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Nadine Wu

 

Writing A Short Story

Posted On:08-Sep-2019/4:17 pm

Short stories can be some of the most poignant, yet succinct forms of storytelling. To express an interesting short story can be as challenging, if not more so, than writing a fully-fledged novel. This is due to the very specific word count, as short stories tend to range from 2000 to 7500 words, with anything larger than that classified as a novella, and anything below a micro-fiction. Because of this word limit, when writing a short story, every single word, detail, and plot line must be crucial to the story. This means no waffling, no tangents, and using specific techniques to express details through implication and subtle hints. While this may sound like a lot of work, the result can be a fantastic short story that is captivating in a short amount of time. Based on my experience, I will outline the techniques and methods that any writer should utilize when writing a short story.

1.  Your Inspiration

Firstly, how to come up with a story idea. You may already have an amazing plot that could work as a short story. If not, finding inspiration for a plot truly isn’t too difficult. To find inspiration, you must surround yourself with other creative content. Listen to music and think, “what story can I make from this?” or think of other books you’ve enjoyed and write something similar - write what content you enjoy. However, this is a thin line that is difficult to balance - to find inspiration without stealing from the content you enjoy. When coming up with a story idea, you don’t need the beginning, middle, end, and everything in between. A simple one-line synopsis is all you need to begin.

2.  Mapping the Storyline

From here, you should begin to map out your idea. I find it easier to draw or use bullet points to organize how I want the story to go. You can use arrows, pictures, or a mind map to organize how each aspect of the story will connect to the next. During this stage, you will discover your overall storyline, the basic conflict, and how it will end. Using a crudely drawn map or plan can really help when you finally enter the writing stage. Your plans will change and grow as you write, however, as you think of better ideas or as your characters evolve in a way you didn’t plan. But, by making a preliminary plan, you have given yourself a structure to follow when you get lost during the writing stage.

3.  The Hook

When planning your story, it is important to remember that short stories don’t have a lot of room for emptiness. This means that your story needs a hook and needs it immediately. A hook is the aspect of a story, book, or movie that captivates your attention. For example, in the Harry Potter series, the hook is that Harry discovers he’s a wizard. It’s an interesting aspect of the story that makes your readers want to keep reading. However, the Harry Potter series were comprised of multiple lengthy novels, not short stories. While books and movies tend to introduce the hook after some introduction, short stories need a hook straight away, within the first paragraph. This will grab the attention of your reader quickly and will keep the story on the right trajectory. A helpful tip when starting to write a short story is that you should begin in the action. While other books introduce their characters or have a slow build up, short stories need to begin as close to the action of the story as possible. This means that you should not begin a short story with the character opening their eyes as they wake up. Not only is this wasting time, but it is also incredibly overused and, frankly, uninteresting.

4.  Writing Techniques

During the writing stage, there are a few techniques you can utilized that will eliminate unnecessary words. One of the techniques I will describe is known to be the most important rule of thumb when it comes to creative writing, the technique of “Show, don’t tell”. The concept of “Show, don’t tell” refers to when a writer overwrites a story by telling too much to their audience. When describing a scene, it is sometimes best to leave certain things unsaid. For example, if a character is angry, don’t write, “Tim walked into the room; he was angry” – this is rudimentary. Instead, use descriptive language that implies the character is angry, for example, “Tim stormed into the room” does the job of the previous example – it has Tim walk into the scene and tells you he was angry in one swoop. Not only is this more succinct, but it is also interesting to read. By showing the reader what’s happening, they can imagine they are there and feel more connected to the story. Using lines like, “Tim was angry” is not only tedious to read, but treats the reader like a child, spoon-feeding them the correct information. Furthermore, to write in a succinct matter, it is best to avoid adverbs. Adverbs are the words used to describe verbs, such as quickly, loudly, etc. When an adverb is used, this is an indication to the reader that the author could not find the best verb to describe the situation. For example, saying “he said loudly” is an excess of words, as opposed to, “he shouted”. Finding the best verb for the situation is always better than using a clunky adverb.

5.  The Ending

Finally, when ending a short story, don’t feel the need to end it with a big, unexpected twist. The most important aspect of ending a short story is addressing the question that was raised in the hook. As mentioned earlier, a short story should begin with a hook. When finishing the story, this hook should be addressed and somewhat answered. For example, if the hook of you story was a murder mystery, the story doesn’t necessarily have to end with the mystery being solved, but it should be addressed whether the mystery was solved or not.

Writing short stories can be a stressful and exhausting process, but some of the best literature we have is in the form of a short story. So, plan and practice and you could write a story that’s succinct and poignant.

Takeaways:

1 : Short stories can be one of the most succinct and poignant forms of storytelling

2 : When writing a story, you can get inspiration from anywhere

3 : If you plan and practice certain writing techniques you can write a good short story

Category:  Books/Reading/Writing / Subcategory:  Short Story Writing Tips

Tags: Literature, Storytelling, Creative, Language, Fiction, Characters, Inspiration, Storyline, Hook, Writing Techniques, Ending

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Lisa Steffler

13-Sep-2019

A few years ago, I attempted to write a short story about my children for my children. So, I had the inspiration and the storyline, but in the end I thought it was a complete mess and put it away. I like and appreciate your ideas. Perhaps I will dip up my story and start again. Much appreciated Nadine.

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Bruce Peters

11-Sep-2019

Kudos Nadine. Nice to get tips from another avid writer.

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D. C. Lawrence

08-Sep-2019

Nadine-in a previous comment I mentioned that I intend to take a few courses on creative writing. Thank you much for imparting some of your wisdom on the matter. I love all forms of storytelling and hope to improve my ability to do so. I have been writing poems for many years and my next literary venture will be short stories, so again, I thank you for the tips. BTW-I noticed that in your bio you mentioned that you plan to write a novel within the next 5 years-I am looking forward to reading it!! I enjoyed reading your duppydom-thanks :)