Your Guide To Writing Short Stories
“Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner.”
― Neil Gaiman
Short stories are getting popular again and for all the right reasons!
In an age where people have less time to read a book or the patience to stick with long stories, short stories are the perfect read for them. The publication of short stories sees an upward trend and fresh talent is continuously being discovered. It is also an excellent way for writers to practice their short story writing skills. Writing short stories in English, Hindi, or any other language helps you hone your skill and discover your style. A misconception is that short stories are easier to write than novels. It’s possible that a novel writer completely fails at writing equally engaging short stories and vice-versa. Writing a short story requires as much skill and practice as a novel. There are a few short story writing tips that can make the process easier for you. Our guide to writing short stories online or in print:
Identify your short-story
Due to the word limit, a short story writer won’t have the freedom to meander through sub-plots and supporting characters as novelists do. Be very sure about what or who your story is about and why. Besides hoards of conventional topics to write short stories on, here are some offbeat topics:
- A self-help book in a short story format.
- Memoire in a short story format
- On womens’s or any other issue in a short story format where each story highlights one concern.
Experiment with point of view and form
Short stories are a great way to experiment with a point-of-view (POV) and form. While it is best to stick to one POV, the short length of your story will give you more time to experiment with different voices and perspective and see which fits your story. You can also play with form to break out of a routine. You could try writing the story in the form of a letter, a radio broadcast, etc. and see which parts of your story are highlighted with each style. See how your reader responds to different styles. Short stories are a great space for experimental fiction, so don’t hesitate to break the rules.
Good title for short-story and word count
Nothing sells a short story like a good title. Most famous short stories have very straight forward titles but should also have the right amount of intrigue. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe are great examples of how a title can simply tell you what the story will be about and also arouse curiosity.
Most writers and publishers agree that the perfect word count for a short story is 3,500 words.
Read short stories—and newspapers!
The best way to hone the craft is to read and it’s always better to read a form similar to what you are going to write, some recommendation for short stories. Another medium that can be good for writing short stories is to read the newspapers. Don’t look at the big headlines and international news. Instead, focus on the small local stories. These stories are often about regular people who have experienced something extraordinary. Notice how the journalist has framed the headline, and you will learn what makes a story attractive to a reader.
Characters in a short story
Just because your story is short, does not mean you should not add some depth to your character. Your protagonist should feel like a person who has a life outside the story as well. One way to do this is to ask some personal questions about the character. Has your character ever dated before? What are their views on marriage? Is fitness an important part of their life? Some of these characteristics and details will not be relevant to your story, and that’s fine. This is more like a character profiling exercise that will automatically affect how you write about the character in your story. It will help your character seem convincingly real.
Researching for a short story
For a reader to think that your story is plausible and give it a real feel, research is needed. This will help you make the characters, situations, settings come alive. Say, for example, your story has a teenage protagonist, then you must know how teenagers behave, the words or language they use so the teenager in your story feels real to the reader. If the story is set on a beach, you should know what kind of sounds and sights you are likely to encounter.
Once you are done writing, editing your story is an absolute must—edit for language, punctuation, flow, storyline, voice, tense, chronology. Edit as much as you can until you are satisfied with the product, only then give it to a professional editor to give the final polish to the manuscript and make it more readable.