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How to Write a Short Story
Everyone knows that writing a story is not easy. Like drama or poetry, it is imaginative literature that appeals to the readers’ emotions. Because it communicates the author’s interpretation of reality, there must be an artistic use of language to convey human experience. But how do we write a great short story? What are some things to keep in mind to come up with a short story that works? Here’s a quick guide to get you started:
1. Read on
Reading is essential for anyone who wants to write. To write a good short story, first read other short stories. Not only will this give you inspiration and motivation for your own story, but it will help you learn how other writers leave an impression on the reader and use their style as a basis to create your own style and impression.
2. Be motivated
For seasoned professionals, there is no need for inspiration as thoughts flow naturally and all they have to do is put words on paper. But for novice writers, this is an important one because it will not only help you start your first paragraph but also help you continue. Your inspiration can take the form of an object. A person, or an event that you just can’t forget.
3. Conceptualize your story
Think about something you want to talk about with your readers. Let’s say you want to tell a story about a couple who are in love with each other. What about the couple? What is it about them that you are interested in informing your readers? Focus on this idea and think of other ideas you want to associate with this couple. Suppose the girl’s parents deny their relationship. What about the parents? What did they do to stop the two from loving each other? This can signal a good start for your story. From here, you will get an idea of what to write.
4. Map the scenes
To keep your writing consistent with the events of your pre-imagined story, it’s a good idea to briefly map out your story scenes on a separate piece of paper. Write down the possible characters in your story and list the main events in order. You don’t have to put so much detail on them as it serves as a rough sketch of what your story will look like.
5. Choose your perspective
Who tells the story and how it is told is very important to the effectiveness of a short story. Point of view can radically change the feel and tone of a story. Therefore, you must decide carefully before finally settling on the point of view to use for your story. But whatever you decide to choose as a point of view, make sure it remains consistent throughout your story to maintain continuity.
6. Conceptualize your characters
For a short story, create only three main characters at most. Too many main characters will make your story confusing as each new character will add a new dimension to the story. Each character should be more than a cardboard caricature. Make your characters speak naturally in proportion to their traits. Make them believable but mysterious.
7. Prepare a good introduction
When you have everything planned out, start writing your first paragraph. Introduce your main characters and set out the scene. The scene must be a place that you know a lot about so that you will be able to provide the snapshots necessary for a clearly defined setting. Make your introduction interesting to hold the reader’s interest and encourage them to read to the end. It is also important to withhold important details and large chunks of action at this point so as to keep the mystery.
8. Create a great plot
From your introduction, draw out the events that will eventually create a problem or conflict for the main character/character. Next, start giving the reader a cue to be interested, curious, and guessing. Intensify the conflict as the story progresses. This will not only make your reader excited to read more but also make them interested in your story.
9. Show don’t tell
The characters should be responsible for conveying the story through their actions and dialogue, and not the writer telling the reader what is being conveyed. Instead of saying “Annette was really mad at her best friend Christina for stealing her boyfriend,” say “Annette felt her stomach ache and felt a sharp pang of betrayal when Christina came up to her and flashed her a sweet smile. Try to calm yourself down. For when he speaks with suppressed anger: “I hope you are happy now that you have proved yourself a friend.”
10. Use active verbs
Give your story as much life as possible. To do this, employ active voice verbs in your story. Instead of saying “Johanna picked the flower,” say “Johanna picked the flower.”
11. Use some dialogue
Dialogue is important to bring your story to life. Don’t just use it to pad out your characters. Use it to convince your characters to identify with the reader. Use it in direct quotations such as “Go there!” Instead of an indirect quote “he told her to go there.”
12. Keep references handy
A good reference such as a thesaurus or a dictionary is important to creating a good story. You can use them to check your spelling and find the word that best fits your description. Instead of using a long sentence or paragraph, you can use one or just a few words to convey what you want to say. Often, a strong word has more impact than a paragraph full of fancy language.
13. Conclude briefly
The conclusion is hard sledding. For a better finish, it is recommended to experiment and add a little twist. Make your ending unique but don’t hang a loose end. Make it satisfying without being too predictable. Remember it’s short but concise and lingering so that the reader feels the resonance. Your conclusion should wrap everything up from start to finish.
14. Edit and Revise
After creating the final words of your story, it’s time to start the editing cycle. Do your work carefully and correct all your mistakes regarding sentence structure, word usage, formatting. Punctuation, diction, spelling, grammar and narrative analysis. Cross out words, phrases, and even paragraphs that don’t seem to contribute to the basic elements of the story. After you’re done, let it sit for a few days or even weeks, then edit again. Read your story over and over on different occasions. This will allow you to see different things that you may want to change so that your story shines at its best.
15. Let others proofread
Have your friends look at your work. They may just be able to see mistakes that you missed. For example, they may be confused by some words or lines that you really like. In this case, you have to decide to change it or cut it out completely.
Writing a short story may not be easy but it can definitely be done. With some knowledge of basic ingredients and some passion and patience, putting together a story with just a few ideas is effortless. Just remember that you write not because you write, but because you want to. Now give it a go!
© 2005 Rachelle Arlin Credo. All rights reserved.
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