Turning a “Story Prompt” into a Story Idea

Hi Folks,

From Reedsy’s Writing Prompts newsletter (as I write this back in early March), “You’re a professional cleaner and the beginning of spring is always your busiest time.”

This is for their current short story contest, but it could also easily be a premise for a novel. Here’s what sprang to mind for me:

First, define “cleaner.” It might be a person who cleans houses and businesses for a living (as intended).

It might also be the lower-level mobster or associate who “cleans” a crime scene after someone else does the deed.

It might be something else. Up to you. And which type of cleaner you choose will help define your genre.

Likewise, “What does the cleaner find?” popped into my head. This will also help define your story and your genre. Answering that question sets up the initial conflict (an ordinary citizen suddenly finds him/herself in an extraordinary situation).

Say the cleaner is a person who cleans houses and businesses, but is also a retired cop or retired CIA or a wannabe PI or an amateur sleuth (or… or… or…).

What does the cleaner find while s/he’s cleaning? Again, that will lead you into the story and help define your genre.

Old blood stains?

A fine golden necklace buried in the corner of the carpet? What does the amulet signify for the cleaner?

A black fleck the cleaner recognizes as microfilm from the days of the Cold War?

A tiny antique ladies’ watch (maybe with no band) that turns out to have magical time-transport properties?

Or a tiny antique ladies’ watch the back of which is loose and inside is that bit of microfilm?

A small knife with a decorative handle inlaid with bands of mother-of-pearl, turquoise and coral? And old bloodstains on the blade? (Sorry. That’s where my mind goes.)

A small, balled-up scrap of paper that draws the cleaner’s attention and on it is ….

A different item altogether?

The possibilities are practically endless, and each leads to a different story and genre.

To subscribe to Reedsy’s weekly Writing Prompts newsletter, see https://blog.reedsy.com/writing-contests.

By the way, any writers out there?

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Dean Wesley Smith is offering for only $200 to allow you to “learn-along” with him during the upcoming Las Vegas Licensing Expo. Your intellectual property (IP) is valuable beyond what you can imagine. Don’t just skip over this opportunity. Read the details at https://wmg-publishing-workshops-and-lectures.teachable.com/.

‘Til next time, happy writing!


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