Summer of Stories 2018

Photo by About_to_Snap, YWP Community Leader

WELCOME to the 2018 Summer of Stories Challenge!

Write, revise, publish! It's fun and easy! Each week there is a drop-down menu listing each challenge (you can also find these challenges under the CHALLENGES menu item). Please use the RESPOND button off each challenge so your post will be sorted with other responses. That'll give you a chance to see what others have done AND to comment. There are prizes! Publication! And fun. This is not school and you should do ALL of your first drafts in 7 minutes. Of course, you can go longer, but just write fast and fun and see what happens. Be sure to put #sos18 hashtag on everything you write! ALSO, you may have noticed that we've set up a special, ambitious and totally fun #SOS18 SHORT STORY WORKSHOP for all of you who want to dive deep! So below are the challenges, scheduled by week and genre (feel free to jump ahead and around)  and thanks to many, many folks who helped pull this together AND who will be helping this summer (so many we couldn't possibly list.) 



Click on each week's title to see the five weekly challenges -- but you can do any of these challenges any time, out of order, in order, doesn't matter. Just click on the title of any challenge you like -- and start writing!
Good fiction is real life stretched. Fiction is fun. Don't worry about facts but do worry about credibility. Does the story, do the characters, ring true. (And for the BIG FULL MONTY, join in the Short Story Workshop).

Promise. Two characters you create make a promise. Maybe a blood oath, maybe something done casually. Why did they make that promise? Do they keep the promise? Does one break it? What happens?

Unlock. Your character reaches in your pocket for your keychain and there is a key you've never seen before. It's old, tarnished, nicked up. Where did it come from? What does it unlock? How did the key get there? The character goes on a journey to find out what it unlocks. And then what?

Lines. Your character has been a person of routine, following the same yellow brick path for more than a decade, at the same time, passing the same places without incident, without anything out of the ordinairy. But one day, a blue path appears. A fork, as it were. The character decides, after much fretting, to follow it. Where does it lead? What befalls your character that loves routine.

Genie. A cat is wandering the way cats do and comes upon a lamp, a perfect place to rub when, suddenly, out bursts a genie. The cat is alarmed. It runs off and then turns. The genie somehow communicates: three wishes. And so the cat wishes. What happens? What does the cat become? What does it do?

Glasses. Your character has been wearing glasses, well, forever. One day, the character realizes that he/she/they can see most remarkably without spectacles, that they can see through walls, behind its back, miles away. How does the character use these new-found powers? How does the character explain what they see to their friends? Perhaps the character sees things they wish they couldn't.
Zero in on the one thing that really annoys you, that you want to talk about, rant about, have an opinion about. Tangents will come, but stay on point. Make your case. Make your reader stand up and shake a fist.

Online. Every day you do it. You check your phone. You respond to texts. You check social media. You post something of your own on social media. You check to see reactions. You text some more. You constantly feel like you need to check again. Sometimes you see that someone has totally misunderstood what you said. ... Do you ever get sick of it all? Do you ever feel like hurling your phone into a river? Or the ocean? What are the drawbacks of all this online communicating? Why do you stil do it? What do you wish it would become?

AI. You meet a new friend and you two get along extremely well, however you notice that your friend has some odd habits. You then discover that this friend is actually a robot, an invention with AI (artificial intelligence). Not too far off do you think? Do you think AI will endanger the world, or help it? Do you think there will come a day when we are not able to distinguish between a human and an AI? What would that be like?

Safe. OK, so school's been out for a while, but there is one thing about this last year -- the past few years for that matter. You worry about your safety. You've thought about it, maybe you've written about it, you've seen the debate, the entrenched viewpoints, what do you think should be done to make school's safer? Throught the ballot box? By protests? By talking to the legislators?

Reaction. You’re standing in line for ice cream on a blistering hot day and you’re up next. However, the person in front of you is paying in pennies -- all pennies -- and is counting them out methodically as you become hotter and hotter. How do you react? Do you speak up or seethe in silence? Describe the scene. (Alternately, think of an encounter of your own with an annoying person. What happened? No names, please!)

