Short stories are an extraordinary part of the fiction world. Unfortunately some authors don’t give them enough thought. Writers sometimes balk at the limited word count that is allowed in a short story, and readers bypass them due to the length as well.
Short stories should not be underestimated, however. Fleeting as they may be, a short story can be brilliant. It can, at times, be even more moving and more exhilarating than a novel. To craft a short story is a difficult undertaking; to make it useful is even more daunting of a task.
To write a story that can thrill and excite in only a few thousand words is an accomplishment indeed, but to get started, you will need some short story ideas! These are just ideas for the basic concept of your story – you can take them anywhere you want.
The Mysterious Doors
Your protagonist lives in a small, old apartment. It is cheap and all they can afford. Most of the time there are four doors in their apartment – front door, bedroom, bathroom, closet. But sometimes, there are five. They have never dared to look behind the fifth door, so they ignore it because they can’t afford to move. They ignore it until one day, they realize there are now only three doors in the apartment.
Cell Phone Zombies
A group of young people goes on a trip to a remote location with no service and no internet. This ends up being their saving grace because while they are gone, a new smartphone comes out that infects the users, turning them into mindless, bloodthirsty killers. The phone company had only intended to release a virus to control the minds of the consumers, and they are unsure how to handle this explosive backfire.
The Unknown Murder
Your protagonist has a nasty habit of getting blackout drunk and waking up next to total strangers that they don’t even remember going home with. They are getting bored with the same old thing, but it’s a cycle they can’t seem to break. One day, they wake up next to yet another stranger, same as always. Except this one is dead.
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Your protagonist lives in a tiny town, filled with judgemental people. He has grown tired of them and hasn’t spoken to anyone in years. He is known as a freak. The one who never talks. All he does is let the anger and resentment build inside of him. One day he finally makes the courage to buy a bus ticket and leave the town. He arrives in a new city, ready for a new life… and the rage finally explodes. He seeks out people like his old tormenters and kills them. Perhaps he recruits the outcasted and ostracized.
The New Shape Shifter
Your protagonist grows up in a small village on the outskirts of a town. Their town has always kept to themselves, to keep their abilities a secret. They are shapeshifters. Once a child hits puberty, they gain the ability to take the form of the animals around them. The protagonist comes of age, but instead of animals, they discover they can take the form of other people.
The government has come up with a system of “marking” people and matching them up with their perfect soulmate. It has been working flawlessly for thousands of years. Most parents have their children marked at a very young age. Many have tried to mess with the system, to hack into it, to break it even, but nothing has ever worked. Everyone who has ever been marked has found perfect, blissful happiness with their designated soulmate. Until one day, finally, someone doesn’t. Your protagonist is one of a few who is NOT happy with their chosen soulmate. No one believes them, and the situation is getting worse.
Your protagonist has died. They are visited by death himself (alternatively, the grim reaper), and they are given a proposition – “You pick the game, and we play. We are allowed to cheat, but if either one of us gets caught by the other, they lose. If you win, you’ll wake up, and I’ll give you another chance. If you lose, it’s time for your judgment. Do you understand?”
Coming up with short story ideas can sometimes be difficult, so hopefully, these will at least jump-start your creative process and get something going for you.
Any of these ideas can be taken in any number of directions, and they can all make for a fascinating short thriller.
When writing short stories, especially of the thriller variety, it is essential to keep backstory and explanation to a minimum. As the writer, you will know far more about your story than your readers will, and that’s okay.
Whether you take these ideas or come up with your own, begin your story right at the heart of the action. Jump right into the conflict and reveal any backstory that is necessary as you move forward with the plot.
Short story ideas are plentiful, but well written, successful and effective short stories are harder to come by. Challenge yourself and try to translate your knowledge of thriller writing into an exciting and mysterious short story!