How’s StoryADay May 2024 Going?

In which I talk about how StoryADay May 2024 is going (spoiler: it’s going great!) and how much fun everyone is having, and the best ways to participate, even if you don’t want to write a story every day.


[00:01:08] How Is StoryADay May 2024 going?

[00:01:30] Join The Discussion

[00:02:24] The Challenge Handbook Benefits

[00:04:51] The Experience of StoryADay May in 2024

[00:05:10] Week 1 – Come To Your Desk

[00:05:48] Week 2 – The Elements of Craft

[00:08:03] Week 3 – The Art of the Short Story

[00:09:10] Wish I’d Known Then…Podcast Appearance (Short stories for novelists)

[00:11:15] Fun With Short Stories

[00:12:45] The Benefits of Community & How to be A Good Literary Citizen

[00:17:29] Wish I’d Known Then…podcast – other topics we covered

[00:19:08] Indie vs Traditional Publishing

[00:20:39] If You’re Having Difficulty Writing or Staying Motivated to Write…

StoryADay Challenge:

StoryADay Challenge Handbook:

Wish I’d Known Then…Podcast:

Other Ways To Increase Your Joy Around Writing

Download the Short Story Framework:

Take the 3-Day Challenge

Sign up for the StoryAWeek Newsletter

Take the I, WRITER Course

Join the Superstars Group

Coaching with Julie

Mastering Flash Fiction – with Windy Lynn Harris

In which Windy Lynn Harris shares her genius about how and why to write Flash Fiction

1:16 Flash art comes organically when being open.

6:58 Flash fiction: creative, short, under 500 words.

12:28 Be specific in short flash fiction writing.

13:05 Editing is essential for shorter pieces.

17:37 Essential aspect of storytelling, representing a moment.

19:32 Facing fear, mystery, and self-discovery.

23:27 Enjoy working on soliloquies and rants in writing.

26:56 Background, training influence the form of writing.

29:13 Accessing your authentic voice is essential.

33:08 Writers adapting to shorter work during pandemic.

36:51 Creativity can flourish without lofty goals.

41:05 Distraction in the world, set timer, create.

43:12 First book on writing short stories.

46:12 Strategic shorts can boost writing career prospects.

49:43 Writing needs community for support, progress, success.

54:27 Exciting prompts for daily creative writing in May.

Transcript available here

Other Ways To Increase Your Joy Around Writing

Download the Short Story Framework:

Take the 3-Day Challenge

Sign up for the StoryAWeek Newsletter

Take the I, WRITER Course

Join the Superstars Group

Coaching with Julie

Sign up for StoryADay May 2024:

Shake Up Your Writing

In which I tell you the rules for StoryADay May 2024

ntrigued by the StoryADay Challenge but intimidated? Don’t be! In this episode I explain all the rules including the most important rule: Make Your Own Rules!

Sign up at

00:00 History of the StoryADay Challenge

01:30 4. Give Yourself Permission To Have Fun

06:14 StoryADay May Rules

06:31 1. Make Your Own Rules

11:20 2. Don’t Try To Catch Up

12:12 3. Don’t Post Your Stories Online (Or Do)

13:30 4. Give Yourself Permission To Have Fun

14:47 5. Seek Out The Right Support At The Right Time

17:11 6. Dance Your Victory Dance, Every Day

19:56 7. Use the Prompts (Or Don’t)

21:43 Summary of the “Rules”

22:52 How To Sign Up

23:03 What To Expect from This Year’s Prompts

28:22 The importance of Community

Other Ways To Increase Your Joy Around Writing

Download the Short Story Framework:

Take the 3-Day Challenge

Sign up for the StoryAWeek Newsletter

Take the I, WRITER Course

Join the Superstars Group

Coaching with Julie

[Writing Prompt] Interrogate A Character

Today’s writing prompt is ripped straight from my 6th Grader’s homework folder, but that doesn’t make it any less relevant. 

Photo by CoWomen on Unsplash

I’m steeped in (as well as 6th Grade homework) Lisa Cron’s fabulous latest book Story Geniusin which she makes the compelling point that you cannot begin to tell your character’s story until you know about their past.

