How To Write Short Stories

Some of you may already be aware that I enjoy writing short stories. I also love reading them. My first collection of stories was called, ‘Short Dates’ which was a group of stories about love, loss and friendship.

Often I am asked about how to get started with story writing and, although I am no expert, I am happy to share what I have found so far. One thing is for sure, short stories are not a shortcut to writing novels, as they require a real precision to get right.

As with any story writing, short prose has certain requirements. You need to make sure that such fiction has a purpose, follows a well planned storyline and comes to some kind of meaningful ending.

Here are some of my thoughts on writing short stories. I hope that you find them useful and relevant.

Writing Short Fiction – Top Tips

– Short stories are whole stories and follow storylines from start to end. They are not just nuggets of narrative and need to be able to standalone without any prior knowledge or expectation for further stories to follow.

– Concentrate on one outcome. With a short story you cannot write multiple storylines and introduce lots of side characters. You need to decide what point you wish to make and ensure that that remains your main focus. Don’t go off on unnecessary tangents.

– Get straight into the nitty gritty of the narrative. There is no time for complicated scene setting when writing short fiction. Straight away the reader needs to be immersed in the context, drawn into the life of the protagonist and intrigued by the situation described.

– Plan your narrative well. Unlike with novels, there is a need to outline how the story will unfold. For me, I usually jot down notes about the main character and a few key events that must happen in order to drive the story to a conclusion that I want to see.

– Use a short story to showcase your writing style. There is no need to cut corners in terms of the quality of writing. Short fiction must be as detailed, twisted and thought-provoking as longer texts. Good short stories are not only entertaining but can also help you to grow your readership.

– Write short stories because you enjoy writing. Don’t feel pressured into writing them if these are not your preferred genre. However, if you enjoy the writing process and haven’t tried short stories before, have a go! Most of all, have fun with it.

Summary

Some of my favourite stories are short ones. Short tales can be incredibly powerful and memorable if done well. Challenging yourself to write shorter stories is definitely fun and rewarding. I hope that my suggestions were relatable and look I forward to reading your thoughts on this in the comments.

For a sample of my own writing, check out the extract in Short Dates. Also please consider following my blog for similar future content.

Christmas Gone Crazy – Extract One

It was in Zurich that I thought of this tale.

Today I wanted to share one of my stories from my book, ‘Second Glance’. It is my Christmas story with a difference, about a journalist sent to Switzerland to meet a guy claiming to be a messenger from God. I intend to share the rest of the story over time.

I woke up to find my phone ringing repeatedly. Without my contact lenses, I couldn’t even manage to press the right button to silence the damn thing. Last night’s festivities were taking their toll. I could taste the foul onions which must have partnered the kebab we had before grabbing taxis home. I felt happy that I had finally got my own place, otherwise by now my mum would’ve been on my case, giving me grief about drinking too much, and chasing me around, making me clean up and shoving me into the shower.

 

My flat felt empty and still. When I went to feed the puppy, it wasn’t in its bed. Instead it was sat, diligently looking out of the window, no doubt eyeing up the pooch that walked by every day at about this time. This puppy had better love prospects than I ever did. He turned his head to me and stuck out his tongue. I patted him gently and filled his bowl with meat. I knew that as soon as the posh neighbour’s fancy dog had walked past, he would be lapping up the treats.

 

Returning to my phone, I could see there was a message waiting for me. It was from my boss, Lauren. She needed me to ring her back urgently. The TV had just come on, loudly blurting out Christmas music while trying to sell me a compilation of holiday tunes. I pressed mute and rang work. The conversation was weird. Lauren picked up and told me that I had an assignment. She was sending me to Switzerland straight away. It was a very quirky challenge. Literally every job I was given by Lauren was full of weirdness. After all, I was working for a small media firm which specialised in documentaries and investigative journalism. They tended to sell stories which were out of the ordinary and often went beyond the realms of believability.

 

I rang my brother and asked him to look after the pup. He agreed, thankfully, knowing he owed me a favour after I acted as his alibi when he had a random one night stand with his body pump coach. My bags were always partly packed and it didn’t take me long to add a few woolly hats, a scarf and an emergency supply of Pringles. Half a bottle of Jack Daniels was the finishing touch before I closed the case and parked it by the door. My brother picked up the dog and gave me a lift to the train station.

 

“So where you going this time?” he asked as he drove at high speed through the empty streets of my sleepy little city.

“Well. I didn’t get all the facts. But apparently a guy has declared himself the new Jesus and started a Christmas commune in the middle of the Swiss Alps,” I said, chuckling to myself.

“That is one hell of a story!” he jeered.

“Hey! It pays the bills,” I sniggered. “I reckon he’ll give a great interview.”

“You can say that again. I’ll have some of what he is having. I bet he is surrounded by hot women and everyone is high as kites.”

