Starting your short story is the most important part.
Without being able to hook your readers with a strong introduction, they won’t get to enjoy the entirety of the journey through your story.
Whether you’re writing a short story or looking for your next big book idea, we’ve got tips to help you start it off right.
These are our tips for starting your short story:
Shock your readers by writing something they wouldn’t expect or something that doesn’t quite make sense. This is often done by creating confusion, starting by instilling sympathy for your character, or writing something downright shocking to read.
Create sympathy for your character by throwing them in the middle of a struggle. Humans are empathetic beings and making something awful happen right off the bat to an unsuspecting character will help draw intrigue.
Avoid info-dumping by beginning your story with action instead of information. If all you do is give your character’s entire background (which is indicative that’ you’re now following the rules of showing versus telling), your readers won’t be sucked in.
No matter how many short stories idea you have, without the right story structure, they’ll be nothing more than just…ideas.
Let’s go over proper story structure so you can do these story ideas justice.
There are 5 key milestones in every novel, and for short stories, there are typically 4 (due to word count and lack of longevity in general).
Story Structure Milestone 1 – The Setup
Every story needs a setup in which to move from. This is the very beginning of your story.
You may decide to use one of these short story ideas and in that case, you’ll have to construct a catchy and enticing first paragraph/s in order to pull readers in.
The difference between writing a novel and writing a short story is the fact that your short story introduction has to be short, snappy, and filled with intrigue.
Here are a few ways to write a good story beginning:
Start in medias res, which means “in the middle.” This is in reference to the action and how you start a story. Starting in the middle gives the story a more natural beginning and helps you avoid info-dumping.
Introduce a major story element within the first page. This gives your readers a clear idea about what your story will involve. By “main element,” I mean magic or flying spacecraft or a love interest. You want your readers to know the type of story they’re getting in the opening so they can become more interested in its ending.
Make us care about the main character in some way through strong character development. The more your reader can bond with the focus of your story, the more likely it is they’ll stick around to find out what happens to them.
Story Structure Milestone 2 – The Inciting Incident
There’s always one thing that happens in any story or book or even movie that kicks off the chain of events.
Your story needs to have an inciting incident as part of its story structure too.
For example, the inciting incident in Game of Thrones that kicks off the entire Stark VS Lannister war that’s ultimately the reason behind all the heartache, death, and drama is when Jaime Lannister pushes Bran Stark out of the window. This puts a target on Bran’s back since he didn’t actually die and then he was nearly killed by a “hitman” with a Lannister blade.
That is the inciting incident for both the first book and the whole of the war for the iron throne.
Figure out what your (probably smaller) inciting incident is, whether that’s a stranger wandering in to your character’s classroom or some unknown object smacking your character in the back of the head while they jogged past their favorite, and oddly empty, coffee shop one morning.
Story Structure Milestone 3 – The Slap
When writing a novel, there are two of these “slaps,” the second worse than the first. No matter if you’re writing a short story or a full novel, your story will still get a slap.
These slaps are critical and harrowing events that halt the progression of your story and make it harder for your character to succeed in whatever it is they’re trying to do.
During this slap, your character’s world and hope and whatever they’re working toward comes to a standstill as they face this obstacle in their journey.
For a short story, this can range from your character losing all the money they had to get home to the death of their loved one. Choose something that’s shocking but will still leave your readers with some hope.
Story Structure Milestone 4 – The Climax
You know what the story climax is. It’s the point in your story where all the events come to a head with the biggest event in your story.
The climax is when your character either succeeds or loses what they’re after.
Oftentimes, authors choose this time to provide readers with an unexpected twist. No matter how you decide to write your story’s climax, make sure it’s the highlight of your story.
The falling action, otherwise known as the resolution, comes directly after and is how you end your story. (We suggest making sure it’s satisfying instead of just dropping off the end of the climax)
How to Think of Your Own Story Ideas
Coming up with story ideas can take some time and practice—especially when your imagination has been at a standstill for a long time.
In order to come up with your own story ideas, use the “what if” method. Think of a situation and then ask yourself, “what if…” and fill in the end.
For example, your situation may be a character who wants to ditch school.
To create your own story idea, ask yourself, “What if…that character ditches school and then runs into their teacher.”
And then, “what if…that teacher is also playing hooky.”
This allows you to craft story ideas centering around one main idea with multiple possibilities.
Ultimately, coming up with your own story ideas from nothing can be much more difficult than expanding on story ideas someone else has come up with—like us.
Here are over 300 story ideas for you to use and write about.
300+ Short Story Ideas to Use Today
Write a story about a new strain of flower and how its scent is intoxicating to humans, but also deadly.
Write a story about the first stranger you see today.
Write about a lizard that’s living in your character’s walls.
Write a story about a city that has hidden from civilized society for thousands of years until an unsuspecting traveler walks right into the heart of it.
