How to write a short story: A lesson for us both

A short story is the snippets of a character’s life. The events, feelings, perspectives, journey and ideas of a character that can be person, animal, creature or thing. It can be composed of one sentence to seven thousand words and is conclusive in it’s enidng.

Flash fiction/ micro or nano fiction is a type of short story that ranges from between 5 words to a few hundred words long, they can take between a few hours to a few months to write but generally should only take a matter of minutes to read…charming!

Short stories are convenient because they do not require a reader’s long term investment. The reader is not left with any cliffhangers, or unknown features from the story as the intention of the writer should be to deliver a powerful emotional storyline that is intellectually stimulating, and results in the reader feeling satisfied by the end. A wholesome experience in a small package…pow!

In order to gain great understanding of what is necessary to create a great short story it is a must that you read plenty.

Consider the type of stories you would like to produce yourself and stock your shelves (or campout at the library-of course not likely during a pandemic but it could be an inspirational experience all the same so…)

Think about the features you enjoy as you read and make note as to whether the stories are action packed, reflective, romantic, dramatic, do they intellectually challenge you? Are there elements of mystery involved? Consider if the themes are emotional, philosophical, or humorous. Is the dialogue or context complex, simple, direct or an easy read.

This will be useful when contemplating how to achieve the attributes you wish to include in your own stories. Once you have identified these points, analysing the text can help you to think about how you can apply the same techniques to your writing.

Who you wish to write for will play a huge part in your decisions. Writing for children requires a different style of writing in comparison to that of an older audience for example. Not all genre and narratives are suitable or appealing to all so take some time to think about scenarios and events that will be exciting and captivating for your target audience.

For your characters to be relatable and interesting you must first gain an understanding of what your target audience may want to see them experience and connect over them with. What would they be enthusiastic about reading?

‘Short stories may contain many attributes of a novel…’ – Christopher Edge (2015) pg. 112

Where to Begin:

Knowing how to start your story can be one of the most daunting parts; atleast I know it has been for me. Leading with a lone that immediately lures a reader in and encourages them to embark on the journey you have ready to present requires attention to detail and something captivating.

An idea I have come across whilst researching is starting with a question. Pose a question to you reader or have character state something they are or have been questioning. This can be very engaging if the question is both relevant and alluding to the story.

Starting with a major event is captivating and engages the reader with an exciting event that they then may seek to dedicate time to learning more about. With great descriptive techniques and use of the ‘show don’t tell’ method, it can allow for an involvement that sees the reader invest until the end.

‘A mystery might begin with a dead body being discovered whilst if you’re writing a funny story you want to start with something that will leave your reader in stitches…’ – Christopher Edge (2015) pg 30

Direct speech creates an interpersonal connection with the characters, as if the character is directly speaking to the reader and can encourages thought provoking, emotional responses, though rhetorical. The experience becomes not only visual but, potantially, emotionally and mentally stimulating.

The unseen creates a sense of mystery and suspence, an urge to know more and make discoveries. The lack of missing information leaves room for the reader to make inferences and desire to know what is to be uncovered.

Passive statements stimulates a need for backstory and relating information. Leading with this will cause your reader to long for a better understanding of context unknown and upcoming.

In the following posts CHARACTER, DIALOGUE, SHOW DON’T TELL, ARCHETYPES, GENRE, I discuss narrative perspective, time periods, structure, traits and attributes of different personalities and how utilised well they can enhance one’s writing by offering depth, insight and a sense of familiarity and relativity. All aspects that will strengthen your work with continuous practice.

Inspiration

‘Dont mix up your tenses-in each sentence and your whole story! Try to stick to either the past or present tense to avoid confusing the reader’ – Christopher Edge (2015) pg 29

It is a very helpful task to read what you want to write. Be influenced by the ideas that stem from people who write in the same genre, style and on the same topics you take interest in. The more you write the more familiar you with become with the use of your own voice. Go back over you work and be indpired by yourself. Notice your own writing styles and preferred techniques and then write some more. Inspiration can come from anywhere though, so do not be afraid to start with a random converstaion you hear betweeen passers by or an experience walking down the street. Whatever you consider a starting point, can be adapted and changed, so go for it.

