Day 18 – Overheard and Understood by Julie Duffy

today’s writing prompt invites you to write a short story in an unusual format: an overheard conversation

The Prompt

Write a one-sided conversation.

Tips

Imagine a character listening to one side of a Zoom call.

The person on the call is using headphones, so your character can only hear their words, not the responses.

Imagine a conflict for your two characters (it could be a parent and child, a romantic couple, roommates): Living together has certain stresses and we all need things from the folks we live with. Being in close confines causes conflicts every day, that build over time.

Your character has a problem with the person they live with. Maybe they want more of their time and attention. Maybe they want to leave. Maybe they just want to have a discussion about values.

How could the one-sided conversation they overhear illustrate (or solve, or illuminate the problem?

You could write this in sections – the first section is your character thinking about the problem, or rehearsing what they’re going to say to their housemate.

The second section could be the conversation they overhear. You can include your character’s internal (and external) reactions to what they here, or just leave that section as a block of monologue.

The third section might be showing your character’s actions in the wake of the understanding they have gained from eavesdropping on the conversation.

Don’t forget to include physical senses in some of the story. Where is your person standing? What does the room feel like? What can they smell? What else can they hear (are the floorboards creaking underfoot, as they try to conceal their presence? Or are they tapping on the door and being ignored/unheard? Are they sipping on a coffee or a cocktail? How does it taste?


Julie Duffy

Julie is the host of StoryADay and has been on more than her fair share of Zoom calls even before, you know, 2020. Julie often speaks to writers groups and business groups about creativity, writing, and the art of productivity. If you’d like her to speak to your group, you can find out more here

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P. S. Over on the Fun-Size Challenge I’ve invited people to submit a story for a chance of getting feedback from me on a live call next week. You are also invited to the party. Get all the details.

Day 18 – Submit Your Story for Review

Today’s the day: Submit your story for review!

Yesterday I encouraged you to finish your story and do a big-picture review to see if it is, broadly, working.

Today I want you to do all the final tidying up and then submit it for a chance to be reviewed on Monday

(Remember, there’s no guarantee your story will be chosen, but you have to play along to have a chance!)

How To Submit

FIrst, get your story into standard manuscript format:

  • Double-spaced, 
  • 12-point Times New Roman, 
  • Word document – save as .docx from other programs like Google Docs and Pages)
  • Include page numbers and your last name in the header of every page

Here’s part of a training on Standard Manuscript Format that I created for a workshop on how to submit to journals.

 (Note: For this submission I don’t need your mailing address on the first page!)

PLEASE NOTE: I do not expect your story to be perfect or for you to be happy with it. It is a first-draft! But feedback can help you turn it into a second draft…Be brave, my friend.

SUBMIT HERE

By uploading your story you are entering it for a chance to be reviewed live on a Zoom call by StoryADay’s Julie Duffy.

The stories chosen will illustrate common high-points and issues in short stories, and all critique will be constructive. Your complete story will not be shared publicly, but we may show screenshots/excerpts of your file. The story will be recorded and may be used in future events.

By submitting you agree to these terms. You must be willing/able to sign in to Google to upload your story.

Day 17- Fan Fic, With a Twist by Brenda Rech

Not your everyday fanfic!

The Prompt

Do a Fanfiction of your favorite or least favorite TV commercial


Brenda Rech

Brenda is happily married with two beautiful daughters, three dogs, two cats and a bird named Amy Farrah Fowler. Her flower gardens are forever at the beginner’s stages as she would rather hike with her husband and dogs or explore her writing. Her favorite breakfast is crispy bacon and strawberry jam on white toast. She is currently working on her first novel and has a monthly newsletter ‘Thru the Window’

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Day 17 – Big News! Short Story Feedback Call

Something unexpected is coming today!

I’ve never done this before, but I’m going to make you an offer it’s going to be hard to refuse:

Send me your story and I will offer feedback on a handful of the stories I receive, live on a call next Monday, May 23.

We write for our own pleasure, but every writer secretly (or not-so-secretly) wants to be read. This is your chance!

If your story is chosen, I’ll highlight part of it on the call and share what’s working and what you might do to make it more effective. 

Not everyone’s stories will be chosen, but even if yours isn’t, you will learn a TON by being on the call and seeing what’s working in other people’s stories, and the most common fixes. 

(People who have been in my Critique Weeks ALWAYS say they get as much from the discussion of other people’s work, as they do from having their story critiqued!)

Have I got your heart racing? 

Your task for today is to finish up your story and give it a once-over to see if you’re happy(ish) with the voice, the structure, the character development and the way it ends.

Make some notes on your story today – you can cross the ‘t’s and dot the ‘i’s tomorrow, before you submit your story.

Remember: you’re not reading for spelling and grammar errors today, but the big-picture stuff.

Tomorrow I’ll share details of how you can enter your story.

How do you feel about the idea of sharing your story? Leave a comment!