Write a story from the perspective of a mouse.
Write about the worst lie you’ve ever told.
Write a story that starts in a room of windows.
Write about a little girl who purposely leaves a backpack of bombs in a local coffee shop.
Write a story involving two people from opposite sides of a massive town with a long history of rivalry.
Write about another planet that has life just like Earth’s—everything is exactly the same only there were 1/3 of the Earth’s population.
Write about a chair sitting on the old, broken down front porch.
Write a story about a girl walking down the center of the street.
Write about apples falling from the sky.
Write about the incessant shrill of a morning bird outside the barely cracked window.
Write a story involving three women and a stolen cane.
Write a story that starts with, “She was aware of just how much she was making things harder for herself.”
Write a story about a cold house in the depths of an overpopulated town.
Write about two birds and their role in a heist.
Write about what it’s like to be fully submerged in jelly.
Write a story that starts with the smell of salt in an open field.
Write a story involving a teacher and a 217-year-old child.
Write about succulents drying up on a windowsill.
Write a story that starts with, “And now I actually have to figure out what I did wrong.”
Write a story about a character who forgets one person in his life every day, though not always the same person.
Write about a character who wants nothing more than to learn how to build a house.
Write a story involving fish crackers and a rogue lemon.
Write a short story about an orphan who can hear whispers.
Write a story that starts with, “She was filled with the sense that her work here wasn’t done just yet.”
Write about black curtains in a room of white.
Write about a new packet of dried fruit sent through the mail.
Write a story about a guitar with a unique signature on the inside.
Write about bananas and what they mean for a future society.
Write about a dog that loses a paw.
Write about a nice meal that was had over poison wine.
Write a story about one man and the lost scarf.
Write a story that starts with, “After what seemed like the longest night of his life, he had only one more thing to do.”
Write about the sun filtering through countless leaves before finding your cheek in the morning.
Write a story involving a really strong cup of coffee and the worst churro ever.
Write a story that takes place on the middle floor in the middle suite in a 56 story hotel.
Write about the rattling your character regularly hears coming from the basement.
Write a story involving a song your character knows but doesn’t remember.
Write a story that starts with, “How he waited this long without killing someone was beyond him. But he made it through…mostly.”
Write a story that takes place on a crowded beach in the middle of summer.
Write a story about a rooftop bar and an unlikely accident.
Write a story involving three roles of tape and a garden hose.
Write about flying on an airplane for the first time.
Write a story from the perspective of a plant.
Write the story of an old baseball cap now bleaching on a headstone.
Write a story that begins with an old man tapping his toes.
Write about one character who has too much love for pepper.
Write a story about a cactus left on the front porch of your character’s new house.
Write about cascading doubt infiltrating a woman’s unusually high self-esteem.
Write a story involving a camera and a pack of ice.
Write about what it’s like to be the only person who knows the true purpose of life.
Write a story that starts with, “You never know just how bad things can get until you’re waist-deep in the sandpit you used to play in as a child.”
Write about that one time your character forgot to wear shoes to school.
Write a story about a bookcase floating down a river.
Write about what happens when an ex-convict opens an ice cream shop.
Write about two flowers smushed on a doorstep.
Write a story the begins with your character watching rain flood their dirty streets.
Write a story about a single sticky note worn with folds and faded with time.
Write about a girl gifted with an award for something she must’ve done, but doesn’t remember.
Write a story using the words “trial” and “reckoning”.
Write a story that starts with, “I knew that mongrel was a problem the second I set eyes on him.”
Write a story that involves a unique hat, two bottles, and a disgruntled bee.
Write about the first person who comes to mind.
Write a narrative of your day as if you were in the 1800s.
Write a story about how much a soldier misses the taste of honey buttered biscuits.
Write about a character who just found out they have a rare disease that makes their skin change colors to match their surroundings.
Write about a faraway world where humans are not the most intelligent life form.
Write a story about six kids on their quest to uncover a hidden lair deep in the forest.
Write a story involving a wrench, a flower pot, and two teenagers.
Write about what happens when the government puts secret viruses in essential oils in order to dull the minds of its users.
Write a story that starts with, “What happened to me was…meant to happen. At least that’s what I tell myself.”
Write about an old woman’s journey to relocate someone she had a passionate fling with in her younger years.
Write about how love can become muddled in difficult families.
Write a story involving a rare book and two people fighting over it.
Write a story in a world where books are outlawed.
Write about a time you thought you would explode with some sort of emotion.
Write a story about a character who finds a perfect sketch of themselves for sale in a coffee shop…2,000 miles from where they live.
Write about a lime tree and its worst predator.
Write a story about a dog who won’t stop digging at one specific spot.
Write about what would happen in a world where children are regarded as the most precious beings to the point of being worshiped.
Write about a girl in an ancient society who hears voices in her head that aren’t her own.
