Add these three words somewhere into your story.
How many times have I talked about outlining on this blog? Too many to count most likely.
I personally love outlining. I’m a super organized person in real life and a tad OCD about things. That goes the same for my novels.
Outlining isn’t for everyone, but it can be used as a means for editing. That’s why I’m asking this question…
When I outline my novels, I make a list of characters, a list of plot points, summarize each chapter, and then bullet scene by scene. I also make a list of editing points as I write the first draft.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never outlined a short story before. When I write short stories, I tend to base them off a writing prompt I found somewhere on the Internet or I’ve created myself. Then I just start to write and somehow I end up with a short story.
Then the editing comes along and then… what?
There’s a short story I wrote a long time ago. It was for one of my creative writing classes in college. (I’ve been out of college for two and a half years, so… it’s been a while.)
Since writing it, I’ve edited it, and edited it, and edited it. I’ve submitted it to contests and magazines, but haven’t gotten anywhere with it. Still, I’m not giving up on it. In fact, I’m waiting to hear back from a magazine about it at the time of writing this post.
I submitted it to another place this past August. That story I sent in was the seventh draft. Yes, 7.
It’s grown a lot in the past few years. Did I outline it when I first wrote it? No. Did I outline it when editing? Yes.
Why bother outlining a short story… especially when it’s already been written?
Like I said, I love outlining. But I don’t outline my short stories because I just tend to roll with it. I have noticed that outlining the story after it’s written can be a huge help to editing.
I’ve been saying it a lot this week and that’s to keep your short stories simple and to the point. Only add in important aspects about the plot. Give detail, but not filler.
Outlining your short story is prep for the editing process.
Create a list of characters and write down their purpose. Are they all needed?
Bullet-list each scene and briefly summarize what happens. Is each scene important and paying its rent to the plot? Do some scenes have too much information or not enough? If not enough, is it really needed?
I did this for my short story and gave it one last edit before shipping it off to my writer’s group a few months ago. A car accident happens in the story and everyone agreed that I had put too much detail into that scene.
They said that when you get into a car accident (to the extent in the story), you’re not looking at your surroundings describing the scenery. Especially not if you have big injuries.
Looking at their feedback and then looking at my outline, I was able to easily pinpoint and judge what was too much in that scene. I cut a lot of it out and rewrote what remained. Reading the story now, I agree that it’s much better and flows nicely. Plus, the less description added more tension.
So, should you outline your short stories?
It’s still up to you, but it definitely doesn’t hurt. I know everyone works differently, but this has helped me.
Maybe it’ll help you too.
To me, characters are the most important part of story telling. Without characters, there would no villain, there would be no hero. Therefore, there would be no plot, no conflict.
When you write a novel, you have 200-500 pages (give or take) to delve deep into your characters. Their past, present, and future. Their likes and dislikes, their opinions. Their friends and family. Their motive, anything that makes them tick.
When you write a short story, you don’t have much time to go into that much detail. Not all that detail is exactly needed, depending on what’s going on in your story.
So, how do you develop your characters fully in such a short amount of time?
Step 1. Create your characters as best as you can
If you Google “character chart,” a billion results will come up. (It’s actually a tad over 67 million, but who’s counting?)
There are so many charts out there that ask the basic of basic questions:
And then there’s the obvious… favorite color, food, likes and dislikes, phobias, etc.
Pick a chart or two and fill it out. You’ll probably only use 15% of it, but those things are good to know anyway.
Step 2. Get to know your characters 100%
Talk to your characters. Interview them and get to know them as though you’re meeting a new friend. Write basic flash fiction about them and their background.
Again, not everything you come up with will be known to your readers, but at least you’ll have canon scenarios in your head.
Step 3. Sift through all the information and zero in on the four most important aspects of your characters
Allow your readers to imagine what your characters look like through physical descriptions. Skin color, eye color, hair color and length, height, weight, noticeable birthmarks, etc.
Not all of this will be needed, but if it’s important, add it in. If a birthmark has something to do with the plot, then it needs to be known. If not, it may not be needed at all. But you can still write about it and then edit it out later.
This varies depending on the point of view you use, but for your protagonist, allow your readers to get into their mind. What’s their thought process like? What kinds of decisions do they make? Do they have any outstanding memories or fears that are important to the plot and show how the character came to be?
Now that we know how they think, how do they speak? Do they talk loud or quiet? Do they speak their mind or are they more reserved? Do they think out loud?
What does your character do? Don’t worry about showing your character driving from point A to point B. Just page-break them there and let them do what they need to do.
Characters are hard to put together. They’re complex, just like us. Get to know them as though you’re their mother or father (which you are, kind of). Pick out the important pieces needed to showcase them and get through the conflict of the short story.
