Julie Duffy
Dec 14, 2019 · 2 min read

Regrets, I’ve Had A Few

This week’s writing prompt is inspired by the first story in the 2016 edition of The Best American Short Stories (edited by Junot Diaz)

In the story, a man visits his elderly parents. A chance remark reminds him of an incident in his childhood where he was clearly in the wrong, and someone else suffered.

Without being heavy handed, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie allows her character to reminisce, taking us through a bright moment in a child’s life, before showing the act the man would later regret. There is very little commentary, just lush scene-painting and evocation.


Write a story inspired by one of your regrets


Write this story using a nugget from your own past: an act or words of which you were later ashamed.

Alternatively, combine a story you heard from someone else with the emotions you felt when you did something wrong.

Don’t use this as a vehicle to feel sorry for yourself, now. Rather, use your experiences to conjure up for the reader the feelings, the physical experience of your shame.

Don’t write this autobiographically (unless you really love memoir). Give your feelings to another character.

Consider giving the feelings of shame to a character who is very unlike you, and see how they would react to facing the consequences of their own actions.

Try to not consciously teach the reader a lesson. Instead, explore the experience and let them draw their own conclusions.

Try to evoke the experience of doing something you know to be wrong, getting caught, or getting away with it but regretting it anyway, in ways that a reader might recognize from their own experience (that’s why I suggest focusing on the physical reactions).

If the point of storytelling is to connect with other readers, sometimes its our worst experiences that give us the vivid emotional memories that allow us create a vivid story.

Julie Duffy

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Host of the StoryADay.org creative challenge, Julie is a writer, a creativity coach, a sought-after workshop presenter and podcast guest.