Literary Liaisons

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20 TIPS FOR CREATING A CAPTIVATING SHORT STORY (the first 5)

Today, as I edit, trim, cut, and otherwise obliterate a short story I wrote that ended up to be 8000 words, but needs to be 5000 words, I am reminded of this quote;

“Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.” 
                                                                         ― – Henry David Thoreau 

Wise man.

I thought I’d share some editing tips this morning, not so much for you as for me. I’m sure you can relate to loving the creative process and wanting to bang your head on the desk in the editing process. This is where the skill of craft comes in, and this morning I have more doubt than skill. Arg!

I will share these tips in three concurring post over the next two weeks. Five tips per post to give you reminders or some tips on getting started.

Anyway . . . drum roll . . . .

20 TIPS FOR CREATING A CAPTIVATING SHORT STORY (the first 5)

Writing short stories is a great way to investigate diverse genres, characters, settings, and voices. Something I tend to have a lot of (in my head—you know, the voices) and I enjoy exercising them in shorts. You know I mean ‘short stories’, right? I also tend to write in multiple points of view so short stories are where I play with voice.head

Here are some editing tips that hopefully will keep you from banging your head on the editing desk.

  1. Watch your word count.Obviously I would start here J. Short stories are normally 500 to 7,500 words long, maybe 10,000 with some presses. If you want to submit to a magazine or contest, study their guidelines as to length.
  2. Craft a VOICE for your story by first understanding your character(s). I’ve gone as far as shopping in Pike Place Market as one of my characters, then sitting down in the café (she would have chosen) and writing in her  I wrote about her grief as a widow, her fear as an immigrant alone in a new country, and so on. I got to know her. Then I created a story in her voice. This is where you really need to let creativity flow.
  3. Create a complex, magnetic character.Your protagonist should be multi-dimensional and sympathetic, so readers can connect with her/him right away. As well as outer conflict add an inner conflict and vulnerability, so readers can care straightaway. Remember, readers need to care about characters before they will start caring what happens to them.
  4. Disrupt your character’s world. DO NOT start your story with a character alone, just waking, looking in a mirror, musing, thinking, obsessing, in other words, get outside of your character and be active.
  5. Design a main story quest or question and a tight plot or storyline.Create a central conflict, and other lesser conflicts/problems, with tension throughout. Give your character a significant goal that is thwarted. Remember, no conflict = no story. Conflict can be internal or external, or both, and can be against situations, people or nature. If nothing is happening, there is no reader fulfillment. Your protagonist must be someone the readers care about. He/She has to meet with a demanding challenge, and some form of resolution by the end; happy or sad doesn’t matter.

There’s a diverse and growing market for short stories. You can send them out to magazines, you also publish a collection of your short stories in an anthology, on Amazon.

Next week I’ll post the next five tips. Happy writing.

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One comment on “20 TIPS FOR CREATING A CAPTIVATING SHORT STORY (the first 5)

  1. paulettemotzko
    April 17, 2015

    Reblogged this on Writer's Work Lab.

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