1. Dustin
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    Dustin New Member

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    How to keep a short story short?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Dustin, Sep 4, 2010.

    Hi,
    My name is Dustin and I am new here. I started to write a short story last night for the biweekly contest. I knew it would be a challenge to keep it under 500 words, but I am currently at about 1000 words and am not even close do being done. What are some things I should do or keep in mind to keep it short and sweet?
     
  2. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    How do you improve anything? PRACTICE


    Well 500 words = Flash fiction, not a short story.

    What are the restrictions on word count for this? They can range from 1,500 to 8,000+ words.

    Edit

    If you are struggling, maybe you might be thek ind of person who nees to plan your story out some. Make sure you know and completely understand the underlining theme and work on that.
     
  3. Dustin
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    Dustin New Member

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    the maximum word count is 500 words. I planned out my story and the characters, the story just started to write itself. I know that is a good thing, I was in the zone. I guess you are right, I just need to keep writing. Maybe I will save this one for something else, and start another story for the contest.
     
  4. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    Cool.

    Just write it and work on what you have when it's complete.

    Work on what works and cut the crap that doesn't fit well.

    I've only ever written one flash fiction story, and that was today. So i can't comment on much more.

    Quiet funny.
     
  5. white
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    white Banned

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    Hard to give you suggestions, Dustin. Is there a lot of description in your story?

    Maybe as an exercise you could try rewriting the story without any description at all. Just tell a narrative, and keep the pace fast. I think you'll be suprised how much you can say in 500 words.
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I have the same problem with short stories. I get an idea for a short story, and as I work on it, it becomes a novella. Happens most of the time.

    I've found that the only way I can write a short story is to start by realizing that VERY LITTLE HAPPENS in a short story. At least, in one of mine. Another writer could write a short story about a man who goes to the liquor store, buys some booze, gets drunk (and this time it's the last straw), and his wife leaves him. For some reason, that would turn into a novella for me. The man going to the liquor store would be a short story. Man goes to liquor store, the end. I could hold that one down to 500 words, I think.

    So for me, anyway, a short story can't contain very much material. Maybe you're just trying to squeeze in too much stuff.
     
  7. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Sounds like your plot's too complex for that short a story?

    Either that, or you're doing way too much description or something.

    Good luck. :)
     
  8. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Take a snap shot of your story. I have been struggling with this and have been working on flash fiction. I am finding it works a little better if I write the whole 1-2,000 words then take just one event that can work as a standalone story out of it.
     
  9. Shinn
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    Shinn Banned

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    I do the exact same thing Charlotte, and I find it helps me immensely :)
     
  10. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    A lot of the action in flash fictions and short stories should only really be hinted at... Pick the key moment and don't even describe that too much. You shouldn't be building narratives, just allowing for the narratives to have happened around the moment of the piece. If you find yourself story-telling in the way you would for any other fiction, then no wonder it's happening in huge chunks of writing. In five hundred words you really just want a few lines to set the scene, then some on the emotions of the piece, and maybe how the scene got to where it is, then an action that concludes the few things you revealed. Your word choice and hints at what the deeper picture is should tell the rest.
     
  11. Lothgar
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    Lothgar Contributing Member

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    That is a serious problem for me as well.

    Things I can suggest to shorten a story are:

    Drop supporting/background characters.

    Rewrite your descriptions with minimal content. If you take a paragraph to describe a setting, chop it down to two sentences.

    Toss any complex plot details. Keep the plot for short fiction simple, clear and to the point...especially if you're trying to keep it less than 500 words. You simple don't have space to develop it.

    Remember that there is no room for sub-plots.

    It helps me to think of a 500 word piece more as being a "Scene from a movie" rather than a whole movie's story in itself. That frame of mind may help you as well.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the three g's:

    get in

    get it over with

    get out

    ... don't let yourself be mired in trivial detail... don't overdescribe the setting... don't micro-manage the characters' movements...
     
  13. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    First off, I'll say I haven't ever written a flash piece. Only in the last couple of months have I been producing short stuff from 3000-7500 or so words. For me this is a triumph. A couple of things that help I borrowed from Kurt Vonnegut's 8 rules of writing. The ones that I most apply to short stories are 1) Start as close to the end as possible, and 2) make sure very sentence advances the plot and or develops a character. In my short stuff, character development is more hinted at. In flash, I can imagine it can be pretty sparse. However, the imagination of a reader is a wonderful thing, they will automatically fill in the blanks.
     
  14. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Word choice is of paramount importance in flash fiction. There is no time for a slow built-up. A well chosen word or two should give the idea you want to convey, be it the setting, character description or the conflict. The only thing to keep in mind is you don't resort to too much 'telling' in the name of word economy, because the temptation to do so will be there.

    Elgaisma mentioned writing the whole story without caring for word limits and then taking out an event of about 500 words from the story. That can be done, but it may be time consuming and you might get carried away and start thinking of sub-plots and all :) Also, you have to be careful to not let it seem like an excerpt and not a complete story. The better thing to do imo is to have the whole story in the back of your mind as you write your 500 word event of your story. And you provide one/two words hint of the larger story/event relevant to the story as you concentrate on the small specific event that will be the main focus, so as there is no 'plot hole'. I highlighted 'relevant to the story' because again temptation will be there to include all the informations, but you should know which information to keep and which ones to leave out.
     
  15. KittyGoesRawr
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    KittyGoesRawr Member

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    I think, you write a story til it's finished. There should be no "minimum" and no "maximum" words, length, etc. Write it until you're HAPPY with it.
     
  16. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's very true, but sometimes it does get frustrating if you're trying to write for a specific thing and new novels keep jumping out on you... I've started three on my creative writing course and only now on my 3rd year are we actually doing any long prose. D'oh. :p
     

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