It’s a delightfully obvious (and surprisingly overlooked) observation that ought to be front and center in every writing class. So here we go.

The Prompt

Interview a character from one of your stories. Find out as much as you can about their past and what formed the character they possess on Page One of their story.

Continue reading “[Writing Prompt] Interrogate A Character”

[Write On Wednesday] – Cargo Cult

Such Bounty from Above!

Today’s prompt, should you choose to use it, involves the creation of an imaginary cargo cult.

A cargo cult is a religious movement usually emerging in tribal or isolated societies after they have had an encounter with an external and technologically advanced society. Usually cargo cults focus on magical thinking and a variety of intricate rituals designed to obtain the material wealth of the advanced culture they encountered.

The term “cargo cult” has caught the imagination of the public and is now used to describe a wide variety of phenomena that involve imitating external properties without the substance. In commerce, for example, successful products often result in “copycat” products that imitate the form but are usually of inferior quality.

Cargo cults exemplify the third law of Arthur C. Clarke: that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

See for more info. Your cargo cult can be set anywhere you like – how did it first come into being? Who are its adherents? How has it affected their lifestyles?

Ideas to Explore:

  • World building – while cargo cults are typically associated with the South Pacific, you can set yours anywhere. It doesn’t even have to be on this planet.
  • What might the central cargo or technology be? How does it shape the cult’s thinking and behavior? What myths spring up surrounding it? Is it useful, harmful, or merely…decorative?
  • What sort of conflicts might arise in such a society – between its members or between its members and the outside world?


  • Think about setting, character motivation, props, and conflict.

Have fun! Be sure to come back and share your story links in the comments.

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. She blogs at It’s All a Matter of Perspective. You can find her books on Amazon at For more information on her children’s books, please visit

[Write On Wednesday] Expect The Unexpected

Sir RaleighThis morning my sister (visiting me in the US from Scotland) took my son out in the pouring rain to continue their ‘learn to ride your bike’ sessions. She’s leaving today, so it was their last chance. They weren’t going to let a little warm rain stop them. I do wonder, however, what the neighbors thought.

Which leads me to today’s prompt.

The Prompt

Think of a character who needs to do a task. Put that task in an unusual location/setting/timing/condition.


  • If your character needs to bake a cake because her mother is coming over (and your character, of course, has long-standing, complicated issues with her mother), that’s a story. If she’s trying to bake the cake on a spaceship and it has to be ready before her mother spacewalks over from her passing spaceship, that adds a layer of interesting complexity to the story!
  • Perhaps your story opens with two characters, like my sister and son, cycling in the driving rain. What could induce them to cycle in these conditions? Where are they going? What is driving them to do this? How do they feel about the journey? Each other? What is the journey a metaphor for? (Grammatically incorrect, but fun to say out loud. Try it!)
  • What other mundane tasks can you think of? Taking a test. Cleaning a bathroom. Meeting a friend. Now, where can you set these to make them intriguing? Taking a test on the side of a mountain. Cleaning a bathroom in a World War I trench. Meeting a friend in Death Valley.
  • Dig deeply into the circumstances. Ask why these things are happening where/when they are happening. Why would your character be there, trying to do this thing? Will they persevere? Will they give up? Will they whine? Will they fail? What has driven them to this point? Where would they rather be? Why is this interesting to a reader?


[Write On Wednesday] – Write A Letter

dear joe
Photo by Meredith Harris CC Some Rights Reserved

Today’s prompt was suggested by the story I read yesterday, Incognito by Susan M. Lemere.

The Prompt

Write a story in letter form


  • Use two or more voices, or let us see only one side of the conversation.
  • The ‘letters’ can be email exchanges, text messages, Facebook updates, or imaginary hand-written correspondence from sweethearts separated by war, an ocean, feuding parents…whatever makes sense to you.
  • Try to introduce some mystery, some misunderstanding, or some desire on the part of one of the participants. Frustrate us, tease us, keep us guessing about how it’s going to turn out.


[Writing Prompt] Lights, Camera, Action!

How did you get on yesterday? Did you post in the comments or the community about your writing? Which proverb or ‘theme’ did you use?

Every story — even the most literary, introspective story — needs action.

Stuff must happen.

