I know, people feel really strongly about whether or not to outline, but today—whether you’re a planer or not– I’m going to encourage you to think of your writing session as a road trip.
Road trips are fun, but usually we have a destination in mind. When, in the middle, with whoever is in the backseat complaining, and the last of the sandwiches eaten, it helps to know the answer to the question “are we nearly there yet?”
Traditional, western narrative stories have a structure, and here is a model for that.
Using the framework to brainstorm your story will help you both get to the end and, just when you’re getting sick of the story, figure out if you are indeed ‘nearly there yet’.
In keeping with this month’s theme of Achieving Wins and Celebrating, limit yourself to 1000 words for this story and just get it done.
Write a story that starts at the end. The story must include a flower.
I’ve given you the restriction of including a flower, because when we have too much freedom it is paralyzing. I bet as soon as I said ‘flower’ your mind starting turning over how it could get a flower into a story.
Starting at the end is a fun way to tell a story. It’s a fun for the reader, as they try to unpick the puzzle of how your character ended up *here*. It’s good for the writer because we aren’t tempted to write a story-with-no-point. We know it’s going somewhere and we have to figure out how to get there!
All our stories should be about something, should hvae a point, should make the reader say ‘ah, yes, I must keep reading to find out why…”. Often, in the process of writing our ideas, we forget this, or get lost in the details. Telling a story in reverse (or at least starting at the end and jumping back in time) is a great exercise to cure us of this.
Brainstorm some ways your story could start that would intrigue a reader. Is your character standing on the roof of a building looking over the edge? Are they running? Are the police leading them away? Are they laughing gleefully as someone plunges a knife through their heart? (Yes, more Star Trek references! Bonus points if you can identify the episode.)
The Prompt: Write the story of an inanimate object.
This prompt was inspired by a conversation with a StoryADay Superstar who had been waiting for a package to arrive for weeks. We speculated about what it had been up to on its travels, and now it’s your turn.
It managed to be about magic and death and unrequited love and #metoo and revenge and yet have a lightness and beauty that I often find missing in modern stories, and which is hard to pull off with those themes.
Without a strong emotional story about WHY we are doing it, it’s much, much harder to get through that uncomfortable part in the middle. It’s much more comfortable to scurry back to the way we’ve always done things (of course it is!).
To make meaningful changes, you need to embrace the ugliness of the times you’ve failed in the past, and the emotional reason you want to move forward to a bright, new shiny place.
Use the StoryADay Annual Review Bundle to help you write that emotional story about each goal you set this year AND keep track of your motivation and progress throughout the year.
In the bundle:
Annual Goals Overview Worksheet (set your motto and top goals for the year)
This year I’m thinking more about the actual writing: how to write the middle of a story.
The inspiration for this prompt is unashamedly borrowed from James Scott Bell’s immensely readable ebook Write Your Novel From The Middle. It’s well worth the few dollars to pick up a copy of this book.
Even if you don’t have your copy yet, you can use Bell’s revelation that the middle of a story often involves a moment of introspection, to strengthen your short story writing today.
Write a literal or figurative Mirror Moment into the middle of your story.