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Story Starters for National Novel Writing Month

Updated on October 22, 2018

We only have 30 days to write a novel - let's not lose any time!

1. Your character is sitting at a bar with a glass of white wine. Who - or what - is reflected in it? The neon lights of the bar? The dark hair of the person sitting across from them? The dim yellow streetlights just outside the window?

2. Open with the phrase "For the third time that day..."

3. Write about something richly textured and how your character feels about it. If it's a contemporary story, maybe your character has a well-worn coat that should be thrown out, and her refusal to do so clearly illustrates how broke she is. If it's a sci-fi story, maybe your character runs her fingers over something, immediately realizes it's fake, and immediately sets the story in motion.

4. Use the following dialogue:
"I wish there was someone here to explain the rules to us."
"Maybe there are no rules."

5. Imagine a setting where one must have a patron to achieve a certain goal. Maybe your character has to have a patron to pay tuition, or has to find a politically powerful person to grant permission to pursue a certain trade or field. Such a concept may sound dystopian or exclusive to sci-fi and fantasy settings, but maybe it doesn't have to be! Would such a patron expect something in return - perhaps protection, or political loyalty? Either way, introduce a "patron" in the opening lines of your story.

6. Open your story with the revelation that a building with significance to your main character has just been torn down.

7. Your main character is angry at being caught in the middle of something. Maybe she storms out, or maybe she stands her ground and tells everyone involved to get a life.

8. Use the line "How did I manage to break that?" somewhere in the first three paragraphs.

9. It's sweltering hot, and the heat has managed to create a major problem for your main character. Maybe something melted, or maybe something got canceled, or maybe her air conditioning just broke.

10. Your main character is on a luxury yacht when all hell beaks loose. Does she own the yacht, or work on it? Maybe it's her friend's yacht. Maybe it's a soon-to-be-bad-guy's yacht.

11. Someone is graduating from a school, completing a program, or receiving some other kind of honor - but they're not exactly thrilled at what they've just achieved. Where are they, what have they achieved, and how are they coping with their melancholy?

12. The subway doors open, your character steps out, and something strange happens.

13. Your character is impatiently waiting for a song to end. Maybe they're at a nightclub, or maybe they're in the car and their sister has control over the radio.

14. Use the line "Upstairs, a phone rang." right after the first paragraph.

15. Open with a character who is compared to "a well-polished poison apple."

16. Your main character is described with the following quip: "Can't call it a midlife crisis if you've already been in crisis your whole life."

17. It's been four days since your main character's flight was first cancelled. Now she's running through Beijing International Airport trying to make her connection home.

18. A character laments having to waste the future cleaning up the mistakes of the past. Someone snaps at them to shut up and get back to scrubbing cookie dough off the walls.

19. Your main character receives a piece of jewelry as a present from a loved one, but all is not as it seems. (This could be for sci-fi or fantasy, or it could be contemporary!)

20. Someone's shadows stretched out on the ground behind them make them seem much larger than they actually are.

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