Story Starter: Fingerpost

Quite an obvious Story Starter image this week: a footpath fingerpost.

But the catch is, I’m hoping not to see an obvious kind of story.

What do I mean by that?

Well, I’ve done a stack of reading these last few weeks, mostly of short stories though interspersed with serial instalments.

But as to those short stories, it surprises me – and, if I’m honest, saddens me a bit – just how often writers stay within tried and tested safe tramlines.

If we go back to fundamentals, how would you describe fiction?

It’s entertainment. It’s escapism. It’s education. It prompts an emotional response in the reader. Ideally, it should move the reader to learn something about themselves through their response.

That’s quite a package of requirements, isn’t it? Yet too often we see stories that just don’t try to achieve any of that. They don’t have the power to move the reader, or surprise them, or make them think.

Such stories don’t explore anything new or introduce new ideas to the reader. They don’t open up new worlds, but rather reflect their own world back at them. And if not their own world, a world that is too unsurprising and familiar.

Now, I find this a disappointing on lots of levels. One is that….well, isn’t it a bit insulting to the reader? I assume writers stick with these familiar tropes because they think readers can’t cope with anything more adventurous. But isn’t a bit sad to limit their horizons this way?

It’s sad to limit their own horizons as writers, too, when the whole point of fiction is that it’s a creative art.

It’s so rewarding when I can finish a new submission with a deep sigh of satisfaction and write on the envelope, Wow, what a story!, as I had the pleasure of doing this week. Or This is fresh and fun, as I also wrote this week.

My favourite words for describing stories I’ve just read are fresh, fun, different, creative, original, emotional, unexpected…..Do you get my gist?


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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.