Thursday, July 16, 2009

Write Your Short Story

Short Story Basics in a Nutshell

First, choose an idea and start with the basics of a short story. A quick start is especially important in short stories because you don't have much room to tell your story. If you're having trouble brainstorming, try making a web or table; create about five main sentences for your short story. Novice writers are often given this advice on how to structure short stories: Put a man up a tree, Throw stones at him, Get him down.

There's no room for free-loaders in a short story. Around three main characters is all a short story can effectively deal with because too many will distract you from your theme. Use vivid imagery to draw the reader in.
In today's fast-moving world, the first sentence of your short story should catch your reader's attention with the unusual, the unexpected, an action, or a conflict. Keep your paragraphs and sentences short if you're telling a fast-moving action-filled story.
Grab your reader from the very first line and, begin your short story as close to the conclusion as possible. Your job as a writer of short fiction -- whatever your beliefs -- is to put complex personalities on stage and let them strut and fret their brief hour. For example, let's say you want to develop a college student persona for a short story that you are writing.
As a writer, you need to determine who is going to tell the story and how much information is available for the narrator to reveal in the short story.

Throw Some Stones: Add Some Conflict
Create a conflict for your protagonist. Then present the problems that can occur (throw some stones): misunderstandings / mistaken identity / lost opportunities, etc. Build the story's tension by having the protagonist make several failed attempts to solve or overcome the problem. Create a crisis that serves as the last chance for the protagonist to solve his or her problem. In general, make sure the story flows and the characters and their problems are introduced and resolved appropriately.

Get the Action Going
For a story to be believable, your characters have to be believable, and their actions should appear inevitable given who they are. The rest of your paragraph introduces an internal conflict as your protagonist debates a course of action and introduces an intriguing contrast of past and present setting. Show the reader what kind of person your character is, by describing actions rather than simply listing adjectives.
Solve the Problem: Get the man Down
Resolve the tension by having your protagonist succeed through his or her own intelligence, creativity, courage or other positive attributes. You have to do everything that happens in a novel; introduce characters, create conflict, develop characters, and resolve conflict in twenty or thirty pages - when the internal or external conflict is resolved. Sometimes the setting or some aspect of setting resolves the plot. This step is repeated until all the problems are solved.

It is here that love triumphs over hate, good conquers evil, honesty defeats deceit, or the underdog wins.


  1. good ideas to use in writing my 400 word articles too. thanks-

  2. Great short story advice! I have been writing short stories for many years. It's fun, but definitely different from novels. I also read short story submissions and you are right on for what makes a short story that will sell!

  3. What a really fantastic, instructive, helpful post Leona! However, like Caryn... I can't get myself to start.


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