Creative Fiction Writing Workshop: Starting Your Story

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How do I get started writing a story? Where do I get ideas?

Get ideas from virtually any common, ordinary situation. Get out of your house to see real people and the real world and ideas will come from the most random places. Be sure to jot down these ideas so as not to forget them. Furthermore, be thinking about what kind of a story you want to write so that you can slant your descriptions in that direction.

1. First, simply DESCRIBE A NORMAL SCENE you witnessed in a store:

The man put the socks down, took the girl by the hand and walked out.

2. Now, CHANGE the sentence. Make it involve more of the senses. Play around with how different words can completely change the mood of the situation. Use adjectives and adverbs:

The man forcefully threw his purchase at the Target clerk, grabbed the 5-year-old girl roughly by the arm and jerked her toward the door.

3. ADD ANOTHER SENTENCE or three to more completely describe what happened next, or its results. Use adjectives so you more fully portray the characters. Vary your sentence length--sometimes long, sometimes short. CHANGE the event. It's fiction. Be creative:

She continued screaming at the top of her lungs all the way out. The hem of the girl's tattered Sunday dress soaked up the bright red blood dripping from her broken lip. The man pushed his long brown hair roughly from his eyes, wiped his calloused hand on his dirt-stained pants, and dragged her resisting, squirming form into the rusty 1980's Ford.

4. ADD SOME DIALOGUE, SOME QUOTES and CONFLICT. Add a TWIST so that what the reader first thought is changed a little:

"Shut up. Shut up. Do you hear me!" he yelled as he buckled her seatbelt and tried ineffectually to wipe her face gently with a tissue. "Don't you ever do that again! I saw you put candy in your pocket. We don't do that, ever. That's stealing, and I will pay for whatever we need. No child of mine will ever steal anything, ever."

Here, we have him buckling her seatbelt and gently wiping her face. Those are not the actions of an uncaring father. You have now grabbed the reader's attention so he or she wants to know more. Things are too interesting and too confusing for the reader to stop now.

Use proper grammar in the dialogue to show he is educated, and use poor grammar to show lack of education, or, perhaps, low intelligence or even frustration level. How people say things is very revealing about them, their ideas, their moods, etc.

5. EXPAND THE DESCRIPTIONS of what's going on AROUND THIS SCENE. Describe what others are saying in the store. Use dialogue for their conversation:

The clerk stood still staring at the candy the man had pulled from little Megan's pocket. Jonathan was a proud father and always talked about how he could take care of his family.

"Did you see that?" the older man said in a disapproving tone as he plunked his shampoo and potato chips on the counter. "People like that shouldn't have kids."

Marie shook her head and commented, "I have never seen him get that angry before. Maybe I should have my manager call the police. But I don't want to get him in trouble. He is usually so kind, and I've seen him a lot over the last two years, him and his handicapped son. You know, the one who's different."

Now you have a great beginning for your story. It's your turn to keep writing.

Kat Jaske © 2006 All Rights Reserved
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