Writing a short story is easy, but writing a powerful short story is difficult. In fact, extremely difficult. Add the word “true” to the whole thing and you might as well have a story which is impossible to write… but if you do write it well, then you have a winner.
True short stories can be awesome to read and they can be boring to read. The difference is clear, and you need to make your ones in the first category. You need to make them powerful ones.
But how do you write a powerful true short story?
The Art of Writing Short Stories
I hope nobody shoots me down for calling everything “art”, as I seem to be doing it a lot these days. (See the previous article). But I stand firm: writing a short story is an art. In fact, some writers say that it’s even more difficult to work with than the novel, because when you write a novel you have more room to spread out, more canvas, and you can do anything with the plot or the characters which you like (e.g. making it as long or short as you want, character development etc)…
But in a short story… you have none of that. In fact, just use the opposites.
You have to work with limited everything. Limited time frame, limited word count, limited character or plot development, and a big don’t of writing a short story is to write every scene. By every scene I mean that all the scenes which occur in your story. Why is this a bad idea, you ask?
Well, apart from boring readers, you also need to consider your word count. There is no need to write any transitory scenes (scenes which are there for changing location, time etc): just skip that!
If you write every scene, then not only your writing will not be concise, but it will also be extremely boring to read. In a novel, these kind of scenes are a bit “ho-hum” (not really recommended but some writers still use them). In a short story, it’s a strict don’t, unless you don’t have any transitory scenes and have very short main ones.
And the thing which goes without saying is that you should have perfect story elements in order to write the perfect story. That is to say, your plot, character, writing voice, setting, theme all must be perfect. If they aren’t, make them be.
Now we know how a perfect short story is. Let’s see a story on true short stories, and how to make them truly powerful and have an impact on your reader.
True Short Stories
I have one really embarrassing story to relate. When I was a bit younger, I used to read lots and lots of short stories and I loved them. (And I feel that my reading contributed to my writing being grammatically error-free). But one day what happened was that a friend narrated to me a story, and then said it really happened. Definitely happened, it was definitely true.
“Of course not. Stories aren’t the truth,” I replied to him in a scornful tone. He insisted, and finally I said “Okay, it must be true.” But in my heart, I didn’t really believe, and didn’t until…. well until half a year had passed, and then I came to know that there can be true short stories.
I was like “Wow! I never knew this!” I also felt really guilty for not believing my friend earlier. So I decided to actually read some true short stories, and I found few of them. After reading, however, I was disappointed, simply because they weren’t written well. I was bored. “Why should I want to find out what happened on some person’s journey? What’s it to me?” And I closed the true short stories, and went back to my trusty novels. 🙂
But now, a bit older, I finally came across some quality short stories. I was inspired after reading them, and I felt that of course, this really is true. But what made the difference?
So after some long hours’ work, I decided to list the differences and see why I liked those ones, and why I didn’t like those earlier ones. Now, it may just be personal preference, but if you want to write a powerful true short story, then you’ve got to look at the following points. (If nothing else, you can marvel at the fact that I spent hours looking for this stuff ;-))
The Real Guide to Writing Powerful True Short Stories
- You must write something the reader can identify with. If you write something that no one on the earth cares about other than you, then you’ve got a failure. Seriously, move on. Write something that I know, that I, and others care about, and you might just see some results.
- You must master the basics of writing. What’s that? You wrote in the first person? That’s no excuse. I have read some short stories which make me doubt the credibility of the writer so much that I decide not to write any other works by them. Knowing grammar, spelling and punctuation is a must; if you need some more persuasion, check out 10 Reasons to Learn Grammar, and if you want some help in learning, buy 100 Writing Mistakes to Avoid by Daily Writing Tips. Read my review.
- You must skip the transitory scenes. See the Art of Writing Short Stories above.
- You must read as much as you can. Think that your writing is perfect? Think again. There are countless mistakes which writers can make, and chances are, you make at least some of them. For more, read Common Mistakes Made by Creative Writers, and read as much as you can, because reading improves writing, and that’s a fact.
- You must write from the heart. Silly tip I know, but it matters. Sometimes you must actually forget those conventions and just write. Writing is the most important thing after all.
And that’s it. Yes I know you guys are waiting for something, well here it is! A note. *rolls eyes*
The above steps are really basic, and if they don’t work for you, hunt and search for more writing tips and tricks. For advanced writing techniques, you must wait until I get older. 🙂
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Melissa Donovan says
By “true,” do you mean a work of nonfiction or a fictional work that is believable? I actually think fiction is more difficult to write than nonfiction because you have to make it up whereas in nonfiction, what happened, happened.
I guess it works both ways. Fiction is difficult to write because you have to check what you’re making up is believable and compelling, and nonfiction is difficult because you have to check what you’re telling is compelling or not. Is all nonfiction really compelling? If it is powerful and has an impact, then yes. But if it’s only believable, no.
So for me, both good nonfiction and good fiction is hard to write (in different ways). But I love writing fiction more (don’t know why). 🙂
(Yes, I did mean a work of nonfiction when saying “true”.)
But I suppose it’s different for every writer. You may find this stuff hard, I may find that stuff hard. The important thing, of course, is to keep writing!
Thanks for the comment,
yasmine thornotn says
write shorter!!!!!!!! how are you supposed to teach us how to write short story, if you’re writing a summary?
custom essay says
Anybody got any tips or advice for beginning a story in which I have no encounter in the classification? I have been composing for numerous years through my school days. the story’s i have composed generally in one class. Presently I’m attempting to compose a sentiment story with a little sci-fi components.
Another tip is to ALWAYS have someone proof read your work no matter how perfect you may think your grammar tends to be.
“I have read some short stories which make me doubt the credibility of the writer so much that I decide not to write any other works by them.”
I do not think you would “write” any of their other works regardless of your confidence in their credibility.
Hi, thank you for these tips. There is reference to good short stories and boring ones, would you mind sharing some names (even through email)? They would really help with my writing.