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Short story techniques?

Hi :D
I'm actually in the process of editing my novel, so I am not a short story writer.
But, while being a member of this website, I think its best to take part in competitions, and try and challenge my writing skills.
Problem is.... I'm stumped with writing a short story. I'm so used to creating long winded, complicated narratives.

Does any one have any techniques for short story writing?
Is it best for it to be a story with a definite ending, or should it allude to a fuller story?
Should it be about one simple theme?

I'm just a bit stuck with the whole thing, where do I start?

Thank you!!

Asked by: Amy Mager

  1. Cherry Mosteshar on June 23, 2018

    Dear Amy,

    I am not sure when you posted this, but I came across it and thought I would add my little bit. Obviously, any story, short or long, has to come from a moment of inspiration that triggers your imagination. Trying to create something to order can often be a soul destroying exercise.

    One of the best stories I have read came from one of the writers I work with through Writers at Blackwell's in Oxford. He was struggling to finish a story for a competition, just as you are, so he offered to go out and buy something for dinner instead of his wife.

    He was in line at the checkout when he spotted the woman in front of him was having trouble paying and being treated rather badly by the staff and was 'sniffed at' by those behind her in the line. The story he wrote was moving and exciting and it was just about that one moment in time. We knew nothing of the woman before she got into that line and will never know what happened after she left. However, I will never quite forget her or her pink track suite. Or the pain she must have felt at the judgement of people around her. It was such a moving story.

    So I guess what I am saying is it does not have to conform to any rules, it just has to feel real and something you would write if there wasn't a competition to enter.

    Today, breaking the rules is the new rule and what will help you win.

    I know this might not be 100% helpful as it does not say what to do, but I really think you just need to sit and think of a small moment in time and write about it in simple terms.

    Good luck

  2. Libby Justice on January 26, 2018

    Hi Amy,
    Take a look at the guide to flash fiction writing in the Advice section above. One really useful idea is to get someone to choose ten words for you. Then, you read the first word and write, then read the second word and write etc. etc. I sometimes do this and give myself an hour's limit to get something (anything!) down.
    It may not always produce masterpieces but by giving you just a little structure, in the form of word prompts, it forces you away from grand narratives into a short, sharp way of writing. I also think it's quite good fun on a boring Sunday afternoon.
    Best wishes and good luck,

  3. Steven Strafford on January 24, 2018

    I can only answer from experience but to try and answer your question...

    To write something short build upwards. Write short ideas, almost bullet points to give the story. Don't dwell on one, build each one up with a bit of prose, then move to another. It also helps to have a short idea for a story, but that's not always possible!

    There is no answer to your question in endings. Some of the most concise short stories have produced the most amazing, ever expanding stories (for example 'War Room's by Card that became 'Ender's Game's). So long as you end the short story you can have as much or as little happening 'off screen' as you like.

    No. Maybe it should seem that way, so you don't fall into the trap of expanding those ideas and themes, but the little side notes and allusions are what make short stories enjoyable to both reader and writer. That said I'm sure someone will make an equally good or even better argument for brevity...

    And finally, the only way I know to start this is to enter a competition or find a website that publishes short. and try to follow their rules. Practice makes perfect!

  4. Andrew Newall on January 12, 2018

    Try an exercise and take one of the "long winded, complicated narratives" and try to see if you can get the same feel for it in 3000 words instead of novel length.

  5. Adrian Sroka on January 9, 2018

    I suggest you hunt down a copy of,

    Write the Short Short - Maren Elwood. (For writers of the Short Story).

    Maren Elwood taught creative writing. Some of her advice is dated, but there is so much to learn from her.


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