Short Story Writing

by Neeks

I do love reading a good mystery/drama. Some authors are so engaging that I wish I could write like that too and so I sit, fingertips dripping desperation all over my keyboard, trying to come up with a best-selling idea. What do I write about? I always come back to the same realization: I just don’t have enough to say to write a book. Yet I still want to write…

I decided to start small and work my way up. I began with short stories. I did a little research, how long is a short story? I found that the rules about length vary a bit, depending on what authority you are consulting. As for subject, you can write about anything as long as you have a beginning, middle and end. I know that sounds silly but yes, remember to bring your story to a natural conclusion. That doesn’t mean throw “and they lived happily ever after” on it and call it a day. Come to a natural conclusion.

I’d done some research; I had my laptop and was ready to write. Next I had to decide what to write about. It was then that I recalled the movie, “Out of Africa” starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. Meryl’s character, one evening, entertains Robert Redford and a friend. After dinner they ask her to tell them a story, as she is well-known for it. She asks them to give her three words. She proceeds to tell a spell-binding tale, using those three words. We don’t get to hear the entire story, it is a movie after all, but she has her company’s complete attention. Ever since I saw that movie, I’ve wanted to be able to do the same. To be able to weave a story like that, out of just three unrelated words. I decided to give it a try.  It seemed like the greatest creative attempt, this grabbing of ideas out of thin air.

I wrote down three words, a color, a place and a thing. I was very surprised to find how quickly the ideas came to me, when I considered those three words for a few minutes. I’ve been very blessed that good or bad; the stories practically write themselves (I should say that the rewrites do not write themselves!). Before long, I was asking others for three word sets so that I could practice even more. It’s become a kind of hallmark of mine now, writing these short stories and incorporating the three-word sets. (Editor’s note – If you would like to read Neeks’ stories, you can do so here – Neekswrite)

No, there is not a very big market for short stories in today’s world, so I’m not sure my venture will ever be a lucrative one. But I’m doing what I love, hopefully learning along the way, and now have a portfolio of work if I ever decide to try to publish.

Have you ever tried your hand at writing short stories? Why not give it a shot? Post it to your blog and then post a link to it here in the comments. We’d all love to read them!

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49 Responses to “Short Story Writing”

  1. Ha! I like this post -sometimes I think I must be the only blogger who is interested in writing who is not also working on a book! 😉

  2. Good post. I like the three word prompt idea. I’ll go and have a read of some on your site later over a cup of coffee and a slice of cake! I’m working on a book, but it’s a non-fiction one; I’m the same as you when it comes to thinking about writing a novel, I just don’t know if I could make enough of a story to fill a whole one, so I stick to short stories.

    • Thank you for your comment Vanessa, I’m comfortable where I’m at, with my writing. Who knows where it will all lead? Best of luck with yours!

  3. Sometimes strange ideas pop in the head because of random words. I still drop sporadic posts of strange stories on my blog, but I simply do not have the guts/ideas to come up with a good book, maybe not even a good short story. This is a great way to come up with stories, thanks for sharing the tip!

    • I’ve found it to be a real boost. A good read that might help, Stephen King’s “On Writing – A Memoir Of The Craft.” It gives me inspiration each time I’ve read it. Inspiration and tools that I can use!

  4. Great post. I can relate to the first paragraph! I started writing short stories when the instructor of a writing course I once did recommended submitting short stories to writing competitions. I found the common 3000 word limit a challenge sometimes because I tend to be a little too verbose…
    But it was great exercise and I am currently building a collection of short stories with a loosely common theme I hope to have published one of these decades. The theme was inspired by Matthew Reilly who wrote his first novel Contest based on a game. I like the 3 random word idea too.
    Thanks!

  5. I love writing short stories! Sometimes, the best stories are short and sweet. Of course, a beginning, middle, and end is always necessary but it doesn’t always have to be a 200 and some page book; even a 10 page story can be absolutely amazing.

    Great post!

    🙂

  6. I recently had a short story published in a non genre publication (even though the story is science fiction). It is one where I consciously set out to have a hook in the first line (I had been reading some writing advice somewhere…) I would definitely advise that, even more than in a novel, you have to hit the reader right out of the gate.

    With short fiction you have to both hook the person immediately (there’s no room for 20 pages of setting the scene!) and (in my opinion) point towards what is going to happen (even if you are not specific…). Of course, it is not only short fiction that can benefit from this, looking back I think I was channelling Gabriel García Márquez from One Hundred Years of Solitude “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” when I wrote the first line (although I make absolutely NO claim to the same skill!)

    For the record, the opening sentence was “It would be difficult to pinpoint the day that Carine decided that she was going to jump from the tower into the immeasurable depths; but the signs where there even as a small child.”

    • Excellent advice Dennis, I should have included that. It’s one I really have a problem coming up with, myself. Btw, that’s a great opening line!

  7. I love your prompt ideas.

  8. I so understand where you are coming from – my very first piece of writing I shared with my writers circle was created from a 5 minute exercise with three words. It was very short but had everyone gasping at the end, I felt fantastic! Now I’m secretary of the circle and post weekly prompts on our web site. (www.wfscsherwoodpark.com)
    As for short stories my publisher, Dream Write Publishing (www.dreamwritepublishing.ca) has published several short story collections with great success. Some people like being able to ‘dip’ into a book for a tale rather than read a whole novel. Persevere with your short stories – maybe arrange them in a theme and get them published.
    Good luck.

