Monday, 17 August 2015

Writing Your First Short Story

By Amanda Pearson

You want to write a short story but don’t know how? Here are a few tips to get you on the way to short story success.

Short Story is a genre that can help you hone your skills while you’re waiting for your novel to percolate. It’s a wonderful form that can help develop your writing style and refine your ideas into compact stories in their own right, free from the drama of the extended characters, plots and structures of longer works of prose. Whether you’re writing a micro story (50-100 words) or the standard 3000 word story desired by many short story competitions, here are a few tricks of the trade.   
One Idea, One Character, One Twist
Remember, you’re not writing War and Peace. You’re trying to tell a single story, so work out your main ideas first, your main character and a twist. Write your plot down in bullet points to give you a basic structure. Even if you don’t quite have everything worked out at the start have a go, as elements often emerge as you’re working out your structure on the page and or writing that first draft. Bet keep it simple: too many strands to your plot will crowd your short story.
Crowding your stories with too many characters also detracts form the impact of a short story. Explore only one or two characters in this format. Make them live and breathe instead of trying to write Twilight in 3000 words. Your story will be the better for it.
A good short story will often have a twist near the end, which drives the plot to its climax. If you can make this twist believable and memorable, and have it somehow emerge from within your character’s situation rather that appearing out of nowhere so much the better.
Explore and Surprise
Don’t be afraid to explore your story by extending your ideas. First drafts are rarely finished products – they are a basis for further work. What a character sees is different to the viewpoint of an omniscient narrator. How does changing the viewpoint affect your story? Try moving your action from the present to the past and watch how the story’s language and flow change. Don’t worry about word limits in early drafts; include everything. Editing is where you will shape your ideas and cut those that aren’t working. By trying to edit as you write you may well ditch some of your best ideas before you’ve developed them fully.
Write Tight and Edit
Ernest Hemingway once penned a brilliant six word short story. Six wonderfully well chosen words. If nothing else, this genre teaches you the value of making sure you use only the most apt words in order to express yourself clearly and precisely. Look at every sentence. Does it have a function in your story? How about the dialogue? Does it sound real in the mouths of your characters?
Editing your own work is hard and reviewing your own stories is an art form. Finding a friend to provide constructive and pointed criticism when you think you’re nearly ready to send your work out into the world can also help.
Short story is a great place to start to get your writing out into the big wide world. What have you got to lose?

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