Like You, But Not | StoryADay 2024 Day 5


The Prompt

Use the Short Story Framework to help you write a story about a person who lives a life quite like yours but does not behave the way you do

Things To Consider

I hope you kept your copy of the Short Story Framework handy after yesterday’s prompt because we’re going to use it again today, to prove to you that, though it is a framework, it doesn’t have to produce formulaic stories.

Start with a character who lives a life like yours because it will take you less time to invent the surroundings of the story, this way.

Choose a situation that might enrage, frustrate, or delight you.

Give it to a character who seems like you, at first glance, but who reacts in ways you suspect you never would.

This can be an opportunity for you to be delightfully naughty or admirably honorable.

Make sure to disguise yourself a little bit, in case you ever show the story to anyone 😉 Use the short story framework and really dig into the ‘and because of that’ portions, making sure your character reacts in ways that you would not or could not.

What possibilities does that open up? What will be the consequences for your character?

On Keeping The Story Short

Along a highway near my house, some enterprising homeowner once planted a stand of bamboo to shield their yard from the traffic roaring by.

Sadly, nobody had warned the homeowner about bamboo’s insanely aggressive spreading habit.

Now a huge swath of the highway is bordered by a fragile forest of waving stems that ‘escaped’ from the original yard. The bamboo wreaks havoc on the traffic patterns every time Pennsylvania’s harsh winters flatten portions of it with wind storms or heavy snow.

If only someone had told the original homeowner to plant their bamboo in a sunken concrete tub that woud have contained the ravenous rhizomes and stopped the spread!

Likewise, stories we intend to write as short stories have a strong tendency to want to grow into novels. The best way to keep this from happening is to set some firm boundaries around your story idea.

Here are some boundaries that may stop your story from turning into yet another novel-in-progress

  • * Limit the central incident of the story to one moment in one day in the life of one particular character
  • * Limit the number of characters who appear ‘on screen’ or who need their relationships to the main characters explained. Two or three characters who appear in the story are plenty.
  • * Limit the number of locations your story occurs in. The more locations you include, the more description you need, and the longer the story will need to be, and the more distracted the reader will become (remember, short story readers assume every detail is important. If you introduce five locations they will begin to become overwhelmed)
  • * Choose your details like a minimalist. Choose few, but very specific objects, smells, tastes and sights. Oddly, the more specific you are about a couple of details, the more realistic the story feels (yes, even if it’s happening in an alternate, futuristic, universe!)

Did you have fun with your story?

Leave a comment and let us know how it went!

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18 thoughts on “Like You, But Not | StoryADay 2024 Day 5”

  1. So pleased to see all the “cathartic” and “liberating comments. (Sorry about the therapy bills though!)

    I find this a useful one when trying to make sure characters don’t simply sound like versions of me.

    As for my story, it had a man and a bear in it…

  2. It took a bit of mindfulness to make sure I was not writing about my own qualities! I got a very short story out of this.

  3. Oh gosh I just reread the directions after I posted. Julie is so good at narrowing stories down. I was feeling my story was lukewarm but now I am going to concentrate on one incident.

  4. This was good therapy. I tend to be cautious and don’t tell people off I feel have harmed me because who knows what they’ll do but if there’s anybody I’d love to tell off it’s my daughter’s ex. In my story I bought a gun, bear spray, and put in an alarm system and got a big dog, after I told him off. I’ll explain what he was like to her, me, and basically everybody else, when I polish up my story.

  5. Such an interesting prompt. I loved it. Felt liberating to be rude and hugely inappropriate … and in the end, I got what I deserved. 🙂

  6. So… The warm-up brought up a lot of stuff to talk to my therapist about. I eventually wrote a somewhat meta 80 word story about an version of me who could respond to the prompt without crying. I don’t usually share the writing, but I feel like I want to this time.

    Rea sat at the computer and happily typed out a story about how she punched a Nazi in a crowded bar and then skied off a twenty foot cliff, totally nailing the landing. Even though in real life, she would have simply yelled at the Nazi and never jumped anything more than ten feet.

    She was completely unaware that in another world, Andy was curled into a ball of depression triggered by being asked to write about her defining characteristics.

  7. I followed the framework, did not bother to disguise myself, and changed one of my (I like to think) positive characteristics into its opposite. Only one named character, and three speaking parts. As Fallon said, it was cathartic, though not because my character did what I wish I had done, but because he felt completely free to be selfish, inconsiderate, and untruthful, and wouldn’t it be nice to do that? It came in at about 800 words, a fairly typical length of a draft flash piece for me. If I do decide to revise it for submission, I will have to disguise myself and my family.

  8. Didn’t really follow the framework, but found this very cathartic. Took something that happened at Easter and wrote what I wish I’d done, instead of sitting there, withdrawing into myself. 484 words.

  9. Story 5 complete. Another 3am writing session. I wrote a story using my alter ego. She says and does things I would love to do and say. I really loved writing this one.

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