A First Draft

Just write! Get your ideas down on paper and keep pon going. Go until you cannot go anyway more. There will be plenty of time after to revise, edit, expand, and delete. To try is your first step. The more you try the better you will become. Read alongside your writing and allow yourself to gain new ideas along the way. Be as realistic or extreme as you feel and then read your writing back to yourself or have someone you trust read it and feedback to you before changing accordingly. Have fun with it!

‘A plot is the things that happen in your story, arranged in a logical order’. – Christopher edge (2015) pg 22

Below I have embedded a few videos that I have found useful in learning more about short stories. Hey, when you get the hang of this how about tackling your first novel? See you on the other side ; )

Need more of a challenge?

Online 

1. Bella Rose Pope (2019) ‘How to Write a Short Story with 11 Easy Steps for Satisfying Short Stories’ 

https://self-publishingschool.com/how-to-write-a-short-story/

Cited on: 11/11/2020 

2. Camille Acker (2018) ‘A Reading List of Short Story Collections by Black Women Writers’ 

Cite on: 15/12/2020 

3. Emily Temple (2018) ‘25 Alice Munro Stories You Can Read Online Right Now’ 

Cited on: 15/12/2020 

4. Isadora (2019) Short Story Structure: How to Write a Short Story in 5 Easy Steps 

Cited on: 15/12/2020 

5. Joe Bunting (2015) How to Write a Short Story From Start to Finish 

Cited on: 15/12/2020 

6. McKenzie Jean-Phillipe (2019) 10 James Baldwin Books to Read in Your Lifetime 

https://www.oprahmag.com/entertainment/books/a26012817/best-james-baldwin-books

Cited on:15/12/2020 

7. Penguin Books Ltd (2020) ‘Alice Munro’ 

https://www.penguin.co.uk/authors/1067500/alice-munro.html

Cited on: 15/11/2020 

YouTube 

1. Bilbliostar (2013) Stephen King on the Craft of Short Story Writing 

Cited on: 27/11/2020 

2. Educational Tutorial (2016) How to Write a GREAT STORY: The 8 Point Story Arc

Cited on: 17/11/2020

3. Jerry B Jenkins (2020) How to Write a Short Story in 6 Steps 

Cited on: 18/11/2020 

4. Keetin Studies (2020) Short Stories for Kids 

Cited on: 27/11/2020  

5. Reedsy (2019) ‘How to Write a Short Story’ 

Cited on: 17/11/2020 

6. Shaelin Writes (2019) ‘How to Write a Shor Story| Writing Tips’  

Cited on: 18/11/2020  

7. Sydney Warner Brooman (2020) How to Write a Short Story Outline | secrets from a short story writer… 

HOW TO WRITE A SHORT STORY OUTLINE | Secrets From A Short Story Writer | Outline For Beginners 

Cited on: 27/11/2020 

8. TEDx Talks (2015) How to Write a Short Story | John Dufresne 

Cited on: 29/11/2020 

Books 

1. Cathie Hartigan and Margaret James (2014) The Creative Writing Student’s Handbook  

Creative Writing Matters 

Cited on: 17/11/2020 

2. Charlotte Perkins Gilman ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ (1892) Wisehouse Classics 2016 ed 

Cited on: 11/11/2020 

3. Christopher Edge ‘How to Write You Best Story Ever’ (2015) Oxford University Press  

Cited on: 17/11/2020 

4. Joseph Coelho ‘How to Write Poems’ (2017) Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 

Cited on: 29/11/2020 

5. The Usborne Creative Writer’s Handbook (2017) Usbourne Publishing Ltd  

Cited on: 27/11/2020 

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