Story Starter: Fixer-Upper


Today’s Story Starter image is of what you might call a fixer-upper. Do you know that term? I think it started in America – it has that casual tone that at the same time perfectly captures what it is – and describes a property for sale that’s ripe for restoration, refurbishment and general reclamation from falling down.

You can probably tell that this one is in a Greek village somewhere. I’m not telling where since I go there every summer and relish its continuing quiet and general lack of airs and graces. Remarkably it hasn’t changed much in all the years I’ve been visiting. I haven’t looked at this picture for years; I must track down this particular building and check whether anyone has indeed taken it on and fixed it up.

Anyway, this scene sends my thoughts ambling down so many different tracks.

The obvious first thought is estate agents and their super-creative blurb, though an estate agent story would have to try to do something original – not the usual house for sale that the sellers decide to keep, or buyer who apparently just can’t find the right home, so that they can keep seeing the estate agent.

Maybe the story is more obvious: thinking of buying that ramshackle fixer-upper on a sunshine Mediterannean island. Escaping? Running away? Returning home? New life?

Maybe we’re on that island in the off season – it looks pretty quiet, doesn’t it?

What else? Maybe the story is set in the past – though not wartime. That’s too obvious and, sorry, but well-worn. I’ve pointed this out to a couple of writers recently. To our readers, even our readers, the war years have become . . . not irrelevant, but something they can’t relate to, just recent history. They don’t have actual memories and feel nostalgia. And they can get bored with stories set then.

They’re also getting bored with stories set in the 1800s, by the way. It’s interesting how tastes change.

But how about a story set when travel became more easily accessible to all of us? Think about different, more recent periods and what was happening then, and what changes society was going through.

No one ever said writing is easy, and coming up with new and original ideas is just the half of it. Story ideas can be fixer-uppers, too!


Shirley Blair

Fiction Ed Shirley’s been with the “Friend” since 2007 and calls it her dream job because she gets to read fiction all day every day. Hobbies? Well, that would be reading! She also enjoys writing fiction when she has time, long walks, travel, and watching Scandi thrillers on TV.