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Day 16 – The End

Today we resolve things and tie them up (not necessarily with a bow)

Today is your day to wrap everything up.

The Climax & Resolution

You probably have a real sense, by this point, of what your character wants, needs, and is capable of. Today is the day to write the final action they take that resolve the story.

The resolution of your story is where they take (or suffer the consequences of) the actions that brought them to this point

  • If you want a happy ending, then the character gets what they want or need.
  • If you want a bittersweet ending, they get one but not the other.
  • If you want a sad ending, they don’t get either
  • Saddest of all, they CHOSE not to change in the way that is necessary for them to get what they want (sob!)

Remember that the plot is the actions your character have been taking, that keep things moving along.

There’s an argument to be made that the real story is the inner journey of the character.

Don’t forget to resolve both.

The Ending

I would argue that the ending is different from the resolution, in that the closing lines are less about the character and more about the relationship between you and the reader.

When you tie up the action and the inner story of the character, the reader trusts that you’re a good storyteller.

When you take time to craft a really great closing, it’s as if you’re turning to the reader and saying “hey, do you see? Did you feel that? What are you going to do with what you just experienced, out there in your own life?”

It shouldn’t (in my not-so-humble opinion) often be as obvious as that. We’re not Aesop, telling fables. But we should pay attention to how we wan the reader to feel on the way out of the door (of our story).

Here are some of my favorite ways to give a story an emotional closing:

Leave a comment letting us know what kind of ending you chose, and if you feel you have in place, all the parts a story needs.

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Day 16- Make Me Want To Go! by Christina M.

Write a story as a travel brochure

The Prompt

Because of the COVID vaccines, travel is opening up.

Write a story that’s also a travel brochure.

You can write as if it’s a fantasy locale or an Island in Greece or an outer space destination.


Christina M.

Christina is a writer who digs dragons.

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Fun-Size Challenge Folks: a favor?

Tell me what you think!

We’re not quite finished with this challenge yet but, I wondered if I could ask you a favor.

If you’ve made breakthroughs or had some fun during this fun-sized challenge, it would mean the world to me if you would provide a little testimonial.

It’s the first time I’ve run the challenge this way and I’d love to be able to show other writers what they’re signing up for, next time I run it. There’s nothing quite as powerful as hearing other writers talk about what they got out of it.

I’m using a service called Bonjoro to collect responses to three questions. You can respond by pointing your camera at your face and answering the three questions, or by writing out your answers. It’s super-simple! Here’s a sample I recorded, holding my phone, facing a bright window:

You can skip questions, or save your progress and though it asks for a profile pic, that’s optional too!

If you have felt excited or empowered, if you have surprised yourself, or simply got a sense of satisfaction from this challenge, I’d love to share that with other writers who might need a nudge to take a chance on themselves.

By responding you’re granting me permission to share these videos or written answers here at StoryADay. I really appreciate you!

Day 15- Written in the Stars by Marta Pelrine-Bacon

Just for fun, write a story through horoscopes.

The Prompt

Just for fun, write a story through horoscopes.

This could either be a horoscope on a given day for your various characters.

A simplified example is a protagonist’s horoscope that might say, “You’re a curious soul, but be careful who you trust.” And an antagonist’s horoscope that says, “You’re bold and aren’t afraid to get what you want. Don’t let your anger get the better of you.”

But another option could be a series of horoscopes for a given character.

This could be a daily, weekly, or monthly horoscope, which would have “fortunes” for a few days, weeks, or months, respectively.

Horoscope one: The stars say it’s a good time to stay home. Horoscope two: You’ve recently been in an accident. Now is a time to focus on healing. Three: You’ve taken too many risks. Pay more attention to nearby dangers.

You don’t have to know anything about the zodiac to give it a try. Just play around with it.


Marta Pelrine-Bacon

Marta is a writer and artist who drowns her demons in coffee and can’t be trusted with a pen. She has a few stories published (all written during Story-a-Day!) and is currently creating things for her better angels on Patreon.

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Day 15 – And Because of That #2

Today you write the end of the middle of your story

It was probably hard for you to stop yesterday, but I hope the break has given you a chance to think about how you’ll ratchet up the tension, or move the action along, in a new direction in the next part of the story.

Today, think about what happened yesterday, check your notes, and see if the “And Because of That #2” you had planned still fits. If not, think of a new direction and go for it.

Write the rest of the middle today.

Remember, you’re leaving room for the final action/decision that will resolve the story (that comes soon!)

fs challenge day 15
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Day 14.5 – A Fun-Sized Feast

A summary of all the writing-related tasks from the StoryADay Fun-Sized Challenge so far

Maybe you started this challenge determined not to miss a day (“It’s all going to be different this time!”) and maybe life got in the way—or your mother came to visit, or your boss threw a big project at you—and the challenge has got away from you.

Or maybe you just discovered this challenge and are sad you missed the start.

Good news!

