4 Steps To Finding A Topic For A Short Story

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This one can be especially difficult. For me it usually goes one of two ways: I feel like I have absolutely nothing to write about or I have a startling amount of ideas and I want to write them all at the same time. The good news: Short stories don’t take long to write so you can write them all!

Writing short stories is great practice, especially if you’d like to publish novels eventually. Personally, I think it would be cool to be able to publish a short story collection of my own one day. Regardless of the goal, I write because I simply enjoy writing. I think that’s an obvious, yet really important aspect of wanting to be a writer.

I find that short stories are great for blogs. They’re shorter, so someone can hop on and read them at any time. To me, there isn’t as much attachment to them as a novel, so giving them away for free is easier. If you wanted to, you could try self publishing an e-book to create a profit.

Nonetheless, whether I’m starting with an idea or not, here’s how I choose topics for short stories:

1. I Read

I feel like every great author has said it: to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader. I always notice that when I start reading more, I have really strange dreams. My dreams are extremely vivid anyways, but they can definitely help spark an idea for a story.

Of course, reading creative fictional content will help you if that’s the genre you are interested in writing about. It’s also helpful to read outside of the genre you want to write. Learning is always a positive thing, so you should be willing to read anything and everything.

You can also read about how to become a better writer in general. Here are some of my recommendations:

2. I Journal

Sometimes, I’m not sure what to write, so I journal about everything. Mostly, this turns out to be incredibly random and horrible. I consider journaling and writing to be different, mostly because of the topics I choose. Journaling is much more personal and often is just pure nonsense. However, I can typically find a story in what is going on in my life. Getting something down on paper feels better than nothing, even if it’s something personal that no one will ever see.

I start writing about what I’m doing in that moment. I write about how I feel, what I’m looking forward to, and anything that happened after the last time I wrote. Going back and reading past journal entries can also help spark an idea, even if it’s just for one specific scene.

3. I Plant “Seeds”

By seeds, I mean ideas that could potentially grow into part of a story. Anytime something noteworthy happens, I keep track of it in my phone. I have the most random sentences and descriptions of things in my notes app. Sometimes I’ll just talk into my phone while I’m driving if I have an idea for a short story. I’ll read it later and sometimes, it’ll make enough sense to write about. If not, I just move on. I have a notebook that I keep by my bedside so I can write down dreams immediately.

The point is to write down everything. If you enjoyed how someone said something to you, write it down. If you had a strange dream, write it down. If you see a squirrel do something cute, write it down. It’s those little, realistic moments that can help a reader become immersed in your writing.

Sometimes, I use Pinterest as seeds also. Type in “writing prompts” and you’re sure to find something that will spark inspiration. Try to use them, even if just for a few paragraphs. It’s great practice!

4. I Actually Write

This can be the hardest part, but it’s worth it.

Personally, I write on my laptop. I can type much faster than I can writer with pen on paper. I like to write my first draft as fast as possible, just to get everything out. I know some people who want to write a novel out by hand, very old-fashioned and time consuming. Yet, it gives them time to be more thoughtful and intentional about what they are writing.

If it’s helpful, find a graphic organizer that can help you outline your story. You’ll be able to see the structure of it and note your characters, setting, and overall narrative. Let’s face it: if you want your writing to be in a collection named Best American Short Stories or Coming of Age Short Stories, you have to start writing them.

Challenge yourself to write something new! Try writing a short bedtime story or a short scary story. Get out of your comfort zone!

To show how I transform a topic into short story, my writing process will be in a future post. Meanwhile, check out my most recent short story Kiss the Bride!

Finding A Short Story Topic
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I graduated from Boise State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Technical Communication. Photography and writing have both always been a passion of mine. I love sharing and hearing stories, both are such great ways to do so! In my free time, I love to drink coffee and hang out with my dogs. I have a great big German Shepherd and a tiny Porkie (Pomeranian & Yorkie).

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