Short stories leave you satisfied with the unknown. They give you a moment and you take away a feeling and then you are left to wonder. What happened before the story started? What happens later?
But you never know.
Short stories are beautiful and yet I hate them. How can an author just give me a feeling and then leave me helpless to figure out the fates of the characters in my imagination? It’s rather cruel.
But I love short stories. Maybe it’s because I have a creative mind. Possibly I like them because they are quick to finish and I rarely quit writing halfway through. It could be that I like when I only get a little bit of information.
Wait, that sounds familiar. *Works through brain to find old files.* OH. Yes.
Short stories are a bit like novels. Novels (in theory) only give you what you need to know, when you need to know it. Except, novels eventually give you almost all the information whereas short stories…don’t.
I guess I like the suspense of not ever really knowing what happens.
What did you say? You want to try to write your own short story?
Oh yes. You do.
You have another question? How do people come up with ideas for short stories?
Well, I don’t know how everyone else comes up with ideas for their stories.
What I can do is tell you is how I write my short stories with some nice, easy steps.
Step One: Constantly be on the lookout for short story ideas. Observe everyone and everything. Write any catchy lines or odd backstories down (I have lists on my phone, iPod, my computer and a random notebook.)
Step Two: Let ideas simmer in your mind. Think about them and apply them to situations. Oftentimes, I’ll have a vague idea of what I’m going to write about but not know much more than that.
For example, in my last post I knew I wanted to write about a Skype Funeral but I didn’t know how it was going to turn out until I actually wrote it. I kept the idea in my mind all week and considered why so many people would be virtually attending a funeral over Skype and decided that a celebrity must be involved. I didn’t really consider much about my main character or anything else.
Step Three: Keep it simple. This is not a novel you are writing. It is a short story where you are conveying an emotion, a moment. You want the reader to feel fulfilled yet wanting more.
Don’t get all into everything. If the background is quite imperative to telling your story, do describe it, by all means. But it is not always going to be necessary to explain where exactly your character is.
If you need to explain that your main character has red hair in order to convey your moment, then do that. But remember, make sure that you are conveying an emotion to the reader. Allow the reader to put some pieces together for themselves. As a reader, I love to have an ending to ponder or details to put together.
Step Four: Focus. My story was about Skype Funerals. It wasn’t necessary to explain why my main character watched quite so many of them, so I didn’t. It would have taken the focus away from my main idea and put it on my character, which makes the story a tug-of-war for who gets the most attention, which is not what a short story should be.
Step Five: Write it all in one sitting. This helps the story flow.
Step Six: Rewrite. I have a story I’m working on that I have six different drafts of. SIX. I am so frustrated because I just cannot seem to get it right. But I know that the rewrites are worth it because they are helping me get a feel for everything in my story so I accurately represent my moment and give the reader that emotion.
Step Seven: Edit and have other people critique it. Sometimes other people can point out something that is missing in your story.
Step Eight: Have fun. Short stories are fabulous.
Ready to write your own story? Good. Go! But, do remember that everyone has their own way to write so every one of my steps might not be perfect for you. You might just use one idea from my steps and that’s okay. Just write 🙂
What are your steps to writing a short story? Do you easily find focus in a story? What helps you convey a short story’s moment to readers?