With the fun-size version of the challenge you can jump in right now, catch up on the essentials in about 2 hours (total), and still be on track to finish a new short story this month.

In this post, I have prepared a banquet of all the fun-size tasks you’ll need to get your story written.

(If you want to get the most out of the challenge, I suggest you go here and click on all the tasks, to help you build a sustainable writing practice, but in the interests of catching up, this page has the essentials.

BEWARE: these materials will not be available after the challenge ends, so don’t think you can come back to it later.

Writers love deadlines, right?

Fun-Size Feast of Tasks

  1. A Solid Foundation
  2. Starting Your Story
  3. Their First Action
  4. Write Your Opening
  5. Brainstorming the Middle pt 1
  6. Brainstorming the Middle pt 2
  7. Something Changes
  8. Beginning to write the middle

Each piece should take you 15 minutes.

You can dedicate 2 hours to powering through them all, or sprinkle them throughout your weekend.

Read through the comments section of the tasks if you need some motivation: see how happy those people are? You can have that too!

Leave a comment and let me know when you will be working on your story, this weekend

Day 14- What If? by Leslie Stack

In today’s writing prompt will you grant your character the power to change the past?

The Prompt

“If only I could go back and do it over again, I would…

” How many times have we said that to ourselves?

In JK Rowling’s “The Prisoner of Azkaban,” Hermione Granger had a time turner necklace where she could turn back time to allow her to attend more classes, but more importantly, save two lives.

Whether it’s changing one seemingly small decision or a whole lifetime of decisions, there is usually one thing that we would change if we could.

Something that would make a difference in just one life or many more.

What is your character’s one thing?


Leslie Stack

Leslie Stack is a writer, musician, camper, and teacher who loves being on the water or in a museum. You can usually find her doing research behind dark glasses on a park bench. She lives in a house in Pennsylvania with her husband where the books are plotting a takeover.

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Day 14 – Write the First “And Because Of That” Section

Today we finally get back to writing your story!


Finally! It’s time to get back to drafting this story!

You’re going to have three days of writing in a row, here so you’ll be able to get up a good head of steam…and yet you won’t get lost, because of all that patient prep-work you’ve done. Hooray!

To Do:

  • Pull out your draft. You should already have written your opening and shown us what your character is dealing with and how that normally goes.
  • Now, go back to your ABOT#1 brainstorming notes and write the scenes that show your character dealing with their challenge (trying to realize their desire). This is probably kicked off by something they did in the first part of your story.

If, in your Part One, your character answered the front door, I’ll assume some sort of interaction happened with the person on the doorstep. In that case, today you’re going to write the consequence of that.

A fun thing to do, to keep your story interesting, is make THIS the day they decide to react in a way they don’t normally react.

If a neighbor has come by to complain about your character’s dog barking, and if she normally apologizes, perhaps today is the day she decides to tell the neighbor what she really thinks of their petty complaints.

(This example works particularly well if your character’s desire is to stand up for herself more, or to be more respected, or to not be ignored…)

Remember that you’re setting up an action that gives you somewhere to go. You can move your character closer to or further away from their desire.

(In the next writing exercise you’re going to be writing the consequence of today’s actions, so leave yourself some room to move. The next section will either take your character further on the trajectory you set today or allow them to pull back in the other direction, re: their desire)

A word of caution

Don’t try to write the rest of the story today.

I’m normally all about the high-speed writing, but this fun-size challenge is, in part, designed to build your confidence in your ability to hold and develop a single story over more than one writing session. Stick with me and trust the process!

Fun size challenge day 14
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Day 13- Channel your Inner Dr Dolittle by Carey Shannon

Write a story in whcih a character talks to an animal

The Prompt

Dr. Dolittle author Hugh Lofting showed the magic of communicating with animals through his series of children’s books.

The relationship between animals and humans can range from affection to terror.

As pets, animals can sometimes be our greatest confidantes and comforters.

In the wilds of a forest or jungle, they can be our greatest enemy.

Write a story where a person speaks to an animal as if they were another person.

  • Does the animal respond with grunts, growls or by scratching the ground?
  • How does the person interpret the nonverbal responses of the animal?
  • Some ideas include a person confiding a secret to their cat or someone crying to their dog after a bad day at work.
  • A person could also plead with a bear or tiger for their life.
  • There is always the hunter and the hunted.
  • A human could also help an animal in distress or vice versa.

Mystical animals like dragons and unicorns are welcome.


Carey Shannon

Carey Shannon loves to use her writing to make humorous connections between items that may appear completely unrelated. A feat that is easy for a serious Elvis fan and frequent blood donor.
Carey Shannon loves to write about humorous connections between items and subjects in life that may appear to be completely unrelated. A feat that is easy for an Elvis super fan and frequent blood donor. She has been a member of the Story A Day community since 2020 and now hopes to provide some inspiration quirkiness to other writers.

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Day 13 – Something Changes

Today we’re pivoting towards the ending. Brainstorming, all the way!


