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Basics of Short Story Writing

How to write a short story?

Do you think that writing short stories is easy? Easier than novels – it is a short story, after all, it is much smaller, involves less writing and should be easier! Right?


Although in modern literature the position of short stories looks like something of a poor cousin to ‘real’ literature – that is, novels – the rarely stated truth is that writing a short story is generally much, much more difficult than writing a novel fifty times longer than it. It is an art which requires a lot of training and work put into it.


Things to Do Beforehand

  • Plan. Short stories are, well, short. You cannot afford to let yourself wander, you should know what, when and how to write. So, in order not to find yourself in a situation in which you realize at the last moment that you have forgotten something – make a clear-cut plan before you start writing;
  • Choose a definite message – you are going to have one, right? Here, two things are to be remembered: first, avoid vagueness – a short text should have a concrete, clearly understandable message which doesn’t try to be ten things at the same time; and second, don’t make a mistake of stating it outright. The reader should be able to get it on his own.
  • Define the narrator. There are three basic variants, and you should decide on one of them before setting about. First person – you tell the story as if you were its character. All-knowing third person – somebody outside the story, who knows everything that happens. Second person – when you address the reader and make him a character of the story.


In the Process of Writing

  • Little time, few characters. Short stories by definition are supposed to cover the events that happen in a short span of time with relatively few characters. Otherwise it will be spread too thin: you will not be able to pay enough attention to the things that happen and will fail to make your characters believable;
  • Stick to the point – generally a short story should have only one plot line – if there are more, you may find yourself incapable of fully exploring each of them;
  • Avoid purple prose – don’t make your wording too ornate. You should keep the story short, and nobody is going to be impressed by long rows of five-syllable adjectives both you and the reader only vaguely know the meaning of.


And finally, one tip that is probably better than all the rest: if you want to learn writing short stories, read them. A lot. Pay attention to how they are structured, what makes them work. Try to understand what it is exactly that makes you like them.

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