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Do Your #ShortStories begin in Ideas or Images? #amwriting

 Short stories are my first love in fiction.

And today I found an author, David Constantine, who follows the exact process (if you can call it that) that I use to write a short story. The entire article is worth a read if you’re an author.

“I abide by Carlos Williams’ rule for the making of a poem – ‘No ideas
but in things’ – and apply it equally to the making of stories. My
stories never start in an ‘idea’, unless taking that word at its root
meaning: ‘something seen’, an image. But even then I should want the
other senses to be involved.

My stories start in some particular and
very concrete situation, real or imagined, in which I think I detect the
possibilities of an opening line
(I could show in every one of my published stories what its beginning
was – but I’d rather not).
I couldn’t write a story to prove or disprove
a thesis, support or demolish an argument, advance or hinder any
opinion or ideology. I do plenty of that sort of writing and I know how
unlike writing stories (and poems) it is.

I start a story because some
concrete image or situation prompts or pesters or forces me to. And I
don’t know where I am going when I start.
I’ve met writers who won’t
start the story until they know pretty exactly where they are going in
it, who work it all out in detail in advance. But that’s not my
procedure. Sentence by sentence in every new story I feel my way.”

Do you write short stories? If you do, do you plot them in advance or let them come to you? If you read short stories, which are your favorite ones?

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • I love short stories by Jeffrey Deaver and I always wanted to write something like that, but I guess doing that would sound like copying and I am not much in the league to write a decent short story.

  • John L. Monk says:

    My latest story came from a memory I have of dining out on Valentine's Day when I was single. A lot of my stories come from a hacked off piece of memory, which I dress up into a story. Fun fun. Great blog! 🙂

  • Useful tips, Damyanti. I love writing stories and face same problems, like how to make drafts and work on them. Do have a look on my other blog

  • klahanie says:

    Hi Damyanti,

    Hope you are well, my friend. I specialise in short stories. Some might say, the shorter, the better. They are not planned. The formulation happens as I go along. It's a natural process, without pressure.

    Take care,

    Gary 🙂

  • Rajlakshmi says:

    I find it easier to write stories prompts, but most of the times I write on ideas that souls suddenly pop in my mind. It won't even be a full fledged idea, just a plot… I love the whole process of turning the one small idea into a story.

  • If I have a story to tell, I sit down and type until my fingers stop. Sometimes I take breaks to organize my thoughts, but I'm not one to micromanage my writing. I let it flow, and go back and edit it later.

  • abbiescorner says:

    I'm one of those writers who has to know where I'm going with a short story before I write anything down. I've tried your method but couldn't get anywhere. Only after I got an idea for the ending was I able to continue. Good luck in your endeavors.

  • I do write short stories, but unfortunately not as much as I should. Perhaps this is exactly BECAUSE of my process, which relies on an idea coming to me in a flash of insight before I sit down and actually begin typing (or actually hand-writing, depending on how old-fashioned my technology is that day). These ideas always take the form of a a What If? Sometimes the questions are broad: What if souls were real, and the world had proof? Or a very narrow question: What if you could time travel, but only inside your own head? And sometimes, just like you, my stories start with a really brilliant opening line. At least, I think so. 🙂

  • Lexa Cain says:

    I used to write short stories, but only write novels now. Even when I wrote flash fiction, I always knew what the ending would be and meticulously worked my way backward to discover the middle and then the beginning. I tried to pants a novel once. I made it to 30k and got confused – "What comes next? Where am I going? HELP!!" I've tried to resurrect it to no avail. So I won't be pantsing again; I'm no good at it…

  • I can be inspired by all sorts of things. It can start as an image, a sentence….I just know that I start a novel where there was once none and move from there.

  • I often start with an image or a snippet of dialogue—I never start with an ending in mind.

  • mooderino says:

    It varies for me. Some times a premise, sometimes the ending and some times just the title.

    Moody Writing

  • loverofwords says:

    I am not a real writer, but I do like to write short stories. It starts with an image and what is interesting is, that like Alex, I know the ending, then I fill in, even the last line is clear in my mind. And I like to leave the reader wondering what will happen next.

  • I'm like you, but I usually know where the story is going to end right from the start; I don't have to plot it out, just a few short notes about the high points of the story are usually all I need.

  • Sougata Khan says:

    I guess I am similar to you 🙂 Its impromptu and natural. But that also causes situations where you are just stuck.

  • I rarely sit and plot what my story and characters are going to be like. My characters are mainly formed when writing as the plot determines that. That is sometimes seen when there is a writing challenge, so the stories are written quickly. Most of my scribbles are made when inspiration hits, so I'll write non-stop until I'm satisfied that my idea came through the way it was meant to be. I never think of endings beforehand, but go with the flow of words that come to me at the time.

  • I don't write short stories, but my novels always begin with the ending scene in mind. (Then I have to figure out how to get there.)