Story in a Box: 10 Steps for Writing Your Story When You're Stuck

Do you ever want to write a story, but you can’t figure out what to say?  Here’s one way to get started.
1. Find a box:  The box needs to be big enough to fit at least 10 things in it.  A shoe box would be too small.  Try to find something about the size of a file box.
2. Fill it with random objects:  Right now my box has a set of keys, a flashlight, an umbrella, a stuffed dragon, a shell, a shoe, a peacock puppet, an airplane, a rainbow erasure, and a book.
3. Discover your setting: Without looking, take something out of the box.  If I took the shell out of my box, my story would happen at the beach or inside of a shell.
4. Discover your main character: Take another object out of the box.  If I took out an umbrella, my story would be about the umbrella at the beach.
5. Discover the problem: Take another object out of the box.  If I took out the peacock than the peacock would be the umbrella’s problem. Maybe Umbrella is jealous of Peacock’s beautiful feathers!
6. Discover how your main character is going to try to fix the problem: Pull another object out of the box.  If I chose the dragon, the Umbrella could ride on Dragon’s back and try to cover Peacock’s feathers with Dragon’s shadow.  Of course that doesn’t work.
7. Another attempt to fix problem.  Choose another object.  Maybe I take a flashlight out of the box and the umbrella uses it to highlight his colors so people will notice him instead of Peacock.

8. Repeat step 7. Usually your main character needs to try to solve the problem 3 times.

9. Discover the resolution. Choose one last object from the box.  If I chose the keys out of my box, maybe the keys would open a box to Umbrella’s photo album and the pictures help Umbrella realize he’s special even though he’s not as colorful as peacock.  

10. Wrap it up.  Now that you know your setting, your main character, the problem, how the main character tries to fix the problem, and the resolution, you are ready to write! Now, take your pencil and put the words on paper!

Now I’m off to write about Umbrella and his problem.  Perhaps he will find a way to befriend Peacock?  Or perhaps he’ll just be grateful for who he is.  I’m always grateful for an umbrella on a rainy day...and for something fun to write about.


  1. I love this idea, Kirsti! Through this very fun activity, you've broken down the process of storytelling into digestible pieces - it made it a far less intimidating process for me. I'll be trying this tonight!

    1. I'm so glad! I actually used this activity at a school visit and it was a fun way to get the kids involved!

  2. What a great share Kirsti! Very informative and helpful. :)