1. sportzchick
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    sportzchick New Member

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    Any tips on writing short stories?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by sportzchick, Feb 7, 2012.

    Hi,

    Does anyone have any tips, books, articles, etc, to share about construction of a short story?

    I've been studying creative writing for years now. Mostly doing short stories. Currently I'm working on a project with my writing group. I have to contribute a 5,000 word romantic short story. This isn't my first romance short story, but the others I've written were extremely difficult for me. I kept going over my word limit by a lot. Then had to spend a couple of weeks almost literally revising my story to make it all fit.

    Right now I have my characters, my plot, my ending and so on. I'm just getting started, but I thought I'd better look around and see if anyone had tips for writing short stories. Or if people feel like sharing their preparation process for writing a short story.

    Thanks.
     
  2. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    With short stories you don't really have a lot of time for build up, so jump right to the middle of the action, or at least very close to it. Your characterisation has to hit the ground running, so be prepared to start with a scene that depicts one or both of your characters in an extreme or at least unusual situation that tests and demonstrates their particular personality traits. If it's romance, establish who the love interest is asap. Establish what the problem is, what's standing between them. You don't have time for subplots or false starts, and only one complication, if you're going for that. Character - problem - complication - resolution.
     
  3. UrbanBanshee
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    UrbanBanshee Member

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    I'm not very good at short stories myself so take whatever I say with a grain of salt. I read once, and liked the image, that a story is like a journey. Going to the book store is the story. If its a novel, you stop for coffee, browse a different store, run into a friend. Basically there are a lot of stops and trials along the way. In a short story, it is just the journey to the bookstore. No detours, or extra trials. All that matters is the main goal.

    Good luck with your story.
     
  4. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I treat short stories like jokes, even if they are deadly serious: you set up the premise quickly, explain what needs to be said to get it to work, and finish with the line that ties it all together, whether it's something extremely sad which makes the rest of the words before it suddenly have a different light cast on, or it is something that makes the reader laugh. Good jokes have the perfect structure, so go read some until you get the hang of it. ;)

    I learned in my creative writing classes that short stories were just moments, although I'm not so sure about that one. Some really good ones are, but not everyone can pull off an almost incidental moment in a character's life and turn it into the most emotionally weighted story evar. However, if you're having problems with too much stuff, consider taking just the most important moment in the whole thing and tell it just through that, and only suggest at the other stuff: don't explain it. Start as close to the end as you can.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Write the story, then pick it apart to see what needs fixing. You can get so caught up in guidelines you can't see your way to the actual story.

    There are plenty of them to consider, but see what you produce naturally.

    The one thing I would recommend at the beginning is to identify the main thread of the short story and stick to it. Avoid going off on tangents. A short story, in contrast to a novel, needs to keep a tight focus. It cannot handle some of the fascinating side explorations you have room for in a novel.
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Read short stories by the masters: Hemingway, Flannery O'Connor, Alice Munro, Raymond Carver, and so on. Realize that these stories are not just novels in miniature. Hardly anything happens in a short story. Kallithrix's formula might even be too elaborate for some short stories. It might not be character-problem-complication-resolution. You might not have space for all that. It might just be character-problem-nonresolution, or character-problem-epiphany or something else tiny.

    You can't fit much into a short story. But you can make a short story say a lot. Look for the punch in your story and write that. Just land the punch. Don't wait for the ten count. Don't deal with the early rounds of the boxing match where the fighters are just dancing around testing each other. The short story is about the knockout punch and that is ALL it's about.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    maybe you're not reading enough of them... you need to be a constant reader of whatever it is you want to learn how to write well... if you do that, you won't need any tips or how-tos...
     

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