How to Write a Short Story in 9 Simple Steps
WHAT IS A SHORT STORY?
A short story is usually short-fiction story. Although most stories are no longer than 8,000 words, most short stories range between 2,000 – 5,000 words.
Micro Fiction: upto 350 words
Flash Fiction: 500 -1000 words
Traditional: 1,500 – 5000 words
Short stories also act as a great tool for marketing. Most contests related tow writing have contests for short stories.
If you’re confused, here is a word count for all types of writing:
Novella: 30,000 – 60,000
Novel: 60,000 – 100,000
Epic novel: 120,000 – 2220,000+
WHY SHOULD EVERYONE START WITH SHORT STORIES?
Most writers start off with writing short stories before they write novels. Why?
- Helps your practice: Writing short stories on a regular basis helps you practice writing to become a better writer. It’s a great exercise.
- Try new themes/ genres: Rather than starting off with a theme/ genre you know nothing about and breaking your head to write 60,000 words about it, you can explore different genres and themes everyday and find out what works for you. You can try writing about love one day and maybe sci-fi the next.
Tip: Write down the themes and genres you want to explore and set a goal for it (eg. one theme per day)
- See if the idea works: Your story can be the next best-seller. How do you know? If your readers love it. Hugh Howey, the author of the Wool series, first published a novella. His fans were so adamant for him to turn it into a novel and he listened.
- Marketing: Like I said before, writing a short story is a great marketing tactic. It helps you gain more followers/readers/subscribers. The point is to keep your audience engaged. You can publish them on websites for free and increase your reach. Try to get published on blogs, magazines, etc. You never know how many potential fans are out there.
- You’ll learn how to tell: A novel with 60,000 -1,00,000 words gives you ample space to talk about your characters in detail. A short-story consists of only few pages to talk about your characters clearly. Penning down short stories helps you become a master at it.
- Helps you strengthen every chapter: Many chapters comprises of a book. Writing a short story and a chapter needs the same set of skills. Once you become a pro in writing short stories, writing a chapter will be a cakewalk for you.
HOW TO COME UP WITH IDEAS
Don’t know what to write about? Not inspired by anything around you? Here are few ways to come up with short story ideas:
Locate memory: Most stories stories start with the memory of a person, place, fear, conflict that just doesn’t escape your mind. Identify that memory that and let it be the beginning to your short story.
Write it: Now that you know the source of your short story, make a rough draft without worrying about the grammar, cliches, etc. Getting a proper plot is the aim.
Create characters: Characters are often inspired from people know. Pick the most interesting, quirky people and mix and match their gender, age, looks, voices, tics, habits. You can also add characteristics of your own.
STEPS TO WRITE A SHORT STORY
If you haven’t noticed, every basic story goes like this:
- Protagonist gets in trouble trouble (depending on the genre. A romance story might mean choosing between two suitors).
- Tries to get out of it, ends of making worse and appears hopeless.
- Whatever the protagonist learned during his sorrow gives him what he needs to end up happy.
For one to have a great short story, it must be one. Read further to know how to write a short story step by step.
Read As Much As You Can
Read how many ever short stories you can. Read the classics by Anton Chekhov, Kate Chopin, Edgar Allan Poe, etc.
Familiarise yourself, evaluate how they wrote it – style, words used and try to copy style. Soon, you’ll know what style suits you and start working on it.
Start off by reading 3-4 dozens of short stories to identify the authors’ writing style and structure.
Remember that you can’t just develop a writing style over night. Be patient.
Find Your Main Emotion
Find the emotion you want to give your readers they will remember your story by. It’s more than just a feeling. Think about the context you want to portray it in. Again, each emotion is distinct in its own way. For example, you might want to write a happy story. But a story about a girl finding her parents after many years is different from a man winning the lottery. Both fall into happy stories, but different kinds of happy.
Stories on love, redemption, freedom, heroic sacrifice justice is usually what moves readers.
All writers outline their story before they begin to write. Outlining saves time and helps you stay more organised. Creating an outline for a short story is much easier compared to a novel.
The outline should consist:
- O.V you use.
- How to start the story
- How you will go to the main issue from the beginning.
- Climax (what happens).
- Resolution of main issue.
- the end
Start By Grabbing Attention
You need to get your readers hooked by grabbing their attention so think carefully about how you want to begin your short story.
Starting your story with something like “My life was flashing infront of my eyes. I knew this was going to be the end and closed my eyes wishing it would get over soon.”
What was the end? What happened? How did the protagonist get there? Make your readers want more.
Don’t Be Too Wordy
Remember that you’re writing a short story and not a regular novel. Read every sentence at least twice to make sure it’s not too wordy or else you will just end up wasting space.
- Avoid long description.
- Avoid writing about how the character got to the place. You can just write late evening, he was sitting in a cafe
- Rather than explaining how an Indian man got to America, merely mention that his 10th birthday was the last he had celebrated in India before he emigrated to the U.S. from India
Have A Strong Ending
You might think that you can have a lousy ending, but no.
A strong beginning needs a strong ending. Don’t be in a rush to finish it off. Take some time, write few endings and see which works best. Think go yourself as a reader and have something no-one saw coming.
Your ending doesn’t have to be wordy. It can be in a way that your readers will understand what’s going to happen next. For example, you’re writing about a girl who’s meeting the love of her life at the end after they separated for a decade, you end the story with the her looking at him from through the window, and then slowly approaching to ring his doorbell.
The ending is understood. You don’t have to talk about their embrace, the tears, and them confessing their love.
Creating a title is not easy. It’s the first thing people see or hear about so it has to be perfect. Make sure it grabs attention and is memorable.
Here are few ways to create a title:
- Write anything and everything down. Every word, title, combination of words.
- Use your protagonist or the setting as an inspiration. Example: Harry Potter.
- Try common formulas and set phrases like “The _____ of _______” or “______ and the _____”.
- Use notable phrases. Example: I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max.
- Be direct. Example: Steve Jobs.
- Use numbers. Example: The 21 Irrefutable Laws Of Leadership by John C. Maxwell.
- Use Metaphors. Example: Chicken Soup For The Soul.
- Use alliteration. Example: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.
- Use Slang. Example: Ain’t Too Proud to Beg by Mark Ribowsky.
Read and Edit
Read your story a few times to make sure it’s error-free before it’s published.
Keep an eye out for:
- Point of view/setting/grammar/tense consistency.
- Grammar, spellings.
- Weak verbs. Replace them with strong ones.
Don’t assume that this is your final draft. Get feedback and see what others have to say. Don’t share your story with anyone and everyone. Get feedback from writers like you or anyone who loves to read.