Action is the agent of change and your characters must change (even for a moment) or face an opportunity for change,  for your story to interest people. “Stuff happening” is what gives you the opportunity to show that opportunity for change.

The Prompt

Write A Story Wrapped Around An Action Scene

Tips Continue reading “[Writing Prompt] Lights, Camera, Action!”

[Writing Prompt] 1200 Words

Welcome to StoryADay May.

It’s Day 1. You’re nervous, you’re excited, you’re full of ideas…(you are, aren’t you?), so I’m not going to tell you WHAT to write, only how much.

(And of course, you should remember that these prompts are entirely optional. If you want to write a 10,000 word novella today, you go right ahead. Just remember to save some juice for tomorrow!)

engine start by Norlando Pobre
photo used by permission of Norlando Pobre

The Prompt Continue reading “[Writing Prompt] 1200 Words”

[Write On Wednesday] The Catalogue Of Disasters

Write A Story Featuring An Escalating Catalogue Of Disasters

As I woke up, I reached for my alarm clock and heard rather than felt my hand knock the full glass of water all over my bedside table – home to my iPhone, table and priceless childhood copy of A. A. Milne’s Now We Are Six. So it’s fair to say that I wasn’t in the best mood when my 8 year old declared that no, he simply wasn’t getting up or getting dressed or going to school. After that screaming match my head was pounding so I reached for some ibuprofen, only to scoop down my husband’s blood pressure medicine instead – damned blue-topped bottles! I figured I had time to drop the kids off at school before rushing myself to the ER, but of course, I had forgotten about the half inch of ice on my windscreen….

Ever had one of those days? How about your character?

The essence of story is conflict. Conflict doesn’t have to involve a bad guy. Sometimes the antagonist is simply your character’s bad mood, or the universe, or her lack of preparation.

The Prompt

Write a story that features a character going through a catalogue of disasters


  • You can start this story at the beginning or the end. They can wake up and start the day off badly, ending up at the wrong end of a loaded gun; or you can start with them strapped into the electric chair, thinking ‘now, how did I get here?’
  • Likewise, the action can all by mental: you start by offending your cat and end by quitting your job in a blaze of glory, burning bridges as you go.
  • This story can be humorous or tragic, but make sure your readers are feeling what your character is feeling.
  • Keep piling on the disasters. Leave us breathless.
  • Give the reader occasional breaks by pausing for moments of backstory, if you like. See how that feels to you, as a writer. Does it cause the story to slow? Could you, instead, include backstory in conversations or pithy one-line asides.
  • Make this more immediate by writing in first person.
  • Or write this in close-third person (no-one else’s thoughts get used, but you’re still writing about your main character as ‘he’ or ‘she’). Remember not to use phrases like “she thought”, “she wondered”, “he looked”. Just tell us a thought. We’re smart enough to figure out that it’s your main character’s thoughts we’re hearing. (e.g. “Well, that wasn’t right” instead of “well, that wasn’t right, she thought”. Much more punch!)
  • Use this exercise to practice putting action into your stories. It doesn’t have to be ‘running from the law’ action. It can be all psychological (think: Jane Austen), but make sure you can have things happening in your writing at any time.


Photo: Barry Skeates

[Write on Wednesday] Eons

Write a story that takes place over eons

Merging Galaxy Cluster Abell 520

Last week we talked about writing a story in the moment before a car crash: everything in the story took place during a few seconds in the brain of your main character. This week we’re going to the opposite extreme

The Prompt

Write A Story That Takes Place Over Eons

(or just a really long time)


  • Obviously, since humans don’t live for eons, you’re going to have to choose something else as the thing that provides continuity in this story: it might be a location on the earth; a multi-generational spaceship crew traveling through unimaginable reaches of space; an alien; a centuries-old mollusk; a tree.
  • You can write a narrative story if you like, but this might lend itself to some different forms: letters, tweets, journal entries, a string of news articles; a faux-holy book written in different styles in different eras. Have fun with this.
  • Thing big thoughts. Eons give you a lot of scope to investigate big ideas.
  • Don’t make the story too long. Big ideas don’t necessarily mean high word count.
  • Don’t forget to include small details, mundane moments, things your readers can hang their emotions on.


