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What’s the point of your story? Getting to the heart of your stories theme is crucial in this medium. You must have a strong sense of what the central message is.
A short story occurs over a brief period of time. You don’t have time to waste! Get off to a quick start, get the story moving early and don’t waste time with long introductions.
Establish what voice you intend to use in your story. First person? Second person? Third person? Making a decision up front may save you rewriting time later!
Complicating the narrative with too many subplots and characters can ruin a short story. Working with a smaller word limit means you have less time to fully realise each character – so put less of them in! You should be equally economical with the number of locations you employ to tell your story, the less you include, the less you must introduce to your reader.
Character is the most important element of a good story. Fully realised characters that draw your readers into the story are extremely important. You should know all about your characters, what their motivations are, what is at stake for each of them, how much change is in their pockets, who they love, who they aspire to be. The more you know, the more fully realised they will be in your writing. You don’t have to reveal all the details about them and their lives, in fact you won’t have the space to do so in a short story! It’s knowing these details yourself that makes the difference. Knowing your characters, what drives and motivates them and a hundred details besides is what will make them engaging.
Ensure your conflicts are resolved. How does the story conclude? Has what was at stake for each of your characters been resolved at the end of the story? Check and double check you haven’t left any loose story threads dangling!
Revising is a must when writing short stories. It’s where you have the opportunity to pull out the unnecessary padding in order to focus on the real story. Be brutal, remove anything that’s not relevant to the story. You may have written a lovely description of a lake, or a poetic analysis of a characters hat … but if it’s not relevant to the story then take it out!
Can't come up with a short story? Warm up with a writing exercise.