1. Collect IDEAS for your story
This is why every writer should carry a notebook at all times, you never know when inspiration may hit and it saves the use of till receipts, credit stubs, drinks mats and serviettes!
You may have to BRAINSTORM to come up with suitable ideas, particularly useful if you are under deadline pressure, or look to family, friends, magazines for inspiration. I sometimes take a walk as a writer and try to spot as much as I can in the hope that something will spark an idea. If nothing else it focuses your mind and gets to ready for the big indoor write.
2. Map out your STORY PLAN
Remember what needs to be produced in a short story (there are of course variations of this sequence);
Introduction – the beginning of the story has to introduce the reader to the characters and setting.
Initiating action – the point of the story – the rise towards the conflict.
Rising action – the events leading to the climax or turning point.
Climax – the most intense part of the story
Falling action – working towards the resolution for the conflict/problem and heading to the conclusion
Resolution – a SATISFYING ending where the main conflict is resolved, the main character overcomes (or doesn’t) the obstacles.
REMEMBER you don’t have to write your short story in order, you can write the ending first. Then ask yourself ‘what happened before this?’ If you have strong ideas for certain parts of the story write these first.
3. Building CHARACTERS
To make your characters realistic you can borrow attributes from people you already know or strangers you have seen. People watching with the notebook is a great way to spend some time writing what you see, you never know when it might be useful.
4. Get to KNOW your characters.
Many people write whole pages of character notes, what would happen if… they put there characters into different situations, write lists of likes and dislikes, hobbies. It is important to create a whole person. It has been likened to method acting, which makes perfect sense to me with my training and background.
For your story to be believable, your characters need to be realistic. Try this;
- Write a list, titled with the character’s name, and write all the attributes you can think of, from their favourite sports to their favourite colour. Know as much as possible about your characters, from what their central motivations are to what their favourite foods are. Do they talk with an accent? Do they have any quirky mannerisms?
Lots of this information will not appear in your story but it will have helped you to write a realistic character.
- Make sure your characters’ personalities are not perfect. Every character needs to have some flaws, some problems, some imperfections, some insecurities. You might assume that people wouldn’t like to read about a character with a lot of flaws, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Batman wouldn’t be The Dark Knight if he weren’t a borderline sociopath!
- People can relate to characters with problems, as that’s realistic. When trying to come up with flaws, you don’t need to give your character some huge, bizarre issue. For most characters, try to stick with things you know about. For example, the character could have anger issues, be afraid of water, be lonely, dislike being around other people, smoke too much, etc. All of these could be taken further in development.
THINK BIG AND MAKE IT SMALL
5. Size Matters – Limit the breadth of your story.
The main events of a short story should occur in a relatively short period of time (days or even minutes), and you typically won’t be able to develop effectively more than one plot, two or three main characters, (the professional opinion is a maximum of four) and one setting. If your story has much more breadth, it probably needs to be a novella or novel.
Now you are all set to start writing – I will blog another tip sheet to guide you through the next part of the process.
HAPPY PLANNING – prep well.
narrative structure and the writing process