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Short Stories: April 03, 2024 Issue [#12490]

 This week: Make it Fit - Decisions in Story Writing
  Edited by: Dawn Embers
                             More Newsletters By This Editor  

Table of Contents

1. About this Newsletter
2. A Word from our Sponsor
3. Letter from the Editor
4. Editor's Picks
5. A Word from Writing.Com
6. Ask & Answer
7. Removal instructions

About This Newsletter

Short Stories Newsletter by Dawn

Every story, no matter the length, has a limit of space and decisions must be made as to what information will go into the words used. Between character, plot, world and the overall story, a writer has decisions to make when they write, whether they make a conscious effort in those choices or not.

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Letter from the editor

When it comes to any writing, there are decisions that get made from the character name to the various elements of a story that makes it into the written product. On this site we also have to decide things like which contest to enter and what prompt we want to attempt. For today, let’s consider a few areas of a short story that require making choices as we write.


The number of characters can make a story great or it can make it difficult to read, in particular with the shorter stories. Since I judge a contest where the limit of the word count is a little under 1,000 words, I have seen how the number of characters can influence what other information could get put into the story. Sure, not many will only have one character. However, once you get four or five involved, or even more, when there is only a few hundred words to the story, there will be some problems and difficulties for the reader. Each time there is a character added, it takes up some of the words. Even the names alone, in order to keep track of who is who within the item, that takes up some space. It works for some tales but for others, it will get in the way of being able to show more information or details that could have helped make a story easier to read.

Not only is the number of characters a decision that has to be made involving the people of the stories. It's one factor. There are other elements that you have to consider. How much are you going to describe the characters? Are you going to use a method that is done too often? The example here, for the question, is the use of the mirror so the character can tell the reader what they look like. There might be a limited number of ways in adding description, in particular if writing in first person but it's another decision that is made when writing a story.

And the start of it all, who is the main character fo the story? I don't know how you start a story, but I am very character driven, which means a good perfect of my ideas get a character from the very beginning. I may not always know the details of their story, but I have a starting point with the character. Some ideas form with a what if question but the main form shaping of a story is centered around the big character decisions. At least, that is how I write. But characters aren't the only things to consider when trying to decide what to jam in, I mean what will fit in a short story.


For a short story, there is going to a be a limit to the world that is shown to the reader. It is probably easier for stories that are set more in our modern day or similar worlds. Fantasy and science fiction in very different worlds will have challenges within short fiction in order to show the different worlds without taking too much time from the reader or making it so aspects of the story get cut short in order to make the word counts fit. No matter the genre, it is not always easy to decide what information to show the reader when it comes to the setting. Do you share certain smells in a room? When is a detail necessary? When is it too much? While some description helps, there are reader who will find those elements boring and if it goes on for too long or too often, it may be a reason they quit reading a story. More of an issue for novels since there is a longer time the reader dedicates to a story but even in shorter work the risk exists that someone won’t even make it to the end. So, you have to pick and choose which aspects of the world are important enough to make it into the word count usage.

When editing, I suggest taking into consideration that you will always know more about the world and story than the reader. There are details your mind may fill in that doesn’t make the cut. This, I think, is why they recommend taking time off between rewrites and edits in order to look at the story with new eyes. Helps to avoid the pitfall of seeing details that may not be found in the written words of the story.


Some of the biggest decisions comes in what story to tell. Deciding which story to tell can be the start or one of the biggest steps near the beginning but it isn’t the only aspect of story and plot that requires attention. There is also how much of the story and which parts you want to show. Some tales, if you told everything, would cover the pages of 20 books or more. A few series may get away with that but outside of Harry Potter, Wheel of Time or even Game of Thrones, it may be wise to trim things down by making decisions. How much of the plot and conflict need to be shown and when? It is tricky trying to decide on the writing of a story because where you put things and how it gets paced will make a difference for a reader. Also, it helps when putting in an ending for it to make sense. If things get resolved too quick it may be unsettling for a reader. But there is still a limit so can’t draw things out too long either.

So many decisions to make and so little time to use when it comes to writing a short story. Lucky for us, some of those come in a natural way without too much brain power or creative energy spent. Other decisions, those will take more. What do you put your energy into when creating a short story? What decision will you make next? Pick a path and a character, then have fun writing.

Editor's Picks

The Bard's Hall Contest  (13+)
APRIL: Flash Fiction, 500 word limit.
#981150 by StephBee - House Targaryen

Kit's Higher Ratings Contest  (18+)
A contest for items with a higher content rating.
#887621 by Kit of House Lannister

Paranormal Romance Contest  (13+)
A Romance Contest -- a 2016 & 2020 Quill Award Winner & 2020 Quill Award HM Winner
#2089860 by Jim Hall - GoT Forest Child

Of course there's a Veterans Day - EVERY DAY!
#423698 by Monty

Three Perspectives Contest  (E)
Write a story from three different perspectives.
#2315975 by Averren

Daily Flash Fiction Challenge  (13+)
Enter your story of 300 words or less.
#896794 by Arakun the Twisted Raccoon

 Don't you know Who I Am?  (ASR)
A story from the viewpoints of three characters.
#2316735 by Weirdone-Back in the games

 Emilia and Sepet   (13+)
Sepet's secrets reach a fevered pitch with Emilia.
#2317058 by J.R. PETE

Subject B395  (13+)
You are a tool to be used in the war. A weapon. Nothing else. (Rewrite of an old story)
#2317211 by The Cat Writer

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Ask & Answer

How do you decide what elements to put into a story when there is a limited amount of space/words allowed?

I haven't written for this newsletter in a while. The last one, back in September, was about preparing to write since we were getting closer to a novel writing month but it's a topic that is useful for short stories too. Here is a comment sent over the topic:

Comment by W.P. Gerace :
Greetings Ms. Dawn,
I do hope you are doing well today my friend. Personally I like to outline when I am writing. I am using a cool software that was recommended by an author I am following on You Tube. It is called Campfire and I absolutely love it. There are others I have used but this one is so detailed. I have started taking notes on the plot, burning questions that caused the story, characters etc. I feel it is helping me a lot. This will be how I will be writing all my novels going forward. Thanks for your awesome newsletter as always my friend. Have a beautiful blessed day. :)
Yours Truly,
Bill G.

- Thank you for the comment over the topic. I have never heard of the software but might check it out soon. I'm not big on prep but the right tool comes up, I am going to jump on it. I still use Scrivener for writing and I got that many years ago thanks to NaNoWriMo. Thank you for the information and hopefully others who read the newsletter will check it out.


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