Superstitious. OMG STOP! A black cat crossed the road ahead! ... Don't step on the cracks! ... It's Friday the 13th; I'm staying in bed! Are you superstitious or do you believe people who have superstitious habits are ridiculous? What are your superstitious habits and how did you acquire them? What is the strangest one you have seen or heard of? 
The old standby. But work at it, give it rhythm and images. Make it flow. Use sensory detail.

Random. Random word generator: Try it out and make a poem of the words you come across. Put them in bold so we can see them.

Out. Incorporate the line, “I was there when time ran out,” into a poem.

Crowd. Go to a crowded place. Listen. Write down bits of conversation. From this scattering of words and thoughts, create a poem. Think of it as crowd sourcing. Use those bits in a poem.

Left out. We've all had these moments when it feels like no one understands you or no one agrees with you. Write a poem about it. Write about how it makes you feel. Do you have a specific example of when this happened to you?

Stairs. You come across someone sitting on the stairs outside a house on a cold, rainy day. This person doesn't wear a jacket and doesn't seem to notice the weather. They don't look up as you get closer. You have so many questions. Are they angry? Sad? Disoriented? Who is this person? What has just happened? What is the person thinking about? Write a poem about the person on the stairs.
Reality storytelling; use specific detail, start later than you think you should, end sooner than you think you should; make the reader imagine it. Since it's non-fiction, don't identify anyone by name or with details that lead others to know who they are.

Feature. Think of someone you know, or someone you've seen. Write about ONE feature of that person. Perhaps it's some feature of their face or body; perhaps it's something they wear often; perhaps it's a quality they have that's particularly annoying or ingratiating. A charn bracelet, their chipped tooth, their hand-knitted llama hat, their perpetually muddy sneakers, their paint-splattered jeans. What’s the story linked to it or behind it?

Afraid. What terrifies you? Tell a story about how you acquired that fear, or a dream you keep having, or a situation where you constantly have to deal with it. Are you afraid of heights or speaking in front of people? Tell the story. 

Silence. Have you ever experienced complete silence in an area full of people? What led up to it? What was the emotion? What was it like? Why did it happen? How did it make you feel?

Ghost. What’s something that happened to you that makes you believe ghosts are real? Did you see something in the corner of your bedroom or hear a voice? Do you know someone who has had an encounter? Or do you think there are reasonable explanations for ghost-like activity?

Object. Write about one object that you've lost or threw out that you miss and wish you could have back. What was the most treasured object you had when you were younger? Do you still have that object? Does it still have the same magical quality as it did in your childhood? 
The out-there category, but still keep credibility in mind. As far of a stretch as it is, does it seem believable? Is it coherent?

Remote. Your character has a remote for life. Maybe they can pause over moments they like or fast forward through the scary or sad parts. Or they can replay scenes or delete ones they don’t like. What is life like for your character? Are there any consequences from using the remote? What happens if they suddenly lose it? 

Discovery. A boy finds the courage to talk to a girl on the bus, but she just replies, “You shouldn't be able to see me.” What happens next? Who is the girl? Why can only the boy see her? 

Agent. Your character wishes upon a shooting star but it's actually a satellite, and their wish has been recorded and catalogued by those monitoring it. An agent has been assigned to grant their wish. Does the agent ever talk to your character? How do they react? What did they wish for? Does the agent make your character's wish come true or do they fail? 

Thoughts. Your character can read everyone's mind, but upon turning 16, the character must choose only one mind to be able to read. Who does the character choose? Why? And does the character tell the person or keep it secret?

Tic Tac. Overnight, your character shrinks to the size of a Tic Tac. What dangers await this tiny being? What delights and surprises does the little Tic Tac discover? 
Explore how images and sounds can spark inspiration. 

Disappear. Write a story inspired by this photo.

Elephants. Why aren't elephants allowed in that building? Tell the backstory (did an elephant create chaos there once? Did they have a devil of a time getting one OUT of the building?) or write from the perspective of the boy standing at the door.

River. Listen to the sounds of this river. Save a copy to your device and upload it with your piece. Then write a story about someone trying to cross a river. Focus on using the sounds to guide your writing.   (

Run. Is your character running somewhere or running away from something? Listen to this sound and write the story. What's going on? A heard of tigers coming? Late for the bus?

Futuristic. You suddenly wake up to this strange sound. Is it a dream? OMG it's not! What happens? What's making that sound? What's happened to your world? Where is the sound coming from? What happens next?