Tips And Treats
Short Story Writing Tips
Almost every one of us has at least a story in him that he would love to tell to entertain and delight others, but doesn't know how to. You can learn how to tell your story in an interesting manner and make your reader smile in appreciation of your story-telling ability when he gets to the end of the story.
What is Short Story? A dictionary definition of story is a description of how something happened, that is intended to entertain people, and may be true or imaginable (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English) If we go by this definition, a short story is a short description of how something - real or fictitious - happened, that is intended to entertain.
This brings us to the question, how short should a story be to be classified as a short story? plus how long can a story be to leave the class of a short story? A short story is anything between 1,000 words and 15,000 words. Stories consisting of 20,000 words could be called a novella, a mini novel. A novel consists of between 50,000 words and 120,000 words.
Last Updated - 8th November 2005
Types of Short Stories
Short Stories are divided into many categories:
- Adventure - An exciting experience in which dangerous or unusual things happen
- Romance - A love story. A man meets a woman in an unusual way or in a less than ideal environment. They fall in love, marry and hope they will live happily ever after
- Crime - The crime story has been facetiously described as the whodunit- that is, who did it who committed the murder? This type of story is great for its climax or denouement. In fact its end is its ace. The reader has been held in suspense from the beginning. Now, as the story nears its end, the mystery is unraveled, the knot untied, and the readers gasp with surprise as the unlikely murderer is revealed
- Humor - A story that is or is designed to be comical, amusing, funny, hilarious.
- Get a story idea - This is step one of story writing. Getting a story idea is the starting point in writing short story or novel. There are many ways by which story ideas may come. Real life experiences do supply great plot ideas. Very often, plots are taken from real life and then molded into delightful and enjoyable fictional form by skillful, imaginative writing. Life is full of incidents that people might not think much of; meager, bare-bone details a creative writer may seize upon to produce a scintillating story.
Write down the idea that you want to develop into a story
- Plot - The step two of story writing is write the plot. The plot will contain more details than your story idea. Plot means the plan or main story of a literary work, like short story. It is the tangled skein from which we weave the web of drama. It is the heart of the story, distinguishing it from a tale, which can be a narrative without any real climax.
Develop your plot
- This is the step three of story writing. The plot is still far from being a short story. It is a bare outline of a possible short story and can only become a readable short story with the proper literary dressing and adorning. The writers story plot must be intelligently developed. The writer must be brilliant in the manner in which, with skillful manipulation, he plays upon his readers emotions. He must learn to build up suspense, tension, excitement, mystification, trepidation. He must learn the art of providing a denouement (a French word which means untying the knot) only in the last few words of the story, thus making a dramatic and surprising climax.
- Characters are the persons in your story, the actors who enact the role you assign to them in your story. Characterization is the way in which you make the characters seem like real persons. Characterization is the author's expression of a character's personality through the use of action, dialogue, thought, or commentary by the author or another character. Your story will be concerned with people. A story without characterization will sound dreary and unexciting.
Character and dialogue
- The writer must make his characters talk because dialogue gives liveliness, an air of reality to the narrative.
- Look at this passage: Bud told Helen that she was such a lovely creature; he really loved her and would do anything she wanted for her if she agreed to be his wife. Helen said she didnt believe a word of it because men talked like an angel when they were trying to get a woman in their clutch and behave like a devil after they had got what they wanted. Bud told her that he was different from the men she knew and pleaded with her to give him a chance. Helen informed him that it was her experience with Max, her former fiancé, which convinced her that men werent really to be trusted. Bud replied that Max was a cad who she shouldnt have had anything to do with in the first place. He added that she shouldnt judge all men by Max. When Helen was trying to say how she felt when she remembered how she made a fool of herself over Max the words stuck in her throat. Tears trickled down her face. Bud pulled her towards him, gently. He soothed her, stroking her heaving shoulders.