Write a story about an antique cash register and a type of money that nobody can place.
Write about a life-changing book and its journey through multiple readers and its home on the library shelf.
Write a story that beings with, “His hand fell from the gash in his eyebrow, red trickling down his hand to do his tattered jeans.”
Write about a wheelbarrow, a young boy, and a snake hiding in the backyard.
Write a story that involves a glass koala.
Write about what it means to be fully awake.
Write a story about a girl who spends half her night awake…as someone else.
Write a story about a man who can see a person’s worst day ever whenever he touches them.
Write a story that begins with the patter of baby footsteps on the hardwood floor.
Write a story involving a broken car trunk, a DVD, and batteries.
Write a story that starts with, “They never tell you what it’s like when your world gets turned upside down.”
Write about how the sticky note pile on your desk keeps dwindling day after day, without you using it.
Write a story about a lie told over breakfast.
Write about your life as if you were telling it from a bystander’s perspective.
Write a story about how you take a bit of an eggroll only to discover a scroll inside.
Write a story that begins with a warm breeze blowing off a house that’s on fire in the middle of winter.
Write about a card game that goes wrong.
Write a story from the perspective of an owl flying around a campground at night.
Write about a lost bracelet.
Write a story about how to find your way back home.
Write a story that starts with, “His pack was heavy, no doubt about that with what he hid inside.”
Write a story like you were the only person left in an amusement park at night.
Write about a time when your friends made you feel betrayed for the first time.
Write about a journey to discover what happens when you reach the bottom of a waterfall.
Write about the lives of two hamsters as they squeeze out of their cage.
Write a story from the perspective of yourself as a 3-year-old.
Write about a story that begins with a bird flying through a window.
Write a story about a character who can’t stop lying to those closest to them.
Write about a brand new couch found sitting in the middle of a back country road.
Write a story about what was found beneath a palm tree during a beach party.
Write about a bathtub and a drawing pad.
Write a story about how a character finds a message in the bottom of their coffee cup.
Write a story about what would happen if food manufacturing companies shut down.
Write a story that starts with, “That oil spill was the least of his problems.”
Write about a character who discovers why nobody can find a cure for cancer.
Write a story detailing the process of creating a bouquet from homegrown florals.
Write about a high school graduation that gets a major surprise.
Write a story involving a rare coin and two thieves fighting over it.
Write about climbing a tree for the first time.
Write a story involving a water spigot and a nest of baby bunnies.
Write about a secret room beneath an open field.
Write a story about a character who discovers their parents’ hidden library.
Write a story involving a notepad, a flashlight, and a goat.
Write a story about holding your breath.
Write about what happens at night inside the small town’s antique shop.
Write a story about a character who lives in a future society that’s struggling to produce enough food.
Write about a secret government’s method of population control.
Write a story about a writer who gets their ideas from the remnants of dreams.
Write a story that starts with, “In any other time, what she did would be considered heroic.”
Write about how dropping their ice cream as a little boy changed your main character completely.
Write a story in which two people argue about who has the worse sleeping problems.
Write about a psychic who wants nothing more than to be believed in a world that shuns psychics.
Write a story that begins with the sound of raindrops on a tin can.
Write about flooding in a society that hasn’t seen good rain in years.
Write about what it would be like to lose every possession you own.
Write a story about the struggles of being born with purple hair in a world where color is frowned upon.
Write about the smell of banana bread and coffee as your character skips downstairs for breakfast.
Write about what it’s like to live in a small shed that’s half buried from before the sickness took nearly half the population.
Write a story that begins with, “She scuttled backward, shoving herself against the wall, sweat bleeding through her torn shirt. It’s worth it.“
Write about a time your character slipped and broke an arm outside a donut shop.
Write about a reserved, creepy EMT who draws your character’s blood for seemingly no reason.
Write about someone who’s afraid to feel the wind.
Write a story that starts with car tires crunching over an abandoned road.
Write a story about a haunted barn.
Write a story involving an air freshener, a trailer, and a basketball.
Write a story about what happens in a small town surrounded by militant forces.
Write about a character who’s never read a book, lost in a library.
Write a story that involves seashells and a stolen ring.
Write a story that starts with, “Her hair was parted on the right side.”
Write about a journal that made everything written in it come to life.
Write about an old woman who spends her whole days gardening.
Write about a time when you forgot something very important.
Write about a whale and a little girl’s toy boat.
Write a story using the words “exposure” and “calamity.”
Write a one-sentence story using the word “charcuterie.”
Write a story about an underdeveloped society learning that their government is listening in on them daily.
Write about a string and a broken cello.
Write a story involving a bar stool and a farm.
Write about what it would be like to step foot on another planet for the first time.
Write about a parade from the perspective of a child.
Write a short story centering around a little boy’s trip to the emergency room in the back of an ambulance.