Unlike essays, which are long and require research, short stories are writings of fiction that are typically no longer than 8,000 words. It usually includes a protagonist (sometimes two), a plot structure, and a beginning-middle-end. Short stories are a lot of work, but once you are good at them, you will be able to succeed in other pieces of writing as well. As always, when writing, a clear purpose and audience for whom you are writing is beneficial.
If you want to write a great short story, follow these important steps:
Read, read, read
Reading is important for any writer. Make sure to read a variety of short stories to get a feel of what you want to write. It also helps you learn how different short stories are structured and how authors create their recognizable flow.
Decide on a key emotion
This key emotion will be the feeling or impression you want to leave for your readers and will be the framework of your story. The strongest emotions come from real life, so think about this as you decide on a core emotion. Once you have an emotion, you will be able to relate a person, problem, fear, or conflict to it.
Think about the people closest to you and create a character based on them. Include quirks, habits, characteristics, or any unique qualities that will help your short story and its characters come to life.
Focus your attention on one or two characters, but remember to spend some time on your supporting characters as well. In order for your short story to be intriguing, you have to know your characters well.
Draft an outline
Brainstorm and plan out a rough outline of how you want to showcase your story. Here is an example:Click on the image to view the outline
It’s important to note that once you have your characters, setting, and goal/problem, you should be able to develop a plot using the outline above.
Find the hook
Many writers like to “hook” their readers in with something that is different but relates to the core of your story. An example of this would be: “Chika climbs in through the store window first and then holds the shutter as the woman climbs in after her.” (Adichie, 2009) As a reader, this hook makes me wonder why Chika and the other woman are climbing through the store window. It’s intriguing and leaves you wondering what will happen next.
Write it down
With your outline in mind, put pen-to-paper and write. Make sure that every sentence you write relates back to the main point or focus of your story. Don’t worry about writing a perfect first draft. You will need to edit and polish up your story once you see what it looks like at the end.
Write a memorable ending
Your ending needs to be strong. It will answer the burning question: how would a reader want this story to end? Reread your story, look over the plot, and decide how you can end your story with a metaphorical ‘bang’. Ideally, you have to decide what is going to happen to the character(s) and how you can create an impactful ending. Here, you will ideally circle back to the main idea stated in the beginning of your story.
Edit, edit, edit
Spend some time editing your story. Editing is such a crucial part in any piece of writing. Sometimes, it’s not easy to write, so in most cases, your writing will not be perfect the first time around. As you edit, check for the following:
- Point of view consistency
- Sentence formation
- Verb tense consistency
- Plot/setting consistency
- Word choice
Another useful tip is to make sure to have a family member or close friend proofread your work for you. You would be surprised at the errors you might miss that a fresh set of eyes won’t.
So, there you have it! I hope you find my tips on how to write an epic short story useful. Remember, that a short story comes from your own ideas and imagination. It’s a great way to capture an audience and make a lasting impression. Lastly, proofreading your short story is key in order to visualize the flow of words, consistency of your plot and character(s), and strength of your key emotion.
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Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. “A Private Experience: a short story”. The Thing Around Your Neck, Fourth Estate, April 2009. Retrieved May 10th, 2020 from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/dec/28/chimamanda-ngozi-adichie-short-story