- Now, compare this: You are such a lovely creature, Helen. Bud said tenderly, fixing her with a look full of admiration. I really love you! If you agree to be my wife Ill do anything you want for you anything. Helens eyes rested thoughtfully on him for a brief moment, then she burst into a derisive laughter. Go on with you! When you men want a woman in your clutch, you talk like an angel. But when youve got what you want you behave like the devil you are. For a moment Bud stared at her, a pained expression on his face. I dont know the men you know, he said softly. But I assure you that I am not like any of them. Give me a chance and Ill prove to you that I am different. My experience with Max, my former fiancé, taught me that men were not to be trusted. She shook her head quickly, blinking back the tears that were springing in her eyes. Max is a cad! You shouldnt have had anything to do with him in the first place. When I remember how I made a fool of myself over that man I I The words stuck in her throat. Tears trickled down her face. Bud pulled her towards him, gently. He soothed her, stroking her heaving shoulders.
- Certainly, the last piece is far more lively and interesting than the first, which is dull and boring. In the last piece the characters are made to talk, bringing the narrative of the first piece to a state of animation.
- The personalities of your characters can be clearly depicted by their conversation. A writer who wants to explain that Bailey is cruel and callous may better make this clear through dialogue, rather than say it directly. There is only one solution to these incessant students riots that I can think of, Bailey announced, frowning at the radio that had just announced that the students of Oko State University were protesting violently against increase in tuition fees. And that is ? demanded Davis. That the police be allowed to pour bullets into their rebellious bodies. The government can bring in the soldiers to do the work well if the police cant. Good God, Bailey! There was an expression of shock on Davis countenance as he stared open-mouthed at his companion. You some kind of monsters or what. No, just a realist, Bailey grinned. Violence is the language animals understand most. And from my experience, man is the most stubborn of all animals. Without saying so, the writer has shown that Bailey is callous and unfeeling, unlike Davis.
- Good dialogue must sound natural. It must reflect the way ordinary people actually speak in real life. It must merely sound natural.
Your story must have a beginning, a middle and an end. Words must be used effectively and the narrative must be natural. You must not forget that a short story depends on the construction of the story characters and how the reader sees them behave.
The description of the scenes is also important to the story. Since the readers cannot see the scene in your book like they can do on a film, you must tell them what the scene is like. Here is an example of good scene description, from Love Changes by Barbara Bretton:
The Three Villages room was a colonial beauty: dark paneling, the wood lustrous and glowing in the walls. Crisp white curtains framed windows that overlooked the formal garden. Outside, the hundreds of tulips a rainbow-riot of blazing yellows, reds, and oranges-ringed the white gazebo in the center. The table was set with deep ruby ironstone dinnerware and heavy pistol-handled silverware that Stance recognized as a pattern designed originally by Paul Revere. In the center of the navy linen tablecloth sat a fat round vase filled with white carnations and babys breath.
Be careful in your choice of words. Your narrative seems more natural and reads more easily when you use simple and familiar words. Remember, any literary writing is art, and must be handled with the care with which an artist a sculptor, a painter, a cartoonist, etc. handles his work.
Words must be carefully chosen and phrases must be published until they shine. Write simply. Dont concentrate on developing a style. And dont struggle to imitate somebody else style. What should concern you is writing smoothly, harmonious form beginning to the concluded climax.
Beginning Like the first paragraph of a news story which must capture the interested attention of a newspaper reader, the short story writer must start his story in a way that will arouse the readers interested curiosity in such a manner that the reader reads until he reaches the climatic conclusion.
Long and complicated starts make for dull reading; the reader quickly loses interest. Look at the following examples and judge for yourself which one you think will captivate the interest of the reader:
- Many people will do anything, however unpleasant and illegal, to collect money owed them from their debtors. This fact was brought home to Jude when a man called Bob, who Jude owed two hundred dollars, called to get his money. When Jude told him he could not pay because he had no money, Bob whipped out a knife and threatened to cut Judes throat.
- Bob whipped out his knife, advanced menacingly on the terrified Jude and growled, Now, my two hundred dollars, or I cut your throat.
- Just as the story is skillfully introduced, it must be cleverly concluded. You must seek impact especially in the climax. Try to compress your climax into the fewest possible words. This involves building up mystery, puzzlement, and curiosity on the readers part right to the end.
- Bob drained his glass, put his right hand into his pocket and produced a wallet. He opened the wallet, counted out two hundred dollars and put them on the table in front of Jude. Take it, he grinned at the puzzled Jude.
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