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Writing Prompts to Help You Write Short Stories

Updated on February 5, 2016

Capture the Moment in Words

There is inspiration all around us.
There is inspiration all around us. | Source

Writing Prompts For Short Stories

We have all experienced that feeling. Your story should be written, edited and ready for delivery. Unfortunately that hasn't happened as your brain is refusing to play. The clock is ticking down to your deadline as you doodle little pictures on your sheet of white paper and your laptop screen ominously stares back at you. The more you watch the clock the harder the task seems.

However, all is not lost. All you need is an idea, a direction to go in, and then the words will be flowing freely from you. I have been there and I really do get it.

With that in mind I have listed below some ideas to jump start your imagination and also some creative writing prompts for short stories, which you are free to use. The prompts are designed to help spark off the beginning of a story and then your own imagination will take over, breathing life into it and making it your own.

Oh and off course always remember to carry a notebook and pen with you to jot down ideas as they come to you. Also keep a camera close to capture those interesting sights which crop up when you are out and about.

All Anna Haven's written and photographic work is subject to copyright and has not to be copied in full or part without full prior written consent from myself. The only exception is the thirty numbered writing prompts listed in this article. The thirty prompts in this article must not be copied and used collectively together or even to be listed together in multiples. However, please feel free to use the prompts individually as writing aids if you would like to and if they would be of any help to you.

Capture Photographs as Soon as you Spot Interesting Items

Photographs are another good source of inspiration.
Photographs are another good source of inspiration. | Source

Ideas for your Writing

Firstly I am going to suggest a few techniques which are very simple, yet really effective in finding inspiration for your writing. They are quick and easy to do and with a little practice they can become as natural as writing your name.

The Natural World is a Potent Source of Writing Inspiration

Our beautiful world is full of writing ideas and inspiration.
Our beautiful world is full of writing ideas and inspiration. | Source

Pulling the Story from the Freewrite


To convert your freewriting into a writing prompt you need to read it over and see what questions jump out at you.

Who is the lonely man? Is he the frightening one? Is the woman good or bad?

There is light and dark suggested in both the man and woman. Is the man chasing the woman or is he running in fear from her.

I feel the woman is the darker character and out of control. The man sounds weaker, frightened and desperately trying to clutch at some form of safety and light.

From the thirty second freewrite we now have characters, power balance and the bare bones of a plot.

Freewriting

Freewriting is my personal favourite. The idea is that you allow your words to tumble out without consciously controlling them. Don't question or construct what comes into your mind. When you read it back initially it can seem jumbled and incoherent but on closer inspection you can see a whole plot line and a lot of questions running underneath. Think of a word to start it and let it flow.

Freewriting Example

I am going to use the word 'sun' to start my freewrite with:

Sun. Fun. Although cold, he is bold. Black night, dark fright. Soon be gone. The lonely one. Hold tight and see the light. Sunflowers blowing in the wind. White sugar. Running from the sun. Holding the one. Freely seeing. Only believing. She was a whirlwind of radiation. Fleeing, reeling, lost at sea. To own, to hold. Be bold.

Show the Light and Dark Within Your Characters

Find the dark and light in every story.
Find the dark and light in every story. | Source

Pulling the Story from the Thought Trail


We need to now read the thought trail and pull out the questions to lead us in the direction of our writing prompt.

Are Annmarie and Call sisters? Was Annmarie revered and Call unloved and what demons lay in Annmarie's past that caused her fragile state of mind? Did Annemarie lose her life? Was the dark eyed man wanted by both sisters and was he a bad man?

For me the sisters had an uneasy relationship as Call was always in the cold growing up as Annmarie basked in her parent's love. The dark eyed man came into Call's life and was a destructive and evil influence. Call told him of the money her parent's had left Annmarie and the dark souled man had found a way to manipulate Call to kill Annmarie without her consent or intention. Perhaps Call had played on Annmarie's own insecurities from a childhood event, feeding those thoughts of self doubt, draining her hope till there was none left.

A Thought Trail

I also use a thought trail as an alternative idea to freewriting. It works on a similar idea that allowing your mind to freely wander without conscious interference or input will produce fresh and creative thoughts. Both these methods are designed to allow your mind to dig deep in thoughts, memories and beliefs and then to use that knowledge. With the thought trail we will start with a single word again, but this time instead of sentences we will just write down single words and see where the trail takes us. A single word can seem easier than the longer sentences of freewriting.

