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Day 5 – Starting Your Story

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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?!).

32 thoughts on “Day 5 – Starting Your Story”

  1. (I’m catching up.)

    A weary, middle-aged woman, sitting in the waiting room at the cancer clinic for an appointment with her oncologist, wants a cigarette.

  2. 😍😍😍 I need to sit down and work a bit on this, but I’m definitely loving this slower and more in-depth approach to writing a short story. Yay! 🧡 Also, Julie, you have the loveliest accent! I’m from Argentina so I only have movies, TV shows and interviews to go on, but are you by chance originally from Ireland or Scotland? Even though it’s very subtle, I hear some of that melodic quality in your voice (which is also so sweet!)

    Best wishes!

  3. Person – a young girl, perhaps 12
    Adjective(s) – frightened, yet angry
    Setting – a eerily quiet residential neighborhood, just after sunset
    Desire – that the creepy figure floating along behind her will bug off and let her walk home in peace

    What an amazing exercise! And the 7 minute time limit is a great idea!

  4. Fun task for the day! I have some short stories in various states of completion so this was a good way to find focus/clarity. Thanks, Julie!

  5. I’m with Carrie Anne on this one! Thinking about my character in such a simple light REALLY shined a MUCH-BRIGHTER light on him. Such an easy task with SUCH BIG results! LOVE THIS!!! THANK YOU!!!

  6. Playing catch-up now, but loved this exercise:

    Who: First-time mother of infant as Mother’s Day approaches.
    Feels: conflicted because her son has a rare disease. She wants to celebrate him, but is overwhelmed about dealing with his health challenges
    Setting: In the car heading to hospital for tests, with her husband who seems to be handling this in a far more relaxed way.
    Desire: to have her infant’s health restored, so he can have a carefree life ahead.

  7. I’ve gotten really bogged down with this. I’ve been brainstorming, and I had an idea for a character, her desire and I even wrote a few pages and now I see that this is similar to a movie I saw a few years ago. Different setting/situation but same kind of tension-building thriller-type thing.
    I would like to write about a woman protagonist who overcomes something in her own character and thus changes her life for the better. A drama story, not a thriller story. I just cramp up and can’t think when asked to come up with a story idea.

  8. Who: A bereaved young woman.
    Feels: Cast adrift and rudderless.
    Setting: Completed a short term contract after graduating and living back at home with her parents.
    Desire: To let go of her life she shared with her dead twin and find her own path.

  9. My main character might be described as reflective. Partial subconscious desire(s) for increasing realizations of balance erratically consciously emerge.

  10. An 18th century Canadienne is in England searching for knowledge of her family. The nuns who ran her orphanage give her what limited information they have and a pendant portrait of a woman and child. Armed with that and a canny lawyer for a husband, she goes to England in search of her father.

    1. I’m asssuming the action will start in England, with this intriguing backstory coming out in conversations…

  11. The only social media I use is Facebook. I’ve got all my StoryADay bingo pieces, I pinkie-swear!

    1. You could post on FB if you like. I just couldn’t remember if it’d be easy for me to find…

  12. Thank you for the video! I was life-goaling it. My character has a BIG want–but she needs a more immediate want for this purpose. So I’ve trimmed it back, and now: my driven young woman wants to observe the nest-building pair of mockingbirds in the tree outside her kitchen window.

    1. Oh well done. That’s a great shift down in scale. I think that’s going to be really workable, for you.

  13. Don’t know yet why and how but:
    “A tired baby in a zoo that wants to sleep (but somehow cannot. And the animals will try to help in their fun and weird way)”
    Anything but a childrens story and I tend to overthink and need way more time to write the first draft.

    1. I think this sounds fantastic! I’m in a picture book group (and also write for other ages) and this sounds like a lovely upside-down nap story. Usually, the baby doesn’t want to nap.

    2. This sounds like a lot of fun. I was just at a zoo last month and saw lots of tired babies. Loads of opportunity in this idea.

  14. A man with an extraordinary sense of smell wants to go to bed but there’s a horrible smell in the house and he can’t figure out where it’s coming from. This should be fun!

    1. AWESOME. It really does help, doesn’t it? We can wander around in description and character-building and pointless-action for so long, but having the desire dialed in helps us write actual stories, faster.

  15. Got it! It happened quickly, just flowed. Not sure of the “when” of the setting – it’s a tossup between two. But I’m hopeful that the way I want to write it makes it less important than the “where”. In fact, it happened so fast that I had time to brainstorm another one. Almost forgot to keep gathering story sparks until I came in to my “writer-incognito” job. Walking through the corridors I overheard some interesting comments & conversations. So I’m all set for today.

  16. A lonely ghost, trapped in a house, wants to communicate with a ghost in the house next door.

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