If your character is trying to get to school on time for an important test, you don’t need to let the readers know that one of your character’s hobbies is playing video games. Unless, of course, the video games were what made your character late.
It can tie in easily with the story or not at all. And that’s up to you to do decide.
How do you go about developing your short story characters? Do you have anything to add to this? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
What goes into a short story? Well, the same elements for novels, for the most part.
Setting, theme, plot, conflict, and characters. Those are the most important pieces of any story. Still, since short stories are short, you have to get right down to business right away.
1. Jump into the conflict right away
When it comes to writing short stories, you don’t have a lot of time to get to the heart of it all. You don’t need to talk about your protagonist waking up and groggily trying to decide what to have for breakfast. Have them wake up because someone is waking them in a frantic panic or something.
2. Give everything a purpose
Everything your protagonist does should advance the plot. Every other character your protagonist interacts with should advance the plot.
Short stories can have subplots, but allow it to tie into the overall master plot. No loose threads, no stone unturned.
3. Share only what’s important
Unless the color blue has a huge significance to the plot, no one is going to really care that your protagonist is wearing a blue shirt because it’s his favorite color.
The description is, of course, helpful, but be mindful to put in just the right amount. Put in what matters, take out what doesn’t.
4. Keep it short and simple
This kind of goes with everything that was said above, but grab the readers from the first word up until the very last word. Keep it short, sweet, and simple, yet intense, page-turning, and full of action.
5. Give the ending a neatly wrapped bow
You can add a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter. You can even add a cliffhanger at the end of the novel if there’s going to be a sequel. Cliffhangers for short stories don’t seem to work that well.
If you can cram everything into 1,500 words, you can wrap it up nicely as well. Give your readers a satisfying ending. Allow them to say, “That was really well done! What else has this author done?”
Of course, you can always leave the ending a tad open-ended. I don’t mind a good story that allows the reader to use their imagination for what happened next. Still, full endings tend to be better for most people.
Short stories are like a timer. You have to say what you want to say, no rambling before the bell rings. Some people can do it easily, some not so much. But it’s fun to try.
We already talked about the when and why I started writing short stories. But what about you?
Pretend you’re back at school and your new English teacher is asking you to write an essay on the first day. (What a jerk, am I right?)
Here’s the question: Do you write short stories? Explain why or why not, then explain why you should write them.
(Because we all know essays have a million parts to them…)
To put this bluntly, short stories do everything a novel does. The difference is that a short story does it faster and sharper. You may or may not agree with me on that one, but that’s the best I can describe it, and here’s why:
What’s the length?
The answer to this question will vary depending on who you ask, but I looked to my good old pal, Writer’s Digest, and, according to them, a short story can be between 1,500-30,000 words, a novella between 30,000-50,000 words, and a novel between 55,000-300,000 words. (Although I do think short stories can go under the 1,500-word mark, then you’ll also enter flash fiction territory.)
[WARNING, MATH AHEAD!]
The difference between the shortest short story and the shortest novel is… let me get out my calculator…
How long does it take you to write 1,000 words? 10,000 words? 50,000 words? I know on a good day if I focus hard enough, I can write 2,000 words in one hour. That’s a short story.
Keeping that focus, I can write 10,000 words in five hours. That’s another short story.
That focus remaining, I can potentially write 55,000 words in 27 and a half hours. Of course, these 27 and a half hours would stretch into two, three, four, maybe five days.
[MATH IS OVER. YOU CAN BREATHE AGAIN.]
1. Short stories are short
In the amount of time it takes you to write a novel, you can write multiple short stories. This depends on how long the stories are and how long it takes you to write them, of course, but just bear with me.
Still, they’re faster to write, therefore less intimidating to edit. Then off to be submitted it goes!
2. Short stories help you master the basics of writing
Have you ever written a story with a word limit? You can only write 200 words, no more, no less. Yet, you write 239 words. You need to cut out 39 words, but which ones?
Not to mention you have to tighten everything in a shorter amount of time. You don’t have 55,000 words to allow your protagonist to grow. You only have 1,500 to do it and have it be realistic and make sense.
Short stories will help you…
Short stories aren’t a short cut. People grow, therefore their writing grows with them. Just because they write a mystery short story and fall in love with it, doesn’t mean they’re going to write the next Agatha Christie novel. Still, it’s fun to experiment.
3. It gets those creative juices flowing
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten stuck on my novel. Instead of working on it, I found a prompt and then wrote a short story or flash fiction.
I also can’t explain how many of my novel ideas came from short stories I wrote.
Short stories are just fun to write. They’re experimental with ideas and writing basics and they can really get your name out there sooner rather than later.
I’m still editing my novels, but I have about three short stories that I query to magazines, contests, etc. And I’m working on more.
