5 Tips on Writing a Great Short Story

Many people are intimidated by writing a novel because of its length and complexity. In reality, learning how to write a short story is actually a harder task. With a short story, you have to create compelling characters and an interesting plotline in just a few pages.

Story writers have to be better at spinning a concise, descriptive tale, but novelists are not held to the same restraint. If you are struggling to write a short story, the following tips can help you get started.

Start the Story in the Middle

Often, people focus intensely on the start of their story, the climax, and the ending. They forget about everything that happens in between. This middle section is just as important as the start or climax.

In addition, there are some additional benefits to writing your middle section first. Many writers give up before they finish their stories because they do not know how to make an interesting introduction. They stare at an empty page as they reword their first line over and over again.

The great thing about a short story is just that – it’s short. In reality, you don’t have time for much of an introduction. Begin the story by throwing your readers directly into the action. Important details and background information can be revealed throughout, instead of during a lengthy exposition.

Think Outside the Box

Short stories really have to be engaging for readers to enjoy them. With a longer book, your readers have plenty of time to fall in love with the characters and the plotline. There is a lot more room for error with a novel than with a short story.

When you write a short story, you really have to shock or wow your readers. Otherwise, your story will make no impact and be quickly forgotten.

Spend some time brainstorming interesting or unusual ideas. You want to come up with something that is truly different or weird.

When you are dealing with a limited word count, writing for shock value is a great way to captivate the reader’s attention and get them interested in reading more of your work.

Write Good Dialogue

Writing dialogue is a unique talent that few people are actually able to master. Strong dialogue is the key to all fiction. When you write dialogue well, it brings your characters to life. It helps the reader understand the characters’ motivations and personality traits.

In addition, good dialogue drives your plotline forward. Dialogue allows you to show the reader what happens instead of just telling them the narrative.

People often make the mistake of creating overly formal dialogue. It needs to sound like people are actually talking to each other. At the same time, your dialogue can’t be written in the exact way we talk.

If you were to write out an actual transcript of a conversation, it would be peppered with pauses, repeated words, and incomplete sentences. You should try to keep your dialogue casual, but you should also make it easy to digest and follow.

In addition, try to use habitual phrases for each character. You could make different characters stand out by making one character talking through short, simple words. Another character may never curse. Meanwhile, a third character may use formal, wordy sentences. All of these stylistic choices help add depth to your characters.

Know Your Character

Your characters are the most important part of your story. If readers do not care about your characters, they will not care about the story itself. You have to care about someone to care about what happens to them. In a short story, you have a limited amount of space to get the reader engaged and interested in your characters.

Spend some time thinking about your characters. Write out their backstory, likes, and dislikes. Before you begin your short story, you should already know everything about your characters. If you actually feel like your characters are real people, it will be easier for you to convey this depth in your writing.

There are obvious limitations to this because of the short story’s format. You cannot possibly have a dozen characters with realistic, well-rounded backstories. A short story doesn’t have a large enough word count to adequately cover multiple backstories, so you need to limit the number of main characters you include in your story.

Make the Ending Unexpected

The end of your story should leave a lasting impact on the reader’s mind. When writing a good, unexpected ending, you have a number of options to choose from.

You can add a twist or use open-ended dialogue. Another interesting option is the cliffhanger. Short stories rarely have a “sequel” in the traditional sense. This means that leaving your ending on a cliffhanger opens your story up to interpretation.

Some readers will assume one end, while others will think of another. This can create mystery as well as discussion – which gives your story lasting power.

Short Stories Are Powerful

Whether you are writing a horror story or a short romance, there are a few common tips that will make your writing better.

Other than writing an unexpected ending and in-depth characters, you should also practice writing. With practice and effort, you will be able to quickly master the art of short story writing.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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