If you’re a newbie to writing short stories and you wish to hone your craft in order to become a better writer, then this article is definitely a must-read.
A short story is a much shorter literary format that often doesn’t exceed 7,000 words. It can also be lower than 1000 words, though, those kinds of stories are preferably called flash fictions.
Regardless of your writing style or technique, there are some general rules you just must follow when writing a short story. Whether you’re writing a first person short story or are crafting the piece in third person, the tips below will definitely help you come up with a much rounded fictional tale.
So here are 10 short story writing tips you definitely must follow if you want to write an awesome story:
Get straight to the action
This is crucial when you’re writing a short story. Your readers don’t want needless exposition and character introductions in your story; if they did, they would have picked up a novel. It has been proven that starting a short story in the middle of a conflict is much more effective than just introducing the characters with an exposition.
This helps build the story’s tension early on and hooks your readers until the end. This doesn’t mean there is no place for expositions and character introductions in the story. It just means that you should be subtle when adding them, preferably within the opening conflict.
Make your characters compelling
This is crucial for short stories. Unlike novels where the plot and setting of the story are enough to keep readers invested, short stories require strong and compelling characters.
Since you don’t have the same leeway with short stories as you get with novels, the best way to approach characterizing your characters is through their actions. Of course, in a novel you have the chance to do that with an exposition and a backstory; however, that isn’t possible in a short story.
Establish a setting but don’t dwell on it
This is a crucial tip you must follow if you want to write a short story that is interesting and comprehensible. It is easy to get carried away with world building especially if your short story is in the Fantasy or Sci-fi genre. You must remember, though, that readers of short stories care more about a good plot and compelling characters than some fancy world building.
So yes, you can establish a setting for your short story and even introduce different elements all through the story’s length. But it’s best that you make it the background to the plot and the characters.
Use first person if your short story is character driven and third person if it is plot driven
This is one dilemma many writers struggle with and don’t know how to resolve; “when should I write a short story in first person and when do I use the third person format?”
Yes, when you’re writing a short story, you can either write it from a first person narrative or use third person narration. Truth is, from a technical stand point, both narratives work for any short story you want to write.
But if you’re looking to write a short story that will dazzle and mesmerize your readers, then you may want to make use of this tip.
If your short story is composed of 1-3 characters with one of the characters regularly featuring in all the vital scenes, then it’s advisable to go with a first person narrative.
If there are more contributing characters, though, and a much complex plot, then a third person narrative is appropriate.
Plot your short story
Your short story should be well plotted so that it will be easily followed by your readers. Unless you’re writing some kind of abstract tale, you should never ignore plotting a short story as it can be the difference between crafting a coherent tale or a mindless story.
Don’t ignore internal conflict
This is important especially if you’re writing a first person short story. Detailing how the plot’s conflict emotionally affects each character gives the character a realistic feel. It also helps your readers to easily relate with each character.
Spotlighting a character’s internal struggles helps to expand the plot of your story, making it much more interesting and compelling.
Don’t force conflicts
This is a critical mistake a lot of writers make simply because they want to make their short stories interesting. It is patronizing and readers do not appreciate it. Of course, the goal is to create some sort of conflict that would shock readers; but more often than not, it just ruins the quality of the story.
For example, if there is no logical reason for a particular character to betray another in your story and yet you write it just to create conflict, well, you’ll ruin the quality of your work and your readers may not forgive you.
Don’t force a twist
Another short story writing mistake a lot of newbies make is always trying to include a twist in a story. While twists are fun story telling devices that help to entertain readers, they are not essential to a successful story.
There are a lot of good literary works that don’t have jaw-dropping twists, so they aren’t really necessary. Also, a lot of new writers tend to build a story around its twist, which is just terrible and unacceptable.
Always include a resolution
Don’t ever end a short story with a cliff-hanger; your readers will hate you if you do. If it isn’t tolerated when done in novels how much so in a short story that is meant to be concise and straightforward.
Your short story must have an ending that resolves the story’s main conflict. If it fails to do this, well then, it is simply a poorly written short story.
Maintain tension all through the story
It is quite necessary to do this if you want your readers to be entertained all through. Since it isn’t a novel with tens of thousands of words, you should be able to maintain the plot’s tension from the beginning of the story to the ending resolution.