Short Story Ideas: Move Those Pencils and Wow Your Audience!

shortstoryideasThink back to Elementary school when your teacher had you take out a sheet of paper and a pencil.  She or he would scribble a topic on the board: a sentence, a topic, or a place, and ask you to “write for twenty-five minutes” about said topic.  Was this fun for you?  If it was, great!  Writing is probably right up your alley.  If it was not, then do not worry.   There are plenty of online courses with detailed helpful advice on the process of writing.  These range from creative writing to novel and essay writing.  The point is that writing can be tough.  Even if you enjoy it, there is this little thing called writer’s block that can prove frustrating.  Short stories, however, can be a good middle ground.  They are neither too short nor too long, and can be fun to craft while incorporating your individual style. Here are some tried-and-true tips to get you started!

Before you start writing, you need to know what you are going to write about.  You may be able to think up your own but if that is not happening, we have plenty to offer you.  There are many different categories of short stories, so let’s take a look at some genres:

  • Historical
  • Children
  • Christmas
  • Detective
  • Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Mystery
  • Science Fiction
  • Comedy

Here are some sample short story ideas to get you started.  As you look at these, think of how easy they were to come up with.  All you really need to do is think of a situation, and object, or a problem and go from there.

  • I walked in and was greeted by my cat.
  • Do they serve breakfast at this hour?
  • A hanger peeped out from under the bathroom door.
  • I kept walking towards the fire.
  • She was motioning for me to back away.
  • He never imagined that it would have taken him so long to walk there.
  • Why are you up at this hour?
  • Nobody who was anybody would want to be seen there.
  • The policeman saw the opportunity and grabbed her by the waist.
  • His daughter walked out of the bathroom with toilet paper hanging from her shoe.

Another great way to come up with an idea for a short story is simply to look at a picture.  This will help you be descriptive in your writing, so that you are showing your audience what you are seeing rather than just telling them.  For example, you can begin a type of love triangle story by looking at the picture of three friends sitting together.  “A woman is in love with her best friend, but he does not love her back.”  This can seem like a very general premise for a young-adult story, but you can elaborate, build characters, and create personalities to make it all very interesting.

Where to Start?

Now that you have an idea, where do you being?  Let’s take a look at the layers that make up a good short story and how you are going to attack each one.

  1. Brainstorm:  No matter what project you have to tackle, it is always going to be a good idea to make some sort of outline beforehand, or brainstorm about how you want to go about doing it.  Think of this as a grocery list of sorts, except for your short story.  Carry along a notebook or notepad with you as you go about your day.  This is important because you are going to get ideas for your story at random times when you least expect it.  There will be things that inspire you that you can write down and go back to later to build on.
  • Talk:  If it is hard for you to come up with ideas, talk it out.  Maybe inner dialogue or thinking just is not your thing.  Talk to friends, family members, or people you do not know.  Maybe their story will inspire you.
  • Read:  One of the best things to do when you feel stuck with writing is to read.  Reading good short stories will help you put your mind in the perspective of a story-teller.
  1. Parts to the whole:  Begin by writing out the basic parts to the whole of your story for another helpful outline.  These should be as follows:
  • Introduction:  Where, what, who.
  • Beginning Action:  Where the story takes off.
  • Rising Action:  This leads up to the climax of the story.
  • Climax: The turning point.
  • Falling action:  Things start to tie into together to get ready to conclude.
  • Resolution:  A final sweep and hopefully satisfying ending for your readers.
  1. Characters:  This can be really fun.  Brainstorm ideas for characters, animals, aliens, or whoever you want to involve in your story.  Remember that characters should have attributes and personalities.  Try to make them seem as realistic on paper as you can.  Give your characters mannerisms, likes, dislikes, and any other components that make people individual.  Do not be afraid to make them unlikeable.  In any story or movie, there are going to be characters that readers dislike or develop a disdain towards.  This is normal, and this is what adds character and emotion to a story.
  2. Who is talking?  Figure out who you want to tell the story.  You can choose between: first person, second period, or third person.  You can always mix these up and incorporate more than one.

Start Writing and Don’t Stop!

Now that you have a good foundation for your ideas, it is time to start writing.  Do not worry about making everything perfect the first time; there is a reason for second and third drafts.  Just take this time to get all your ideas out there and on paper, while incorporating the basic elements into your story.

A tip for beginning your short story is to hook your audience.  Generally the first page or paragraph is going to determine whether the reader is going to keep reading or push the story aside.  If your first paragraph has the power to hook them, it is a good chance that their eyes are going to want more.

Once you start writing your story, don’t stop.  We do not mean to go for hours, or days on end, but do not start on Monday, stop, and come back Thursday to pick up where you left off.  Chances are you have forgotten certain elements and your writing flow has evaporated.


Do not forget to edit.  Sometimes when you are done with any type of writing, you are so thankful that you are finished and you may be a bit biased over your own work.  Set any pride you have aside, and let a friend, teacher, or family member go over your work.  There probably will be mistakes, or little errors here and there, and they just want to help.  Plus, you are giving them the chance to see how creative and entertaining your ideas can be!  Remember also that getting second opinions about your short story can always be helpful.  Do not try to contest or argue with what someone else has to say about your writing.  Simply let them express their opinion and apply only what you feel is useful.

A tip for if you are doing the editing yourself: let your story sit for a few days before you start editing it.  This will let your mind refresh so that you can look at it in a new light.

Find your Voice

Remember that there are no real rules in writing a great short story.  Let your imagination flow and be descriptive and captivating with your words.  Check out any of Udemy’s online courses for some great story-telling and writing tips and techniques.  Now crack those fingers or sharpen those pencils and get to writing!