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Writing a Successful Short Story

How to write the Best Short Story

Writing a short story can be as challenging as writing a novel, sometimes more. Like poetry, short stories are all about what you leave out as what you put in.

Having written a few short stories last year, here is what my mantras have become for my future work. I will keep them short, succinct, because that is the way of the short story.

1. The subject

When writing a short story, always figure out exactly what the story should say, and figure out a way of saying exactly that and nothing more.

2. Make use of every word

Every word you write should actually further the plot or the characterization. If a word does not do either, toss it out.

3. Have a small cast

The story should have a maximum of three people/ characters. More, and you are in for a novel, or at least a novella.

4. Choose the time span

A short story works best when the time span is short, because you can then focus on the details.

5. Set your story carefully

Your story can have maximum two to three settings, so choose them carefully, and evoke them in the fewest words possible.

6. The first and the last line

The first line of any composition is important, but it means life or death to a short story. If you hook the writer in the beginning, you have a shot at getting it right. Equally, your last line must have impact. Give the reader a sense of closure, or further anticipation, or even a shock.

7. The untold: creating tension

A little hidden menace, a subtle twist, a clever characterization are all part of what the short story conveys without spelling it out. This gives a certain tension to the story, and keeps the reader going.

8. Plotting the story

Plotting is more a step towards novels, but a short story usually has a plot as well. Check your story against these tips on structure if you feel a lack of pace and events in your story.

Any other short story writing tips, please post them in the comments, and they will be added on to the post.

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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