5 Secret Tips To Writing A Successful Short Story

Are you ready to dive into the world of story writing? Get out of the cage of ignorance and discover how even an amateur like yourself can write captivating, intriguing and attention grabbing short stories.

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Every story has a beginning, middle and end. However, the secret to successfully writing a short story is to add something special to your storytelling mix, something captivating and attention grabbing, which readers and even editors cannot ignore. In this article, you will not only be exposed to the secrets of writing a short story successfully, but you’ll be enlightened on what a short story is all about. .i.e. its definition, what differentiates it from other types of Prose Fiction, the elements that make up a short story and why it should not be overlooked when compared to other types of Prose Fiction, especially when compared to Novels.

So, buckle up dear reader as we embark on a journey into the world of Short Stories.

What Is A Short Story?

A short story is a type of prose fiction that can be read in one sitting, usually between 20 minutes to 1 hour. It’s a brief fictional prose narrative that is shorter than a novel, usually deals with only a few characters and focuses on a self-contained incident or series of incidents, with the intent of evoking a single effect or mood.

Short stories are usually 10 to 25 pages, which makes them much shorter than novels, with only a few approaching novella length. Although there’s no maximum length, an average short story usually has 1,000 to 7,500 words, with some outliers reaching 10,000 or 20,000 words.

Despite its relatively limited scope, a short story is often appraised by its ability to provide a complete or satisfying treatment of its characters and subjects. The short story is one of the oldest types of literature and has existed in the form of Legends, Fairy Tales, Fables, Anecdotes, Tall Tales, Mythic Tales and Folk Tales in diverse ancient communities around the world.

The modern short story developed in the early 19th century. A piece of fiction shorter than 1,000 words is known as a “Short Story” or “Flash Fiction”, while anything less than 300 words is known as a “Micro Fiction”.

Characteristics Of A Short Story

  • Length: Although there have been arguments and debates about the length of a short story throughout literary history, the consensus has been on a minimum of 1,600 words and a maximum of 20,000 words. According to Edgar Allen Poe, a short story should take 30 minutes to 2 hours to read.
  • Limited Number of Characters: Due to the limitations of the genre, short stories typically focus on few characters. Short stories usually cover brief periods of time and as such, even a single character may never be fully developed.
  • Subject: Short stories often focus on the single subject or theme, which may range from something as mundane as daily activities to something as thrilling as an adventure. An easily contained, single plot is one of the hallmarks of a short story and helps in shaping its other characteristics.
  • In Medias Res: Short stories usually take place in a single setting and begin “in medias res” which is Latin for into the middle of things. According to research, generally, short stories tend to begin and end abruptly, with little to no prior information and no major lapses in time.

There is little room or no need for the extended developments often found in novels in short stories, as they are limited in word length and usually involve just one plot line.

Differences Between A Short Story And Other Types Of Prose Fiction

In order to write a successful and great story, you need to understand the various distinctions and similarities between genres and literary forms. Familiarizing yourself with various styles not only helps in structuring and shaping your creative writing, but also fosters understanding and communication with your readers.

There are three major types of Prose Fiction namely: Short Story, Novella and Novel. The major difference between these Prose Fiction is their length. Short stories are typically shorter than Novels and Novellas, as they can be read within 30 minutes to 1 hour and usually have a word counts of 1,000 to 10,000 words.

A Novella on the other hand, is longer and more complex than a Short Story but shorter and more focused than a Novel. It usually falls in the range of 10,000 to 40,000 words and can be read within 3 to 5 hours.

A Novel Is the longest of the three with a minimum of 100 to 120 pages and a word count of 50,000 words upward. The general belief is that it should take multiple days or weeks to read.

