Planning with Short Stories

Today let’s get creative and write a short story about what life is going to be like in 5 years.  I know, I know, this is a question that usually fills you with dread.  “I hate that question” you are saying to yourself.  Usually the question conjures up images of someone interviewing you for a job or maybe a family gathering where people are trying to catch up and encourage you to spread your wings.

Well, take a deep breath.  This is only for your eyes.  No one else needs to see this unless you choose to share it.  So, don’t think about this too much…just let the words flow through you.  Who is in this short story and where does it take place?  What are you doing in your short story?  How do you feel about where you are, are you happy, sad, scared?  Just start writing the words, and I’ll check back with you when you are done.  No cheating – to get the most out of this exercise you have write up the story before you continue.  Remember, this is only for you so we don’t care about perfect grammar, no need to edit your thoughts.  Don’t worry if your handwriting isn’t perfect or if your printer is barely printing a light gray because you are almost out of toner.  Just go for it and see what comes out.


Ok. Do you have that short story written? Are you ready to move on?  Well then let me ask you a few questions about your story.

Who is the hero of your story?

You may have to read your story over again before you answer this question, and please be honest with your assessment.  If you are not the hero of your story, can you think of why that may be?  Are you surprised by whether you are the hero of your story or not?

Who are the other characters of your story?

In your cast of characters, are these people that you know right now?  Or maybe some characters that you haven’t really met yet, and they are written generically in your story? Are all your characters humans, or are there some animal friends in there?

What are you doing in this story?

Does your story center on a career moment, or are you writing about personal time? I told you not to think too hard before you started writing, but now I’d like you to think about why you choose work or personal time.

How does your story end?

Does your ending remind you of a fairy tale with a storybook ending, is it a cliffhanger waiting for the story of the next 5 years, or is it a bit of a nightmare where you aren’t sure you really want to get to the end after all?

There are no right or wrong answers here, but this exercise can tell you a lot about what your design path should be to reach your own “plenty”.  What you choose to write about is important to you, and I encourage you to write down 3 key elements that came out of your writing that you can add to your ideas for future goals.

Right now I live in a city and I’m far from being a good cook, but in my story I am in this beautiful farmhouse kitchen, and when I look out the huge window above the sink I am surrounded by trees.  I’m canning peaches and I can smell a fresh pie in the oven.  My dog is contentedly sleeping by the kitchen door, and I can hear people swapping family stories.  I can’t believe how calm I feel because usually I’m worried about something or another, but in this place I just feel peaceful.  I’ll admit it seems like a pretty big leap for me in 5 years, and the really weird thing is it’s not what I expected to write about because I’m in a big career planning mode right now.  But hey, I’m going to put this story away and think about it for a while and see what kinds of things I can grow from it.  Maybe I should visit a farmers market this week and try to do an easy pickled vegetable, any suggestions?

I’d love to hear from you about your reactions to your short story.  Please leave a comment below and let us know what you’ll be thinking about this week.

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