A Thought Trail Example

I am going to use the word 'sea' to start my thought trail with:

Sea - Stars - Ship - Stars - Finally - Free - Village - Vaulted - Remains - Insane - Long - Tall - Annmarie - Taken - Tossed - Life - Lost - Deep - Down- Sea -Treasure - Chest - Dead - Men - Rest - Sister - Sinner - Never - Winner - Poor - Call - Out - Cold - Jewels - Sold - Dark - Eyed - Man - Ran.

Choose a Word for Writing Ideas

Choose a word to start your freewrite or thought trail.
Choose a word to start your freewrite or thought trail. | Source

Writing Prompts

If you are still feeling at a loss for inspiration today then don't despair. As I said we all have those moments and the good thing is they pass.

Below I have listed thirty short story prompts. These are the first line of a short story which should lead you onwards to writing more. Write the first line and then follow on with whatever comes into your head. A plot should evolve in your head as you sense the situation. Is it tense or happy? Is the character revealed in that first sentence? How does it make you feel?

Be bold and write freely as there is no right or wrong only different perspectives.

Ignite Your Writing Muse

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Thirty Writing Prompts Which are Free for You To Use

As I said before all written work by Anna Haven is protected by copyright and should not be reproduced in any form with the exception of the thirty numbered writing prompts listed here. You can freely use these thirty prompts individually.

  1. Whispering sounds came from the dark hallway as she bit her lip and crouched lower.
  2. 'Danny why did you do it. What hold does she have over you?'
  3. The cold wind churned the snow into a deadly force. He wrapped his arms over his thin chest and just tried to put one foot on front of another.
  4. 'Don't go there. Please. You don't understand what she has there and what it will do to you.'
  5. Clouds hung in damp patches and oppressed his bleak mind. Dangerous thoughts assaulted him from all sides.
  6. Birthdays were special. Birthdays were for celebrating. Birthdays didn't usually involve your right arm being dislocated.
  7. 'Don't you dare. Why do you think that you have any right to comment on my life when you have made such a mess of yours.'
  8. Pink streaks on glossy black hair adorned Shell's pretty head. Geared up for battle the girly hair had to be confined within an ugly black hat.
  9. He walked under the yellow streetlights all the while being careful not to step on the pavement cracks. Because he knew what had happened the last time. The dark haired boy couldn't tell anyone now though, so his secret was safe.
  10. 'Put my things down. You can't take them. I only owe him three hundred.' Cain stared at the mousey little women tightly gripping her hoover and laughed.
  11. A shadow suddenly cast onto the peeling wall. Amy looked up with bloodshot eyes at the sudden darkening.
  12. 'Do you believe in fate? Do you know I can't believe we are both here tonight. You know what it means don't you?'
  13. Children's laughter rang out as the air weaved soft scents of jasmine and lavender onto the tapestry of a brand new day.
  14. Yellow shorts were not cool. Yellow shorts with a pink top tipped you firmly into the dysfunctional and uber uncool teen zone. My parents were obviously not only embarrassing but also colour-blind.
  15. 'Quickly before he comes back. Now listen to me. We don't have long. I know his secret and you can use it to get out.'
  16. Look at her. Unbelievable! Sixty eight years old with grey hair to her waist and enough makeup to supply a beauty counter. No. My grandmother was not cool but she did have a very special gift.
  17. Fee spotted him as soon as he walked into the bar. Black hair and the cheekbones a woman would kill for. He was alone and seemed to be watching her. Not shy little glances but full on hot stares. She felt her blood warm as she slowly started to walk towards him.
  18. Gentle spits of rain softly washed away the dirty stain her blood had left the night before.
  19. The phone rang loudly. Taunting him. They knew he was in. They always knew. He slowly moved towards it as the bile rose in his throat.
  20. 'Janie don't you ever forget that you are the third child of the third child in the McCairn family. That is not something to be ignored. Those children laughing at you have no idea what you are about to become.'
  21. The soft red silk fell down onto the hardwood floor with the sweeping flourish of a conductor who knew the crescendo was pending.
  22. Blinking back hot tears she looked at her frail patient. His thin grey skin stretched over bony hands as he reached out to her.
  23. The small blue bike lay on it's side. The crooked back wheel spun slowly.
  24. Forty seven years I have walked that path. Day after day. Listening to his whispered words. Today something snapped.
  25. People usually find life throw grit into their eyes. Occasionally a few lucky ones find a rainbow. Tom Stead stood firmly in the grit camp.
  26. Heavy footfalls echoed throughout the dark, damp cavern. Kai sunk lower. Trying, desperately to fade away. His scrawny body trying to melt into the cold, stone floor.
  27. 'You saved me. I can't believe you came back for me,' tears rolled down Suzanne's gaunt cheeks as she clung to her father.
  28. I didn't know it was special. How on earth was I to know. An old broken box with dirt on it. Stupid woman. Superstitious rubbish. I don't believe in curses anyway.
  29. She looked at his dark blue eyes. Deep, dark eyes which seemed to smoulder. She shouldn't want him. He was dangerous. But she did. Desperately.
  30. The sun shone upon her face, as all her cares drifted away. Her limbs sunk into the padded chair, then tensed as she remembered the last time she had been outside. Fifteen years before.


