There is no one formula for how to write a short story but there are several guidelines that will provide a solid structure to support your creative juices. Here are seven.
HINT ONE: Begin by ‘writing’ your story in one sentence of fewer than 30 words. The subject will usually suggest the main character(s). The predicate will give rise to the action – what will be going on. The object will dictate the story line. When you go back and add a few crucial adjectives and adverbs you see the story blossom before your eyes. Writing the short story is then mostly just a matter of expanding on what you have there.
HINT TWO: When asking any successful author how to write a short story he will very likely suggest that the number of characters be kept to a minimum. If a character isn’t absolutely necessary to the telling of the story, omit it.
HINT THREE: When writing the short story the author has little room for character development. One way to minimize the problem is to select a series of definitive adjectives. Example: “Although for decades Mildred had been a well known old lady in the small hill town of Jasper, she presented herself as an energetic, kind, and ever helpful, smiling presence when she moved into the retirement home.” Not much else will need to be said. In a book, the reader would learn those things by wading through many pages (or even chapters) of examples from which those traits would be extrapolated.
HINT FOUR: In writing the short story there is little room for building a character’s background. In the example above a suggestion about Mildred’s background was presented in the phrase, “Although for decades Mildred had been a well known old lady in the small hill town of Jasper…” Never provide more information than is needed to establish and move the story toward its conclusion.
HINT FIVE: Although not a hard and fast rule in writing the short story, it is generally best to use mostly short, simple sentences. They provide the illusion of more content and a faster pace. Sprinkling the piece with a few long or complex sentences adds variety and ‘texture’. Readers appreciate a bit of variety.
HINT SIX: When writing the short story develop a single point – move toward a single event or outcome. Limiting the number of characters helps accomplish this. There is no room for subplots (which may be considered necessary for providing flavor and maintaining interest in books).
HINT SEVEN: Most books about how to write the short story will suggest that the story should be tied up (the outcome revealed) within the last few sentences. So, when writing the short story don’t linger after the point of the story has been made and never repeat it in a different way thinking that will assure clarity. Make it clear the first time.