Laurel Dykema

Laurel Dykema

When we get stuck for blog post ideas, it’s nice to have Laurel Dykema around to step in for us with her great posts. If you don’t have a Laurel in your life, try these story starters to get your ideas flowing. ~Kristina

Guest Post by Laurel Dykema of Mission India

A blinking cursor. A blank page.

You have a new great story to write—about someone your nonprofit has helped. And a looming deadline. The only problem is … you don’t know where to start!

I’ve been in your shoes! Every year, I write up approximately 200 stories that come from our partners in India. Some days, it feels as if my inspiration went on vacation (without me!). But I have found some “go-to” story starters that work well for me, and I want to share them with you—complete with examples from my stories so far this year!

You’re free to “steal” any of these 5 story starters:

1. Start in the middle of the action

At which point was the woman you helped in the direst need of assistance? When did she hit “rock bottom”? Starting your story here may be a great way to grab readers’ attention!


“Her mom had tuberculosis. And 10-year-old Sibani could think of little else.”

“A strange sensation awoke Jalendra from a deep sleep. ‘It felt like a bad bee sting,’ she remembers.”

“At midnight, 42-year-old Samika woke up feeling terribly sick.”

2. Open with a startling truth

Did he go hungry most days? Has he never held a pencil before? Does he live in a makeshift hut? Share something that might be surprising from his background and/or life.


“Everyone Gulab cared about died. First his grandparents. Then his parents. And then his beloved wife …”

“As a child, little Nevi toiled alongside her mother and father in the fields under the hot Indian sun.”

“One meal a day was a luxury for Gangi.”

3. Kick it off with a quote

If you have a great quote, why not lead with it?


“’I’m very happy because now my life has changed for good,’ says Karuna. ‘I learned many things after coming to Adult Literacy Classes which I did not know before. Before I came to this class, I could not write my name. I was a dependent person. Now that I can read and write, I won’t be cheated at the market anymore.’”

“’Poverty doesn’t give strength to anyone, it only teaches you to live to be poor,’ says Gujari.”

“’I never went to school because my parents did not think it was important,’ says Abja.”

4. Share a statistic

It can be helpful to open with a relevant and compelling (and hopefully surprising!) statistic.


“176 million women in India are illiterate. Chermai was one of them.”

“You might be surprised to know that India—with over 172 million Muslims—is among the world’s three most Muslim-populated countries! Like millions of kids in India, 12-year-old Amreen grew up in a Muslim family.”

“1 in 4 adults in India are illiterate. But Reshma didn’t know she was part of such a huge statistic. She just knew that illiteracy was a plague in her life.”

5. Set the scene

Paint a quick picture of the person’s surroundings in a sentence or two.


“In Chunni’s community, the birth of a girl is seen as a curse. Many girls in her area were killed, dumped in garbage bins, thrown in drains or rivers, or even aborted before they were born.”

“14-year-old Jayana climbs barefoot on top of brick kilns.”

“A mud house with rusted tin sheets for a roof—this is Janesh’s home. He lives in a slum.”

Do you use any of these story starters? Or do you have any more to add to this list? Share in the comment section below.

Laurel Dykema joined Mission India in 2010 and currently serves as the staff writer and social media guru. She enjoys Boggle, a well-turned phrase, and a good cup of masala tea.

Published On: July 30, 2014|Categories: Storytelling, Writing Skills and Content|