Writing a short story is quite different than writing a novel. There is the time factor and word usage to take into consideration. It takes discipline to keep your short story brimming with exciting life experiences in as few words as possible. Here are five key steps in writing your short story.
The theme is your supporting structure in your short story. The theme is what you glue your plot, your characters, and your setting to. It is the foundation that holds your story together. The conflict and how it gets resolved wraps itself around the theme of your story.
The plot is the introduction and the series of events that happens throughout your short story. It is action and suspense. It is the romance and emotion. The plot involves some type of conflict that needs to be resolved. Your plot has a beginning, middle, and an ending. A good story needs a hook in the beginning to draw your reader in and keep him turning the page. Then of course, always remember to save the best for last–the surprise twist ending to leave your reader satisfied.
It is important not to crowd your short story with too many characters. Use two, perhaps three characters, at the most. Most of your story will surround an important event that proves crucial in the life of your protagonist. Every word counts. Too much characterization and description can debase the affect of your story.
4. STICK TO THE POINT
Stick to the theme of your story. Make sure you don’t overpopulate with unnecessary detail. Follow the narrow path of your theme. If you must digress, make it short, otherwise you will lose track of your purpose and get bogged down with a smorgasbord of trivialities that you don’t want.
5. THE SENSES
Keep your short story alive and vibrant by using the five senses – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. The five senses add depth to your short story. You will see your images more clearly. A character or a setting once flat now speaks to the reader and becomes real. Here are some examples from one of my writing lessons of a few years ago:
- As the old man pressed the canteen to his blistered lips, he savored the last drops of the precious liquid, and felt the wonderful wetness trickle down his parched throat. (Taste)
- She wondered if her eyes were not deceiving her as she caught a glimpse of a shiny, round object glimmering on the sidewalk. (Sight)
- The stench of human waste and cheap wine filtered through wet air as she pushed her cart past poor old souls taking refuge in the shelter of cardboard boxes. (Smell)
- Long buried pain began to surface as she recalled how she watched her beloved, Teddy, suffer till the end. (Feel)
- The train swayed gently and the click, clack of the rails rendered a soothing timbre, lulling Tyler into a deep, peaceful sleep. (Sound)
Notice how each one of the above conditions drew you in and made you want to know more about the character or the setting. That’s the key to using the five senses.
The five steps should help you get started. Once you’ve written your short story, go back through and delete unnecessary words or paragraphs that do not contribute to the theme or plot. Short stories have rhythm-make every word count. Most of all have fun while you write your short story.