How to Write a Short Story

If you decided to write a short story, you are worthy of applause. This process should take some time. That’s why you should not write if you are planning to spend only a couple of hours on it. More than likely, you’ll create something bad if you don’t pay much attention to the process of writing. In this article, we’ll tell you how to write a good short story and what mistakes you should avoid while writing.

Tips for Short Story Writing

  • Resolve the conflict. We already mentioned that your story should contain the main conflict. In addition, this conflict should be resolved by a protagonist. Something happened to the main character, and these events influenced the protagonist very strongly.
  • Make a catchy first sentence. The size of a short story is very small — that’s why you don’t have many sentences to arouse readers’ interest. You should intrigue them from the very beginning. In the first sentence, you should give information that makes the reader ask some questions.
  • You need more action. When you are writing a short story, you should not forget that it should be really short. That’s why you need to indulge your text with action. A short story should be extremely dynamic, but not inconsistent. You need to explain to the reader somehow about the actions in the story. This doesn’t mean that your aim is to explain the reasons literally in the words of a character. It is a short story, not a psychological drama. You shouldn’t write one’s thoughts and feeling all the time.
  • Add meaningful details. Add details that reveal necessary information about the character for the reader. For example, you don’t have to tell it like this: ‘Jack loves Jane’. Instead, you can write: ‘When Jane came into the room, Jack dropped his wallet and, frozen, couldn’t lift it for half a minute. He felt that this time lasted for an entirety’. Give the reader the ability to make his or her own conclusions.

Steps in Short Story Writing

1. Create a story

At this step, we will not get into the end result of the finished story. Instead, we want to start with something brief, like a story that you can retell to your friend after reading a novel. Also, it can be similar to stories that you tell your friends on a rainy day. We suppose that you already have a topic that you would like to reveal. If not, we’ll tell you what to do later.

  • Do not stop writing. When you are thinking of your story, do not stop even for half an hour. You should write in one breath. Otherwise it would be difficult for you to finish your work.
  • Do not think about the final picture. You don’t need to care about the details at this stage. At this time, you should ‘turn off’ your internal artist and ‘turn on’ the journalist. We are sure that you have some ideas about your story. Just write them down. After that, you can change anything you’d like. But for now, you should imagine the road from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’.
  • Establish a conflict. Your story will not be thrilling if you describe some ordinary situations for the characters. Your story won’t be popular if you write about your ordinary walk home, for example. You need to describe the situation in a way that will throw someone off his stride.

2. Tell yourself about the characters

When you are going to create a short story or any other type of literary work, you should remember that the author is the only person who knows the whole life story of each character. You can’t think of the motives and features of the character until you get acquainted with the person. We prepared a short list with points that you should definitely know about your characters:

  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Temperament
  • Phobias
  • Traumas
  • Memories from past
  • Friends
  • Moral values

Of course, you need to know more information about your heroes. You ought to imagine him or her and understand better than his or her mom. We aren’t saying that you should tell all of these to your readers. By no means! If every author tells the whole story for each character, we’d be run out of pages. You will decide later what information to reveal or hold back. Readers can make their conclusions about the motives of each character. You, on the other hand, can’t afford this luxury. You just have to know everything about your character. A lot of great writers draw inspiration from their acquaintances.

3. Come up with the main character

It is hard to believe but you can meet with some difficulties when deciding who the main character is. Do not confuse the notions ‘protagonist’ and ‘hero’. Protagonist is a main character that is not always good in the general meaning of the word. The protagonist can be a villain as well. The main character is the person that takes the most active part in the main conflict of a story. In other words, all situations happening in a story have an effect on this figure.

4. Make a structure

Unlike a novel, a short story contains only a minimal number of scenes. However, when you are writing a short story, you still need to make a scene list for these reasons:

  • It helps you to be consistent. You won’t miss something or reveal information before its due time.
  • It is easier to hint when you know the sequence of events. When you write a story you can feel yourself as a god in your own little universe. You can hint to readers about the future events, but you shouldn’t show all the aces until you decide doing it.
  • It helps you to understand what scenes need to be worked on more properly. Also, you’ll see what scenes should be excluded or shortened.

‘How to make a scene list?’ you may wonder. You need to write a short description of each scene. Express it in a couple of words. You write this for your own comfort. Don’t try to find the best words. Just write words that you’ll understand. After that you should add the information about the approximate length of each scene.

5. It’s time for research

While you are writing a short story, you don’t have to do research for days or even months like you would if you were writing a novel. This step is not obligatory at all. We mention it only because you need to know that it is a huge mistake to start researching all at once. First, write your thoughts, and then look for specific information if needed.

6. Once again write a story

This time, we mean writing a short story. After all preparations are done, sit down (or lie down — it’s up to you) and start writing. Don’t kick yourself if something is not perfect. Writing is only an expression of one’s personality, and in this case, your personality. Respect yourself and your works.

Mistakes to Avoid While Short Story Writing

  • Too many details. Do not forget that you want to find out how to write a short story, not a novel. Every word of your work is important. Do not spend them on describing details that you can miss without disturbing the storyline. For example, if your characters are going from one place to another, you can avoid explaining this information.
  • Absence of motives. If you reader can’t understand your characters’ actions, we have bad news for you. Of course, human nature is a tricky thing. But if readers can’t even imagine what urges this or that figure to act this way, then you haven’t described the character properly.
  • Writing the whole short story in one sitting. You can do this if you have an inspiration, but you also should reread your work after a while. It is better to do this in a couple of weeks. You should forget about everything you wrote and then have a fresh look at your story. In this way it would be easier to find some mistakes or discrepancies.

How to Choose Short Story Titles

If you would like to know how to make a short story, then you probably have some ideas what to write about. When you decide to create a story, don’t think that someone will read it. First, write for yourself. That does not mean about yourself. In this case, you’d better use a diary. Ask yourself these questions:

– What concerns you most for now or for a long period of time? A short story doesn’t consist of the author’s personal feelings. Along with this, you could be one of the characters of your story. Or, you just can just establish a conflict based on things that concern you.

– Who are the most interesting for you among your acquaintances? You don’t need to describe him or her exactly. You can just be inspired with certain features of some people.

– What life problems do you tend to discuss (when talking to someone or to yourself)? You can write a list with issues that cause you to have different feelings (sadness, gladness, desperation etc.). And then, you’ll find how to tell about them with the help of short story writing.