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Finding Inspiration to Write a Short Story

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February 2011
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Where do you find an idea for a short story? Ideas come from any place, at any time. Ideas are everywhere. Often, the idea begins with a flash of inspiration. You might have witnessed something that evokes an emotional response or read something in the newspaper that was shocking. The key is to recognize a good idea and then write it down.

Here are 10 techniques that you can use to generate ideas for a short story:

  • Memories of past events
  • Impressions of dreams
  • Thoughts from your imagination
  • Ideas generated from brainstorming, mindmapping, asking “what if” questions, and other creative thinking techniques
  • Conversations that you have overheard
  • Anecdotes that have been told to you
  • Stories in newspapers, magazines, or books that have fascinated you
  • People who have left an impression
  • Freewriting

One of the best ways to find an idea for story is by reading the newspaper. It often provides fascinating and memorable stories. So, read the newspaper regularly, save interesting stories in a file, and use the file to inspire you to write a story.

Short stories are often based on truth, fiction, and imagination.  For instance, you might create a character based on someone you know. You might embellish a true story. To use your imagination, apply one of the many creative thinking techniques to uncover an idea for a short story. For instance, you can brainstorm for an idea, use what if questions, seek out alternatives, use a mind-map, or record your daydreams or dreams.

You can also tap into your memories of significant past experiences. Perhaps there is an idea for a short story in a time you experienced hardship, learned a lesson, or overcame a difficult obstacle.

Another method is to seek out extraordinary in the ordinary. For instance, a couple of summers ago, nine tornadoes destroyed homes and power lines, and killed several people in Ontario. This extraordinary event could be a basis of a story.

Write about your shadow– “dark side” or the “beast” within you. Carl Jung, the eminent psychologist, believed that every human being has two personalities—one that is moral and good and one that is immoral and corrupt. Get in touch with your “dark side”, and use it as a basis of a story.

Engage in freewriting to connect to you unconscious thoughts and feelings. You can put the pen to paper or hands to keyboard, and write about what comes into your mind. The goal is to move away from conscious thinking and writing to free thinking and free writing.

Be sure to keep a writing journal. Record interesting observations, conversations, and personal experiences. Then, when you need inspiration, use an idea from your journal as the basis of a story.


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