Writing a short story is the best and worst thing. We’ve all had this amazing idea stuck in our head. The problem happens when the idea is too small for us to actually create something with. We think, “Ah ha! I’ll just make it a short story?” We think it’ll be easy-peasy. Then, the doubts start coming in.
What if I’m not putting enough information in?
Or what if I’m putting in too much?
Where should I start?
Where should I end?
I used to just write short stories thoughtlessly. It didn’t change until I took a short story class with one of the most amazing professors. She opened my eyes and showed me the secret to writing an amazing short story. So here are some tips to keep in mind for the next time you decide to write a short story:
- WHAT IS YOUR CHARACTER’S DESIRE? The best way to focus a short story is to ask “what does this character want?” In order to have a good short story, an author must make the characters desire clear. It could be anything from wanting to buy some more toilet paper to needing a surrogate. Either way, establish the desire early on in the story. Establishing a desire makes reading your story way easier, and won’t leave your audience confused.
- WHAT ARE THE OBSTACLES? The best things in life are earned, so why should your character’s desire be any different? Before writing your story, think about what’s standing in your character’s way to complicate their journey. A character getting what they want easily totally ruins the satisfaction of getting it; so make sure your character works for it. No coincidences, dumb luck, or chances. Make sure your obstacles really make them struggle.
- WHAT IS THE RISK? Okay, so you have your character’s goal and you have the obstacles in their path, but now it’s time to think about what the character has to risk. Without risk, it’s hard for audiences to understand why your character is doing what they’re doing. By presenting the risk, readers are able to identify with the character and understand his or her actions. What’s the fun without risk, right?
- WHAT IS THE STORY’S CLIMAX? As a writer, you need to keep in mind that your short story is building up to one moment in which your character will or won’t get what they want. This is the climax or the big moment of the narrative. Listen, you only have so many pages in a short story; establishing a climax to the narrative allows a clear answer to the character’s want. As mentioned before, your character’s goal is what interest the readers. Without a climax, readers won’t feel satisfied. Remember, the character doesn’t have to get what they want. They could completely fail in the end, and that’s completely acceptable. What matters is that there’s a clear, understood ending.
One of the biggest problems with short stories is that there isn’t a lot of room to babble or detour from the plot. Following these tips allows for structure. Stop leaving your readers confused! These tips helped me in my personal writing and beyond, so hopefully they spark your own writing process.
When you feel you’ve written a strong short story don’t forget to submit to Capulet Mag!