Writing Prompt Story Starter: Tenement

story starter

This week’s Story Starter has some history.

Like millions of people around the country, I’m looking forward to the time when our families and friends can be together once again.

Until then, we’ve all been cheered by being able to keep in touch through technology. We may not be together yet, but we can stay in regular contact.

After a recent video call on a lovely sunny spring morning, my daughter sent me over this image of the view from her window.

It’s a tenement ⁠— a lovely warm sandstone building. Many retain their original stained glass sash-and-case windows. Just beautiful.

Tenements sprang up in cities where affordable housing was needed quickly. In Scotland, the Industrial Revolution meant that workers flocked to the cities, so tenements sprang up in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

In the US, tenements provided inexpensive housing for immigrants arriving from all over the world.

The inspiration

So what can you get from this?

It’s all about the people. Who lived here? How did the neighbours get along? The children? Where did they all come from?

Why did they decide to move and live here? Did they emigrate, or travel for work? Who, and what, did they leave behind?

Living in flats ⁠— taking a turn to clean the stairs; hanging washing out on the communal drying green (or “backies”); community spirit.

Being able to see your neighbours going about their lives. It’s putting me in mind of “Rear Window”, with James Stewart.

Why not have a look at ‘“Windows In The West” by Scottish artist Avril Paton, which shows tenement life in winter?

I had a chat with “Friend” Editor Angela this week, about what makes a successful “Friend” story.

Plot is important, of course, but strong characters who have an emotional engagement with the readers are key.

Best of luck!

Looking for another Story Starter? Click here to browse through our archive.

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!