Now that you have a sense of where your character is going, you’re probably starting to get a sense of how you want to end this thing.

Today I want to give you the confidence to know that you can make that turn and begin to put an ending on this story!

The story begins to end when something finally changes for your character. Maybe it’s internal, maybe it’s forced on them by an external event, but the final action they take in the story answers the ‘will they or won’t they’ achieve their desire.

(If you’re getting fancy it can answer the question of whether or not their desire is actually the same as what they need, but that’s a more advanced task!)

Remember: we’re thinking about the events that show us how the character ultimately deals with whatever they’ve faced during this story. It will probably tell us something about how they have changed (or refused to).

Don’t worry about how you put a bow on the ending yet. We’ll talk about that on a future day. Just think about what might happen, or at the very least, how you want your reader to feel as they exit the story.

(This emotional part is useful to write down now, because it can get lost as you wrestle with the actual writing part. Keep it handy, as a sign post, for when you’re writing this part!)

Fun-Size Challenge Something Changes
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Leave a comment telling us how today’s task went. Did you have a sense of hw your character will have changed by the end? Do you know how you want your readers to feel?

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Day 12- What Are We Masking? by Gabrielle Johansen

In today’s writing prompt, is your character’s outward appearances showing us the truth or is it masking something else?

The Prompt

Write a story about a person wearing a black mask with the slogan, “NOT TODAY, SATAN” in white print, all caps.


StoryADay Bingo Day 12

Gabrielle Johansen

Gabrielle Johansen is a fantasy writer who wishes she had a magic wand.

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Day 12 – Brainstorm the Second “And Because of That”

Today we’re working on the middle of the story again.


The middle of a story is simply you, complicating things for the character based on the decisions they’ve already made, and taking them closer to, or further away from the desire the reader already understands that the character has.

We’ve already brainstormed one of these moments, and now you get to think about the natural outcome of that.

(I’m breaking it down in a way that might feel a little artificial, because I wanted to give you a clean break from the direction you were traveling in the previous exercise, and a chance to think about what your character needs next.)

Again, we’re not writing these scenes today, just roughing out their path.

Why brainstorm and not simply write these?

You can, of course do as you like (though I have some time set aside for you to do this writing in the next few days).

In my experience, however, many writers have been more able to get to the end of their story by sketching out a rough map of the terrain, than simply by writing their way through.

We tend to get lost in the weeds while writing scenes, and it helps to have a path to come back to!

Fun-Size Challenge Day 12
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Leave a comment telling us how today’s task went. Are you starting to see some potential growth for your character? Somewhere for them to go?

Day 11- Play with Perspective & Time by Neha Mediratta

One of the joys of writing is to create characters that can ‘see’ what has come in the way of what they want.

The Prompt

“I twisted my ankle and hobbled about for a decade. After years of doctor’s visits, therapy sessions, medications, this and that, I came to believe that I’d been cursed and would likely limp to my grave. Until I met you, I didn’t know curses could turn into blessings.”

Use this line anywhere in a short story of about 1500 words.

Might help to brainstorm a few things like: Who would say this? To whom? a mentor? a child? a magician? a stranger on a train? a turtle? a millionaire who’s about to be murdered or a pauper who’s about to get rich?

Reflect on a time when something happened that you thought was the worst thing ever, only to find out later that it was not so bad. In fact, as time went by, it seemed the best thing to have happened.

One of the joys of writing is to create characters that can ‘see’ what has come in the way of what they want. Oftentimes, it is an aspect of themselves, not merely the forces around, that throws them into chaos, pulling them away from the very thing they desire.

As a writer, you have the power to enable readers to map this type of ‘seeing’. Readers walk away from your work not only entertained, but subtly equipped with a new way of looking at their own lives.

StoryADay Bingo Day 11
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Neha Mediratta

Neha is a generalist currently obsessed with stretching, mind-body-world connection and the spirit’s dwelling place. She writes fiction, non-fiction, takes on editing assignments she enjoys and works with people she admires. She lives by a lake in an overcrowded coastal city with her family and some wildlife. Check out her writing here: https://www.amazon.com/Neha-Mediratta/e/B08CJSLD2H

Join the discussion: what will you do with today’s prompt OR how did it go? Need support? Post here!

Day 11 – Other People’s Middles

Today we study how other authors manage to write the middle of their stories successfully.


With an idea in mind for how your middle might begin, I’m inviting you again, today, to take a moment to read how some other people manage this.

Again, because fiction is an art as well as a craft the examples you read will differ from yours (some might not fit into the framework obviously, at all, especially if they are experimental in form).

But the idea is to read some stories like a writer (not a just a reader) and see if you can figure out why the author chose to have their character do what they do, in the order they do.

  • Does it make sense?
  • Does it tell you something about the character (without explicitly telling you something about the character)?
  • Does each progression grow out of the actions the character took, or do they seem random? Which is most satisfying?