Permission is given to use the above thirty prompts individually but they are not to be copied and listed in any multiples.





Harness the Full Power of Your Words

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Are you Inspired?


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Sights, Sounds and Smells Need to Come Alive Within Your Story

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The Inspired Conclusion

Thank you for reading. I hope that you found something within these words that was of help and interest to you. May all your tales be winding and all your stars be high.

Breath Life Into Your Tale

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Do You Use Writing Prompts?

Do you use writing prompts to inspire short stories?

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Blaze a Trail With Your Imagination

There is no limit to creativity and no lack of inspiration.
There is no limit to creativity and no lack of inspiration. | Source

© 2014 Anna Haven

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    • profile image

      DJ Anderson 3 years ago

      Anna, this is a wonderful hub. You make it sound so easy. You are

      a talented writer and your stories seem effortlessly written.

      Good to see your name pop up when I opened HP.

      My best to you, my friend.

      DJ.

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you DJ

      My life has been full of weddings and school holidays for weeks so it was great to actually write something today!

      I hope you are well and your novel is free flowing.

      Anna :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      For short story writers and those with the dreaded block, these are excellent suggestions. I am neither but I will save this.

      Well done, Anna! I hope all is well with you.

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi Bill.

      All is well. I have been busy playing bridesmaid and also multi skilled child entertainer for weeks, so writing has been deftly relegated to the side lines. Thank you very much for reading. :)

    • profile image

      Patricia Ferrero 3 years ago

      Hi Anna,

      Nice post, I like your ideas.

      My main problem isn't the lack of inspiration or the lack of ideas. My problem is that whenever I have a great idea, I start writing about it but it gets to a point where I get completely stuck and don't know how to continue. That's why I have loads of unfinished stories.

      Then I came up with a great idea, although I haven't put it to practice yet, but I thought I could pass on my stories for someone else to continue and maybe make a "story writing chain". Does it make sense?

      Thumbs up for the post, I enjoyed it!

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      I enjoyed reading this and I admire all your ideas and prompts for writing. Your imagination is wide and large. I usually do the free writing technique and that one works well for me. Thanks for sharing your suggestions and writing advice with us.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

      I find this hub useful.. and the suggestions ideal for that nasty writer's block bless you for the share

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Excellent hub, Anna. Thank you for sharing all of your insight here. You are a gifted writer no doubt about it, and I appreciate all of your awesome ideas on prompts.

      Up and more and away

      Blessings

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi Patricia Ferrero

      It sounds like you have a plan and yes it does make sense. You should test it out over in the forums with a short paragraph each.

      Thank you very much reading and for your interesting comment.

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you Suzettenaples for reading and for taking the time to comment. I am the same as yourself and I find freewriting works really well from a keyword. I like how is rumbles along sounding incoherent and then when you actually look again, a story magically appears.

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you Frank. Writer's block sneaks up sometimes and threatens to grind creativity to a slamming halt. :)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi Faith Reaper

      Thank you for reading, your kind comments and also for the vote.

      Anna :)

    • sujaya venkatesh profile image

      sujaya venkatesh 3 years ago

      good to churn ann

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you for reading and commenting sujaya ventatesh.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 3 years ago from Central Florida

      I love writing prompts, Anna. They serve as a challenge in addition to inspiration. Thank you for this. Bookmarking to save for a barren day!

