Stories picked from headlines have an assured readership primarily because the news has recall value and opinion is already formed around it. Today, for the first time in this series, I’ll give you some writing prompts based on how you can use news headlines to write tiny-big tales:

  1. Take the morning paper and choose the first headline from the crime or local pages that grabs you. Imagine a backstory to what may have happened beyond the news item, and write it down in reverse chronology.

2. Take a random tweet of a celebrity, say, an actor or a player, (or simply someone you’re not following), that appeared in your timeline quite by chance (thanks algorithm!) and write a story imagining the situation that may have given rise to that particular tweet. Was it distress? Financial or emotional? Was it frustration? About parenting? About work? About football?

3. Type a place or person, for instance, say “church“, “library“, “Scotland“, “Dead Sea”, “Edwina Mountbatten” on Google, bookmark the first five search results it throws up. Use them to write a story.

4. Recall a quote from someone famous, probably dated a few years ago, when, say, you were much younger. Who said it and why do you remember it still? Was it in school literature class? Was it on TV? What was the reason behind the person saying it, do you remember that? Jot down your reaction to hearing it. Answer these yourself to put meat on the bones: What was the day like? How did your parents/family respond to it? Was it hilarious? Outrageous? Violent?

5. Doomsday theories and stories are aplenty. Why do you think they work? Because they use imagination around something that already exists. Use a current situation that is damaging/disturbing and extrapolate it to sometime in the future, tell a story how it would be solved/how it’s going to get worse?

6. Series of ‘Newspaper clippings’ as hybrid/hermit crab form in flash fiction writing.

7. Date chronology to chart out event(s) that are/were playing out universally (and therefore, easily recognizable by readers) and exposing your characters to that level of detail. (From POV of that character or as omnipresent narrator)

Today’s Recommended Reading is therefore scattered, not falling into any particular theme/genre/subject. Hope you enjoy:

  1. Sea Change by Armel Dagorn in Tin House (example for Prompt 5)
  2. My own “Boy’s de Profundis” in Reflex Fiction based on the quote: “Clowns are zanies of sorrow” (example for Prompt 4)
  3. I Didn’t Shoot Jesse James by Tom Hazuka in Fictive Dream (Jesse James, the American outlaw and famous bank robber, googled search results might have helped here, example for Prompt 3)
  4. A Brief Natural History of the Automobile by Sarah Freligh in SLQ (example of Prompt 7)

If you found this useful, please share with fellow writers, and follow me on Medium and Twitter @MandiraPattnaik


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