How To Write A Short Story

The short story is much like a horse race.  It begins with a BANG!  The story races forward, never losing speed and before you can finish your soda, it is done, a winner is announced and the crowd cheers.  A short story may be over far more quickly than a novel but that does not mean it is any easier to write.

Short stories require a great deal of skill to write.  It is takes hard work and a lot of practice to perfect. Effective, creative short stories have the power to impact their reader in just a few pages.  Here are some tips to help you on your shorter, yet no less difficult path to penning your short story.

BEGIN WITH A BANG:  The starting gun fires with that first paragraph.  You must captivate your reader with something- be it action, drama or suspense, start quick and strong. 

HAVE A CLEAR THEME.  The theme of your story is not the same as the plot.  It is the underlying message behind the words.  Your theme should not be presented directly to the reader; it should be extracted from the plot and characters.  A strong message will have deep resonance in the minds of readers. 
 
COVER A SHORT SPAN OF TIME: Your short story should cover one pivotal event in a characters life.  The conflict and resolution cover a series of days or weeks, not years.  Unlike novels, short stories are a short period of time.  Keep your time frame simple and tight.

KEEP CHARACTERS TO A MINIMUM.  Each character will bring new dimensions to the story, bringing with them complications.  The fewer the characters the more effective your story will be.  Too many different dimensions or directions will dilute the theme.  The focus will become blurred and your story weaker.  Only have enough characters to illuminate your theme.

MAKE EVERY WORD COUNT.  There is no room for jibber jabber in a short story.  You have limited words (typically between 1,000-7,000) to illustrate your story.  Every word should work towards illuminating the theme and moving the story forward.  Do not flood the story with unnecessary adjectives.

CHOOSE THE NARRATOR.  Who is telling the story? There are three main points of view from which to tell a story: FIRST-PERSON (“I”), here a character in the story is narrating; keep in mind, when using first person, the narrator can only tell what they know or what they have been told. In SECOND-PERSON (“you”) the reader is made a character in the story.  In THIRD-PERSON (“he” or “she”) an outside narrator is telling the story. 

KEEP YOUR FOCUS.  Short stories should follow one concise subject line.  They should be short, sweet and to the point.  Through the entire writing process you should ask yourself, “What is the point?”  The entire story should stick to that point.  If you begin to waver and follow other paths you will be on the trail to a novel or a story that will go nowhere.

STRUCTURE.  Start by writing a bare bones story.  This way you can pay attention to the structure.  A story needs a beginning, middle, and end.  In a short story the beginning should only be a few paragraphs long.  By the end of the beginning we should know the main characters, setting and plot and what the character wants, needs.  In the middle of your story your character should have faced and solved their problem. It is a good plan to have the character try to solve the problem 3 times, too little will not hold the readers interest and too many will make them think the main character is foolish.  The ending should present a snappy resolution, offering closure to your reader and character.

READ SHORT STORIES. Nothing can help you learn to write a good short story better than reading good short stories. Choose authors and stories that you enjoy; pay attention to how they develop their characters, write dialogue, and structure their plots.

LET THE STORY WRITE ITSELF.  You may have a planned out path when you begin writing and as you work your characters pulls you in another direction--it is okay to follow them. Don’t worry about scrapping your plot plans, as long as the new path keeps you along the same theme.

EDIT. Enough said.


 

Comments:
 
bigred7   bigred7 wrote
on 11/2/2010 11:52:56 PM
Great advice.

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Tips on writing a short story.
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