Many writers consider short stories to be a perfect medium. Writing a novel can be a daunting task, but anyone can craft (and most importantly) culminate a short story. Like novels, a good quality short story will excite and entertain the reader. You can easily learn to write a successful one if you come up with a few ideas, come up with an outline, and refine it.
Part 1 of 3: Come up with ideas
Step 1. Create a plot or scenario
Reflect on the issue and what will happen. You should take into account what you are trying to address or illustrate. Choose your approach or the angle you want to take for the story.
- For example, you can start with a simple plot, such as the main character dealing with bad news or receiving an unwanted visit from a friend or family member.
- You can also create a more complex plot. For example, the main character could wake up in a parallel dimension or discover someone else's dark secret.
Step 2. Focus on a complex main character
Most short stories will focus on at most one or two main characters. Conceive one who has a clear desire, but is also full of contradictions. It will not be enough to have a good or bad character; You will have to give it interesting traits and feelings to make it complex and balanced.
- You can inspire your main character in real people who are part of your life. You can also observe strangers in public places and give them their features.
- For example, this character could be a teenage girl who wants to protect her brother from bullies at school, but also wants to fit in with other students. On the other hand, it could be an older man who feels lonely and starts a close relationship with his neighbor, but discovers that his neighbor engages in illicit activities.
Step 3. Create a central conflict for the main character
Every interesting short story will have a central conflict in which the protagonist must face a problem. Present this conflict early in the story. You can make this character have a difficult life.
For example, you might wish for something difficult to reach. Perhaps you are trapped in a harmful or dangerous situation, and you need to come up with a way to stay alive
Step 4. Choose an interesting setting
Another key element of short stories is the setting or location where the events of the story occur. You could use a central setting and add details of it to the scenes with the characters. Choose one that you find interesting and that can capture the interest of the reader.
- You could focus the story on your local high school or a small colony on Mars.
- Do not overload the story with many environments, as you should not confuse the reader. Usually 1 or 2 will suffice for a short story.
Step 5. Come up with a certain topic
Many short stories focus on a theme and explore it from the point of view of a narrator or main character. You can choose a broad topic (such as "love," "desire," or a "loss") and reflect on it from the protagonist's perspective.
You can also focus on a more specific topic, such as "sibling love," "wanting to have friends," or "loss of a parent."
Step 6. Include an emotional climax
Every interesting short story will include an intense moment in which the main character reaches a high emotional state. The climax usually occurs in the last half of the story or near the end of it. At this point, the protagonist may feel overwhelmed, trapped, desperate, or even out of control.
For example, you could include an emotional climax in which the lonely older man has to confront his neighbor regarding his illicit activity, or in which the teenage girl defends her brother from abusers at school
Step 7. Come up with an ending with an unexpected twist or surprise
Come up with an ending that leaves the reader surprised or intrigued. Do not include obvious endings that the reader can guess before they occur. Give him a false sense of security that makes him believe that he knows how the story will end, and then redirect his attention to another character or an image that leaves him surprised.
Avoid tricky endings that employ hackneyed elements or familiar twists to surprise the reader. Increase the tension and suspense of the story to surprise the reader at the end
Step 8. Read examples of short stories
Review the examples of skilled writers, so you will know what makes these stories successful and attract the reader. Read short stories in various genres, from literary fiction to science fiction to fantasy. Pay attention to how effectively the writer uses the characters, theme, setting, and plot in his short story. You can read the following works:
- "The Lady with the Dog" by Anton Chekhov
- “Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You” by Alice Munro
- "For Esmé, with love and squalor" by J. D. Salinger
- "The Sound of Thunder" by Ray Bradbury
- "Snow, Glass, Apples" by Neil Gaiman
- "Secret on the Mountain" by Annie Proulx
- "Wants" by Grace Paley
- "Apolo" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- "This is how you lose it" by Junot Díaz
- "Seven (Seven)" by Edwidge Danticat
Part 2 of 3: Prepare the First Draft
Step 1. Make an outline of the plotOrganize the plot of the story in an outline with these parts: exposition, interesting event, increase in action, climax, decrease in action, and end. Use the outline as a reference guide when writing your story to ensure it has a clear beginning, middle, and end.
You can also employ the method of using a one-sentence summary, a one-paragraph summary, a synopsis of all the characters in the story, and a table for the scenes
Step 2. Create an interesting start
This should have an unusual action, conflict, or image to capture the reader's attention. Introduce the main character and setting in the first paragraph. Prepare him to learn the key themes and ideas of the story.
