Shattered:Random 'Word' Generator Short Story Challenge
How I Come Up with My Stories
For those who have been around since the beginning of the blog know my Random Generator Short Story Challenge Series is one of my longest and favorite series to write.
Many have wondered how I come up with my stories once the Random Generator gives me a word, sentence, or phrase.
The short answer... there is no cookie cutter way. Each and every story is different.
My short story The Heirloom, for example, was written based on the fact I knew it would launch Christmas day. So I planned to write a Christmas story, and hoped I was able to inserted the random words throughout.
My Cup of Tea was written after getting the phrase "My Cup of Tea" in which I took something I experienced from my own personal life(related to tea) and built an entire story around one small concept.
A Prayer in the Forest was written after searching through stock photos, which the picture featured at the top of the blog post, influenced the entire challenge.
Some stories are easier to write than others, but my process of outlining the story is pretty similar. Once I'm given the random words/sentence/phrase I sit for 15 minutes and think. I usually have paper and pen or my computer next to me. Whatever subject or idea I think of first is the one I stick with as those are usually the best ideas.
From there I start building off that single idea. Is there something I can relate to in this story? Whose perspective do I want to write from? Can I fit the words/sentence/phrase in with this concept?
These are questions I ask myself while I materialize the story. Because it's a short story challenge I only limit myself to those 15 minutes as to not over complicate things. To make it a little easier I use the generator to give me names of the characters unless I have a particular one in mind.
After 15 minutes I have an outline drawn up and start writing. Sometimes the story leads in a different direction than I initially planned, but when that happens I adjust my outline as such. Sometimes, depending on my time frame and needing the blog to go up, I cut some storyline from the actual plot.
In the end though, I'm always happy with the outcome which is the most important thing to me.
Can you figure out how I wrote this upcoming short story, Shattered?
Random words: confront and shot
Taking a stick Charles poked at the heaping pile of junk littered across the open field. He could never be to careful. Charles replayed the words in his head the same way his Pa would recite them every time they went out to the field searching for colored bottles.
The stick snapped as he tried to push a heavy metal slab to the side. Charles let out a huff of defeat tears swelling at the rims, but a shimmer caught his eye from beneath the slab.
Placing his fingers under the rough edge of the cold metal Charles heaved upward careful not to catch his fingers on any jagged shards. He let out a small grunt as he pushed the slab to the side. It crashed loudly over old mechanic parts which were scattered around.
Charles beamed with delight as the shimmer he'd spotted was exactly what he was searching for. There, protected under the rusted old metal slab, laid a dozen antique colored glass bottles of every color now shimmering bright with the new found sun.
Charles' smile faded as he thought about his Pa. Pa would've been so excited to see what Charles found shouting "Ya, did good Charlie!" while slapping him firmly on the back.
He grabbed the bottom hem of his shirt creating a cradle in the cotton fabric. Charles never found so many colored bottles at once, and in a variety of sizes and colors. He didn't know how he'd get them all home. Carefully, he loaded one by one gently placing each on top of the other. A few clinked together as he stood up his shirt giving slightly under the weight of the glass. Now for the journey home.
The trek home would be slow going. Walking from the field to the main road then home would take too long, and from the weight of his shirt Charles didn't think he would be able to make it without losing a bottle or two. Once, Pa took him through the woods as a short cut, but it'd been a few years, and Charles wasn't sure he remembered the way.
Peering down at the bottles Charles knew his only option was to head in the direction of the short cut. He wanted to make Pa proud of his collection.
As Charles took to the shelter of the trees he thought of his Pa. Pa was the one who showed Charles the ropes to collecting colored glass. Every Saturday morning they'd head to the field, an antique store, or garage sales in hopes of finding a new bottle to add to the collection Pa had been gathering over the years.
At first, a then 6 year old Charles found the hunt to be boring as most often times they came home empty handed. The old rusty junk they sorted through always made him cough and left dirt marks on his clothes which Ma didn't seem to like very much. But overtime their luck turned for the better, and slowly they were finding more and more bottles. The collection found in the old greenhouse growing vastly.
Suddenly, Charles couldn't wait for Saturday mornings ready to search out the next uniquely designed color bottle to bring home. Not only did Pa and Charles love their Saturday mornings, but Ma as well. Saturdays were her "me time" in which she'd bake pies, cookies, brownies, or any baked good she could find a recipe for. Upon their arrival home Pa and Charles would be rewarded for their finds with a delicious baked good. This had been their routine for the past 5 years. Until 3 months ago.