Here are some suggestions of stories you might want to read

10 modern short stories
10 classic short stories printable iamge

Leave a comment telling us how today’s task went

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Day 10- Stick With Me by Julie Duffy

Writing in the present tense provides immediacy, as this writing prompts, and its tips, demonstrate

The Prompt

Tell a story in the present tense that starts when your character enters a new environment and ends when they exit.

This story could be a single episode from a larger quest, that illuminates something about your character (useful for those of you who have a longer work-in-progress on the go), or it could be a standalone story.

I’m encouraging you to tell the story in the present tense because it makes the story so much more immediate AND leaves the possibility open for absolutely anything to happen at the end of the story.

Want your character to drift off into space uncertain of their fate? Want them to die at the end? Want to keep the reader on the edge of their seat? These things are all easier to pull off when your story is in the present tense.

If you start your story “I’m walking down the middle of the road, traffic roaring past in both directions on either side of me, pulling the folds of my long gown this way and that, like hands grabbing at my dress…” the reader has no idea if this character is going to survive or not.

If the same story was told in the past tense, (“I was walking down the middle of the road…”) there is an implied ‘later’, an older version of the character who survives to tell us the story.

You don’t have to be out to murder your character, to use this perspective, but it can be very useful in stories where you want to ratchet up the suspense and the sense that anything could happen.

It’s also good practice to mix up our natural inclinations from time to time.

If you’re feeling resistance to any of these ideas, remember: I’ve lost count of the number of writers who told me they hated (HATED) a particular prompt, and write to it anyway, only to have it turn out to be the most interesting (and often published) story they wrote that year.

StoryADay Bingo Day 10
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Julie Duffy

Julie Duffy is typing this prompt on an ergonomic keyboard. The large maple tree outside her window is being buffeted by spring storms, reaching its branches towards her windows as if it wants to come inside. Wait, what was that noise?

Join the discussion: what will you do with today’s prompt OR how did it go? Need support? Post here!

Day 10 – …And Because Of That…

Today we start brainstorming actions for the middle of your story

Today we’re going to brainstorm the first thing your character does in reaction to how your story started.

If you look at the Short Story Framework you’ll see I called this section the first “And Because Of That”.

Here’s a short video lesson on that.


Again I’m going to encourage you to set a timer for about 10 minutes. Don’t overthink this. You’ll get a chance to work on the next “and because of that:” in an upcomings, so don’t try to brainstorm ALL the ways your character reacts…just the one that grows out of your story’s opening, and their desire.

Leave a comment telling us how today’s task went

Fun-Size Day 10

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Day 9- First To Third by Julie Duffy

This StoryADay writing prompt encourages you to try an older story from a new poing of view

The Prompt

Re-write yesterday’s story, in a different point-of view.

Keep the same protagonist, but take us into a different voice.

Where, yesterday, you might have written, “I slammed the door as I left, hearing a muffled ‘hey!’ from behind it. But seriously, how could he have said such a thing, and expected me to stay?” today you might write it from the third-person, limited point of view, which would read like this: “she slammed the door as she left, hearing a muffled ‘Get back here!’ from behind it. But seriously, how could he have said such a thing and expected her to stay?”

Notice how similar third-person limited is to first person? We’re still experiencing the thoughts of only one person. We are very closely aligned with their thoughts and feelings. We don’t need the writer to say ‘she thought’, because it’s always clear whose thoughts we are in.

The advantage of third person is that you can use a line break to indicate a perspective shift and hop inside another character’s head.

“She slammed the door as she left.”
#
The walls shook as the door hit the frame. He yelped with a surprise that quickly turned to anger. Half out of his chair, he yelled “Get back here”. The only answer was the click of her heels on the wood of the stairs and the echoing slam of the front door. A wave of shame pushed him back into the sagging armchair. How could have have said those things to her and expected her to stay?
#
The air outside was icy and cut into her lungs like broken glass. Where would she go now? Surely anywhere was better than here. Fresh snow crunched under the ridiculous heels he had insisted she always wear …

You can stay in one person’s perspective or jump around, just remember, which ever head you’re in, that’s the one the reader will identify most closely with. It’s best not to jump around too much and leave your reader seasick!


Julie Duffy

Julie Duffy likes to write in first person but appreciates the opportunities afforded by third. If she is being honest, what she really loves is a really well done third-person omniscient story as employed by Messers Dickens and Pratchett. You can read more StoryADay Point of View writing prompts here.

StoryADay Bingo day 9
Here’s your bingo piece!

Join the discussion: what will you do with today’s prompt OR how did it go? Need support? Post here!

Day 09 – Pick Your “Win”

Today we’re going to review how far you’ve come and pick a ‘win’ for the month

Now that you’ve been acting like a writer for a whole week, I am inviting you to pick your ‘win’ for the rest of this challenge.

It may seem odd for me to ask you to revisit your goals for the challenge, one week in, but here’s the thing: our expectations of how a project will go rarely match reality.

