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Julie Duffy talks about writing prompts for StoryADay, and space in short stories...

READERSVOICE.COM: Have any writers said how they came up with ideas for 31 stories in a month and what were their inspirations?

JULIE DUFFY: Some writers work on short stories that feature characters from a longer work in progress (like a novel). They use the stories to explore the characters’ backstory or personalities.
One year a writer set out to write a series of connected stories about characters who all lived in the same nursing home, which I thought was a wonderful idea.
Last year one of my regulars shared that she was using Duotrope.com to find upcoming contest deadlines. She picked 30 or so that interested her and used their themes/prompts to spark her stories each day of the challenge. I thought that was quite brilliant as it combined the challenge with her personal goal of getting more stories published
this year. (And she succeeded!)
The first year, one writer rewrote a classic fairy tale every day. That was a fascinating to watch.
(Some people share their stories at the site or on their own blogs, but it’s not mandatory.)
I find it useful to have a bunch of ‘Story Sparks’ ready to go before May — things I’ve seen, fragments of idea, all written down. Also, I provide a prompt for every day of the challenge, to help people who are stuck. Some people use all 31 of my prompts, which are intentionally vague. It’s always really interesting to see how different people use the same prompt.

RV: What do you like to see in a short story?

JD: I love space in a short story. It sounds counterintuitive, but I love reading a story where it feels like there is lots of room, like bits are missing. Unlike a novel, where the writer has room to describe everything, in a short story the smart writer writes as if I know about this world they’ve created, the way you know the backstory when your best friend is telling you a story. They don’t say ‘Brian, that’s my brother, you remember…’ or ‘in our line of work we always have to…’. They just fire things at you and trust you to catch up. The best stories, for me, are the ones where I have to work a little to fill in the gaps. Maybe it makes me feel clever and that’s why I like them ;)

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– copyright Simon Sandall