How do you write a short story? How can you come up with a compelling narrative that is both concise and telling? Read on and find out.
A short story conserves characters and scenes, typically by focusing on just one conflict, and drives towards a sudden, unexpected revelation. Go easy on the exposition and talky backstory — your reader doesn’t need to know everything that you know about your characters.
Here are six steps to help you get started:
Write A Short Story in One Sitting
There are really two different kinds of stories. There is the art form, “short stories,” which comes complete with characters, plot, description, and style.
Then there’s the “story”, the funny, amusing, crazy story you’d tell a friend over a meal.
The “story” and the “short story” are not the same thing. The former is just a story, we tell them all the time. The latter is an art.
The first step to writing a short story is to write the former, the “story”, that version of the story that you would tell a friend.
And when you write it, be sure to write it in one sitting. Just tell the “story”. Don’t think about it too much, don’t go off to do more research, don’t take a break. Just get the story written down. Whenever I break this rule it takes me FOREVER to finish writing the story.
Find Your Main Character
You may think you already know who your main character is, but depending on your story, this can actually be more tricky than you might think.
Your main character isn’t necessarily the narrator, nor is she necessarily the “good guy” in the story. Instead, the main character is the person who makes the decisions that drive the story forward.
Your main character centers the story, drives the plot, and his or her fate gives the story its meaning. As you move forward in the writing process, it’s important to choose the right main character.
Write the Perfect First Line
Great first lines have the power to entice your reader enough that it would be unthinkable to set your story down. If you want to hook your reader, it starts with writing the perfect first line.
Here are five quick tips to write the perfect first line:
- Like the opening of a film, invite us into the scene.
- Surprise us.
- Establish a voice.
- Be clear.
- See if you can tell the entirety of your story in a single sentence.
Break the Story Into a Scene List
Every story is composed of a set of scenes which take place in a specific place and time. A scene list keeps track of your scenes, helping you organize your story and add detail and life at each step.
Scene lists do two main things:
- Provide structure to your story
- Show you which parts need more work
You don’t have to follow your scene list exactly, but they definitely help you work through your story, especially if your writing over multiple sittings.
Only Now Should You Research
If you’re like me, you want to start researching as soon as you get an idea so that you can pack as much detail into the story as possible. The problem is that if you research too soon, what you find will distort your story, causing it to potentially break under the weight of what you’ve learned.
Other writers never research, which can leave their story feeling fuzzy and underdeveloped.
By waiting until your story is well on its way, you can keep it from getting derailed by the research process, and by this point you’ll also be able to ask very specific questions about your story rather than following tangents wherever they take you.
It’s time to get some serious writing done.
Now that you know who your protagonist is, have the perfect first line, have created your scene list, and have done your research, it’s time to finally get this story written.
We all write differently. Some write fast in multiple drafts, others write slow and edit as they go. I’m not going to tell you how you should be writing. Whatever works for you, just get it done.
SOURCE: Joe Bunting