Charles and Pa were in the field where locals tossed their unneeded junk since the start of the small town almost 6 decades prior. Pa was whistling an old tune across the way as Charles dug deeper into a promising pile. After a few minutes Charles noted a strange silence. The whistling had stopped.
At first when Charles popped his head up in the direction his grandfather was last seen he was surprised to see Pa nowhere in sight. Quickly he scoured the mounds of junk his eyes darting from one end of the field to the other. Charles hoisted himself on what looked to be an old car engine for a better view. It didn't take long for him to spot the horrific scene.
There at the bottom of a metal shard mound laid an unconscious Pa blood pouring from his face.
Charles hastily scrambled over the junk while shouting for his Pa. "Pa! Pa!" He shouted louder and louder. By the time Charles reached Pa the blood which covered his face was now pooling into the creases of rusty metal parts. Charles shook Pa, still shouting, tears falling from his eyes. But it was no use. Pa was unresponsive.
Charles sprinted in the direction of home. Ma must've seen him from the window as she came rushing out wiping flour from her cheek with fear in her eyes. Through breathless gasps Charles pointed back in the direction of the field letting out a faint Pa. Before he could look back Ma was already in the kitchen ringing the ambulance.
Pa was pronounced dead on the scene having suffered a heart attack which caused his fall. They said he might've survived if it wasn't for the large gash across his temple.
Charles sniffed back the tears thinking of his Pa and how he laid motionless in his last few seconds of life. Oh how he missed him.
The clinking of glass wiped away the horrible memory as Charles refocused on his mission. Get the glass bottles home. It felt like he'd been stumbling around for ages with the glasses weighing him down more and more each passing minute.
He was losing his grip his hands becoming numb with the constant squeeze Charles held. The balled up fabric soaking up the sweat from the heat.
As he went to adjust Charles saw a flash of white emerge from behind a rotted out log. With it a heart stopping growl. Before Charles could do anything his hand slipped the colored glass bottles going with it.
The shattering of glass hitting the damp forest floor echoed through the stillness. Charles turned ready to run from the monster lurking from the shadows. But as he caught sight of the growling beast Charles' fear turned into anger.
"You stupid dog!" he screamed with fists clenched to his sides. The white furred mutt backed away eyeing Charles with curiosity.
Charles' knees buckled as he slumped to the pile of broken glass laying at his feet. Tears streamed from his face landing on the colored shards below. He had let Pa down.
As hard as he tried the tears kept coming accompanied with a small bout of hiccups causing his body to shake ever time one emerged.
Charles felt a warmth as white fur pressed against him. A rough tongue lapping the tears from his face. Through the tears Charles watched the mutt take a seat next to him putting out a paw for reassurance.
"Sorry I yelled at you," Charles wiped the snot from his nose. The dog whimpered and licked his face again.
Charles scanned the pile of glass. Not all the bottles were damaged. From the pile he was able to pull a handful of good ones placing them back into the safety of his shirt.
Charles wasn't sure how much longer his trek through the woods would take, but the thought didn't last long as a delicious smell of desserts wafted through the air. It was Ma's cooking.
"Now goodness me child what do you have here?" Ma carried out a plate of sliced banana bread from the back door.
"Umm... a dog," Charles looked back at the mutt who'd followed him the rest of the way home.
"Well, I can see that dear, but what's in your shirt?" Ma peered over her plate.
"Oh!" Charles was caught off guard. "It's.. it's some glass bottles I found in the field."
"Aren't they just lovely! Go put them away and come inside, Charles David. Before you get a ounce of this delicious, and I mean delicious, banana bread you need to wash up, okay? Don't forget to bring that dog inside for a washing too. I can smell it from here!" Ma tossed a slice of bread towards the dog who snatched it effortlessly and instantly sat hoping to get more.
Charles pushed open the door to the old greenhouse made from windows Pa had found in the field years ago. It hadn't been used in years for the intended purpose as Ma's "green thumb" was in fact a deathly color.
Instead, Pa put the greenhouse to better use... to hold his collection of colored glass bottles. On overcast days, when the sun hit just right, the bottles would send rays of colors bouncing off the windows giving a light ambiance radiating outward. Charles never saw anything like it before and often spent his days reading a book in there surrounded by a rainbow of colors.