Joanna walked out of her house and across the street to the pond. The sun was just starting to rise so most people weren’t out and about yet, especially since it was a Saturday morning. She had been walking around the pond every Saturday morning for the past couple of years. The only times she hadn’t was when she or her husband was sick or if it was too cold during the winter time. If that was the case, she loved to sit on her front porch and watch the water sparkle in the sun.
Joanna wanted to stay home this morning. She had just buried her husband the day before and she wasn’t sure if would be able to walk the pond alone without getting too upset. However, she had a feeling that her husband was going to want her to walk around the pond. He wasn’t there physically, but she knew that he would be there with her.
She walked around the perimeter of the pond until she made it halfway. He had always gotten tired at this point so they sat down at a bench and rested for a few minutes. Joanna wasn’t tired at all. In fact, she could have finished the lap and then walked around a second time if she wanted to. However, she felt as though she should sit down on the bench just for her husband’s sake. Maybe he was there waiting for her.
Joanna watched the ducks wade on the surface of the pond. Her husband had always brought bread or crackers with him in hopes that a duck would waddle up to him and eat out of his hand. He and Joanna knew they shouldn’t have been feeding the ducks, but they enjoyed it and so did the ducks. Except, the ducks never came near them. They always stayed a safe distance away even though Joanna and her husband would have their hands out gently with food in their palms. Finally, they would give up waiting for the ducks to make a move and eventually toss them the food where they would promptly gobble it up and head back into the water.
As Joanna sat down at the bench she realized that she had completely forgotten about the bread and cracked. She sighed hoping the ducks wouldn’t feel bad. She hoped her husband wouldn’t be disappointed with her.
She closed her eyes and prayed to her husband for a few moments.
She opened her eyes and looked around. She turned around and noticed a duck standing right behind the bench. He waddled around the side and sat down on the ground in front of the bench where her husband would have been sitting next to her.
“Hello,” Joanna smiled.
They sat together in silence for a little while. The duck remained in that spot until Joanna decided it was time for her to get up and go home. Only then did the duck waddle back into the pond.
Title: Be Light Like A Bird
Author: Monika Schroder
Published: September 2016 by Capstone Young Readers
Genre: Middle-grade realistic fiction
How I got the book: I downloaded it onto my Kindle through BookBub
After the death of her father, twelve-year-old Wren finds her life thrown into upheaval. And when her mother decides to pack up the car and forces Wren to leave the only home she’s ever known, the family grows even more fractured. As she and her mother struggle to build a new life, Wren must tackle issues with the environment, peer pressure, and bullying. More than that, she must cope with the difficulty of forgiving those who don’t deserve it as she discovers what it means to be a family — and the secrets and lies that can tear one apart.
BookBub emailed me a couple of months ago that this book was for free. After seeing it was middle-grade (I love a good middle-grade every once in a while) and reading the summary, I thought it’d definitely be worth a try.
Told through Wren’s point of view, we learn that her father has passed away. She is sad and doesn’t know how to grieve. All she knows is to go to her mother. Her mother, on the other hand, is angry. Wren, being 12-years-old, doesn’t understand grieving or death and she can’t imagine why her mother is so mad. It begins to tear their family apart.
After a couple of moves, Wren finally feels as though she may have a place where she belongs. She makes some new friends, some nice and some not so nice, she does pretty well in school, and she discovers a place she knows her father would love.
Due to a report at school and Wren and her father’s love of bird watching, Wren fights for beautiful a pond to not be torn down and turned into a dump.
I don’t know how I can explain this plot and do it justice. The overall message is grieving and talking about it. However, there’s a subplot of Wren dealing with who her real friends are as well as working on her school project and setting up a petition. And the art of bird watching is woven into all of that.
This plot is gold.
Each character was crafted wonderfully. Wren made an excellent protagonist and I think her 12-year-old was spot on. I was angry at her mother in the beginning for what she did to Wren, but I learned to sympathize for her.
Theo, Wren’s best friend, made an excellent best friend. I wish I had a Theo.
Victoria and Carrie were the definition of a “mean girl” and “minion” and it was perfect.
Wren’s father was important even though he’s never seen in the book, a lot is learned about him. And you really don’t know what to think of him.
All the supporting characters – Randle, Mrs. Russo, Theo’s dad – were all great supporting characters as well. Everyone had their own voice and their own purpose.
I read this book in one day. It’s about 240 pages long, so you can see that as quickly or not. It went by pretty quick for me because I was so intrigued.
While I thought the beginning was a bit slow, it all made sense in the end. The book is broken up into chapters but after a few of them a new “theme” sort of comes into play. Yet, it was all tied together at the end.
I had tears in my eyes for a good chunk of the novel and if you know me well, you know that’s what sells it for me.