[Write On Wednesday] Time Slowed Down

Write A Prompt In The Moment Before An Accident

car crash 1

You know that old cliché: time slowed?

Well, if you’ve ever been in a car crash or any kind of accident, you’ll know exactly what that means: the amygdala (the seat of emotion in your brain) kicks in and calmly starts recording every detail. When you go back over your memories, the moment will seem to have lasted at least 30% longer than it actually could have.

The way to recreate this in fiction Continue reading “[Write On Wednesday] Time Slowed Down”

[Write On Wednesday] The Glitterati

Writing prompt: what if a bunch of glamorous and exciting people came to your podunk hometown?


Does your everyday life seem pretty unglamorous? What about your town?

What if you walked down the street one morning and discovered that a whole bunch of glamorous, exciting people had come to town for a spell?

The Prompt

Write a story about a small town invaded by glamorous/exciting people


The exciting people could be movie or pop stars on a location shoot, or high-profile politicians in town for a rally, or scientists flocking to study an unnatural phenomenon (think: Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver), just as long as it upsets the status quo.

Who are they? Why are they there? Who do they meet?

What do the local people think about all this?

What does your main character feel about them at the start of the story? At the end?

Who learns something from this visit? What?

Also, if you have only ever lived somewhere exciting, seeing celebrities at every coffee counter, write instead about someone really ordinary coming into a situation filled with glamour. Ask the same questions as above?


[Write On Wednesday] The Irritable Author

Write a story in which the main character acts on something that really irritates YOU

“Don’t you just wish…”

Have you ever said those words when something has really, REALLY irritated you?

Imagine what would happen if you followed through on all those little revenge-daydreams you have after someone scratches your car/talks incessantly on their phone in the library/dogears the corners of Volume 4 of your collectable edition of The Sandman 10 Volume Slipcase Set

The Prompt

Write A Revenge-Fantasy Story

Pick something that really irritates you and write about a character who actually DOES the things you can only dream of doing (as a respectable member of a mostly-functional society).


  • Read the opening chapters of Rest You Merry by Charlotte McLeod. It starts when mild-mannered professor Peter Shandy finally snaps after being pressured to decorate his home for the annual college Christmas ‘Illuminations’. It’s deliciously hilarious.
  • Pick something that really gets under your own skin, the more mundane the better. (It will allow you to be more creative in your revenge!)
  • Show us the moment when your character snaps. Give us the physical and mental fugue-state breaking point. Remember not to tell us “he was so angry he couldn’t speak”, but to instead describe the pounding in his veins, the way his tongue cleaves to the roof of his mouth. Slow down time with the details, then let ’er rip!


[Write On Wednesday] Things You Should Know About Me

Cammel Laird Social Club art by Half Man Half Biscuit.

This idea for a story is ripped from the song “Them’s The Vagaries” by Half Man Half Biscuit (thanks, guys!). The narrator says, near the start of the song, “Now we’ve kissed I’ve prepared this list, I thought you ought to know…” and goes on to tell his new love about all his quirks starting with “I’ll not sit backwards on the train” and proceeding down to the most bizarre of pet peeves.

The Prompt

Write a story that begins “Now that we’ve kissed, here are some things you ought to know”


  • Write this as a monologue or a dialogue, whichever works for you.
  • This has the potential to be funny or tragic.
  • Feel free to write this as a list (like the McSweeney’s lists) or as a series of tweets, or as an oral history (which will make it more like a traditional short story in form).
  • Even if you go with the non-traditional forms (lists etc) there is still a lot of scope for the beginning, middle, end structure.
  • Only the journey you take your readers on will be emotional, rather than literal (from flippant to poignant; from innocent to creepy…).
  • Think of the most colorful people you have ever met or the worst date you were ever on. Imagine one of those people writing this.

[Writing Prompt] Make It Even Worse

Yesterday we took your character’s dreams and dashed them in the middle of the story.

Today I want you to take your character, and their desire and cripple them not once, but twice. Of course you get to reward them with a little win in the middle.

The Prompt

Give your character a goal, frustrate them, let them make some progress but let it come at a  cost.

