The Art of Writing Short Stories

Although I’ve written plenty of books, I enjoy reading and writing short stories. And not to brag but, some of my stories haveresume-writer-edit won awards and been published. So what’s the key? How does one create a short story that readers will enjoy and remember?

Kurt Vonnegut offers some advice to aspiring short story creators. He advises not to waste the time of a total stranger by writing a weak story; give the reader at least one character he can root for; and every character should want something, even if it’s only a glass of water.

Dialogue must be such that it’s provocative and interesting. Remember, it’s a short story so every word is important. A character has to almost jump off the page with his words, the dialogue can’t be mundane or ordinary. Speaking of characters, don’t simply describe their physical appearance. Instead, tell your reader about their values, lifestyle, fears, etc. Describing eye or hair color doesn’t make a character familiar or likable. While your at it, tell us about their bad side as well. Show us how they live, have them driving, walking, shopping, interacting with family or friends. In other words, characters cannot be static.

Choose strong words when writing short stories and avoid using unnecessary words–they weaken your story. Don’t dwell on the past with a ton of background information. Get right to the point and the action. Your first sentence should be a grabber and possibly the best sentence in your story.

Finally, end with a bang. Leave no doubt that your story is over. Surprise, disappoint, excite, whatever, but your story should have a glorious ending. And if your beginning sentence wasn’t the best, then the last one should take that honor.

What’s left? Sit down and write!

Published by John M. Wills

Award-winning author and freelance writer. Published ten books in addition to more thant 200 articles, short stories, and poetry. Writing professionally since retiring from the FBI in 2004.

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