Friday, August 15, 2014

Writing Short Stories

        If you want to be a writer, but you are unsure if writing a novel is the best way to go, then begin by writing a short story or a series of short stories. There are many people who would rather read a short story than an entire novel. There have also been novels that are a series of short stories. These stories can be turned into movies, TV series, and may spawn longer novels. Some of the most famous short story writers include Ray Bradbury, Edgar Allan Poe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Updike, Stephen King, and O. Henry. You could end up in the same categories as these writers. Taking steps to create a short story is essential, if you want to end up like the famous writers.

First, you have to study the language. Studying the art of writing is the best way to begin. Read short stories and novels. Read current short stories and classics. The classics will teach you more about writing than the current stories. Keep a journal; write letters, not just emails to friends and families. You can even take writing courses. All of these things will help you hone your skills as a writer and teach you the art of writing.

Secondly, you have to have an idea of the story you wish to write. A skilled writer can come up with an idea in a flash. Inspiration can come from anywhere. For instance, in Stephen King’s new novel, Full Dark, No Stars, he got his inspiration for one story watching a truck driver change a tire. Another story’s inspiration came from walking along the road and seeing a road side stand. A new writer needs to figure out how to take those moments of inspiration and build upon them. For instance, say there was an important time in your life that you want to write about, perhaps, a vacation. What is it about that vacation that you want to write about? How can you expand on it to make it capture the reader? You have to take you initial concept and expand on it. 

For instance, say you want to write about your trip to Rocky Mountains. You could begin by saying “The summer we spent in the Rocky Mountains.” Then you can expand on this. Say you met someone who seemed a bit shady. “The mountaineer the summer we spent in the Rocky Mountains” becomes your concept. Then you have to figure out what made him shady, perhaps, you could see him committing murders. “The mountaineer who murdered over a dozen people the summer we spent in the Rocky Mountains” becomes the idea for your story.  You can start with this concept and move into your angle.

Thirdly, you have to figure out what direction your story is going to go. Will you cover all of the murders? Will you speak of how he came after you and you escaped, only to find out later how many people he did murder? Will you talk about how he was captured and then you found that he was plotting your murder next? There are dozens of ways you can take the story. If you cannot take the idea and expand on it, then you should rethink your idea all together.

Fourthly, you have to map out your scenes. Having the idea and direction is a great start, but you have to outline your scenes, so you can keep on task. For a short story, there should be about ten pages worth of writing, so three good scenes will be necessary. Let’s use the murdering mountaineer concept as an example.

You could go with: (1) Meeting the mountaineer at the Ranger’s Station; (2) seeing someone outside your bedroom window; (2) encountering the mountaineer on a walk through the woods.

Or another way to go is (1) Meeting the mountaineer at the Ranger’s station where he questions you and warns of the murders happening; (2) reading about the murders in the newspaper; (3) police showing up at your home to tell you about the murder plot to end your life.

The outline you create for the story can be loose and just general ideas of where you want to take the story or it can be very tight and concise.

Fifthly, character development needs to happen. There should be no more than four main characters. You can have as many minor players as you want, but they should not stand in the way of story development. You now have all the basic needs to write your story.

Sixthly, it is time to write. Be enthusiastic about the project. Writing should be as fun for you as when you first learned to ride a bike or danced. Putting life into the story should be your main goal. You will be able to see something from a new perspective for the first time. This should give you the life and enthusiasm you need.

The last thing you will need to do is edit. Editing does not only fix the mistakes that happen your first time out of the gate, but it is meant to make the story shine. No story is written perfectly the first time. Every story needs to be set aside and edited a couple of times before submitted to a publisher. There are writers who will put their stories through 30 to 50 editing cycles before they are satisfied with it. You will learn to know when you have done all the editing you possibly can. The story will not improve with another edit.

The best thing you can do to enhance your writing skills is practice. Write, write, and write more.  If you think this is what you really want to do with your life, then keep doing it. It is the only way you may become good at it and receive recognition.

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