If we allow uninformed expectations to dictate whether a project is succeeding, we end up with a lot of abandoned projects.

I don’t want that for you.

So, you may have come into this thing, thinking you were going to
write a perfect draft that you could immediately send out to publications
finish a story in the first five days, then do three more over the month
be able to turn up every day and complete the tasks first thing in the morning
never skip a day and have to catch up

There are so many ways your expectations might not have been met…and yet you might still be succeeding.

Today I want you to pick a realistic, achievable (and yes, it can still be ambitious) ‘win’ for this month.

It might look something like one of these:

I will complete all the tasks even if I don’t do them all on the right days
I will allow myself to write an imperfect first draft
I will leave a comment every day, recording how the challenge is going for me and what I’m learning

Write one ‘win’ now, the leave a comment letting us know what it is (if this is comfortable for you. Otherwise, just say ‘I did it”, print out your bingo token, and get on with the rest of your day!)

I’m so glad you’re still here. Turning up over and over again for your writing is going to result in a healthy writing practice that makes you happy. Scientific fact (*not actually verified in clinical trials, but c’mon!)

Bonus Task:

In my I, WRITER short story course, I use “I, WRITER” as an acronym for the parts of a writing practice we are always striving to master. “T” stands for Triumph because (actual scientific fact, via Prof. BJ Fogg of Stanford University), if you want to create and stick to a new habit, an important part of the process is celebrating EVERY SINGLE TIME you do the habit.

So consider picking a simple celebration you’ll do every time you complete one of these tasks, leave a comment and/or add a token to your bingo card (honestly: adding the token to your bingo card can BE the celebration. It’s still and fun and easy). Other options: fist-pump the air; give yourself a hug; do a little victory dance; smile.

Leave a comment telling us how today’s task went

Here’s your next Bingo Piece. Download the pic, print it out and paste it onto your bingo sheet. Then share a picture of it on social media with #storyadaybingo

Day 8- Keeping it Personal by Julie Duffy

In today’s StoryADay writing prompt, we’re working with first person perspective

The Prompt

Write a story in the first person about an incident that happens to a character who is your opposite.

TIPS

Think about some situation you are sure you would FREAK OUT in, and give it to a character who is utterly unlike you (in some ways you admire, and perhaps some ways you don’t)

In many ways, first person is the most natural way to tell a story because it’s how we tell stories all day long. “How was your commute?” “Where did you park?” “What did you do this weekend?”

All of these questions invite stories.

The most important thing to remember about first-person is that the reader is only ever privy to the thoughts of the person telling the story. They can infer, from other people other people’s expressions, what they’re feeling, but you can’t know for certain. You can’t tell me exactly what your spouse was thinking when you took a wrong turn. You can tell me what they said and how they said it….

The character can be self-aware or self delusional or mixture of the two.


Julie Duffy

I am Julie Duffy and this is a first-person bio. I founded StoryADay May in 2010 because I was stick of never finishing anything I started. Ironically, StoryADay May turned into an annual event and now I hope it will never end! I also encourage people to make weekly goals during the rest of the year, in our Serious Writers’ Accountability Group posts. If you’d like email reminders about them, fill in the form, below.

Bingo!

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Join the discussion: what will you do with today’s prompt OR how did it go? Need support? Post here!

Day 08 – Write Your Opening

Write the opening of your story

We’re only going to write the opening today, just up until you’ve shown us the character in the midst of dealing with their problem (possibly the way they always have).

Here’s a little video lesson for you:

Don’t try to make this perfect. We’re just creating something that we can build on (and change later!)

Set a timer for 10 minutes and abandon your writing when it ends.

Remember:
“In the eyes of those who anxiously seek perfection, a work is never truly completed—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned;”
-Paul Valery

Leave a comment to say how your task went, today.

StoryADay Fun-Size Bingo token

Here’s your next Bingo Piece. Download the pic, print it out and paste it onto your bingo sheet. Then share a picture of it on social media with #storyadaybingo

Day 7 – Their First Action

At the start of your story, your character has a desire. That’s what we’re going to work on, today.

Remember, in yesterday’s stories, the characters’ first actions were things like, doing what they were told to do as part of their orientation process, writing a resume, or making a list to try to deal with everything they’re seeing.

The decision to take this first action doesn’t have to be part of the story. IN fact, it’s often best if, when you start writing, you show us your character in the middle of whatever it is they do (which is probably very much what they’ve always done) to deal with or ignore their need.

But don’t worry about starting writing yet. We’ll get to that soon.

What did you choose as your character’s starting point? Tell us in the comments!

Day 7- Fourth Grade Spelling List by Julie Duffy

Cram all these words into a story, and tell your inner editor to hush…in today’s StoryADay Writing Prompt

The Prompt

Use these words in a story:
poison
kingdom
keyboard
castle
garbage
vocal
syllables
seventy
mountain
return

In the past I’ve used spelling word lists from my own children’s 3rd Grade (https://storyaday.org/write-on-wednesday-third-grade-word-list/) homework. Sadly, those children are way too tall for spelling homework anymore (and let autocorrect do most of the work for them), so I’m upgrading you to a spelling list for Fourth Graders that I found online.

