Online Learning Blog

Writing Short Stories That Work

Published on 12th December 2014 by Diana Nadin

Lots of people feel that writing short stories is an easy option – especially now that there is so much ‘flash fiction’ about.

What could be easier than writing a 500-word story (or 100 words, or even as few as 50 words)? But if you hope to get it right – to sell your work to magazines, to see it featured on the internet or to win competitions – then it still requires a great deal of hard work. And crafting a perfect story in 500 words is sometimes harder than writing something longer. Let’s just think about the elements you need:

First you have to set the scene, but you mustn’t waffle on for too long or you’ll have no space left for the story. So you can’t afford to be heavy handed with eh descriptions.

Next you have to introduce your characters. You don’t want them to be two-dimensional but you haven’t many words to bring them to life; so you must ‘show don’t tell’. Don’t be tempted to ‘dump’ information on your readers – let them get to know the characters by what they do and say.

And, most importantly, you have to tell a story. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But when I’m adjudicating competitions you’d be surprised how many stories are just someone’s thoughts; a description of someone’s feelings or a straightforward narration of events.

A satisfying short story must have characters that the reader can empathise with, snappy dialogue, some form of conflict and, above all, a plot. By the time you reach the final paragraph the characters should have moved forward, or learned something. There should be a beginning, a middle and an end – not just stream of consciousness ramblings. The ending doesn’t need to be happy but it must round off the story in a satisfactory manner for your readers.

So, next time you sit down to pen a story – whatever the length – bear this in mind and I promise you’ll write something that gives both yourself and your reader a more satisfying experience.