Short story ideas – headlines as prompts



Someone tweeted this the other day and it resonated with me. A lot.

I do feel like I have something to say, multiple things, but when it comes to sculpting them into a short story with a clear plot, that’s where I often come unstuck. I have several ideas  (which I take to be a positive thing in creative writing), but sadly they are never packaged up in a way that suits the short story form. They need a lot of fettling and chiseling before they resemble anything like a story, which can be very frustrating when I just want to get something out.

It got me thinking about stories, more specifically stories that people remember or stories that sell. I’ve been trying to calculate how to make sure mine aren’t completely cliched or far fetched.

That’s when I remembered a website I’d come across at work, one of many news services which has made a business of selling ‘real life’ stories to media outlets.

Just clicking on their latest stories brought up literally hundreds of headlines which could act as fantastic short story synopses that are grounded in some sort of reality. There’s no need to even click onto the article and find out what actually happened if you don’t want to.

For instance:

61-Year-Old ‘ABSO Anne’ Racks Up Shocking Eight Notices For ‘Crimes’ Including Moving Bins, Gossiping & Supporting BREXIT

Dad Embroiled In Parking Row With Neighbour Has Driveway Blocked By CONCRETE BOLLARDS

16-Year-Old Girl Has Condition Which Means She May Never Eat Again

Britain’s Most Famous Butcher Has Created The Biggest Christmas Roast EVER – Stuffing 14 Different Birds Inside A Turkey

You get the gist.

I’ve already started working on a story which is inspired by one of these attention-grabbing headlines. I didn’t read the whole article, I just let my imagination get carried away.

I’ve been working on a couple of flash pieces recently too. I’m learning that the ‘smaller’ and more focused the situation the better, so it’s actually really useful to see how news reporters tell real life stories in just a few hundred words, sharing only the necessary details.

So next time you’re stuck for a story idea, why not try starting with a headline and letting the characters and stories follow. I’d love to hear if you have any success with this.


Published by JanelleHAuthor

I’m currently writing my debut novel, ‘Up to the Stars’ (working title). If you love the work of Rachel Joyce, Mike Gayle, Kit de Wall, Beth O’Leary and Lia Louis, then I’m writing my book for you. What else might you like to know? I’m a Yorkshire lass in Manchester. I married my childhood sweetheart. I regularly engage in tsundoku – apparently it’s a Japanese word which means buying lots of books that you’ll never get round to reading. I also sing.

2 thoughts on “Short story ideas – headlines as prompts

  1. Hey – newspapers are a great source of inspiration, having just read your post “falling of the writing wagon” maybe you should grab a newspaper tomorrow, one you normally wouldn’t pick up and read. Ignore the front-page, look for the smaller stories!

    Liked by 1 person

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