Thursday, 6 March 2014

How to write a short story

First and foremost I think that most writers will naturally draw on their own real-life experiences, such as winning that car in the local church raffle, bouncing back after an accident, or dealing with the death of a loved one. These experiences can and will bring to your pages emotions that you yourself have experienced.
However, is that in it's self enough. Readers prefer to feel the emotion rather than have you describe it to them.

All  protagonists want something no matter how small.  Ask yourself, what does yours want? American author Kurt Vonnegut says that. " all characters should want something even it's only a glass of water."
She may want  her husband to take her out one night a week, it may only be for a  drink, these are only desires but they aren't nearly dramatic enough .

Perhaps then wants her husband to take her out one night a week because she fears her marriage has gone stale. Perhaps she want's to go  a particular wine bar where she’s likely to run into that nice looking barman who gave her the eye a few weeks before. She knows it'll make he jealous husband and worried. Perhaps she  hopes he'll see what he's going to loose or maybe she wants him to get jealous so she has the opportunity to get out of the marriage. Perhaps she wants to start a fling with her handsome barman. Maybe it's her intention to make him jealous so that she can use it as an excuse to finally end this sham of a marriage.

What if she does tell her husband it's all over in the hope that her and Ricky the barman can be together?
Perhaps when she get home and opens her handbag, she finds a note, written on a beer mat from the wine bar. It’s from the Ricky, and it reads, “Just thought I should let you know... I'm gay!” [ A great ending. No need to know what happens next.]

Before starting to write

Some writers like to  make lists, sketching out plot lines, or just do  brainstorming. However you choose to do it, find some way to get your ideas from brain to page. It may be an overheard conversation or a line you've heard on the radio. Carrying a small notepad around with you is always a good idea. If like me you prefer to use the voice recorder on your smart phone, there are loads of free apps that will do this for you . I find this an invaluable tool. I can talk into it almost any-time and anywhere (and have done).One morning at  3:00 am.  I woke with an idea in my head. I just had to get up and rabbit for and hour into the phone.

Brainstorm but remember nothing is ever Black and White.

Perhaps a man who hates dog has been left a fortune by  a rich aunt. However her will stipulates he must look after her three King Charles Spaniels in order to receive it. Of all the dogs he hates Kings Charles are the ones he hates most of all. What should he do?

A women who has a fear of worms perhaps wants to get cremated her sons decide it would be in her best interests to bury her with their father. How can she ensure that her wishes are met after her death?

What about the church caretaker and  gardener who discovers a gold hoard in the grounds of the church while trimming the hedges. Should he tell or should he just keep quite and fulfil  all his wildest dreams?
Once you've got all your basic ideas down on paper, work on embellishing them.

A man who hates cats. [No real story in that is there?]
What about a  man who hates cats who falls in love with a women who owns several of them. [Now we're getting there I suppose.]

Okay then, what about a man who hates cats because he's allergic to them? So much so they could kill him. This is his real fear. How can he overcome this fear? His love interest is a women who adores cats. His dilemma now is, will he move in with her or not? How can he overcome years of  fear in order to make his relationship work.

While there’s no rule of thumb that says a short story has to take place over a particular period of time, you are probably best keeping the time span as short as possible. Back story can be injected along the way by using flashbacks and describing memories or thoughts that come into your protagonist’s head.

Reflect often this way you  will be able to draw on your own  experiences in  life. Okay maybe you don't know any people who have cat allergies or even have several cats but you can inject experiences that may slot in to your story line. Make thing's as real as possible even it seems imposable. 

Be mysterious. Don’t give the game away. In other words don't tell the story from the beginning by saying things like this is a story about a man who is afraid of cats but falls in love with a beautiful women who adores them. Unless of course  you have something else in mind. 

Be original. Don't plagiarise.  don't write stories that have already been told even it is from another angle.
Try to have twists and turns along the way.

Toy with peoples emotions and insert problems and conflicts.

There are limitless opportunities if you look for them. The only limit is your own imagination and if you are a writer like me that is a weird and wonderful place. Good luck and keep writing

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