Story Prompt: Sometimes Your Closest Confidant is a Stranger


“I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen.”

I love this quote from John Steinbeck. While emulation of our literary heroes may prove worthy practice when starting out, our goal as writers is to sharpen and develop our own voices. We look to the masters as teachers–why not look to them also for inspiration?

steinbeckIf you’re familiar with this quote, let go, if you will, of what Steinbeck intended. Make it your own. If you are experiencing writer’s block, or looking for a hook for your next short story, I invite you take this one sentence for a creative walk through your own imagination.Who do you envision is speaking? And about whom?

1. Do you feel this sentence reveals wisdom and experience? Is it an older person looking across the table at a relative or loved one while having a revelation about something they may have just said or did to cause the narrator to wonder whether they’ve ever really known them?

2. Does this voice sound like a dramatic teen to you? Someone who questions whether anyone see him or her for what or who they are, below their own wel–crafted albeit misguided facade?

3. Is the narrator a disappointed or heart-broken spouse?

4. How about a life-altering experience? An unexpected request for divorce, the untimely death of an innocent, a devastating fire–extreme, uncontrollable forces can ravage one’s point-of-view irrevocably, making everything one might have believed become questionable, fallible, broken.