8 top tips for writing short stories

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8 top tips for writing short stories

If you really want to become a short-story writer, the best is to start writing on as many topics as you can. You will have to practice a very specific skill that is needed for you to write successful, attention-grabbing short stories. It is suggested to start off by reading as many great, thought-provoking short stories as possible. This will give you a strong indication of the appropriate length of a short story and how characters are formed and developed. It will also give you a good idea of how to structure your story plot around the climax.

A short story is fictional, usually consists of between 1500 and 7000 words and is in length about twenty A4 pages of double-line spacing. You therefore do not have much space in which to develop your entire story plot and characters. The critical skill to develop is to build up a story line and characterization in a very succinct way, without losing the essence of your plot and characters. To do this, here are a few suggestions to keep in mind when writing your short story.

Tip 2 is to describe the

Tip 1 is to write as many ideas down on paper, or note it on your computer or laptop. To get going, most importantly, is to start thinking of ideas and noting them. Thinking about writing a story it is not enough, you have to physically start.

Tip 2 is to describe the problem, dilemma or tension in detail. A short story usually has a build up to a moral predicament, an issue or fear, or a problem that needs to be resolved. And there is usually a learning for the character or characters. Think about a problem, a moral predicament, or a fear that you have personally experienced and what the learning was or could be. Ponder about how you, and the others involved, dealt with the situation. Think about what the outcome was and what you learnt. Note everything that you are thinking because this will form the foundation of the skeleton of your story line.

Tip 4 is to develop your

Tip 3 is to build up the story line in a logical, sequential manner. Now that you have fleshed out your predicament or problem, jot down your ideas on how the story will unfold. There needs to be a logical sequence of events that builds up to the climax of your story. Note how the story will start and then keep asking yourself 'what happens next'. Write down the build up of events until the end of the story.

Tip 4 is to develop your main character as well as secondary characters. You have a basic outline of your short story since you have noted the build up of events. Next is to think about what character or characters you need to develop to give life to your plot. In short stories there is usually just one main character with a few other, secondary characters, but not nearly as many as there are in a novel.

You will need to spend quite

When thinking about your main character determine whether it is male or female. Decide on the age of the character and what type of person the character is. To make characterization interesting, think of arbitrary things, for example, if this character had a pet, would it be a cat or dog? Think about what characteristics can you assume your character has based on the type of pet you chose.

You will need to spend quite a bit of time describing your main character and other characters in the planning phase of your short story. Use strong verbs, and a variety of them, to describe your characters. Give yourself enough word choice to make it easier for you when writing your complete story.



Tip 5 is to start off at the beginning, with something unexpected. Since your basic plot and characterization have been expanded, you can officially jump right into writing your story. Put your character immediately in an impossible situation that grips at the reader’s heart by using highly emotive language. Make sure that you use dialogue to help your character drive the plot of your story.

Tip 6 is to focus on character development and character descriptions that bring your characters to life. Make sure that you are very descriptive when it comes to your main character early on in your story. Instead of telling your reader about the characteristics of your main character, rather “show” your readers by describing your character’s actions and reactions in situations. Make the characteristics of your main character unfold with the plot of the story so that your readers gain deep insight into your character.

Tip 7 is to focus on plot development, in other words, the sequence of events in your story. You will now move on from developing the beginning of the story into how you will work up towards the main issue. Determine what the climax should be and decide how the main issue or dilemma is finally resolved. Think about what the lesson is that the main character takes out of it and lastly, determine how your entire story will end.

Tip 8 is to edit your story once you have jotted everything down. After you’ve written up your entire story, check that you have fewer than 7000 words. If not, you will have to trim down your story without taking away any of the important bits. You will also need to edit your story by removing any unnecessary detail. You need to check for spelling and language errors, and rectify it. Ensure that you maintain tense consistency throughout the story. Check that your characterization is consistent and replace all weak verbs with strong ones. Ensure that your imagery is strong and adding value to your plot or characters; and remove all cliché’s and common sayings.

If it is your first time writing a short story, it will take a lot of planning and thinking through. The more you practice writing using strong, emotive language in a short, succinct manner, the easier the writing process will become. Together with reading a variety of different short-story genres, your writing skills will improve and you will soon find yourself writing short stories in half the time!

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