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.

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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.