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi bravewarrior

      I like them as well, as you never know quite where they are going to end up. It can be quite a surprise sometimes!

      Thank you for reading, for your kind comment and also for bookmarking. :)

      Anna

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 3 years ago from California

      What a great hub! Lots of great ways to deal with writer's block!!

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      As a short story writer, I was intrigued with your ideas for writing prompts. Ideas can enter our thoughts unexpectedly, from unexpected places...at least, that has been my experience. Your list of opening prompts is wonderfully creative!

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you for reading Audrey. Writer's block is definitely something everyone wants to move on from swiftly. :)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi Genna East

      You are so right. Ideas appear very randomly sometimes. I do love my freewriting though, it just flows without reason and then suddenly a story unfolds. Thank you very much for reading and your interesting comment. :)

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      You are a superb coach to writers, Anna. Nice niche! The original photography that you share adds greatly to your work, and the examples are well done! Voted up and more, plus sharing.

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you very much FlourishAnyway for your kind comment, vote and share.

      I find doing hubs about writing and fictional stories the easiest and quickest to do as it doesn't involve research time. I love taking photographs as well so it is actually easier to use my own photos, than to try to source suitable royalty free ones online which fit the theme. I really appreciate you taking the time to read my work.

      Anna :)

    • informationshelte profile image

      informationshelte 3 years ago

      I have to say that you have perfected the skill of getting out of writer's block. It is amazing how you can make word connotations work on your favor, I couldn't do that myself.

      Personally, I think that reading other writers' stories, articles, content etc. can be a good source of inspiration.

      For me reading fuels my writing as it provides great stimulation for my brain to start generating ideas, as I present my own perspective on a topic. This also serves as the foundation of further research for writing. It also organizes my thoughts, i.e. my past experience and reading on the topic, any current updates and news, as well as attempts for predictions about the future. Writing is a high art of creation, like giving birth to a child. It involves great pain, but once you have given birth, the joy is indescribable.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      What a fun exercise! Even though I'm a nonfiction-er, I like the thought process here. Voted up, useful and sharing!

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi informationshelte

      Thank you for reading and also for your interesting comment. Reading definitely feeds out imaginations and your right regarding writing; it is a bumpy road with a rainbow at the end.

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi Heidithorne

      Thank you for reading, especially as fiction if not your usual genre, and also for sharing.

      You are right. Freewriting is great fun as it is so maverick and then suddenly magically turns into a plot.

    • Anita lesic profile image

      Dream Lover 3 years ago from Zagreb

      Hi Anna :* amazing hub! Inspiration comes from the world of imagination.It is enough to go into the nature with a pen and paper and you can create wonderful poem,novel, story,anything you want. :* :* ;)

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Very good thoughts and ideas to get any one jump started.

    • profile image

      Raimer Gel 3 years ago

      Great photo especially the tree with a face.. good content!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 3 years ago from Florida

      I have the same "face on a tree"!! I used to write short stories, but there didn't seem to be a market for them.

      Going through my photographs on the computer helps me as a writing prompt, though.

      Congrats on HOTD. Great article with lots of good ideas, thanks.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      I'm back again to say Congratulations on HOTD. Sharing and pinning!

    • Dreamhowl profile image

      Jessica Marello 3 years ago from United States

      Congrats on the Hub of the Day! I love all of these ideas - I definitely know the annoyance of writer's block. Voted up and shared!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

      Interesting read and congrats on your Hub of the Day award! Writer's block is not something I've experienced, only read about. I've not enough time to do everything I want to do but I am always thinking about what I will begin writing next time I can devote a block of time to it. I've thought about what I would do if it happened, though, and your ideas could be a good start.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Anna, congratulations on HOTD. This is an excellent hub and so deserving of the award. Thanks for your great ideas!

    • profile image

      hlwar 3 years ago

      As someone who feels like she is forever stuck in writer's block, this article is most helpful! I've never tried writing prompts before but I think I may have to give it a shot since nothing else seems to help. Thanks for the suggestions! (*^▽^*)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Very true Anita Lesic. Imagination is in everything and everyone. The beautiful outdoors is always thought inspiring. Thank you for reading and commenting. :)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you aviannovice. Sometimes it is good to get a little jump start.:)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you for reading Raimer Gel. I like that tree picture too. :)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      I have read a couple of your short stories Mary; they were really good. Photographs are great aren't they. I like how they keep those interesting moments for the times we need them. Thank you. :)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi Flourish Anyway.

