How to write short stories
1. Fewer Characters – More than TWO is Crowd
The golden rule for selecting characters in short story is “Fewer are better”. A short story would more effectively convey its meaning if it has very few characters – one protagonist, one other main character and no supporting or side characters would be ideal.
2. Develop Characters for Theme – Do not fall in Love
Animating character with perfect adjectives and examples are a must for connecting readers with the character; however, typically while writing short stories, do not fall in love with your character and overdo the characterization. (But in case you fall in love… Congratulations!!! Now it is time for you to write novel or drama). You need to muster all but only required characteristics and decorate them poetically – use appropriate adjectives, interesting dialogues, colourful descriptions, or even short-lived (in story) side characters. But again, remember, you are writing short story and therefore you need to be choosy in painting your characters – must use needed paints (to match your theme), and must do it fast (as short as possible).
3. Single and Short Time Frame – One at a Time Please
Unit of time frame may vary from hours to days to weeks to years. The golden rule in selecting time frame for short stories is “keep it shorter” and “have it single”. Short story that has setting of few hours may typically be clearer and more effective than with setting of few months or years.
But what if your plot needs longer time frame? And what if single time frame is not sufficient?
Be very careful. It may turn fatal attempt for short story writing. Re-look your plot because both the requirements need dynamic setting that is NOT recommended for short stories. But if you are still convinced for longer time frame then remember two points: firstly, advance events in your story faster, and secondly, place important events almost at equal distance. If you need multiple time frames for your plot, for example many scenes of fifteen minutes of online chatting, structure it in chronological or reverse chronological order. Avoid crisscross transitions among time frames (even expert writer would avoid it). Further you must use signposts (for example subheadings with dates) or any other creative method to provide clear idea of the time frames and of the transitions among them to readers.
4. Vivid Surroundings – Appeal to Five Senses of Readers
As a writer of short stories you must vividly describe surroundings. Here vivid description should not be misunderstood by predictable events and actions. You may choose to save few descriptions for climax but whatever you decide to disclose must be absolutely clear and very importantly be appealing to five senses of your readers. Be poetic, use suitable adjectives, script dialogues, or even deploy side characters… do whatever you need to ensure that the reader lives your story while reading.
5. Catchy First Line – Love at First Sight
You must so choose a start that your reader gets hooked to the story. Now you may have question – how to do this? Well, answer is not so straight forward. You must know your readers well: what they like, what they speak, what surprises them, what arouses their interest… but finally it is your creativity. Nonetheless you must create confusion or question in readers’ mind by first line of your story. Your reader must try to get answer from best of her ability and experience but she should finally end up digging into subsequent lines of your stories to quench her temporarily aroused inquisitiveness.
6. Choose Suitable Point of View – Who Narrates it Better
You need a tailor who will sew events and actions together in a meaningful and fashionable way in your story. Typically it should be one of the characters you choose – The Narrator of your story. Remember the narrator puts point of view from her or his or its perspective. Whose perspective would be better? It is not always perspective of protagonist that would make the plot better.
7. One Conflict Only – One Enemy is Enough
Have you ever tried resolving a conflict either professionally or personally? If yes, you know it takes time and unfortunately you do not have time in short stories. Choose only one conflict around the central idea of the theme. What does bother your readers? Do you see something that is still not resolved? Can you create confusion by revealing something surprising? I am sure you would get many ideas around any theme by answering these questions but choose one that you can personally relate (something you were touched recently or intensely). Why? More you relate to conflict, better you can animate the settings and develop characters.
8. Intense but Real Conflict
As we discussed, conflict gives life to short story, you must heightened the tension in your plot. Overcoming easy obstructions would not make your lead characters memorable. But, do not overdo it. Very rarely a superman would be liked in a short story. Even if you present a superhero on one side of conflict, you must show few “weakness” to make your story real.
So how to do it? Take a stand in beginning, make the stand dicey by posing sequence of actions against this stand, and just when both sides are “equally” fighting for superiority bring a “surprising” element that clearly makes your stand a winner or loser. That’s it.
9. Theme in Focus – Nothing More, Nothing Less
Every word in short story must be written for the theme therefore it is very important that theme is clear to you when you write story. Other elements of short stories – characters, settings, plot and conflicts – must tightly but comprehensively be tied to the theme. Be very careful not to be tempted to digress even slightly from the theme while writing short stories. You must heartedly decorate the setting and develop the characters but within narrow subject line as specified by the theme. Sometime, it may so happen that you may not be very sure of the theme while starting your story. No worry, in such case you determine the theme after completing the story and then critically chisel away extra flab that is not really needed for the theme of your short story.
10. Break Rules if Needed – Unleash Your Creativity
This is most important tip for becoming a successful short story writer – write for yourself. Unleash your creativity without impounding it by any rule.