How to Start a Short Story

First, start in the middle of the story. Provide your characters with responses, feelings and thoughts. Make your characters active, not passive- meaning they do things, have actions, not just talk or think.You also need to provide specific details that mean something in the story. Lastly, but most important what does your character want? Need?

Fear is a great place to start a story. A character who is genuinely terrified is the best place because the reader is going to be terrified as well.

Sex is also a good way to begin a story. But who are they? Where is this taking place? On an airplane? On a roller coaster? In bed? On the floor? And what does sex mean to them?

If you’re having trouble starting your short story, use writing practice. Writing practice is a way to get to your unconscious, the place where your creativity lives. If you don’t know how to practice writing practice it goes like this:

Put the arm you don’t use to write behind your back. This is your editor arm. Next put a pen or pencil in your writing hand and begin to write never stopping to edit. Editing kills creativity and you certainly don’t want that.

Sue Powers has had many stories published. Her favorites are Saturday Evening Post, New Millennium Writings, Blue Earth Review, Adanna, Funny in Five Hundred and Another Chicago Magazine. She is now teaching Writing the Short Story via email.

Writing Tips: Find Inspiration through the Environment

If you are struggling to get words onto the blank page, don’t just sit there. Fill your creative well.

Here are some ways to do that:

1. The Music of Your Environment
This is how I turn the sounds of the world around me into fodder for inspiration. While you’re out for a walk, running errands, or just taking care of business, take a moment to truly listen to your environment.

If you’re driving to a specific destination, focus all your senses on the road and the traffic around you.

If you have a smart phone, tablet, or digital voice recorder, take down your thoughts for later use. You can also do this while sitting on your porch, after a long day at work, or running around with your family.

2. Inspiration through Music
If you’re in the middle of a scene and you can’t come up with just the right element to keep your story moving forward, here’s a tip that might help you focus on your work.

Turn on your favorite radio station or your writing playlist. Let the music resonate through your entire body and let your mind wander where the music takes you.

What ideas come to mind as you listen?

After the song or piece of music is over, pick up your mobile device, notepad and pen, or open a blank document in your word processor of choice, and jot down the tidbits that come to you. You may not be able to use them at the moment, but keep them for later use.

Even though you are a writer, do you also play a musical instrument? If you already have an instrument that you play, I have a suggestion for you. Why not sit down at your instrument, or pick it up and play whatever is in your heart.

Making your own music is just as powerful and inspirational, if not more so, than listening to recorded music, or attending a live concert.

3. Read, Read, Read!
I know authors and marketing professionals have discussed this topic on webinars and podcasts, but I want to add my encouragement to all writers, from novices to full-time authors.

You don’t have to rely on print or eBooks only, you can also get audiobooks to listen to as you work. I read a lot of books in my genre, but I also read other books, to find that little nugget of inspiration, when I am suffering from writers’ block.

I’ve heard it said that you can’t be a great writer without being an avid reader first.

4. Find other sources of inspiration
Although I stress the importance of reading to become a better writer, there are other sources of entertainment and information you can use for inspiration.

Many people mention that they become inspired by movies. Although I can agree with that to a certain extent, you don’t have to limit yourself to this medium only. TV shows and movies aren’t the only sources of inspiration I’ve found. If you can find an app or a website that has links to free audio recordings, such as classic radio shows.

Listening to podcasts is another great source of information and inspiration. Also, engaging with like-minded people is beneficial.

5. Here’s a tip that I think all writers can use in their writing process. Find a writers group, or a critique partner or group to help you fine-tune your writing before you get published. The more you can tweak your writing, the more likely others will read it.

Sometimes writers can inspire each other, so connecting through email or social media is a good way to “talk shop” with people who are walking the same writing road as you are.

You and your writing friends can encourage each other on your career path, and your mentors can hold you accountable for a project you are working on, so you can get it finished and into the hands of readers.

I strongly urge you to take advantage of these inspirational sources, because something that a character says or a description of a scene can lead to an idea that you can’t let go of. There are hundreds, possibly thousands of ways to find inspiration, these are a few of the methods that personally work for me.

I hope that you can find one or more of these tips helpful in your own writing.

How do you find inspiration for your creative work? Please leave your thoughts below.
Sue Powers has a dazzling array of publishing credits. Among her favorites are New Millennium Writings, Another Chicago Magazine, Happy, Facets, The Writer’s Place, Funny in Five Hundred, Blue Lake Review and Samizdada. She has won some writing awards and been nominated for others.

Reminder: She’ll be teaching Writing the Short Story at Hershey High School in Arlington Heights, September 5-October 17th, from 7 pm to 9 pm., Room 1080.
She’ll also be teaching How to Publish Your Manuscript at Morton Grove Library, sometimes in October/November.

Managing Stress as a Writer

Do you feel guilty because you haven’t written anything this week? You’re tired, you’re burnt out, you can’t work and write at the same time, and your husband/lover takes precedence over your writing. And instead of writing, you’re working out or playing games, or shopping, cooking and cleaning out your closets. Anything but writing.

I’ve written 12 stories and one micro-fiction (a short story under 50 words) since I’ve retired, but I suddenly stopped writing. I stopped writing because I stopped reading. Reading is inspirational. But I haven’t found a book I like or can even recommend, causing me stress. How to deal with this? See a therapist? A therapist isn’t going to cure my writer’s block – if such a thing even exists.

We all like to think we’re super-human, but we can’t do everything. So sit down and write out what you want in your life. Think about what suits your personality. Think about the rhythms of your life. You need to allow for seasonal shifts in your energy (creative or otherwise) and how much your projects mean to you. Writing these things out will keep your mind active. And who knows? These writings may become a short story, an essay or a piece of creative non-fiction. ‘Guilty Pleasures.’ ‘Anxiety For All.’ ‘Creative Jumps.’ Well, not great titles, but you get the idea.

So…. what is stressing you right now?
• Do you recognize any physical or mental symptoms of anxiety or even burnout? Write them all down even if they are not specifically related to your writing life. It’s often the cumulative effect of everything that results in stress.
• What action can you take right now to reduce some of your stress or anxiety? Will listening to music help? Playing word games? Reading a good book? Traveling?
• Are you allowing for the seasonal shifts of the day, week, time of year? How can you factor that in effectively so that it will enhance your creative mind?

I suggest you keep reading (I assume you do) and take a vacation from writing. New surroundings may open up your creative juices. Walk through a forest. Go to the beach. Visit friends. Listen to music. Go somewhere locally, go out of the country. But go. Your writer’s mind needs fresh inspiration that a new local might provide.

Sue Powers has won some awards, and has published 18 stories. She’s now working on her book of linked stories, entitled A Surprising Measure of Subliminal Sadness. She will also be teaching Writing the Short Story, September 5 – October 17th from 7-9 p.m. at Hershey High School in Arlington Heights, Illinois.