Story Starter: Warehouses

Friday means Shirley’s Story Starter at The People’s Friend Online.  Are you ready?

These old warehouses are in Lubeck in northern Germany, a very fine city, once medieval capital of the Hanseatic League. Aren’t they elegant?

I’ve chosen them with the aim of encouraging writers to think about different locations and historical periods for their stories. There’s a habit to set them in the more familiar Victorian times, and it’s become noticeable just how often we use the tag Set In 1880 or 1890. We know that our readers notice these patterns, too.  (How do we know? They write and tell us!)

Variety is what keeps the content of the magazine fresh and offers the most satisfying reading experience.

It’s the case that most period stories can be transposed to a different period and work just as well.

Developing patterns in writing

I understand how these patterns develop. It’s writers writing what they can see has been successful and trying to surf that same wave. Look at the current trend for novels with dysfunctional protagonists. That follows the success of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. (Which itself possibly follows the trend set by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. .) Gone Girl led to a whole slew of similar unreliable narrator stories. Google Girl On The Train and you’ll be offered multiple sites offering lists like “14 books to read if you loved Girl On The Train.  How often do you pick up a book and the splash on the cover says for fans of blah and blah?

It’s natural to want to catch a trend, to show that you get it – but eventually, the reader reaches saturation point.

So, and I’ve written about this before, try to identify what you don’t see in the magazine. If it’s a period story you want to write, try to identify a period that hasn’t been featured lately.  Same with types of story. They go in cycles, too. Try to break the cycle and offer us something that makes us and our readers go, “Ooh, this is fresh and different!”


Keep yourself fresh with a recap of Shirley’s writing tools 

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.