- For example, an opening line like “I was lonely that day” will not tell the reader much about the narrator and it will not be very common or interesting.
- Instead, you can write the following: "The day after my wife left me, I went over to my neighbor's house to ask her if she had some sugar for the cake that she wasn't really going to make." This line will show you a past conflict (the abandonment of the wife) and a present tension between the narrator and the neighbor.
Step 3. Stick to one point of view
Short stories are usually told from a first-person perspective and stick to a single point of view. This will give them a clear focus and perspective. You can also try writing it in the third person, but this could create a distance between you and the reader.
- Some stories are written in the second person and the narrator uses the pronouns "you" or "you." This is usually only done if the second person is vital to the narrative, as in "The Story of Your Life" and "This is How You Lose It" by Ted Chiang and Junot Díaz, respectively.
- Most short stories are written in the past tense, but you can use the present tense if you would rather give yours more immediacy.
Step 4. Reveal aspects of the character and advance the plot through dialogue
The short story dialogue should always fulfill more than one function at a time. This will have to tell the reader something about the character that is speaking and will also have to contribute to the overall plot of the story. Include items that reveal aspects of the character and add more tension or conflict to the scenes.
- For example, instead of putting in a line like "Hi, how are you?", You can write from the character's perspective. You could write "Hey, how are you?" or "Where have you been? I haven't seen you in a long time. "
- Use items like "stuttered", "stammered" or "yelled"; this way you will contribute with the characters. Instead of writing “- Where have you been? - Jessica asked ", could you place" - Where have you been? - Jessica demanded ", or" - Where have you been? - Jessica yelled”.
Step 5. Provide sensory details about the environment
Reflect on the way in which the protagonist perceives the sensations, sounds, tastes, smells and sights of the environment. Describe it through your senses in order to bring it to life for the reader.
For example, you could describe your old high school as "a huge industrial-looking building that smells of gym socks, hairspray, lost dreams, and chalk." You could also describe the sky seen from your home as a "white blanket covered with a thick gray haze generated by the fire that occurred in the nearby forest in the early hours of the morning."
Step 6. End with a discovery or revelation
These don't have to be important or obvious, they can be subtle (like when characters start to change or see things differently). You can end with an open reveal or one that provides a sense of completion.
- You can also end with an interesting image or dialogue that reveals a change in character.
- For example, you could end the story when the main character decides to report his neighbor, even if it means losing his friendship. In the example of the teenage girl, you could culminate with the image of the protagonist accompanying her injured brother back home, just in time for dinner.
Part 3 of 3: Perfecting the Draft
Step 1. Read the story aloud
Hear how each sentence sounds, especially the dialogue. See if the story runs smoothly from paragraph to paragraph. Identify any strange sentences or phrases, and underline them so you can review them later.
- Determine if it follows the plot outline and if the main character has a clear conflict.
- Reading it aloud can help you identify any spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors.
Step 2. Review it to ensure clarity and fluency
Most short stories are 1,000 to 7,000 words in length, or 1 to 10 pages. You should be willing to cut scenes or eliminate sentences in order to shorten and adjust it. You will only have to include details or moments that are totally vital to the story you are trying to tell.
In general, it is best to keep these stories as short as possible. Don't leave sentences that provide few details or scenes that lack purpose just because you like the way they sound. You should always adjust the story so that it only expresses what is necessary
Step 3. Create an interesting title
Most editors and readers will review the title of the story first to determine if they want to continue reading it. Pick a title that captures the reader's interest and encourages them to read the story. Use the theme, image, or name of the character in the story as the title.
- For example, the title “Something that I wanted to tell you” (from Alice Munro's story) is effective because it is a quote from a character in the story and addresses the reader directly, since the first-person narrator has something they want tell him.
- The title "Snow, glass, apples" (from the Neil Gaiman story) is also effective because it presents 3 interesting objects, but they are even more so when put together in a story.
Step 4. Let others read and criticize the story
Show it to your friends, family and classmates. Ask them if they find it interesting and emotionally moving. Be receptive to constructive criticism, as it will only strengthen your work.
- You can also join a writing group and present your story for a workshop. On the other hand, you can create your own group with friends to organize a workshop in which they analyze their stories.
- By getting feedback from other people, you can double-check your work to come up with the best version of the draft.