I really don’t think I did this book justice. I think I could go on and on, but it wouldn’t be organized and I’d be rambling.
This book was so well crafted, well paced, and just overall a great piece of art. It conveys an important message that I think everyone should read it. It’s pretty inspiring.
Be Light Like A Bird by Monika Schroder gets…
5 out of 5 stars
“You don’t want to just float around in life like a feather. You want to determine your own direction – fly and soar like a bird.” -Monika Schroder, Be Light Like A Bird
Buy the book:
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As some of you may have guessed, I’ve been thinking a lot about short stories lately. I write them often enough as I post one each week.
Well, I tend to write my Short Story Sundays well in advance because writing one short story per week can be a bit much at times.
It’s interesting how long short stories can be. And I’m not talking about the length of the story, I’m talking about how much time gets put into it.
My goal this month is to write two short stories. I’ve had these short story ideas in my head for a while now and just haven’t bothered to expand on them.
I plan on these two shorts to be longer than the typical ones I post on the blog. And, unfortunately, I won’t be posting these shorts on my blog. I want to submit them to a few places.
One thing I love about short stories is that you can explore a variety of genres. Just test the waters and see what you’re comfortable writing.
My main novel series is a mystery, but I plan on writing a mystery short story with George and Lilah as the main characters. I’ve been wanting to get back into writing the novel, as I haven’t worked on it in a long time.
Every time I look at it I get overwhelmed. I’ve been working on it for so many years and have so many notes and research and drafts for it that it’s just a lot. I have two notebooks, three folders, and a large accordion folder filled with things for the first novel as well as the series as a whole.
I decided to play around with the character in a short story and see where that takes me. It may not give me any ideas on where to go with the novel, but I’ll be learning more about the characters. Plus, there’s a mystery magazine that I’ve wanted to try submitting to for a long time and just haven’t. I’m going to make this short story be my opportunity.
The other short story I plan on writing will be… fantasy-ish? I think I could be considered sci-fi, but I’m not going to get into all the technical stuff about it.
This short story is actually based on a Short Story Sunday I did a long time ago and I’m finally going to expand upon it.
That story, if all goes well, I plan to submit to a place here or there as well.
So, this month is going to be all about short stories and as I talk about short stories, just know that I’m going to implementing those tips and tricks on my own writing.
We’ll see how it goes.
What genres of short stories do you write? Do you write them just for you or do you submit them elsewhere? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!
Short stories are a type of writing I never really saw myself working on.I’ve recently been told (by multiple people, actually) to do something more with my short stories. And I’m looking into that, I really am. It’s just that it’s not something that can magically happen overnight as much as I will it to.
I’ve recently been told (by multiple people, actually) to do something more with my short stories. And I’m looking into that, I really am. It’s just that it’s not something that can magically happen overnight as much as I will it to.
But it got me thinking as to why I started writing short stories in the first place and when. Because, as I just said, I never thought about shorts. I had always planned on writing novels and that was that.
Why did I start writing short stories and when?
This blog. Of course, everything goes back to this blog.
I had originally started this blog as an author platform for when I published a novel, or two… or five… (yeah, who knows?)
But, in the beginning, it was mostly me complaining about how much homework I had and how I didn’t have any time to get any writing done. I changed that with one simple feature on my blog and called it, Short Story Sunday.
I wanted this blog to be more consistent with writing and I wanted to get more of my original writing out into the world.
It made sense because this blog was my main area of the Internet and I didn’t know Wattpad existed at the time. I knew of FanFiction, but I wanted to work on original writing.
Wait, speaking of FanFiction…
Oh, yeah. Remember I started writing when I was ten-years-old because Kris started writing on the website FanFiction? I want to copy her, so I wrote a few things here and there. And when I say that I mean…
My writing was terrible, but I posted 58 stories on that website. (My goal was to post 100 stories on there, but then I discovered blogging. Which is probably a good thing.)
So, 58 stories and guess what? 34 of them are one-shots. 34. In other words, they’re one chapter long, also known as… short stories.
According to my profile on that site, I posted my first one-shot in April 2005. Guys, that was about 12 and a half years ago. Wow…
Apparently, I’ve been writing short stories for a while.
I’m sure I’ve written some before then, but April 2005 is the oldest document to date.
In other words, I have over 12 years experience writing short stories, right? That makes me some sort of expert, right?
(Probably not, but let’s pretend… Like I do with everything else I talk about on this blog.)
I’m going to be spending the month of September talking all about short stories. I’m going to be working on various short stories this month and trying to organize my writing a bit, so I think this is an appropriate topic.
So, join me on this not-so-new adventure. Just don’t tell Google.
Do you write short stories? What got you started? Let me know in the comments below!