Author photos taken by Robert Abrams in Paris, France.

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY - Rebecca Buckley's Blog
Welcome to my blog. Here I'll talk about almost anything. Depends on the mood of the day. I'll also talk about publishing, writing techniques, and editing ... subjects close to my heart. So today, anytime you feel like it, feel free to jump in ... click on the COMMENTS link at the end of a post and give your opinion. If you sign in "anonymous" to comment, it's easier, just be sure you say who you are in the content of your comment.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Where do you begin after you decide to write a short story? What is the process? Do you have a plot in mind or do you start with a character?

I've found that when I don't have a plot in mind, which is most always, since I'm a writer who lets the characters pull me through the story, I use a gimmick to get me going. One of the best is to make a list of 10 words, then start a story incorporating those 10 words in the first paragraph. It actually works. Gets you going.

But for my latest short story, a nightmare ignited it. An honest to goodness nightmare. Here is how the nightmare translated to the page:

I was awakened by the most horrifying, blood-curdling screams I had ever heard in my life. At first I wasn’t sure if it was real, maybe I was having a nightmare. But no, I was wide awake and my worst living nightmare had just begun.

These weren’t the usual cat wails of animals mating. This was something more terrifying - long mournful high-pitched screeching.

Soon my own pitiful, painful screams were added to those of precious Princie, my beloved ten-year-old cat. I pushed past my parents who were rushing down the hallway, the blood splattering thuds on the outside of the door’s etched glass panes. It took all my guts and strength to fight the fear as I reached to open that door.

There, writhing violently as he hung from the Christmas wreath hook was my once beautiful, fluffy Princie, now a bloody blob. A thick wire had been wound around his neck and looped over the hook.

My sobs intensified when I saw all four of his paws had been chopped off; the bloody stumps gyrating in the air, slinging blood everywhere.

I couldn’t bear to have Princie live with the memories and pain of the merciless assault, although I was left with the memory. As my father drove wildly to the animal hospital with me crying and cradling Princie tightly in a blanket, I knew he had to be put out of his misery. My heart was laden with anguish and agony, he was my baby. He slept with me.

I’ll never forget it. Never.

So, I began with that verbatim ... and then did a fast-forward to 20 years later. My protagonist is twenty years older and living unhappily in Los Angeles.

There we go ... the nightmare got me started. It totaled 3500 words and I submitted it to a Good Housekeeping Magazine Short Story contest. We'll see what happens - results in February.

So that's one way to be inspired ... dreams and nightmares. Another is through the listing of 10 or more words and incorporating them into a story, and another is through ideas that come to mind during your everyday activities.

Ray Bradbury wrote a short story almost every day, he talked about it at a book festival I attended. It was a daily exercise for him. He'd spend hours upon hours at the library, in his day before computers, reading and coming up with all sorts of ideas. And he's considered one of the most prolific short story writers of our time. He's still at it, by the way. In a wheel chair now.

When I was writing articles on assignment for a magazine five or six years ago, I found that once I sat down and began writing, it would flow. But I was a champion at procrastination. I'd dread having to write the article, even though I enjoyed the interviewing and all, but the actual writing sometimes took me right up to the deadline to begin the article, and I'd knock it out in an hour. It's the same with short stories or any other writing ... ya gotta sit down and start writing, not just think about it.

I guess I'm lucky for I never seem to be without inspiration. I believe I could write one a day like Mr. Bradbury, if I were of the mindset. It might be a fun exercise to see what spills onto the paper (or computer screen in my case). Besides, it's almost time again to compile another short story collection ... my third.


  1. Great article, Rebecca.
    Since I have a continuing story in each of your previous collections, maybe I should get busy on a third myself!
    I enjoy writing short stories but people should understand that they aren't as easy as it would seem. Characters, plots and storyline have to be developed quickly - without the advantage of long, drawn-out descriptions as one has the freedom to do in a full length novel. Challenging, yet very rewarding if successful!

  2. Yes, the anthologies, yes. I didn't even count those. I've published four anthologies, Phil, besides the two collections of my own work. And now am getting ready to release the third of my own work - stage and screen plays this time:MY DRAMEDY.

  3. Short stories are very difficult, keeping within the specs of a lesser number of words and still making sense of it. Yes. Definitely. 3500 words for this last one I wrote, was very challenging for me. 20,000 words would be more like it. My novels are around 90,000 to 100,000. So, like you, I guess I'm a bit wordy. lol lol But it works.


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