I really like writing short stories, for two reasons – Firstly, you can write a whole storyline/plot from beginning to end in one sitting, which is very satisfying and also keeps the story more cohesive than most books tend to be. Secondly, I also like to have an ‘idea’, a sort of moral, lurking behind the story. Or even not lurking, just leaning nonchalantly against a lamp post. Whatever.
A friend of mine recently asked me how to write a short story, and I replied that I didn’t really know – I just wing it. After giving the matter some thought, I came up with some key points to writing a short story, which I’ll present to you forthwith, in the hopes that you find them useful. Or maybe just entertaining.
My short stories nearly always start out with a ‘what-if’ premise. For example, what would happen in a world where gravity manipulation technology was as widespread and simple as screen technology is in our world. I ask myself what would change, how would things be different, and that gives me an idea of how to build the story. This example would be a premise for a science fiction short story, but the idea holds true for any sort of story.
Once I have a premise, the next step is a character. What kind of character could present the idea behind the story in the most evocative manner? This step comes together with the idea behind the story – what am I trying to say with this story? Where is the story going?
After these basic building blocks have been supplied, I just plunge in. If you’re baking, you can’t be afraid of getting your hands dirty. Don’t be afraid of getting stuck in loopholes or writing contradictions. A good writer can write based on the premise and a loose idea of a storyline. Short stories are also generally short, so that there isn’t really ‘time’ to get mired in the storyline.
Lastly, there’s one way to tell whether a short story is up to scratch. Your reader cannot know what will happen in the end. In my opinion, a twist ending, or at least an unexpected direction, is more important in a short story than in any other kind of writing. The idea of a short story, for me, is to get the reader thinking, to compress a lot of thought into a few hundred or thousand words.
The above points are my way of writing a short story, but every writer has their own style and way of writing. If you’re interested in reading some of my short stories, I’ve posted some on nesherehrman.wordpress.com/. For the truly interested, there is also an anthology of my short stories available on amazon, titled “Tales of Power”.