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Story tips: notice the unusual around you

In my post, “Six Elements of Great Short Stories,” I wrote about the six things literary agent April Eberhardt said we should think about in our stories: setting, character, point of view, conflict, plot, and theme.

She suggested carrying some index cards with these elements listed and using them when we see something in our daily life that sparks our interest.

She used the example of the day she was driving in the city and saw a car full of nuns next to her. What drew her interest was the unexpected–they were driving a new Lexus and laughing hysterically. She began to wonder about their story.

So, if I take her advice and list the elements of this situation on my index card, it could look something like this: 

Setting: The inside of a Lexus and an ice cream shop

Character: A car full of nuns and a hitchhiker

Point of view: A young woman in the backseat, a hitchhiker the nuns picked up

Conflict: Her inner identity struggle

Plot: The nuns, on their way to get ice cream in town, pick up the young woman and invite her to have a treat with them. Over ice cream, she tells the nuns about her dark secret and she learns theirs.

Theme: Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

This is just off the cuff, but you get the idea. Look around you. Notice what’s different. Notice what’s unusual. Ask yourself how it could become a story. Carry some index cards around and start playing. Have fun!

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