Darth Vader vs Obi-Wan Kenobi


  • Think about Star Wars, the great story-outliner’s tool: Luke wants to get off this boring little planet but his aim is frustrated by obligations and lack of opportunity. When his family is murdered he finally acts. His next aim is to find and rescue the sexy princess (spoiler alert: Ew!). Problem: she’s on the most heavily defended, most technologically advanced ship in the fleet of the all-powerful empire. Somehow he succeeds. Yay! BUT, oh no, they sacrifice Obi-Wan, his mentor, at the same time. Now Luke has a new mission: overthrow the empire. Fail, Strive, Succeed but at a cost, pursue next part of his ‘want’. [Check out this Narrative Map of the Hero’s Journey]
  • Put your character in an impossible situation. Let him dig his way out only to fall into a new pit. Only this time he knows a bit more about himself and what it’ll take to climb out. (Friends? A rope? Strong hands?) Let the character use what they learned in the first part of the middle, to achieve what they need to do next.
  • It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom or drama. If you’re writing humor you can still do this. Frustration is funny. Even throwing in a moment of tragedy is acceptable in comic writing. In fact, if you’re making your reader laugh until 2/3 of the way through the story, they won’t even notice the knife in your hand until you’re sliding it between their ribs. Bam! Will that pack an emotional punch?! (Sitcoms do this from time to time. Aren’t you surprised to find yourself suddenly sobbing during your favorite 30 minute comedy?)


[Writing Prompt] The Fair

Today you’re going to rely on memory to conjure up a vivid setting for your story.
We went to the Kimberton Fair

The Prompt

Tell a story set at a country fair


  • Use all your senses to place us at the fair, right at the start of the story
  • Paint a picture and include a character walking through that setting, his/her mind set on doing something (winning a prize perhaps? Meeting a particular someone in a particular place?).
  • Hint that there might be more to their desire than can be simply explained (he wants to be a big shot at the coconut shy; she wants to meet a boy). No, there is a deeper reason they want to do the thing they’re pursuing as we, the reader join them.
  • After you have squarely painted the fair scene for us, transition away from providing many details of the fair, and instead concentrate more on character.
  • Don’t forget to bring in something from your setting, near the end, to bring the reader full circle.

Yes, it sounds formulaic, but remember:

  1. It’s only an exercise and
  2. I’ll award a big fluffy panda to anyone who ends up writing something exactly like that of another StoryADay writer, by accident just because you’re using a formula!


[Writing Prompt] Journeys

steam train
photo by K. J. Duffy

I’m reading an autobiography written in the 1830s — when steam travel was the new big thing. The author (a mother of small children) just gave a vivid and opinionated account of a trip she took from Philadelphia to Baltimore. With very few words she conjoured the layout of the carriages and the hot, smoky atmosphere inside — heated as it was by a coal-fired, iron stove in the middle of the carriage (no health and safety, clean air regulations in the 1830s!). She told an amusing story of an encounter with a fellow passenger, while she was at it. I feel like I was ON the train with her.

The Prompt

Tell The Story Of A Journey

Use any transportation technology you can dream up, but include details to allow us to see, feel and perhaps even choke on the atmosphere.

Don’t forget to make something happen, and then resolve it (or leave it unresolved).

Give us a character we can root for (or against).

[Writing Prompt] Sunday Silliness – and a check-in

We’re almost there! This is the last week of StoryADay May 2013. Stay tuned on Thursday for news of another, short-term challenge to keep you writing.

Also, I’d love to know who’s been writing this month. Please leave a comment on this post if you’ve written at all this month, and let us know how much/often you’ve managed to write. Spread the word to friends who might have fallen off the wagon. Tell them to check-in and celebrate what they have achieved so far (and maybe come back for the last week?).

As always, thank you for playing. Without out you, this challenge simply wouldn’t be any fun! You inspire me and each year’s participants influence the shape and content of the next challenge. So thanks!

The Prompt

Write a story that includes these words:

  • official
  • corpulent
  • totem
  • panic
  • scratching
  • delicious


  • This is a silly prompt. Feel free to write a silly story.
  • The chances are, if you’re still here, you’ve started to take your writing quite seriously, in a good way. However, there’s always a danger of ‘serious’ becoming ‘solemn’. Use today as a break from whatever you’ve been writing and write that is purposely silly, off-the-cuff, not to be taken seriously.
  • Consider posting your story in the comments here so that we can see how everyone chose to use these words

[Writing Prompt] Guest Prompt from Cat Lumb

Today we have a guest prompt from aspiring-to-be-published writer and StoryADay participant, Cat Lumb. Thanks, Cat!

