Story Time

Lottery BallsI’m going to give you the first lines of a story as your creative writing prompt this week. Your task is to continue the tale.

One thing you can be sure of here is that although you have the same words as everyone else to start you off, whatever comes next will be totally original – and yours.

You can take the story any which way you fancy – you can even try changing the tense and the point of view to see where that takes you…

“You wanted a seat at the front, but see the first three rows are already taken. You should have arrived earlier. Now, it is going to be difficult to get them to notice you.”

 Ask yourself some questions to get into the zone here. You’re the writer, so you can choose who your characters are, their names, the location, the time and date and so on. Do that ‘who, what, where, when, why, how?’ quiz on your scenario. I’ve started you off in second person (‘you’) which can be quite tricky to pull off.

For an extra challenge, try a genre you don’t normally write in  – romance if you usually go for sci-fi, for example, or horror instead of political intrigue.

Your story doesn’t have to be linear, with a beginning, middle and end in the traditional sense. But you do need to give your reader a reason to continue reading and leave them satisfied they got to the finish, so be wary of gimmicks. Having said that, a short story doesn’t have to tie up all the loose ends, you can leave your reader guessing about back story and denouement with some clever writing.

Here’s a good example (imho), first published in The New Yorker back in June 1948. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson has a big build up, with a cast of seemingly unremarkable characters, where not a lot happens until the end, when you are left wondering what just happened! This story is more than 3,000 words, but I suggest you go for just 2,000, since that’s the limit for many short story competitions.

Call back here next week for another creative writing prompt/exercise to trigger some new writing. I post a new one every Wednesday, 5pm (Dublin time).