Skip to main content

How to Construct a Short Story Using One Sentence as a Prompt

John is a poet and short fiction writer who enjoys collaborating on stories with other writers, and partaking in challenges.


One Random Sentence as a Writing Prompt

As fellow writers you all know that there are numerous ways of finding inspiration for your next article, poem, short story etc. Prompts and muses can come in various forms from a stunning photo, a book title, a phrase, a song, our environment, a significant event in our life, or even a writing challenge instigated from one of our peers at Hub Pages or elsewhere.

When I was in my early 20s I began a commercial writing course with "The Writing School" and one of the suggested prompts for beginning a short story was to select a random sentence and use it as the skeleton to build a story around.

Now, this wasn't as simple as just selecting a sentence and then constructing an entire story from the idea or theme of that particular sentence (though you could try this). It involved using each word in the selected sentence (in order) to begin each sentence in your story.

This isn't easy and restricts you to specific parameters but it is an interesting and challenging exercise to get your creative writing juices flowing. You may find it challenges your normal writing style and can feel a little restricting, however I enjoyed the experience and was surprised the direction the story took even though it did to some extent keep to the theme of the original sentence.

I can't really remember where I found the sentence, but I seem to recall it was it was part of an article or short story in "The Woman's Weekly" or other women's magazine.

I have included my randomly selected sentence here, and the (incomplete) short story that resulted. This is merely as an example and is far from perfect. In fact I never intended to publish this in any form, but I decided as a learning tool it may serve a purpose. You could even argue that this should really be two sentences but I have used it the way it was written.

I warn you before you decide to read any further that the story is incomplete. I do need to select another sentence if I wish to finish the story. So if you are frustrated reading a story that doesn't have a satisfactory conclusion or true ending.. please.. READ NO FURTHER! (I will, time and inspiration permitting, select another random sentence to use in the completion of the story at a later date)

If however you are still with me and just want to read on with curiosity as to how this sentence prompt may work, then I am pleased to have you on board. Please sit back and enjoy (I hope) "Maureen's Story."

My favourite female singer of all time.

Maureen's Story

Maureen was proud of what she had accomplished in life. Seventy-four years she'd spent on this Earth had certainly not been wasted.

Told of how the new changes to interest rates attached to the bank accounts of aged pensioners would affect her, Maureen just shrugged her shoulders. "Me!" she exclaimed, "oh it won't bother me because I won't be around long enough to worry about that. Of course the government today doesn't give two hoots about the elderly."

"When I was a girl we respected our elders. Back then you called anyone appreciably older than you Sir or Madam, opened doors for them, and stood up on buses and trains. In the present day teenagers shout, "Out of my way Granny," as they push you over trying to get as seat before you."


1952 saw the birth of her son Danny who she'd named after her favourite movie star of all time, Danny Kay. She proudly treated everyone who came to see the new babe to a stirring, if somewhat out of key, rendition of 'Danny Boy.' Entertained by the same song repeatedly, regular visitors soon became a thing of the past.

A freezing winter the following year kept the family snowbound in their home for weeks and the food supply quickly dwindled. Special deliveries were made to homes by the Emergency Services using snowmobiles. Young children became restless and mischievous because they were trapped inside for such a long period.

Man of the house, Maureen's husband Frank, tried shovelling snow away from their door and driveway but slipped an fell, injuring his back. Of all times to be invalided this would be the pick because you couldn't leave the house anyway.


" 'Course you can Love.. take as many cookies as you want, there's more in the oven," Maureen told Danny, smiling. In this family Danny didn't have much competition, being the only child and getting whatever he wanted, providing his parents could afford it. Those who didn't know the family well tended to think Danny spoilt, but close friends saw the great love that flowed through the home.

Days came and days went, Danny grew up and went to college, and Maureen continued to bake cookies for him. She greatly missed having her son at home to lavish love and attention on and after lengthy discussions with Frank, they mutually agreed to apply for adoption of another child. Said the Government Department of Families, "You are both too old to be considered as 'adoption parents' and should find some other endeavour to give you satisfaction."

Buffet suppers were all the fashion in those days so Maureen embraced them with a vengeance. Suppers were held at her home twice a week and she devoted substantial time on the telephone inviting friends and acquaintances and asking them to bring their favourite dishes to share.

Were these events as much enjoyed by Frank as his wife is doubtful, but he went along with them gracefully as they gave Maureen an interest. All through the time that Danny was away at college Frank started working late and spending regular business weekends away. The situation didn't go down well with Maureen who was already lonely without her son at home, but she supported her husband to do what was necessary for his work.

Fashion was changing with mini skirts and briefer clothing hitting the catwalks and, in a vain attempt to attract Frank's attention and rekindle their marriage, Maureen began replacing her wardrobe with more provocative items. be continued........

Part Two of Maureen's Story



I hadn't thought of making this article a writing challenge, but a few of the comments convinced me to do just that. I'd love others to select a random sentence from a book, magazine or newspaper and write a short story using the method I describe here. Can't wait to see what you come up with. if you join in leave a comment or link here so I can read your story.

Rules: Every challenge has rules right? Well, this one doesn't have too many because I don't like rules.

  1. Find your own sentence (please don't use mine)
  2. If possible show the source of your randomly chosen sentence (name of the book, magazine etc)
  3. You can write a story or poem (I like poems :)
  4. Try to use the prompt the way I have in this hub eg. each word of the chosen sentence beginning each sentence of your story or poem. (if you find this too challenging however just use the sentence for the basis of your story. I don't want to make it too difficult so no one participates.)
  5. Have fun, there is no time limit. Hopefully, your chosen sentence will be a little shorter than mine, but it's the luck of the draw and there is no word limit.

© 2014 John Hansen

Related Articles