might write about tomorrow!