What is the point of writing a story from such a silly prompt, I hear you ask?

The point is that it is silly.

As soon as you start to practice your writing consistently, the voices in your head begin: “You must write something good if you’re going to spend this much time alone with your imaginary friends. You must justify your time by writing deathless prose that will win awards, and you must do it now.”

And those voices are the ones that will block you, stall you, send you running from your desk not to reappear for months or even years.

Today’s writing prompt encourages you to lower the bar.

Today’s triumph is that you manage to write something — anything — that resembles a story and contains these words.

Simply writing, is your goal, today. Not writing something good. Just writing.

Have a go. You might even like it!


Julie Duffy

Julie Duffy is the founder of StoryADay and takes silliness very seriously.

Bingo!

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Here’s your next Bingo Piece. Download the pic, print it out and paste it onto your bingo sheet. Then share a picture of it on social media with #storyadaybingo

Join the discussion: what will you do with today’s prompt OR how did it go? Need support? Post here!

Day – 6 Flash Fiction Friday

Psst! If you’re getting tired and losing steam, pop over to the comments of yesterday’s Fun-Size Challenge, where people are working through the early parts of the Short Story Framework and getting excited about their ideas. It’s quite infectious.

Why not pull out the Short Story Framework and use it to help plan today’s story?

The Prompt

Write a flash fiction story that involves a flash of light

Tips

Realistically, most of the stories you write this month will be Flash Fiction in length (anything up to around 1200 words), but today I want you to focus on making it vivid, the way great flash should be.

Flash Fiction is about more than word count. It is deliberately taut, and yes, short. It should contain one or two vivid moments or images that stay with the reader long after they’ve gone.

Write your story of 1200 words today, and work on making it flash.

Read the StoryADay Flash Fiction Essentials if you need more inspiration.

FLASH FICTION FURTHER READING

Steve Almond, Stop

Erin Morgenstern, The Cat and The Fiddle

Ariel Berry, Useless Things

Naomi Kritzer, Paradox

Josh McColough, Meteor

Jennifer Wortman, Theories of the Point of View Shift in AC/DC’s ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’

Rachel Engelman, Joan of Arc Sits Naked In Her Dorm Room

Julie Duffy, The Girl Who Circumnavigated The Earth In An Act of Her Own Making

GO! Need support? Post here!

Bingo!

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Here’s your next Bingo Piece. Download the pic, print it out and paste it onto your bingo sheet. Then share a picture of it on social media with #storyadaybingo

Day 6 – Other People’s Openings

Today’s task is to read at least the opening of a few of these stories and see if you could fill in the first part of the Short Story Framework for those stories.

When You Get Back From Nashville by Patricia Q. Bidar

Character: Empty-nesting mom, Desire: to maintain a meaningful connection with her grown child

My Dear You by Rachel Khong

Character: a newly-deceased bride, Desire: to adjust to her new circumstances

Abernathy Resume by KB Carle

Character: Underappreciated teacher, Desire: to get a better job (be appreciated and better paid)

The Day The Birds Came – Kyra Kondis

Character: A school child (complicated by the ‘we’, but essentially…), Desire: to be cool/important

Shit Cassandra Saw  That She Didn’t Tell The Trojans Because At That Point Fuck Them Anyway – Gwen Kirby

Character: a disillusioned seer, Desire: wants to be believed

(the answer to ‘how soon do you know the character’ is ‘immediately, because it’s all in the title!!”)

Who is the character?

What is their adjective?

What is their desire?

You can read other short stories, if you want, but pay attention to how soon in each story you are able to identify these things. How many lines/words (or what percentage) into the story are you, when you know who the character is and what they want?

(Hint: it’s usually not very far.)

Note: their desire/need may not be the same thing, and may change over the course of the story. Today, we’re just focused on the opening.

Bingo!

make sure you set your printer to print this at original size, not full-page!

Here’s your next Bingo Piece. Download the pic, print it out and paste it onto your bingo sheet. Then share a picture of it on social media with #storyadaybingo

Join The Discussion: How would YOU fill in the Short Story Framework for one of these stories? Post it below!

(If you want to see my answers, highlight the lines under each story link,  above. You’ll see my answers appear)

Day 5 – Starting Your Story

Psst! Are you keeping up with your bingo card? If you post a pic of your card on Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter with 7 pieces filled in this Saturday, I’ll enter you in a drawing and you might get a personalized piece of mail from me! Use #storyadaybingo so I can find it.
Don’t use social media? Post here and pinkie-swear you’ve filled in all the boxes for this week, and I’ll enter you anyway.

…but just a little. We’re taking this slowly, because we’re trying to build a habit that lasts.