Other differences include:

  • Number of Characters: In a short story, characters are usually limited to three. Readers get to know the characters through their actions and scenarios that’s reveal character traits. Novellas and Novels usually have more characters, as there is space for more character development, background information and description. Readers can clearly see how the characters evolve between the beginning and the end of the story.
  • Narrative Structure or Description: Short stories tend to have a simpler narrative structure with a clear beginning, middle and end, usually focused on a single incident on moment in time. The use of long descriptive passages is limited in short stories, as they need to be precise and succinct. Novellas and Novels on the other hand, have more elaborate narrative structures than short stories. They can include multiple plot lines, character arcs thematic layers that gradually unfold over a longer span of pages.
  • Number of Plot Lines: Short stories usually tell just one story and have a single plot. While Novellas and Novels are always complemented by various subplots which develop as new characters and stories unfold.

Elements Of A Short Story

Although short stories are shorter in length, they have fully developed themes, parts and components of a story. The give readers the opportunity to escape for a brief period of time and a designed to be finished in one sitting.
For short story to be interesting and captivating, all its elements must be included and these elements are:

  • The Setting: The Setting in a Short Story is usually different from the setting described in the Novel. Short Story settings include when and where the story takes place and usually occur in one setting.
  • The Plot: The Plot of a Short Story is usually is single one. There are no subplots or secondary plots. It is made up of the different events that happen in the story, which are usually few and includes the events that are important to understanding this story. In a well written Short Story, the plot flows and readers can easily follow.
  • Characters: A character is a person or sometimes an animal (in a Fable) who takes part in the action of a Short Story or other literary work. Every Short Story has a central character who is motivated to take action or react to an outside force in order to achieve an objective or goal and one more secondary characters who are part of the story, but are not central to it.
  • Conflict: In a Short Story, the conflict is a struggle between two people or things, with the central character being on one side of the conflict. In other scenarios, the central character may struggle against another major character, against a group, society, the forces of nature or even against something within himself or herself such as emotions, illness, pain, etc.
  • Theme: The Theme is the central idea or belief in the Short Story.

5 Secret Tips To Writing A Successful Short Story

Although writing a Short Story doesn’t take as long as writing a Novella or a Novel, it’s not always a walk in the park or a piece of cake. The fact that short stories are so focused, having a single same, a single plot, a single conflict and a single mood requires the writer to not only be creative but also cautious and scrupulous. This requires maximum concentration and can be tiring.
However, this doesn’t always have to be the case as writing short stories can be exciting and is an excellent way to develop your creative writing skills.

Every author has their own preferred writing method. However, these five tips should be considered before writing a Short Story:

  • Craft A Strong Title: This can be one of the most difficult, but one of the most important parts of writing a Short Story. Getting inspiration for a great title can be a daunting challenge. The secrets however, is to stay away from one or two-word titles, which can be seen as indolence or taking the easy way out, especially by editors and publishers.
  • Identify The Heart Of Your Story\ Pick A Theme: In picking a theme, the secret is to think about one emotion you would like to convey through all the core elements of the story and decide how that emotion might influence the setting, plot and your writing style. Determine what you want your story to portray and stick to the core message of that story. Choosing one theme can give your Short Story a clear focus.
  • Develop Your Characters: A Short Story is usually composed of a few characters. This is for clarity and the writer should strictly adhere to it. Decide the characters’ basic information such as their gender, age, physique, etc. and then, try answering more complex questions about them such as their past, what their greatest weakness is, their mental state, etc.
  • Create An Effective Ending: This is also one of the most difficult, but one of the most important parts of writing a Short Story. A strong ending can help you conclude your theme and leave a lasting impression on your readers. The secret is to put yourself in the position of the readers and decide how they might want the story to end. Considering the audience and their expectations can be very helpful when creating or construction the story’s ending.
  • Edit Your Short Story: When your story is complete, take some time to decompress and come back later on to reread and edit. You may discover new ideas or notice sections you want to change or adjust that you hadn’t identified while writing.

Whether or not one views the modern Short Story as a combination of sketch and tale, it is an irrefutable fact that the Short Story today is distinct and autonomous, though it’s still a developing genre.
Every story has to start somewhere. How you begin doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you begin and here at Lady Prowess, creativity is not only encouraged, but also grown and developed. So don’t hesitate and let that pen fly.

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