How to come up with short story ideas

We get it: writing prompts are an excellent resource, but you want to know how to come up with your own story ideas. Here are four of our go-to tricks when thinking of interesting things to write about.

1) People-watch: Hands down, this our favourite way to come up with story ideas. All stories, even ones about robots or plants, have some element of humanity at its core. There are therefore a countless number of stories to be found by observing human nature. 90% of the prompts included in our writing prompts newsletter are inspired by simply staring out a window and watching people go by.

2) Forget what you already know: Have you ever become trapped in a “but why?” loop with a child? It’s enough to make your head spin or an existential crisis occur. But if you can return to this sense of curiosity and wondering you had as a child, you can find a treasure trove of short story ideas to be found. Take in your surroundings and ask yourself why things are the way they are. What if they were different? What would that look like and how would it work?

3) Use your day job: If you feel like you have the most interesting job on the planet, well, perfect! It shouldn’t be hard to use it as plot-fodder for a great short story. On the other hand, if you find yourself yawning a lot at work, ask yourself: What could happen to make this work day interesting? Let’s say you work as a receptionist but your real passion lies with art. Write a story about a receptionist who sees a colleague hang a new piece of art in their cubicle — one the receptionist recognizes as being famous for going missing a century ago.

4) Read: Imagine walking up to a piano and trying to make beautiful music without ever having heard it played before. You need to consume great short stories in order to know what you enjoy about them. Figure out what you like, and you’ll be on the path to great writing topics.

Ready to start submitting your short story to writing contests? Find the right one for you in our list of writing contests.

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