Even though today was overcast as the last days of summer started to fade the bottles still stood bold on their shelves. Charles gently pushed some to the side making room for the few he found in the field. There wasn't much room left and soon he'd have to find a new spot to place his found treasures.
Once inside he happily washed up and like every other Saturday received a small portion of Ma's baking. She was already preparing sandwiches for lunch.
"So what's the dog's name?" She asked smearing mayo over a slice of bread.
Charles peered under the table where the dog laid as if living there it's entire life, "Are we keeping it?"
"Charles David, look at that poor thing! Of course we're keeping it. Clearly someone hasn't been and we can't put the poor thing back outside with the weather becoming colder with each day. It serves the creature right to have a name," Ma slid the butter knife into the tub of mayo once more lathering the last slice of bread and pressing it firmly to the food piled high creating a large sandwich.
Charles looked at the mutt again whose white coat glistened bright after the quick washing, "Mayo."
"Mayo?" Ma questioned through a bite of her sandwich which she starred at thinking she had forgotten to put some on her meal. She quickly realized what Charles had been saying, "Oh yes, I think Mayo is a fine name."
Ma took her pinky nail and scrapped it between her teeth dislodging a piece of lettuce. "Since you brought Mayo home it's your responsibility to take care of him you hear?" She patted Charles on the shoulder placing his sandwich in front of him. As she walked into the next room she shouted after him, "Maybe you can bring him to show and tell for your friends to see!"
Charles peeled the lettuce from his sandwich tossing it to Mayo on the floor. "Yeah.. my friends..."
Walking down the dirt road Charles couldn't remember a time he ever had a friend. He glanced to his side where Mayo padded along side him. In the two short days of having the mutt he hadn't left Charles' side. Was this what it was like to have a friend?
At school no one ever wanted to be his friend and instead made fun of him for having "old parents". The kids would tease him on the playground often and would through rocks at him for fun.
Especially Hester. Hester was the worst of them all. When teachers weren't looking Hester would punch, scratch, kick Charles at any chance possible. He'd often call Charles mean names in front of the other kids who would join in.
Charles wasn't certain what he'd done to Hester to make him do such horrible mean things, but he wished he did. Maybe Charles could say he was sorry then.
Charles could see the school up ahead. With a sigh he trudged on waiting to see what Hester would do to him today.
It was his day for show and tell. Charles didn't think the teacher would let Mayo inside even with him being newly bathed. So Charles brought the next best thing. Pa's favorite glass bottle. Out of the hundreds of colored bottles Pa collected over the years this one was different than all the rest. The neck of the bottle was long and thin like a giraffe's neck which met a very heavy and thick base as wide as a pancake. The glass gave a dark maroon color with hints of black nothing Pa ever saw again in his findings. Charles would often look at it in the greenhouse when the sun shone just right. Unlike the other bottles giving off their shimmer this one sat absorbing the sun. It somehow reminded him of himself.
No one seemed to care when Charles presented his special bottle in front of the class telling of his Pa's greenhouse. His peers yawned with boredom or threw paper wads across the room. Except for Hester. Unlike the rest of Charles' fellow classmates, Hester had a gleam in his eye and a smirk so large Charles felt a shiver run down his spin not knowing what it meant.
"What's go your mind heavy in thought Charles David?" Ma asked with a look of concern as she stirred a pot of noodles. "Charles, dear, did you hear me?"
"Hmm," Charles turned his gaze from the kitchen window where he had been watching a woodpecker forge for his dinner.
"What are you thinking about?" Me asked again flinging a noodle onto a cabinet door to see if it would stick. Apparently the noodles were done.
"I rearranged the greenhouse today and there are only a few spots left for colored bottles. I think it might be time to expand the greenhouse a bit more," Charles pointed to the back of the structure, "The windows on the side are slightly loose and need to be fixed up so I figured if I found some more windows like Pa did I could take those out and build an extra little room. Maybe that room can house all the special bottles you know?"
"That sounds like a big task to take on. I'm sure you will do it justice," Ma poured on a heap of sauce onto the noodles and stirred.
After dinner Ma had retired to the living room leaving Charles to wash up. Charles thought back to his last trip to the field as he scrubbed away. Had he seen some windows he could use? He didn't get to answer his own question when he heard a loud shatter coming from the backyard. Before he could see what the ruckus was he heard another loud crash. From the kitchen, Charles looked out to see two windows missing their glass panes broken bottles laying on the ground. Then from out of the woods he saw the small rock soar crashing into another pane of glass. Hester stepped out of the shadows to take another shot.
