inspiration for short stories

Most of us grew up with short stories: the tales of King Arthur, the Greek myths, Robin Hood and fairy tales like Cinderella or Rapunzel.

Many aspiring writers, though, just want to write novels.

But even if it’s not your long-term goal to be a writer of short stories, I think everyone should give it a try.

It’s a great way to find your writing voice, create interesting characters, build scenes and use structure effectively.

Mai Black – Writing Group Co-ordinator

And you don’t have to commit up to ten years of your life to your first project. You can write a good short story in just a few hours.

If you haven’t already got an idea for a short story, here are a couple of writing prompts:

To use this prompt, pick a pair of characters and one of the sensory images. Hopefully this will start you thinking of a potential scenario.


  1. The musician and ex-fan could meet in a cafe.
  2. The musician gets cross because the ex-fan doesn’t want a picture.
  3. They settle their differences, philosophise about the aging process and share a banana milshake.

This prompt helps to limit the number of characters. Having more than two or three characters in a short story can be confusing. distracting and (most importantly) it may prevent your reader bonding with the main character.

Of course, as with all writing advice, this has exceptions.

Many short stories, especially those written for children are much more populous. For instance ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’ has a certain ring to it. ‘Ali Baba and the Thief’ doesn’t quite measure up.

Here is another writing prompt for you to try. The idea is to choose one element at random from each of column.


  1. A dog begins talking one day and demands he be given premium dog food.
  2. The cat, bird and rabbit are jealous and start making requests too
  3. Their owner is terrified, buys them everything they want and runs out of money
  4. The animals feel guilty help him make a reality TV show.

Do you like the ideas I came up with?

Can you come up with something better?


It’s hard to get a publishing deal with short story collections but there are loads of opportunities to share your work.

For instance

You could enter online competitions. There are hundreds and hundreds of them and some have prizes of up to £1000.

You could share your work in writers forums.

You could also join a writing group or take a course in writing to help you develop your craft. Here’s a picture of an online writing course I’m running at the moment.

For more writing tips and to find about a range of writing courses, visit

Or email me at

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