The Prompt

Your character wants to find the source of a strange noise they can hear. Tell the story of how they find out what that sound is…
Cat Lumb started her blog in 2011 as means to be accountable for her writing dreams. She is currently editing one of her two first draft novels and writing short stories.
Check out her blog: or link with her on Twitter @Cat_Lumb
You can read all of Cat’s Story a Day in May stories through her blog at:

[Writing Prompt] Guest Prompt from Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Today’s prompt is from writer, illustrator and all-round good egg Debbie Ridpath Ohi, who shares one of her Daily Doodles with us today to help inspire a story. Thanks, Debbie!

The Prompt

It Wasn’t Me!
Cartoon dog looking guilty

Tips from Julie

  • Use the words or picture in any way that seems right to you
  • If you’re not an animal person, you don’t have to use the dog.
  • If your’e not an animal person, you should consider using the dog anyway. (Hey, this is about stretching yourself, right?)

Debbie Ridpath Ohi ( writes and illustrates books for young people in Toronto, Canada. She is the illustrator of I’M BORED by Michael Ian Black, published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, chosen by The New York Times as a Notable Children’s Book. Debbie has current and upcoming book projects with Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and Random House. More info about Debbie and her projects: Her blog for writers/illustrators: Twitter: @inkyelbows.

[Writing Prompt] Guest Prompt from Gregory Frost

Continuing our Guest Prompt week, today’s prompt comes from novelist and teacher Gregory Frost. Thanks, Greg!

The Prompt

Unusual Ways of Seeing

Imagine a person with a very idiosyncratic way of seeing the world (for example, a low-end drug dealer who’s perpetually paranoid because he’s sure everyone wants to steal his stuð; or an accountant for whom everything is numerical and anally precise)—anyone who, because of mental challenges, profession, or self-medicated state, negotiates the world in a distinctly peculiar, complicated, or unhinged way.

For this prompt, have your character witness a traumatic event that does not directly involve him or her (a traffic accident, a robbery, an explosion, etc.).

Narrate the event from this character’s first-person POV, incorporating the idiosyncrasies of this invented personality.

If you need examples from literature, look at George Saunders’ “Tenth of December” which includes both the portrait of a deteriorating mentality and the interiority of a child’s imaginings, or Jonathan Nolan’s “Memento Mori,” or Donald Barthelme’s “Game.”


  • The narrative should be focused upon the observed event, whatever it is.
  • The background/ biographical elements of this individual should be limited, which is to say implied rather than presented outright in the core of things. You know who they are. Get that across to us without resorting to our narrator saying something like “I’m a junkie.”
  • The details presented about the event–especially how they’re presented–should suggest everything about our narrator.


Gregory Frost’s YA-crossover SHADOWBRIDGE duology (Shadowbridge & Lord Tophet) from Del Rey (Random House) was a finalist for the 2009 James Tiptree Award and named one of the year’s four best fantasy novels by the American Library Association.  His Nebula-nominated science fiction novel, THE PURE COLD LIGHT is now available in ebook formats from Book View Cafe (as is his first novel, LYREC)

 For more:
Facebook: gregory.frost1

[Writing Prompt] Guest Prompt from James Scott Bell

Today’s prompt is from best-selling novelist and popular writing teacher James Scott Bell. Thanks, Jim

The Prompt from JSB

Write about your antagonist’s life at the age of sixteen. What were the events that shaped this character back then, and still haunt today?

James Scott Bell is a best-selling author of books for writers and thrillers like Deceived, Try Dying, Watch Your Back, and One More Lie (International Thriller Writers Award finalist).  He writes frequently for Writer’s Digest magazine and blogs every Sunday at The Kill Zone. You can find some of his books for authors here.