“Let’s hope so,” I laughed as I unpacked my case from the boot and patted the dog farewell.

AD – If you enjoyed this, keep looking out for the next instalment or check out my book below. This book of short stories is about first impressions being often misleading.

For another extract from one of my books, click here.

A Cafe Dilemma – Book Extract

AD – Below is an Amazon link to my book, which I receive a kickback for, if you choose to buy it.

Here is an extract from my book of short stories about dating, loss and love. These were the first stories that I self published and recently people have been asking me about them. I absolutely loved writing these and still treasure them as my first creations. I hope that you will enjoy and consider adding ‘Short Dates’ to your TBR, Goodreads or Kindle.

Scrubbing Up

 

It was a beautiful morning as I cycled past the River Cam with my hair blowing freely behind me and the  pedals spinning around frantically. I was hopefully going to make it in time for opening but I was cutting it short, without a doubt. Around me, hundreds of students were making their way to their lectures. I was not the only cyclist on the road. In fact, there seemed to be more of us pedal pushers than there were drivers. We all sped along like an army of buzzing bees, heading in the same direction, but breaking off now and again in swarms, in search of nectar. The students’ nectar was different to mine though. They longed for facts and figures. I, however, simply wanted to get through the day so that I could go home again and work on my song writing.

 

Making it to work just in time for opening, I slipped my apron on and tied back my hair, pulling poses in the mirror before edging into the café area and lifting the chairs off of the tables ready for the day. The cakes were there as usual, most of them freshly baked. Cream cakes, sponge cakes, slices of carrot, lemon and walnut cakes. Big cakes and small cakes, sugary cakes and sugar-free cakes. They smelled so delicious that it was always hard to resist them for long. Thankfully Mark, the baker, had left a few bits for me and I stuffed down some fractions of chocolate eclairs before meandering over  to the front door and opening the café, shoving a large A-frame into the street, advertising our latest tempting offers.

 

It was always a bit slow to start with but you could count on Vera, the eighty four year old lady from down the road, to always be the first one to come in every morning. She bought a cheesecake today and I took care to wrap it carefully as we had our regular chat. She asked me if Alex had texted me and I told her that he had written a few nasties last night as usual. We discussed how badly men had treated us and we laughed about how love wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be.

 

Vera had been married for thirty years when she discovered her husband had a child with another woman and had been seeing her behind Vera’s back for almost as long as they had been married. I had relayed to her my six months of dating Alex and how false he had turned out to be. After I got round to dumping him, he texted me daily, quite pathetically, begging me to take him back. But Vera and I both knew that he only wanted to regain the power as he couldn’t stand the idea of being the one who was dumped. We reckoned if I had taken him back he would have soon split with me to show me he was in charge after all.

 

My boss was in this morning and she was always fun to be around. She had been doing a stock check and when the café became quiet she told me to pull up a pew and sit with her for a while, drinking latte. Glynis always spoke about dreams and ambitions. She had a master plan which ended up with her buying a quaint riverside café in Paris, in which she would enjoy the champagne culture and soak up the general Parisian way of life. I could easily see her with a glass in one hand, reading an erotic novel in the other and hiding behind sunglasses while secretly checking out the passing men.

 

‘So what do you really want to do with your life?’ she said suddenly.

‘Well I want to explore what I can make with my music,’ I replied honestly.

‘How can we make that happen?’

‘If I knew that then I would have tried it by now,’ I answered rapidly.

‘We have to go for those things we dream about. I reckon I have found a way to help you there.’

 

She went on to tell me about a new friend of hers who worked at a music venue in town. I was excited to hear that she had asked her friend if I could go for an audition there, to see if I may be able to perform some songs one night. I was taken aback as she had never mentioned anything like this before. It was lovely that she had noticed my interest in music and thought to find a way for me to try out my singing skills with a real live audience. I crossed my fingers and toes and returned to work as the customers began to roll in again.

 

The counter soon became a mess and I decided I was going to clean the smudges from the inside of the glass which housed the cakes. Preparing a cloth, I leaned into the counter and began to scrub. It was fairly dirty and I had to use some elbow grease to make an impact on it. Most of it cleared quickly and I was ready to finish the job off and do something else.

 

To my annoyance, one small mark would not disappear on that flaming glass. It began to test me. The more I rubbed it with my cloth, the more stubborn it seemed to become. I pressed hard with plenty of soap, yet still it would not budge. Before long I was on my haunches, giving it everything I had, working up a sweat and determined to not be defeated by some crusted blob of curdled lemon.

 

Making circles of smudge as I carried on, I found myself staring hard at the mark, wishing it gone. I blinked and suddenly it seemed to vanish. In its place was a pair of blue, radiant eyes, looking back at me curiously. The eyes belonged to a hot looking guy who looked to be about my age. I had never seen him before, though he seemed recognisable. Maybe I had met him in my dreams. I kicked myself for thinking such rubbish.