Writing a Short Story

A novel requires a certain kind of world-building and also a certain kind of closure, ultimately. Whereas with a short story you have this sense that there are hinges that the reader doesn’t see.

Dan Chaon

 

Short-Story

Short Stories Can Be Fun

Writing a short story is fun. Well, it can be in certain ways. If your not a short story writer then you probably won’t find them fun, but how can you know until you have given it a crack.

The biggest thing I love about short stories is that they are easy and quick to read as well as write. You can get the first draft written in a matter or hours. The thing that really does it for me is that you can find out what the conclusion is not long after you start reading. Unlike a novel, you don’t stop and start reading. There is no suspense of waiting to find the time to read the next part; a short story will begin and finish before you know it.

Depending on what you want to do with a short story or what idea you have will depend on how you write. A short story can be finished in a day, or a week, or a month. However, with every type of writing there are positives and negatives.

You can write a short story in two hours. Two hours a day, you have a novel in a year.

Ray Bradbury

Four Steps to Help You Write a Short Story

1. Read Short Stories.

If you are a writer then you have probably heard it a hundred times but writers read what they want to write. If you want to write science fiction, read science fiction; if you want to write romance, read romance; if you want to write novels, read novels; and if you want to write short stories, then write short stories.

If you have never read a short story then you might have a hard time writing one. You are going to have no idea what you are doing. Taking a real good and deep looking at one or two short stories will help improve your understanding. Study them and find out what makes them so good.

2. What are you writing about?

If you plan to write a short story, or anything for that matter, you need to know what you are writing about. So take a couple minutes, or thirty, or hell even take a hour to write down what you story is about. You could write a couple of lines or a whole page. This summary will help you understand what your story is really all about. Because if you don’t know what is it about then how will those who read it?

3. Write it!

The best thing to do is just write. Don’t worry if it sounds like absolute crap the first time. You can improve it later. Every write should know that your first draft will always be crap. Just put your pen to paper, or your fingers to keys, and get going. Before you know it you will have either started your story or finished it.

And don’t worry about how long it is. If you are trying to write a 5000 word story then its fine if the first draft ends up being 6000, or 7000. As a writer you should know that you will cut down. You will remove words and sentences to make it better.

4. Rewrite, edit, repeat.

The best thing a writer can do is rewrite but don’t rewrite until you have finished the first draft. You will rewrite, then edit, and then do it again and again until the words on the page, or the words on the screen, will be the best damn story you have ever written.

It can be the hardest part of writing a short story and it can feel difficult. It can be hard to change things but in the end it is for the best.

Writing a Crime Novel Part 2 – Planning

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/ykjc9/2744167003/sizes/o/in/photostream/

“There really must be a murder, or at least a major felony — otherwise, what’s the point? Who’s ripping off the hand towels at the Dorchester Hotel is hardly the business of a mystery novel.”
– Howard Haycraft

So far the ‘writing’ phase of writing a crime novel hasn’t even started. Normally I’m not a big planner so I generally start writing rather quickly. But I knew that crime novels took a lot of work. You have to plan everything. Every twist and turn, everything little thing needs to be accounted for. There wasn’t any jumping straight in with this story.

After planning out who my victims were, how they were killed, where they were dumped and why the killer chose them; I was happy. Same with planning my killer. I felt my reasoning and idea for the character were solid so I moved on.

The Main Character

“The criminal is the creative artist; the detective only the critic.”
– G. K. Chesterton

Opening up a new word document I knew it was time to decided who was going to be my Sherlock Homes, who was going to be my Olivia Benson. Who was going to be my kick ass lead crime fighting hero who would save the day? And it almost seemed simple.

Most of the time when I come up with a character, at first, they aren’t what you would call three dimensional. In fact they are always two dimensional. And generally I like to have my characters revealed themselves as I write. I like seeing them unfold on the page. So creating a character, from the get-go, and making them three dimensional certainty wasn’t simple. Breaking old habits is hard in any situation, but I find breaking writing habits is even more hard.

I managed to do what I needed to do though. Starting off with the basics: name, age, appearance, desire, and life. The character came to life. Then I went in with the more detailed questions. I find asking even the most unimportant things can reveal your character. Their favourite colour, for instant, could reflect a lot in their life, or even their most hated colour.

Questions

Instead of thinking all the questions to ask about my character, I find looking online for a character profile can be the easiest way. I like to find multiple character profiles and combine them so that my profile is even more detailed.

Likeability

One thing I really think about when it comes to my characters is whether or not they are likeable. Likeability isn’t always important but I think that when it comes to a crime novel there needs to be something that the reader will like about the good guy to keep them reading, or keep them cheering them on. So I tried to think of quirks and unique things about my character that would make readers think their interesting, or funny, or something – anything.