Tips from Julie

  • Choose the antagonist/villain of a previous story.
  • Or choose the antagonist of a work-in-progress or the novel you’ve been planning to write but can’t get a handle on.
  • Remember that an antagonist isn’t necessarily the villain — just the character that gets in the way of your hero’s dream


[Writing Prompt] Write Sam’s Story

Continuing on from yesterday’s theme of giving you an element of the story you must use, today I’m giving you a character. I’m seeding some hints about this character into the prompt and you should take them where ever they lead you.

The Prompt

Sam Chase has just left a meeting with the big boss. Sam has been offered a dream position — or at least a position that would have been a dream if it had been dangled out there two years ago. But lately, Sam has been beginning to understand that there’s more to life than ambition, career, advancement, the trappings of success. Oh let’s be honest: it’s been coming on ever since last summer. If the only constant is change, Sam thinks, I’m a walking illustration.
Write Sam’s story.


  • In case you hadn’t noticed, I was very careful to use no pronouns in that blurb about Sam. Sam can be male or female, at your whim.
  • Will you explain what happened “last summer” or keep it mysterious? If you do explain it, will your story start there? End there? Mention it as a big reveal at the climax?
  • What will Sam choose? Just because we’re tapped on the shoulder by our better angels, doesn’t mean we always make the right choice. But then again, sometimes we do. What will YOUR Sam do?


[Writing Prompt] Set At A Wedding

This week I’m giving you some more traditional prompts, where one element of your story is dictated by me. (Oh, the power!)

The Prompt

Write A Story Set At A Wedding


  • The conflict in this story can be micro-scale (a guest reflecting on a deeply personal challenge, brought into the light by this landmark occasion) or dramatic (a headline-worthy bust-up, with generations of family tension erupting in a hot, molten mess).
  • Weddings are often the scene of comic stories because of the solemnity inherent in the occasion. But I was at a super-fun wedding recently. A story set at that wedding would lend itself to a solemn moment as an abrupt change of pace.
  • You can say a lot about your characters without beating the reader over the head with it, by describing which traditions your wedding principals and guests choose to honor (or flout). You can get rich cultural mileage out of this setting.
  • You can choose another culturally significant/religious event to write about if weddings really aren’t doing it for you.


[Writing Prompt] A Picture’s Worth A Thousand Words

…but sometimes so are a thousand words!

The Prompt

Go to the Flickr Explore page and pick the first photo that catches your eye.

Stare at it for five minutes or so and write a story inspired by it.


  • Pick the most visually arresting picture, the one that interests you immediately.
  • It might not be obvious what the story is going to be.
  • This will probably make the story better.
  • Don’t waste any time writing backstory. Think hard then start when something is happening or about to.
  • Remember that stories are all about character. What does your character want? What is getting in her way?

Remember to post in The Victory Dance when you’ve finished your story today. You’ll get congratulations and inspire everyone else to finish their stories.

(You don’t have to post your story anywhere, just let us know you have written today)

[Writing Prompt] Social Speech

Can you imagine your life without email, Facebook, Twitter, text messages? Can your characters?

Can you imagine your life without email, Facebook, Twitter, text messages?

Texting Oasis
Photo by John Frassinet

Can your characters?

If you’re writing contemporary fiction and your characters are still calling and popping round to see each other, you might want to rethink that.

This is something new in life and newer in fiction. How to integrate this stuff into the narrative? It’s an exciting chance to do something new. But “exciting” and “new” can also mean “challenging” and “fraught with clunky first attempts”.

Why not get your first attempts out of the way today?

The Prompt

Write A Story Using A Facebook Timeline


  • It doesn’t have to be Facebook, but some electronic form of communication should feature prominently.
  • Try to have your characters use the e-communication the way you do.
  • You might want to write the whole story as a series of Facebook conversations (how would you format that?) or texts between different friends (like an update of this phone scene from “Mean Girls”, which must seem hopelessly outdated to today’s teens!)
  • Streams of status updates and back and forth conversation threads (interspersed with direct messages (“who is ‘Janice Atherton’? And why is she commenting on my photo?!”)

