Breaking News

Short Story Month: Write what you care about.

Newbery Award author Jerry Spinelli shares advice to questions from Julie Duffy at StoryADay in May. Learn more about how to write short stories with us this month!

Q: How do I decide what to write about?

A: Ask yourself "What do I care about?" In fact, make a list of five or ten things. There’s your start.

Q: But all I know is my family and my town. All I do is go to school and hang out with my friends and play a sport. Is that enough to write stories about? Don’t I have to have had real adventures?

A: That’s all you need to know. Every human life is an adventure. That person sitting across from you is a walking, breathing story, even if he or she doesn’t know it. Your job starts long before hitting the keyboard. At this point your job description has only two words: Pay attention. Get out of yourself and into everybody and everything else. Find a place at night where light pollution is minimal. Look up… look up, dissolve yourself into the universe and wonder. Every good writer is a terrific wonderer.

Q: What if I don’t really know how to go about writing a story?

A: Start by writing story elements. Just a few lines, a half-page. A dialog between two kids arguing here, a description of an abandoned dog there. Stories are patchwork quilts you stitch together with words. And this: read. Read. Read. Read.

Q: How can I made readers care about my story and my characters?

A: By caring about them yourself. Pour that caring, that paying attention, into your story and they will care.

Writing Dare from Jerry Spinelli

Play a game one day. Call it Seed Day. Spend the day paying attention. Try to see, try to feel a little deeper than everyone else seems to be doing. At the end of the day identify at least one thing that you suspect was noticed by nobody but you. That’s your story seed. Now one more thing. Ask yourself: Does this touch my heart? If it does, that’s the water. OK, you’re ready... write!

author photo

Jerry Spinelli is a Newbery Award honored author. Spinelli’s hilarious books entertain both children and young adults. Readers see his life in his autobiography “Knots in My Yo-Yo String”, as well as in his fiction. Crash came out of his desire to include the beloved Penn Relays of his home state of Pennsylvania in a book, while Maniac Magee is set in a fictional town based on his own hometown, Norristown, PA. 

View All Breaking News