Too often people rush through the first draft of a short story in one sitting (that’s part of the appeal of short stories, right?!), leaving themselves rushing the ending, and not really knowing what the story is about.

Today, I want you to brainstorm the very first pieces of the Short Story Framework: the character, their adjective, and their desire.

Figure out your person, their adjective and their desire 

(Bonus points for thinking about setting because it will contribute to their adjective, desire, and the actions they take in the story.

Don’t spend more than 7 minutes on this. We’re trying not to over-think things!

Soon we’ll start thinking about what your character’s first action might be, but not yet. 

Do this exercise, post about it, below, then take the rest of the day off. Yay, You!

NB This is exactly what you’ll need to do when someone asks for a summary of your story, so whether you go through this process now, or after you’ve written and edited down a long, rambly draft, this is a super-important skill to learn!

Fun Size Bingo Piece Day 5

Here’s your next Bingo Piece. Download the pic, print it out and paste it onto your bingo sheet. Then share a picture of it on social media with #storyadaybingo

Leave us a comment telling us how the exercise went. You can share what you wrote if you want (everyone else: no stealing ideas, ok?!).

Day 5- Spell It Out by Carey Shannon

Write a prose poem/story as an acrostic

Psst! Are you keeping up with your bingo card? If you post a pic of your card on Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter with 7 pieces filled in this Saturday, I’ll enter you in a drawing and you might get a personalized piece of mail from me! Use #storyadaybingo so I can find it.


Don’t use social media? Post here and pinkie-swear you’ve filled in all the boxes for this week, and I’ll enter you anyway.

The Prompt

Write an Acrostic prose poem for a person, place or thing you encounter in your daily life. An acrostic is where the first letter of each line must spell out the subject of the poem. An acrostic can be beautiful or sentimental like ROSE, Regal bloom, Omen of love and beauty, Scent of heaven, Enigma of youth. Or it can be a silly take on an existing abbreviation or acronym. S.O.S. Society of Sissy’s. or UFO – Universal Freak Organization. Be as serious as you want or have fun with it!


Carey Shannon

Carey Shannon loves to use her writing to make humorous connections between items that may appear completely unrelated. A feat that is easy for a serious Elvis fan and frequent blood donor.
Carey Shannon loves to write about humorous connections between items and subjects in life that may appear to be completely unrelated. A feat that is easy for an Elvis super fan and frequent blood donor. She has been a member of the Story A Day community since 2020 and now hopes to provide some inspiration quirkiness to other writers.

Bingo!

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Join the discussion: what will you do with today’s prompt OR how did it go? Need support? Post here!

Day 4 – Read A Fave

Today’s task is a real hardship:

Read something written by your favorite author

This doesn’t have to be something that will ‘impress’ me.

You can say you’re reading Alice Munroe and I’ll believe you.

But if you tell me you’re reading Danielle Steele because of the way her books sweep you away and make time disappear and leave you breathless when you finally put them down…I’ll be just as happy (and possibly more convinced you’re telling the truth).

I’m not asking you to read something by an author you admire. I’m asking you to read your favorite “makes me embarrassingly emotional” author.

You might want to go back to a book you’re re-read over and over since you were a kid.

Bonus task: 

Write in your private workspace exactly how you felt while reading your favorite author’s work.

  • Did you get excited? Did they make you laugh? Cry? Swoon? Want to move to a small coastal island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence or the Eastern Shore of Virginia? 
  • Don’t worry about how they did it. Just capture how you felt. 
  • If you’ve been reading this book since you were a kid, what did it do for you, back then? How did it change the way you saw the world? Yourself.

How would it feel if you could do the same thing for a reader, that your favorite author did for you?

Seriously. How?

And would it be OK with you if you never knew about it?

Is even the possibility of having that kind of connection through time and space with another soul, at all exciting to you?

Imagine that kid, that woman, that person having a terrible day/life, who your stories gave a moment of respite to. Imagine showing them a world where they could be happy, accepted, celebrated. 

How is their day going to go, after reading your story?

Will they be a better partner, parent and friend, after your story improved their mood and their sense of themselves?

Will those partners, children, and friends, have better lives, because the person they love treated them better?

Take a moment to close your eyes and picture how your words could ripple out into these other lives. 

I’m not being overly dramatic..

 John Donne said it back in 1623,

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.

John Donne

(Smart man. Didn’t know about gender-inclusive language, but still. Smart.)

Bingo!

Right-click to save me. Make sure you set your printer to print this at original size, not full-page!

Here’s your next Bingo Piece. Download the pic, print it out and paste it onto your bingo sheet. Then share a picture of it on social media with #storyadaybingo

You don’t have to do all the tasks in order, so paste your tokens on the gameboard on whatever day you get to it!

Join The Discussion: After thinking about your favorite author and the ripples your words could cause, post one word that encapsulates how you’re feeling about starting work on your story, tomorrow.

(You can also tell us about who you read and how it made you feel as you were reading, if you want to.)