[Writing Prompt] Wibbley-Wobbley, Timey-Wimey

I’m a sucker for a time-travel story. It might have something to do with growing up in the UK in the 1970s, where my generation was weaned on Doctor Who, but time travel in all its varieties works for me. Of course, there are lots of quibbles with time travel stories: can you really kill your own grandfather and cease to exist? If you step on a butterfly in prehistoric times will the future change (thank you, Mr. Bradbury)? And most perplexing, why do time travellers always seem to run into the important figures in history, rather than nobodies like you and I?

The Prompt

Write A Time Travel Story That Includes An Explanation Of Why Your Time Traveller Meets An Important Historical Figure

The Rules:

1. You should use the prompt in your story.

2. You must write the story in one 24 hr period – the faster the better.

3. Post the story in the comments — if you’re brave enough.

4. Find something nice to say about someone else’s story and leave a comment. Everybody needs a little support!

Optional Extras:

Share this challenge on Twitter or Facebook

Some tweets/updates you might use:

Don’t miss my time travel #WriteOnWed #storyaday

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is about time travel #storyaday

Come and write with us! #WriteOnWed #storyaday

See my story – and write your own, today: time travel!! #WriteOnWed #storyaday

[Weekly Writing Prompt] Alternate History

Fifty years ago this week, the US discovered that the USSR was building nuclear missile bases in Cuba. The two weeks that followed brought the two countries closer to disaster than ever before or since.

Public domain photo from CIA records

The Prompt

Write a story set in an alternate history where the Cuban Missile Crisis turned out differently and someone did launch a strike.



If you want to read up on the actual events, this Wikipedia article seems pretty good. I particularly liked the part (well, not ‘liked’, but you know what I mean) about the Russian submarine, the facts of which were only disclosed in 2002. What if the commander had made a different decision? What if Miami had been hit by a nuclear bomb.

You don’t have to write a Tom-Clancy-style military thriller here. Imagine anything in the alternate history of the world, from a mother trying to find clean water for her kids, to a history lesson for Fourth Graders.

Your story could treat the subject tangentially. It could be the kind of story you normally write, only with a few details in this world different: maybe there are only 49 states now (or maybe there are 52), perhaps Disneyworld was relocated to Pennsylvania “after the big war”…

You don’t have to be too serious. People lived and loved and laughed through the Blitz. People in an alternate timeline after Cuba would have to find ways to do the same, or humanity wouldn’t survive!

The Rules:

1. You should use the prompt in your story (however obliquely you use the ‘want’, it should be there in the character and all their reactions).

2. You must write the story in one 24 hr period – the faster the better.

3. Post the story in the comments — if you’re brave enough.

4. Find something nice to say about someone else’s story and leave a comment. Everybody needs a little support!

Optional Extras:

Share this challenge on Twitter or Facebook

Some tweets/updates you might use:

Don’t miss my short story: After Cuba  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is about the Cuban Missile Crisi #storyaday

Come and write with us! #WriteOnWed #storyaday

See my story – and write your own, today: After Cuba #WriteOnWed #storyaday

[Writing Prompt] Word List

A silly and simple word-list prompt today:

The Prompt

Write a story that includes the words

Enflame, nugget, jingle, spelling and flight.

Make it short, make it long, but make it happen!


And when you have written your story comment on this post and let us know how it went.

[Writing Prompt] World Building

Writing a story is more than just throwing some characters into a situation and seeing what happens. A good writer builds a whole world around the story of the characters.

This is more than setting: it’s also the soundtrack, the slang people use, the color palette of the rooms, the social hierarchy hinted at…

The Prompt

Spend Some Time Painting A Realistic World Around The Edges of Today’s Story

The most obvious place to find examples of this ‘world-building’ is in science-fiction (especially futuristic or space stories) and fantasy. Each of these genres has to define everything for the reader from social structures to the shape of the vehicles, to the way gravity works in this world (think Harry Potter’s wizarding world and its unconventional public transport, or Star Wars vs. Firefly in how they handled the sound of space ships.)

But every story needs a certain amount of ‘world-building’. In a Hercule Poirot story we are in a world of drawing-rooms and exotic locales, and a certain class strata. In 50 Shades of Grey, we are introduced to a world where certain people define the shape of their relationship with detailed contracts.

Pay attention to the details of your world today.


And when you have written your story, log in and post your success in The Victory Dance group or simply comment on this post and let the congrats come flying in.