Charles didn't know what came over him, but he was out the door and running furiously straight for Hester.
"STOP IT!" Charles screamed. Hester loaded another rock into his slingshot getting ready to aim. Before he could, using the momentum from his run, Charles tackled him to the ground arms flinging. Charles had never fought let alone confronted anyone before.
Hester being larger than Charles quickly rolled trying to get the advance over Charles. To counter Charles flung his arms this way and that hoping one would land a punch. They continued to roll when suddenly Charles felt a sharp pain and blood. They'd somehow made their was over to the greenhouse where the shattered glass was strewn across the grass.
Hester managed to pin Charles arms down with his knees leaving Charles useless no matter how much he kicked. Hester wiped away the blood coming from his noise with a snicker. He smiled down at Charles raising his fist in the air. Charles closed his eyes ready for the strike.
Instead of a hit to the face Charles suddenly heard Hester scream out. A flash of white appeared as Mayo emerge behind Hester biting him again. This time he clapped down on Hester's upper arm bragging him off of Charles. Hester screamed out again this time trying to wiggle himself free of Mayo. Mayo's low tone of growl and spiked hackles said otherwise.
"What in the name is going on out here?" Ma shouted running toward the boys. Mayo released Hester at the sight of Ma and padded over to Charles where he licked his face.
"Your stupid dog bit me after Charles tried to beat me up!" Hester cried out holding his arm.
"That's not true! Hester was shooting out the greenhouse windows and I tackled him to the ground to stop him," Charles glared at Hester.
"Hester. Hester Henderson?" Ma asked. Hester nodded. Then Ma did the unthinkable. She reached down grabbing Hester by the ear and starting dragging him to the house. Hester cried out stumbling his after her.
"I heard of you Hester. You're the town trouble maker. Well guess what not at my house you aren't, you hear?!" Ma towed him inside. "Your father is going to hear about this!"
Hester's eyes widen in fear as Ma took out the first aid kit wiping out the bite wound. "If I ever see you around my house again or hear you hurting Charles in any which way not only is your father going to be dealing with you, but me as well, and you don't want to see me angry."
Ma finished wrapping Hester's wound. "Now get out of my house."
Hester jumped up the back door swinging shut behind him.
Ma went over to the counter and grabbed a cookie out of the cookie jar taking a bite. "Charles David sit down so I can take a look at you." Charles didn't hesitate after seeing what just happened. Ma grabbed another cookie out of the jar tossing it to Mayo who had taken a spot under Charles chair.
"Those Henderson boys never learn," Ma shook her head, "Hester's father used to make fun of your poor father when he was a kid. He would throw rocks at Richie and beat him up after school sometimes. When your Pa and I found out we put him straight real fast. Never caused another problem with Richie again. I have a feeling you won't be having problems with Hester anymore once I call his father."
"What about the greenhouse?" From where Charles was sitting it looked in rough shape, "And what about the colored bottles?"
"Didn't you just say you hoping to expand? Well I guess here is your opportunity to make it bigger and better," Ma looked out seeing the damage for herself. "As for the bottles, you can always replace them. Knowing you it will be in no time flat," She smiled. "Good thing you have a new best friend to keep you safe while out on your adventures."
Mayo barked in excitement as Ma threw him another cookie. "Now before it gets to dark go grab the gardening gloves from the greenhouse and see how much of the glass you can get cleaned up. Your Pa would not like to see the sight of that."
As Charles cleared the mess he became more and more excited with the thoughts of expanding the collection. He knew whatever he came up with and whatever glass bottles he found would Pa proud.
Well, if you guessed I wrote the story based off the random generated word 'shot', then you were correct. This one was a little more difficult to come up with as those words would've fit perfectly into my short story The Consequences of A Soggy Banana.
Looking at the word 'shot' the first idea that came to mind was a slingshot-something I had as a child. I began thinking of my childhood and somehow the movie Balto surfaced in which he takes colored bottles and shines a light through them causing it to look like the Aurora Borealis when lit up.
From there, the rest was history as I wrote out my outline for Shattered.
Tell me in the comments below how you write or come up with ideas for a story. I'm curious if anyone does it the same way!