9 Tips to Bring Your Short Stories to Life

by Annette J Beveridge

People think that writing short stories is an easy option but this is not necessarily true. Before you even put pen to paper, it pays to consider your idea from all angles. Who are you writing for? What is your target audience? Do you have a limited word count? A little planning goes a long way and will enhance your creativity rather than stifle it.

If you are entering a writing competition or submitting a story for a magazine, there will be guidelines or rules to follow. Ignore them at your peril.

Your opening paragraph must be strong. If you fail to start at the right point, you will simply lead the readers on a merry journey and one that suddenly fizzles out. With a limited word count, you must be careful as to the number of characters that you introduce. Focus on one or two characters but make them appealing and believable. A short story should provide escapism and yet, entertain. It is not just a case of getting an idea and running with it. There are essential considerations and if you abide by them, your story has a chance of getting published.

With this in mind, here are some top tips for writing professional-level short stories.

  1. Consider who you are writing for. Check and re-check any guidelines.
  2. Create the outline of your story. Write it down. Is it strong? Will it captivate readers?
  3. Define your beginning, middle and ending. It helps if you write a brief summary for each stage. This will keep you on track.
  4. Develop your opening paragraph. Start at the right place. You need to hook readers immediately.
  5. Know your characters. Highlight their necessary traits. Try to visualise the characters in your mind’s eye. Don’t take time building up the characters, you can reveal much through conversation or through the setting. Focus on developing the characters in a way that does not use too much of your precious word count.
  6. Don’t run away with the first idea that comes to mind. Often, a little more thinking power can extend, deepen and improve that idea and once cultivated, it can take on a life of its own. You may find you alter your idea considerably as stronger ideas take shape and form. Importantly, with a little thought, you write with greater conviction.
  7. Work on that ending. Readers need to be satisfied. You need to build a steady pace leading up to the ending and readers must feel that sense of closure. Don’t cheat the readers. Make the ending have impact. Once you have finished writing, set aside your story for a few days and then, read it aloud as if reading to an audience.
  8. Dialogue must progress the story. Make conversation count.
  9. Edit, edit and edit again. Making little tweaks can make a big difference to the finished product.

So there you have it. 9 top tips to bring your short story to life. Utilise these tips as a checklist next time you are writing fiction and you will write with greater confidence and your story will be enriched.

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