How to Write a Short Story – #1

For any aspiring professional writer, the short story is the perfect medium. While writing a novel is a Herculean task, just about anybody can craft and, most importantly, finish, a short story. That doesn’t mean that short stories are easy to write, though, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they aren’t as artistic and valuable as novels. With practice, patience, and a passion for writing, they can be every bit as moving and memorable as their much longer cousins.

  1. Nothing can help you “learn” how to write a good short story better than reading good short stories. Take note of the style and how they have used the small amount of words to their advantage. Choose authors that you enjoy, and also choose some of the “classics.” Pay attention to how the authors develop their characters, write dialogue, and structure their plots.
  2. Gather ideas for your story. Inspiration can strike at any time, so carry a notepad with you wherever you go so that you can write down story ideas as they come to you. Most of the time, you’ll just think of small snippets of information (a catastrophic event around which you can build a plot, a character’s name or appearance, etc.), but sometimes you’ll get lucky and a whole story will reveal itself to you in a couple of minutes. If you have trouble finding inspiration, or if you need to write a story in a hurry (for a class, for example), learn how to brainstorm.
  3. Choose an idea and start with basics of a short story. At the very least, a story should have an exposition (the story leading up to the climax), rising action (events leading to the turning point), a climax (a turning point in a story brought about by conflict between characters or within a character), falling action (your story begins to conclude), and a resolution (a satisfying ending to the story in which the central conflict is resolved – or not). Move backward or forward from your starting idea (it may or may not be the beginning of the story), and ask “What happens next?” or “what happened before this?”
  4. Know your characters. For a story to be believable, the characters have to be believable, and their actions should appear inevitable given who they are. In other words, you should know as much as possible about your characters, from what their central motivations are to what their favorite foods are. You won’t include all this information in your story, but the more you know, the more your characters will come to life, both for you and for the reader. Sometimes it helps just to listen to unimportant conversations between characters in your head, even if it won’t be in the story. If you find it easier, write a list, titled with the character’s name, and write all the attributes you can think of, from their position in the orchestra to their favourite colour. Write it all.
  5. Limit the breadth of your story. A novel can occur over millions of years and include a multitude of subplots, a variety of locations, and an army of supporting characters. The main events of a short story should occur in a relatively short period of time (days or even minutes), and you typically won’t be able to develop effectively more than one plot, two or three main characters, and one setting. If your story has much more breadth, it probably needs to be a novella or novel.

From WikiHow

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This entry was posted on Monday, July 19th, 2010 at 8:12 am and is filed under Tips. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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