Writing is not just writing a story or putting words to paper. There are so many different kinds of writing including that of the ever famous short story. Now, you might be considering giving a short story a try. That’s great! Everyone should try at least once. It is a unique creature with the attributes of novels and epics, but it is a smaller version with some aspects cropped.
But what does it take to write a short story? What do you have to do differently than any other story? It can be scary when you think of writing something so small.
It’s not rocket science, but here are a few tips to help you.
What is a Short Story?
I’m going to tell you that there is no clear cut answer to this question. Don’t you just love answers like that. They tend to pop up a lot when we want something a bit more solid. Well, rest assured that I’m not going to leave you high and dry. I will give you an answer that will make you feel much more comfortable than that.
And no, a short story is not a book printed on small paper. Now, let’s get on with a serious answer.
A short story is typically a story that is 750 words to 5000 words. Now, this is not set in stone and can change from genre to genre. It can change from publisher to publisher. For children, a short story could be 300 to 1000 words. For adults you are looking at the larger range. Look to where you are publishing your story to see what the guidelines are.
Let’s look further on writing one, now.
Know Your Audience
As I mentioned above, there are a few ways of looking at short stories based on genre. You need to know your audience with anything you write about. Who is reading it and how will they receive it?
If your audience is a small child, write your story very short and easy to read.
If your audience is an adult, you can go longer.
So much of the short story is based on the audience. Once you know who you are writing to, you can commence writing.
Start your story like any other work. Have an idea of what you are going to write about. Have a tentative plan in your mind so you can get past the first few pages. You might be one that likes it all laid out in an outline. That is fine, if it helps you get it done. You don’t have to. Let the words flow and carry you.
But don’t write a 100,000 word book. That’s not a short story. Think of the short story as a scene from a bigger story. That means it can start in the middle of an action or finish with more to the story untold.
Let’s look at an example. Have you read Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”? This is one that nearly every high school has read. It is a disturbing story of the nature of mankind. It starts with the author describing the scene, introducing the townsfolk, and giving subtle hints of what is to come. Then the climax occurs and…the story ends. I have so many questions about this story. Where did the tradition of the lottery come from? Why was it practiced? What happened after it? To me, the story is not over. It is a piece of a larger untold story. The more short stories I read, the more I find they are just samples of something larger.
Not Meant to be Epic
The short story is not meant to be a full novel. If it appears your story is going to go above 5000 words, you might to look at publishing it as a novella or within an anthology.
Short stories are meant to be short and easily read in one sitting. They can be read in thirty minutes or less depending on the speed of the reader.
If you still want it to be a short story but can see it becoming big, that’s okay. Many authors have done just that over the years. You can take the short story and turn it into a full novel later.
The Appeal of the Short Story
Why is the short story so appealing? That answer really depends on who is answering the question, but most people will say they don’t like to read long novels all the time. A short read is appealing at certain times.
Most short stories are not in depth. They are short and sweet or at least to the point. They don’t mess around with deep plots or twists and turns. They can easily be read in one evening when you get to be by yourself.
Personally, I don’t read many short stories, because I love to read the long plots. Yet, I have written several short stories. I enjoy writing them more than reading them. There are a few short stories that intrigue me and get me to thinking. Those are the best in my opinion.
Use as a Launching Pad
One of the best things about writing a short story is that it can be a launching pad for more stories and even novels. The last two short stories I wrote are actually going to be the first chapters of books that I’ll write later. They are just scenes of a bigger story, remember that.
Don’t let the fact that the story is a short story stop you from developing it further. Use it as a gateway to bigger things.