Have you ever written a short story? Are you wondering how to write a good one?
There was a time where I was TERRIFIED to try my hand at writing a short story. After all, how on earth could I possibly fit all those elements of a novel into a short little story? In the end, I gave it a swing for The Fall: Tales From the Apocalypse and again for Elephant’s Bookshelf Press‘s Summer’s Double Edge. I found it was a great way to get some publishing credits as well as hone some theme and character building skills.
In fact, I have three other fantastic writing buddies who are ALSO in Summer’s Double Edge here on the blog today to share some of their short story writing tips. So sit down, grab a cup of tea–or Summer’s Double Edge–and get the goods.
A Little Bit of Behind the Scenes in Summer’s Double Edge
Who are we meeting with today? In other words, who is dishing short story writing tips? Three other lovely authors I know. They are amazing women (and I totally think you should follow them on Twitter and check out their websites). AS WELL AS the rest of this interview series–this is actually part of a blog hop!
Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack. Her epic fantasy, KINDER’S CURE, is to be published by Divertir Publishing in 2013. Find her at her blog: It’s in the Details or on twitter.
Michelle’s story, “Frost and Fog,” is a story about lumberjacks trying to eke out a living, and instead finding something that changes their lives forever.
MarcyKate Connolly is an author who lives in New England with her husband and pugs and writes weird little books. She’s also a coffee addict, voracious reader, and recurring commuter. She blogs about all those things and more at MarcyKate.com, and can often be found on Twitter. Her work is represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary & Media, and her debut upper middle grade fantasy novel, MONSTROUS, will be published by HarperCollins Children’s Books in Winter 2015.
MarcyKate’s story, “Don’t Pet the Ghosts,” is about a ghost and a girl who cross paths in a graveyard, and how that changes their lives in unexpected ways.
Amy Trueblood is a freelance writer with over fifteen years of experience in marketing and public relations. When not “chasing the crazy” dream of being published, she feeds her addictions to good TV (Bones, Castle & Fringe), books, and mango ice tea. She blogs regularly at www.chasingthecrazies.wordpress.com and can be found chatting about books, music and writing on Twitter (@atrueblood5).
Amy’s story, “Unearthed,” is about when two archaeologists with a tumultuous past are assigned to a new dig, they discover a long hidden secret that unearths feelings they’ve both kept buried for years.
Jean Oram (That’s me. I figure maybe you might want to know a bit about me as well): loves to write women’s fiction and romance and is currently giving her first novel, Champagne and Lemon Drops, away for free as an ebook (online everywhere!). She will be releasing book two Fall 2013 and has also been known to write short stories such as “Gown For Sale” which can be found in Summer’s Double Edge. You can find her at www.jeanoram.com.
Jean’s story, “Gown For Sale,” is a story about love and betrayal and the struggle to move on and find peace with oneself and the ones you love–even when they break your heart.
Short Story Writing Tips
What tip(s) would you offer to other writers who are thinking about writing short stories or are trying to get theirs published?
Michelle: The same problems that haunt full-length stories still apply in short stories, passive writing, telling, filtering. You really have to avoid passive writing in short stories and look for strong verbs. Strong verbs will add power to your writing. People tend to rely on adverbs when it is stronger verbs that are really more effective. She ran quickly versus She bolted.
Cutting out filtering, which are words like felt, heard, looked, saw, seemed, also strips away the barrier between your characters and the readers. She heard the footsteps creep down the stairs becomes The footsteps crept down the stairs.
MarcyKate: Keep it simple. Meaning, don’t over think it, or try to stuff the plot of entire novel into a brief story. There’s something elegant about the short form, in that you really can make every single word meaningful and work on multiple levels.
Amy: First and foremost, I think short stories need to be approached just as seriously as a full-length novel. Write, edit, revise, and when it’s in a good place send to beta readers and critique partners. Second thing is to remember that like any other kind of writing, publishing is subjective. Perfect the story and then send. Submit over and over until you get a yes!
Jean: Make sure your characters have some sort of change happen over the course of the story. They should be different at the end of the story.
Short stories are tricky in that characters are with us for only a few pages, but still need to have that real life oomph that snags the readers and makes the characters feel like real live beings. What techniques do you use to make your characters feel real in such a short space?
Michelle: Because you have to make everything count in short stories, small details about a character can make them come alive and can show us something about that character in a short span of words. A knee joint that pops and catches can show this character has done a lot of physical work and they aren’t young anymore. Adding in the small details of everyday life makes a character real. A stubbly chin in the morning. A blister on a heel. It makes readers forge a connection with your characters. Who hasn’t had an annoying blister or run out of coffee? Small touches bring reality to short stories and make characters vibrant.
MarcyKate: Two big things: voice and a sense of place. For me, I can’t write a short story if the voice isn’t there. I need to hear the character loud and clear. Also, place tends to play a major role for me in short stories I write. It means something to the characters, and often serves to underscore or reflect who they are. Sometimes place can even become a
Amy: Before I write a short story I always write a character profile. For me this is important because it allows me to create the characters and realize their wants and needs. Now, I know going in I won’t be able to share all these details, but it helps me form the character early on in the story.
Jean: Voice. Details. Put your characters in a bind. If your character doesn’t seem to pop to life, it could be the situation they are in. For example, the best short stories take place during a turning point of some sort in the character’s life and focus right in. When you put a real person in a tough position that’s when you learn the most about them and their real selves pop out, right? Same with your characters. And the way those characters react to the situation can really tell the reader about them and that helps bring the main character to life.
If your short story is about a small turning point in the character’s life and nothing super mega life changing is happening, then I think you can focus in on other aspects of the character’s life and personality in order to bring them alive. This might be their emotions or their history or fears. Pick one big thing you want to illustrate about your character and focus on it. Highlight it. That will naturally help your character feel real instead of focusing on lots and lots of things about them. In other words, pick one thing and go into detail rather than trying to hit everything. That might mean picking one emotion for your story and using that as a way to build that character. And hey, it might also work as a theme!
Get Summer’s Double Edge
Got your writing tips? How about reading us in action! Here’s how to get your copy of Summer’s Double Edge which was released yesterday!
- Smashwords: only $2.99!
- Amazon.com: only $2.99!
Get More Writing Tips and Entertainment
Well, that was pretty good, eh? Find out more about our stories and more chitchat from the four of us about writing over on Michelle’s blog (how short stories and novels vary as well as how we got into writing shorts), MarcyKate’s website (we’re talking writing inspiration and favourite lines–look for teasers that won’t let you down!), and Amy’s blog (If you’ve had enough heavy stuff you really need to check out the four of us talking character theme songs and hunky actors!).
Thanks for reading! Be sure to leave your best short story tips in the comment section!