We’re not holding our traditional writing challenge this month – but we are issuing a rather grander challenge with a rather grander prize: publication of your story in Allaboutwriting’s first short story collection.
Several weeks ago, we ran our first short story weekend. Writers came together, took some inspiration from a list of possible ideas we’d devised (or invented their own) and, in just 36 hours wrote the first draft of a short story.
We helped shape the stories, and gave them a final polish.
We’d like to invite you, collectively, to add three more stories to the collection. You’ll find the ten ideas we offered our weekend writers below. Beyond that, it’s up to you. The three best of those submitted will be published in book form on Amazon, and available in hardcopy via print-on-demand.
All we ask of you is that you abide by the cardinal rule that guided the writers on the short story weekend: the first draft should not take you more than 36 hours to write, from start to finish. Best would be for you to write it over a single weekend.
It should be no shorter than 1 250 words, and no longer than 2 500. Deadline for entries is midnight on 31 July. Email your entry to us saved as a word document.
Here are ten story “seeds” to help you on your way.
This is how you might regard these: as ideas that you can develop and flesh out in any way you choose. Or as inspirations for your own ideas that bear little or no resemblance to these stimulants. Or as irritants that you can ignore completely, because you have an idea for a story already!
- The day before
It’s the day before your wedding when you discover something shocking about your partner – not so shocking that you would be tempted to cancel the whole thing; but surprising enough to give you a completely new insight into the person who within 24 hours you will marry. How did this come about? What are the consequences of your discovery? What are the choices you might make? What direction would that lead you in? And where does it end up?
You can write this as… an exploration of character; as a thriller; as a comedy; even as a tragedy…
- The anniversary
A couple go on an anniversary cruise. On its final stop, one of the passengers that boards throws their entire marriage – satisfactory to this point in every way – into turmoil. Who is the person who triggered this collapse? What are the consequences and choices for the two characters? How do they deal with the problem? And what is the end result?
You could set this in any era. It could be written as a relationship drama, a romance, a thriller or indeed a comedy.
Your character is on a charity walk. He (or she) is nearing the end of his self-imposed challenge. He’s got blisters on places he didn’t know he had. He’s exhausted. He only has a day or two to go… Then he meets a difficulty – that could have to do with the environment, himself, or someone he meets – and this throws into question everything he thought his life was about. Your story can end happily – or not. It could be a miniature about self. It could be an action thriller.
- Captive Audience
You’re one of three hostages captured by Somali pirates, waiting for your embassies to raise the $3m dollar ransom your captors have demanded. Something happens between the three of you that gives you the courage you’ll need to endure whatever lies ahead. It could involve one of the Somalis guarding you. This could be a story about human nature. It could be a love story. (It’s not a thriller: you all recognize there’s no chance of escape.)
A ten-to-fourteen-year-old child discovers that there’s a person sheltering in the shed at the bottom of the garden. That person is a badly injured activist of some sort (animal activist, political activist). The child sees in the newspaper that the person in the shed was involved in a nearby incident (a raid on an animal laboratory, an act of violent political protest), in which they were injured. Discovery would lead to their immediate arrest. The child, who’s an outsider him (or her-) self doesn’t know what to do. He could be tempted to do some act of derring do to prove him (or her-) self – or his sympathies might be engaged by the fugitive. Or both. The story is essentially about the choice the child has to make: it’s a coming of age story.
- The wild
Two or three children go on an outing into territory they’ve always been warned to avoid without adults in attendance. They deliberately break this rule as an act of defiance and adventure. This is a wild place: hills and valleys with the possibility of hoboes, snakes, wild-eyed Pentecostal worshippers, badly sealed mine shafts, feral dogs, traps… This, too, is a coming of age story. It could be an adventure, a story about relationships, or a story about your character’s experiencing an epiphanic moment, not shared by the others.
- Girls (or boys) just want to have fun
An upbeat story about the difficulties of dating in the modern world. The character must be between 20 and 35. It’s about the start of the relationship. It involves new media to a greater or lesser extent. (It could even be written as a series of tweets, for instance.)
A cat, beloved of his (or her) owners, in exploring the properties neighbouring his home turf, chases a rat into a garage or workshop when the owners, preparing to go on holiday, lock him in. He’s trapped there until either he finds a way out (with the help of the big tom cat he’s had a running battle with for the past many years) or thanks to his own ingenuity. Either way, it’s not easy. Tell this story from the cat’s perspective – either in third or first person.
Your character is on a journey (a quest, in fact, to which you might glancingly refer) when he finds himself, at dusk, on a hilltop, beneath a gibbet from which three bodies in various stages of decomposition are hanging. A crow is busy pecking out the eyes of the most recently hanged miscreant, but is distracted by the arrival of your character – and engages him in conversation. He challenges him with a test: it could be a riddle test, or a test of strength, or bravery, or compassion. Unless he meets the challenge, he can not continue with his quest.
10. Mrs Mazibuko’s Secret
You’re a worker in a large office. One day you go to retrieve something from your locker and discover the tea-lady, Mrs Mazibuko, rifling through the pockets of the coats hung in the locker-room. Mrs Mazibuko is elderly. She’s a well-loved fixture of your company. What happens next?