I have come to the conclusion that I should address one of my challenges in writing; the short story. I have learned formats of a number of types of works, but short stories are what I have struggled with the most. Last year I tried starting a challenge called the “Hop To It Challenge” to encourage using the spring season to get going on life goals or things you’ve been putting off. Well, my fulfillment of the challenge this year is to write short stories.
I try fitting more into a story than what will fit in a short story, that’s my struggle. But in reality, a short story should be very simple and basic. A friend of mine suggested to think of short stories as just one scene. There is still a complete arc, but it is very concise and simple. Apparently I like to over-complicate things, because I have a hard time keeping the story on just one idea. I am getting better at it, however, I have a few that I’ve been quite proud of. The story about Grogle and the one about Flora were really fun, and I managed to keep them short and simple.
Learning the Short Story
I am still not very good at it, but if you want to find some dang awesome examples, you can take a look at Flash Fiction Online, which is a magazine for very short stories. Another place you can find some good examples of short stories is on Verso, where you can read new stories for free and vote on your favorites. The best way to learn how to write short stories, is to read them.
One of the first things to remember in writing a short story is to establish the character and setting in the first paragraph. Tropes are an excellent way to accomplish this. A classroom brings up an instant image and only needs a few extra details to establish the age of the students. Blue skin suggests alien or fantasy creatures. Short stories don’t have time to describe everything, so you have to pick the right details that get the important information across.
A complete arc is what makes me enjoy a story. Something needs to have changed from the beginning of the story. With a short story, the change is simple and small. Even if a small task is completed, the character comes up with a new idea, or makes a decision. The reader may even be the one who experiences a change in perspective. The change is what makes the story feel complete and satisfying. A reader may not even recognize what the change is, but the writer should.
To avoid my struggle with writing short stories, remember there is only one problem. All of life, in every moment is complicated with a world of problems. However, when writing a short story, only one problem can be addressed. The rest may linger in the background, but only one of the problems gets to reign in the story.
The single most important part (the part I, for some reason, avoid) is to practice. You can write a short story within half an hour. Some may take longer, some may take less. Just because you write a short story, doesn’t mean you have to share it. So, don’t worry about how good it is the first time around. You can develop it in later drafts, or put it away as just a practice exercise completed. Need a little bit of help getting started? Pick a prompt and just write for 15 or 20 minutes.
Comment below with just a sentence about the short story you are going to write next!
Mine will be a science fiction short story based on this prompt.