Do you lot enjoy writing curt stories or other works of fiction? How practise you notice inspiration for what you write?
In this activity, we invite you to create your own short story inspired by photographs and illustrations from our Picture Prompts series.
Think of this exercise a picayune flake like cooking with a recipe. We’ll give you options for your main ingredients: You’ll choose a
from the images we’ve rounded upwards below. And then follow the steps to plan, write, revise and share your story.
But, as with cooking, yous don’t take to stick to the recipe exactly as it’due south written. We encourage you to experiment with, build on and be inspired by our suggestions. Nosotros want y’all to use your own ideas, identity and imagination to come up up with an original creative piece of work.
When you’ve finished your story, yous can share the opening lines in the comments for other students to read.
ane. Choose a main grapheme.
Clockwise, from elevation left: Nhung Le; Tara Walton for The New York Times; Cari Vander Yacht; Loris Lora; Julio Cesar Aguilar, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images; Brian Rea
The main grapheme, or protagonist, is the one who will guide readers through the story. This effigy will be personally affected by the major conflict and will grow or change in some way because of it by the end.
Don’t worry, you lot can introduce additional characters afterwards, merely for now, focus on developing your master grapheme’s appearance, personality, motivations and back story. The character you create doesn’t have to expect or human activity exactly like the ane pictured, unless you lot desire it to. Instead, think most the image as a jumping-off point for your imagination.
In one case you lot’ve selected your protagonist, write a short “graphic symbol sketch” using the prompts beneath to become to know the person amend:
What is your character’s name, if she or he has 1? Where does that person come from?
What does your protagonist await like? What is the personality? What kind of clothes does she or he wear? What are the character’s likes and dislikes? Strengths and weaknesses?
What does the protagonist want? What is that person’south master goal in the story?
Create 1 fact that tin can aid y’all ascertain this character. For case, “Their female parent is the most important person to them,” or “When my grapheme was v years old they lost their dwelling in a burn down.” Yous don’t have to mention the fact in the story, merely you should cull something that helps you circular out the character’s identity or worldview.
If you like, yous can use this graphic organizer to capture your image choice and grapheme clarification.
2. Choose a setting.
Clockwise from elevation left: Andrew Testa for The New York Times; Digital rendering by Doug Aitken Workshop/Parley for the Oceans/MOCA, Prototype by Conner MacPhee; Elizabeth D. Herman for The New York Times; Ashley Pon for The New York Times; Airbnb; Feifei Cui-Paoluzzo/Moment, via Getty Images
While your characters might visit several locations throughout your story, consider this the identify where the majority of the action volition occur.
Once more, recall of the epitome you choose as inspiration. You might expand on it to create a vivid fictional world for your characters, or possibly something in the photo will inspire you to write about another existent or imagined identify and time. Or, if you like, employ the setting exactly equally pictured.
After you lot’ve selected a setting, in the aforementioned way you sketched out your master graphic symbol, use these questions to help you further build the backdrop of your story:
What planet, country, region or boondocks is the story set up in? What era, yr, season or time of solar day does it take place? What is the cultural and political climate similar at this time in this space?
What are the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures characters would feel in this setting? What mood or feeling does it evoke?
What value does this setting accept to your grapheme? Is it familiar, new, strange, scary or exciting to that person?
Yous can add together the prototype and clarification of your setting to your graphic organizer.
iii. Choose a conflict.
Clockwise from top left: Javier Jaén; Sam Alden; Christopher Lee for The New York Times; Jonell Joshua; Eleanor Davis; André da Loba
The conflict, or trouble, is the engine that will propel your narrative forrard. Information technology’s the obstruction that is getting in the way of your main character’s central goal or want.
You may interpret these images even so you similar. Perhaps you desire to take them literally — for example, your protagonist might be trying to survive a real-life earthquake. Or you might call up of them more than figuratively — the earthquake could exist a metaphor for the rupturing of society or a broken relationship.
After you have selected an paradigm, answer the questions beneath to develop your conflict in more than detail. These will assist you map the narrative arc, or plot, of your story (learn more than about that in our related mentor text):
Who or what is the antagonist (nature, technology, social club, another person, the protagonist’due south ain mind, fate)?
What is the driving conflict? What does the principal graphic symbol want? How is the conflict preventing the character from getting it? How will the character try to solve this problem?
How was this conflict instigated? How will it finally be resolved?
How does your principal character change or grow in resolving the disharmonize? What theme or universal message volition your readers take away from this story?
Consummate your graphic organizer with your disharmonize epitome and notes.
4. Map out your story.
Character, setting and conflict are just the edifice blocks of your story. Now y’all volition take all those ideas you’ve brainstormed and map out your story, scene past scene. In “Finally Write That Brusk Story,” the best-selling author Curtis Sittenfeld offers this communication:
Create an outline by repeatedly asking yourself what will happen next. Thinking in terms of scenes and structure increases the likelihood that your story volition be story-like — that it will be about something happening, something changing, versus being a more static slice of life.
Since you’re writing a
story, your plot should exist curtailed. Oftentimes, short fiction revolves around a single incident and involves no more a few characters. Still, be sure to have a articulate beginning, middle and stop and that each ingredient you selected above works together seamlessly.
Admittedly, this may be easier said than done. Here’s what Ms. Sittenfeld suggests if you’re not sure how to get started:
If you have a favorite short story or ii, it tin can exist illuminating to reverse-engineer them past creating their outlines and thereby meliorate sympathise how they were made. (Exercise this with a friend, for the same story, to encounter if you’re in agreement about what constitutes a scene.)
If yous desire to try this yourself, read a brusque story of your choosing or select one from “The Decameron Projection,” a contempo collection of new fiction inspired by the coronavirus pandemic from The New York Times Magazine. As you read, pay attending to how the author brings the main grapheme, setting and conflict to life, and endeavor to map out the plot scene past scene. So you can apply some of the “writer’s moves” yous admire in this story to your own piece of work.
To create your outline, employ our story map worksheet or whatsoever other pre-writing strategy you prefer.
5. Write, revise and share.
After creating an outline, you are set up to write. Y’all can choose to write something every bit short every bit a piece of wink fiction (we accept a lesson plan for that) or equally long equally a novella.
During your first draft, Ms. Sittenfeld suggests:
Keep writing. And for at present, don’t worry about quality and don’t think most potential readers. Your goal is non to write a great story only to terminate a story. It’s normal if there’s a huge discrepancy betwixt how good you envisioned your story existence and how impuissant your actual sentences seem. In fact, it would be surprising if in that location were not a huge discrepancy.
Once you’ve written your story, you tin can get back and read it in its entirety. Every bit you read, ask yourself: Are the characters, setting and disharmonize fully developed? Does my story accept a distinct starting time, eye and cease? Is the message I want my readers to take abroad from this story axiomatic? Is my writing engaging, clear and enjoyable to read?
If you answer “no” to any of those questions — and you probably volition — revise. Here are seven tips for editing your ain writing.
When y’all have something you’re proud of, share your work! Yous can postal service the opening lines here in the comments section, or send your story to one of these dozens of outlets that publish teenagers’ writing.
Find many more ways to use our Picture Prompt characteristic in this lesson program. Yous can find all our Picture Prompts in this column.