This week: Ten Small StepsEdited by: Annette
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Hello readers and writers of short stories, I am Annette and I will be your guest editor for this issue.
Ten Small Steps
Write a short story in ten easy steps.
1. A short story is not a novel.
Like novel, a short story needs to tell a story that includes the basic and expected storytelling elements of inciting incident, rising action, climax, and falling action. Unlike a novel, a short story will skip fluffy parts of storytelling. The short story focuses on one event, one aspect/problem/relationship of the main character.
2. Frontload the action.
Pull the reader right into the story by starting as close as possible to the end. There is no need to describe mundane before events that have only a small relationship to the plot at hand.
3. Short stories go fast.
Now that you started close to the end, keep the pace at the high speed that readers expect during the parts of highest action and highest tension.
4. Short story equals small cast of characters.
Developing characters takes time and words. A hard hitting short story needs about three of them. The main character, an antagonist, and a relationship character who can drive the protagonist's or antagonist's character arc.
5. Make the reader root for one of the characters.
The obvious choice for the character to root for is the protagonist. The reader will root for a passionate character, or one who leaves his comfort zone.
In a short story, one point of conflict is enough. The conflict might be a decision that has to be made, a revelation, or a dilemma to figure out. It's important to keep the tension high around this point of conflict to keep the reader invested and engaged in the story.
There is not going to be enough space to have an elaborate backstory in a short story since every sentence counts. However, you, the writer, have to know your character so well that his backstory can be glimpsed through the way he talks, acts, and behaves under tension.
8. The five senses.
Give the reader as much taste, smell, touch, sound as possible so that your reader experiences your world as if he were there.
9. Dialogue brings your story to life.
Tight dialogue can be a real good help for building drama, but read it out loud so that it doesn't feel stilted or unrealistic. Keep speech tags to a minimum and use "said" for the majority if you need a speech tag. Dialogue is more powerful when it's part of an action. Have your characters experience something as they speak to each other.
The easiest step (not)
Editing is where the real heavy lifting comes in. Kill your darlings comes to mind. This does not have to mean that you have to kill a character that you're attached to. Although that's what it can mean. Another type of darling can be a specific description of something, an action that doesn't drive the plot forward, or irrelevant backstory details. The truth is: every word you put into that first draft is one of your darlings. Some of them have to die. It's a sacrifice you have to be willing to make.
Can one character do the work of two? Kill one.
Too much set up before a scene? Cut that out.
Repetitive words? Strike them.
Each sentence has to be meaningful to the story.
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I received this reply to my last Short Stories newsletter "That Short Story That Stays For Long"
dragonwoman wrote: Thanks for featuring my flash "Friday One Three". It always tickles me when that happens.
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