Short Stories-Create and craft your own stories
A good short story can have the economy and directness of a peom and, although limited in length and in the scope of its narrative, it can offer the reader real insights.
I. Key Features
A short story:
– is short enough to read in one sitting
– has a limited range of characters
– has a main character with whom the reader finds it easy to identify
– deals with a single incident in the life of the main character
– is more concerned with the reactions of the character to the situation than with the situation itself
Short stories typically open by introducing the central character facing some kind of conflict—with another character, with the world around him or her, with fate, with the natural world.
The conflict quickly becomes a crisis. This could be physical—the character might be frozen with fear on a cliff face—or emotional—in choosing a partner he or she might lose a friend. There may be further setbacks and difficulties at this stage.
Finally, there is a resolution. This may be completely unexpected—the “twist” in the ending or, more satisfactorily, brought about by the character’s gaining a new insight, or understanding, or by discovering some personal quality of which he or she was unaware until the situation brought it out.
At this point, the story should end. Keep the ending brief.
Space is limited in a short story, so there is no time to waste words. In the opening, keep description to an absolute minimum—no more than is strictly necessary to place the characters in a setting and, ideally, showing them in action.
Follow this through by keeping everything else active. Show your character in action, doing things, responding to stimuli. Don’t waste time by trying to describe his or her mental state—show it in the character’s actions and reactions.
There is room for only one point of view. A novel can show the same situation from the points of view of a number of characters, but a short story doesn’t have space for that.
You have two choices:
– to tell the story in the third person, using an “omniscient narrator”—a character perhaps detached from the story who sees all, knows all, tells all
– to tell the story in the first person, from the viewpoint of the central character, who may or may not be aware of the full truth of the situation
The language you use must:
– always be active—use strong verbs in active, not passive, sentence structures. Be sparing with adverbs
– rely on finding the right nouns—be sparing with adjectives
– leave room for the reader’s imagination to do some work—suggest and hint, rather than over-describe
– deal with concrete details, not abstract ideas
V. Writing Your Story
– Begin by answering these questions—they will help you think about the shape, content, and approach of your story.
– What is the theme of your story? It might be accepting a situation, finding the courage to act, realising what a true friend is. You should be able to state it briefly, in a single sentence. This might also give you an idea for the title.
– From whose point of view will you tell the story? Can you give the storyteller a distinctive “voice”? Remember that the first stories weren’t written down; your story could gain from the feeling that a real person is telling it to you.
– Is your central character one in whom your reader can easily believe?
– What is motivating your main character? Why must he or she overcome the problem?
– Are you thinking visually? You are familiar with the ways in which film and television establish settings and characters, very often without using words at all. Simply pinning down in words what your narrator or central character can see can give your writing a feeling of truth.
– In descriptions, use inputs from all the five senses. If bad weather plays an important part in your story, don’t describe the rain—describe how your character feels, weighed down by the water in a drenched overcoat. If it’s a hot, still day, use the sounds of insects to evoke the heat and quiet.
– Keep your writing tight.
Read as many short stories as you can, not to copy them, not even to use them as models, but to see how other authors would have answered the questions above.