Why Are Short Stories So Hard to Write?

Let’s talk about short story writing! On the one hand, short stories are simpler than novels because – as the name implies – they are short. On the other hand, the target is a lot smaller which means the margin for error is a lot bigger.

I’ve compiled a few of the things that I think make short stories a specific breed of difficult, and also a few notes on my personal process for writing them. Obviously, everyone’s creative process is different, but I’ve discovered that it’s actually harder to find solid resources on short story writing, opposed to long-form stories like a novel.

At the end of the day, short stories are a challenge because they don’t always (or in my experience, ever) fit the traditional three-act structure. That might sound crazy coming from someone who talks about story structure a lot, but it’s true. Depending on how short your story is, it’s probably not going to have a clearly defined first, second, and third act – at least not in the same capacity that a novel about the same topic, character or situation would. On the flipside, examining your short story through the lens of the three-act structure can be beneficial as well.

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Music: Twine by Podington Bear © Chad Crouch

Newton’s Third Law and Your Novel

Reactive Scene

Stories are a chain of events, and each event, or scene, evokes the next. It’s easy to imagine a sequential yarn of happenings: This occurs, followed by this, and this, and so on. But what about the space in between the toppling dominos? In reality, an event can happen in the course of one or two sentences. The space between these events is equally important. Consider the following:

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Why Your Protagonist Isn’t Special (And Shouldn’t Be)

Writing Protagonists

Characters drive stories. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a romance novel or an action-packed thriller; the key to drawing readers into your narrative is developing interesting characters that grow with your story. What some writers fail to realize is interesting doesn’t always mean unique.

I know what you’re thinking – Blasphemy! Common is boring! True, but there’s a fine line between unique and not relatable. The important thing is finding the right balance between the two and constructing a character your readers want to know more about but also relate to.   Continue reading “Why Your Protagonist Isn’t Special (And Shouldn’t Be)”

The Golden Rule of Writing Dialogue

Writing Dialogue

Observation is the writer’s greatest weapon. Sometimes, observations need a little fine-tuning before they wander into your story. Dialogue – the way people talk to each other – is a perfect example of this. Yes, character conversations should flow, but they shouldn’t always read like normal speech. Finding this balance is the first step toward convincing dialogue between characters.

Here’s the first rule of writing dialogue:

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Three Paths to Compelling Descriptions

Descriptions

The term “self-indulgent” is a cringe-worthy appraisal, but here’s the rub: writing is innately self-indulgent; it requires a certain level of excitement and theatrical flair.

An honest writer knows he is equal parts egomania and crippling self-doubt. The lines between engaging and self-indulgent writing are plentiful but difficult to identify.  Descriptions – good or bad – are one of these lines.

Here are a few ways to anchor readers to the tangibles of your story without committing the reprehensible crime of oversharing:

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Mastering the Art of Effective Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing

Every story needs clues, even if they aren’t mysteries. Picture this: You’re at the end of a good book, the plot is thick, and Bam! Out of nowhere, the author ties in a character or object from an earlier scene. Situations like this leave readers asking, “How did I not see that coming?” This is foreshadowing, and it’s an important part of your work in progress, whether you realize it or not. Continue reading “Mastering the Art of Effective Foreshadowing”

The Power of Research in Fiction Writing

Research

So you decide to write a novel. After all, it’s nothing like writing tedious research papers for a college class, right? Wrong. Writing a novel – or any story for that matter – involves research. The product is creative, hopefully more so than a college-level research project, but the process can feel a lot like homework.

Even surreal and fantasy stories require investigation. In fact, these genres often need more preparation a true-to-reality setting. In the end, the important thing is to do you research before you get started, and here’s why:

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