I am always looking for story prompts to use with students and for my own writing. An odd doorway, an interesting pair of shoes, a singular expression… all go into the writer’s store cupboard, to be hoarded until I find a use for it.
At Christmas, those prompts are easy to come by, perhaps because the season is a time of nostalgia for some, joy for many and, maybe, regret or loneliness for others. Objects take on meaning with consummate ease. Story is everywhere.
Here are three visual prompts from my Christmas tree.
A bright, shiny robin.
A smiling angel, speeding through the heavens like Superwoman or Buzz Lightyear.
And this one.
I don’t know what it is. Our tree is loaded with the decorations the children made at school years ago – salt dough snowmen, felt stockings, sparkly cardboard candy canes. They all deny making this one, though. ‘Not mine!’ they declare, year after year.
But I can’t throw it away. This one, of all the decorations, holds a secret, a lost beginning. I think of it as the stranger at the table, whose presence I won’t deny. What is its story?
And then there’s this…
I’ve been passing it as I walk up St James’ Lane past the cemetery to work all week. First, you have to guess what it is. Then, how did it get there? If your imagination, like mine, is sparked by these questions, try writing a piece of flash fiction about it – no more than 500 words. A flash fiction is a story which does much more than its size would suggest. It shows a glimpse which implies a larger story, and every word works its hardest to bring meaning, plot, character and theme alive.
Then you might decide to enter your story in our Flash Fiction competition when our ten writing competitions open in mid-January.