Let’s start with: A short story is NOT a story, that just fell too short for a novel. It has its own structure – that might reappear in a novel – and due to its length easier to digest – for both reader and writer. Well, that last thing still depends on its specific content…
Definition & Scope
A short stories length is allowed to go up to 10.000 words. Most are in the range between 3.000 and 6.000 words. In contrast to novels, they don’t host subplots and by definition, their plot evolves about that one idea.
Pick a single event, conflict or even detail and explore it. I.e. the blooming of strawberries and the corresponding hope for fruits (see the metaphor?), a fight over the last piece of cake, or just the exact tone of red on this one strawberry. There are causalities, consequences, subtext and images.
Even thou there should be no subplots, short stories may use a strong theme, repetitive mentioning of details or a sensible change in the descriptions.
Why write Short Stories?
If you are anything like me, you just sit there, peacefully knitting away a strawberry pattern, and then an idea hits you. Or you always wanted to write more about that magical strawberry collectors.
Some premisses are not made to be crafted into a full length novel (yet). Sometimes you just want to explore an idea. May it be the craft, a new technique or a shiny new prompt.
The last thing – you might already have guessed – it’s good practice. Compared to a flash fiction story, this is longer and might feel fully fleshed. But don’t mix up word count and impact, just adding descriptions and unnecessary details won’t change a flash fiction into a short story.
The listed resources are for short stories in general. There will be more when we approach the planning stage. As always, I will try to add as I find more on this topic.
In her YouTube video on “How to write a short story (with NO experience)”, Abbie Emmons busts some of the myths around this literary form. I don’t agree with her on every point, especially concerning that you don’t need the experience of having written a short story to start your novel. Although this is technically true, most people (read as: nearly everybody) gets lost on a project as huge as a novel. A short story is challenging but doable enough for beginners.
If you are a new writer, go and try your craft on some flash fictions first. There is nothing like the reward of finishing a piece of writing.
I get hijacked by short story ideas all the time, but even if you don’t, just ask yourself “what if?” or pick a detail from your surrounding or media and let it bloom into a story idea. “What if I could grow strawberries all year long and even harvest a bucket a day?” That would have some uncanny consequences…
Then there are these plots and ideas you initially wanted to grow into a novel, but couldn’t. Try to craft them into a short story. Either you end up transforming your great idea into a readable piece of fiction, or you come up with the needed subplots, details, conflicts and finally find your story grew above that 10K word count.
Do you enjoy writing short stories as much as Stephen King? Are they even worth the involvement to read? What do you think about them?
Feel free to add to my rather short list of resources about short stories – although there will be more in the follow up posts.