      Thank you very much. I really appreciate your support. :)

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 3 years ago from Northern Ireland

      I use freewriting a lot, for academic writing. It's very useful. I like your idea of looking at it to ask questions. Had never heard of a thought trail before, must try that, thanks. Useful hub

    • TDogMan profile image

      Tony 3 years ago from Up state New York

      Good stuff sweetie

    • Artois52 profile image

      Artois52 3 years ago from England

      Very helpful hub. I'm not a story writer but it's's something I would like to do so I will be reading more of your hubs for help and ideas.

      Thanks.

    • Romeos Quill profile image

      Romeos Quill 3 years ago from Lincolnshire, England

      Just dropping in Anna to wish you a belated, hearty congratulation on your HOTD accolade. Some useful prompts indeed for a writer's drought, no doubt. A simple photograph or picture can inspire a whole chapter sometimes, and you illustrated well how the descriptiveness of sights, sounds and smells can be the lifeblood of a piece. Your own photos are very pleasant ( first time I've seen a tree duck-face , although personally never carry a notebook or a camera ( perhaps it's a good idea to start, as you suggest, instead of having drawers bursting with scribbles on the back of envelopes and receipts ).

      I trust that Spring's one-eyed noontide of golden witness is bearing down in earnest upon bonny Scotland with visions of soothing marigold balm, echoing from distant shores of jonquil and earthless maize, piercing the jealous silence of an incorrigible sable dominion, alighting fair sarcoline with the bronzed armour of Adonis. :)

      Really pleased for you that you have received the recognition you deserve.

      Have a marvellous remainder of the week.

      Kind Regards;

      R.Q.

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you R Talloni for reading and for your kind comment. You are totally right, the real challenge is finding the actual time to write. :)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you very much suzettenaples for your kind comment and for taking the time to read and leave that comment. It is appreciated. Anna :)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi RQ

      I hope you are well. Thank you for your generous comment. :)

      It is freezing here today but it was really warm last week. Even your comments are poetic!

      Enjoy you week too.

      Anna :)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you Artois52. I am glad you found it helpful. Story writing is great fun to do and I am sure you will enjoy it. :)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you TDogMan.

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi DreamerMeg

      I love freewriting as well. I am glad you found it useful. Thank you. Anna :)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Hi

      Your very welcome hlwar. I hope they prove to be useful. Freewriting is really great for creating the bones of a plot and is also fun to do. :)

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Dear Anna,

      Congrats on the HOTD! You deserve it with this brilliant hub you have written.

      Blessings

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you Faith Reaper, your very kind.

      I hope you are well.

      Anna :)

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 2 years ago from Wales

      A brilliant hub Anna. Voting up, sharing and saving.

      Have a wonderful day,.

      Eddy.

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 2 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you for reading and the vote Eddy. Anna :)

    • Garimaa profile image

      Garima Bista 2 years ago from Kathmandu,Nepal

      I thoroughly enjoyed it loved it!! :)

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 2 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you Garimaa. I am glad you enjoyed it. :)

    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      What a wonderful series of great ideas! Thank you especially for the writing prompts, at the end. Thanks for sharing! ;-)

    • Garimaa profile image

      Garima Bista 2 years ago from Kathmandu,Nepal

      yur welcome !!

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 2 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      I love it when people learn to use their imaginations. Too many people think they have no imagination and could not write fiction. That's only because they haven't tried. Once you get started, ideas come constantly. I agree that a notebook and camera are essential writers' tools these days.

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 2 years ago from Scotland

      Thank you for reading Linda Booklady. Writing fiction is a lovely winding path and you never quite know what destination you will end up at!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

      I am venturing out of my comfort zone by publishing some of my short stories here on HP. Thanks for reading my new short story! I do enjoy writing short stories, but I'm doubtful of the external traffic for them here on HP.

      I have bookmarked this Hub, and enjoyed reading it again.

    • Anna Haven profile image
      Author

      Anna Haven 2 years ago from Scotland

      Hi Mary

      I don't get external traffic for my short stories or poetry either, only Hubpages traffic. Thank you very much for reading and for bookmarking.

      Anna :)

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