But one big thing is to not make them too likeable. After all you don’t like everything about everyone. There will be one or two things that drive you nuts about that person. So I made sure to add that in too.

Next…

I am hoping to do a little bit of writing next. I’m not ready to write the novel but I need to create my town. While I have chosen a location and it is a real town in the US, I want it to be interesting. I need to know how it feels to live in the town, what are the smells? I want to know what the people are like. I think, for me at least, writing will help me figure this out.


Quotes found:

Show Me, Don’t Tell Me

Old school typewriter

Have you ever heard the saying: ‘Show, don’t tell.’

Because I have. For the past two and a bit years, this saying has been drilled into my head by teachers and writers. This simple phrase can help a write in many ways and it can sound a bit confusing, someone even told me once that it sounded like a daunting task. ‘Show, don’t tell’ is relativity simple.

To use ‘show, don’t tell,’ you first need to understand when writers mean when they say this to you. This saying breaks down into two parts; tell and show. Tell is simply when a write tells you what is happening, it is simple exposition. Show is when a writer uses evocative description.

Examples:

  • Tell – The wind was cold.
  • Show – The icy cold breeze seeped in through her thin dress, covering her in goose bumps.

 

  • Tell – She was wet.
  • Show – The water dripped from the ends of her hair, and off the edge of her fingers.

 

See how show gives you a vivid image while tell is simple and to the point, but it is completely boring. You want something to excite the reader, something that gets them to read on and maybe go and buy any other novels that you have.

See it. Hear it. Smell it. Taste it. Touch it.

The five senses are a writers best friend when it comes to ‘show, don’t tell.’ This is the main tool, in my opinion, that you will use to remove the ‘tell’ and reveal the ‘show’ in your writing. They help you really delve deep into the world that your character is in.

When you first start writing a scene and your not really sure who to describe it, then write the scene using simple descriptions. Once the scene is finished then go back and add in your sensory detail. What does the place smell like? What can your characters see around them that stands out? What can they hear? If they are laying on grass, for example, is it itchy? Is it soft? Is it wet? Small details like these gives readers a clear image of what the world is like for your characters.

For example:

  • Without Sensory Detail: The meadow was large and open. Filled with grass, and surrounded by a fence. In the centre was a tall tree, its leaves hung over a small damn.

In the example, you can see that readers can understand the place the writer is explaining. Its a meadow with a tree and a damn. But to make it even better think about the senses. What can the character see, smell, taste, touch and feel? Simple questions that can improve the overall imagery.

  • With Sensory Detail: The meadow stretched on for miles, surrounded by an old broken wooden fence. The grass stood tall and gently swayed from side to side. In the middle of the meadow stool a tall large willow trees, its leaves hanging from its long branches just over the surface of a small damn.

The differences might be a few words here and there but detailed description is important. You don’t want anyone reading your work to think its boring. If you think you need practice then simple look up a writing prompt or a story idea, and just practice your descriptions. As they say, practice makes perfect.


These links can give you more information for ‘show, don’t tell’ and hopefully help you some more.

Character Profile

Character profiles can be one of the most important elements when writing. They can help characters seem vivid, real, and alive. The purpose of a character profile is: to assist the writer in creating a character that is as lifelike as possible and to help with continuity issues in the story. It is a simple tool that can help organise your thoughts and ideas about a certain character, and it can help keep track of a character’s idiosyncrasies and relationships. It can also help you think about certain traits or details that you would never have consider about your character.

If, however, you want to write a character from the ground up, a character who is as real as any person living, yet wholly your own creation, then there are three aspects you need to know in depth: the physical, sociological and psychological.
— mooderino, quote from The Three Dimensions of Character

Character profiles are something that I personally don’t always like to use. When I first begin writing a story I like to discover the character as I write. The more I get into the story, the deeper I dig, the more I learn who my character is.

Even if you find the bad guy generally repulsive, you need to be able to put yourself so thoroughly into his shoes while you’re writing him that, just for those moments, you almost believe his slant yourself.
— K.M. Weiland, quote from Maybe Your Bad Guy Is RIGHT!

In some situations though, you can find yourself struggling to move through the story. This can be for a number of reason, but one common reason is because you don’t know your character well enough. An easy way to do this is to answer some questions and you can begin to see your character in a new way. You understand them, and new twists and turns in your story can become clear.

Usually, we combine internal and external conflicts for a richer story. That means we have to understand how our characters approach and resolve conflict.
— Jami Gold, quote from Using Conflict to Understand Our Characters

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