    • I will check out your site with all possible speed, thank you so much for the encouragement. I do understand that in today’s market there is much less demand for short story and poetry collections by unknown authors – but it’s good to know there is still someone looking.

      Normally loathe to even consider it, I plan to enter some contests that require a reading fee too. When you think about it, all the people who submit work to those types of contests are more likely to be sincere and hopefully present a higher quality of work (I’m certainly serious about where I spend MY money). All of the authors who contribute enable a publisher to promote the best book submitted for publication. While that may not be me for years to come, hopefully some deserving authors will be able to get into print that way. What a boost for them!

  9. I’ve always had a love for the long-form story, but, since writing flash fiction (like the 100 Word Challenges for Grown-Ups in which the Limebirds also participate), I’ve wondered what it would be like to try writing a short story. Most of my efforts are linked together by common characters or worlds, but your three-word prompt sounds like an intriguing one!
    Thanks for the post!

    • Great! Here’s your first prompt! Window, Sunblock, Green.

      NOW: Set a timer. Give yourself 10 minutes, no more! Start the timer and start writing. Do not stop until that timer goes off. If you get stuck just keep writing “I am writing I am writing.” You can erase that part later, don’t worry about it now.

      I just about guarantee that you will have a story that you want to continue but can’t, because the timer went off! If you feel it’s really good, give yourself 10-15 minutes more. See where it takes you. After doing this a few times, the ideas just came to me every time I sat down to do it. Good luck!

  10. I don’t know much about writing short stories. I determined when I started my last story, however, that it would be a short one so I wouldn’t have to worry about length. However, I can’t seem to find a stopping point. More story just keeps spitting itself out! I think I’m in a short story range, but the friends of mine that sometimes edit for me looked at me funny when I told them that it was a short story and 7,000 words (26 pages) so far.

    I liked your post! I think I’ll have to give the three-word-promt idea a try!

    Anna

    • Mizz, I don’t know ANYthing about writing short stories. I assumed there was some sort of format to follow, some word count, some subject matter. Sometimes a short story is just a description of a day in the life of a character. Sometimes it covers a lifetime.
      If your story is up to 7,000 words, I think you are seriously flirting with the beginnings of a novel. Keep going and all the best!

    • Okay, I did some looking, and a short story has a word count between 1,000-9,000 words. Which means 10 100-word stories. =)

  11. You write wonderful works with your three-word concept.

    Whatever works as inspiration is a good thing.

  12. I love the idea of using short stories as a way to try new things without having to commit to a whole novel. I used to write a lot of short stories but haven’t done that in a while since I’ve been focusing on longer work. This post has inspired me to try something new in the short form.

    • Writing a longer work actually feels like a limitation to me. I have to stick to the same idea. I have to stay inside one genre (usually). I love doing all kinds of different stories using different viewpoints, characters and settings. Whatever strikes my imagination. Try the short form again, I’m sure it will fit like a fine leather glove 🙂

  13. Great post! Other than the NaNo novel I did, I usually stick to short stories, poems, or short scripts. I think that someday I will be able to bust out something longer but until that happens, I’m OK with the shorter stories 😀

  14. I kept hitting a wall around 200 pages into my novel attempts, usually built up by an inconsistent writing schedule (difficult to keep the flow over time when you have to re-introduce yourself to what you were doing). Now, I’m working on short stories to practice writing start to finish (what a concept). Not to mention building a consistent schedule.

    Good idea with the three-word prompt, which I will steal from time to time. 🙂 For now, I’m starting a “Write Off” series on my blog where I’ll post three story intros in a week and finish the one that readers vote up. I’d love your feed back on how it goes.

  15. I have always enjoyed your 3-word stories. I think that’s a great way to keep your writing fresh and inventive. It’s actually an exercise I do with my students, and they get a kick out of making the stories as silly as they can. But I can always find at least one tidbit in their blurbs that screams full-blown story to me.

    Yours are like that, too, Neeks. I see bigger stories in your 3-word ditties. I know the idea of a novel is daunting but I think you’re clever and creative enough where you could write one that would knock our socks off. 🙂

    • Aww, you are much too kind. Every time I try to make one of the stories longer I agonize over it…I’ve done two so far. I took “Leave it to Beaver” and “Supernova” and made them longer…and am still stuck on Supernova. I need to finish that, it is my favorite genre too, sci-fi! Thank you for the lovely comments, but I think YOU are the one who should be writing novels. Sorry for the all caps, I can never remember how to do italics in the comments box. :0 🙂

  16. I have several book ideas started, but…

  17. I started writing short stories this year and I’m having fun with them. I don’t have a formula — an idea comes to mind and I just start writing. One that I wrote a few weeks ago was the result of an amazing photograph. Here’s the first part of a story I’m working on and just posted. I remembered an interesting encounter I had and came up with the story idea. http://wp.me/pxuHf-2If

    Neeks, have you read The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury? I just finished it and it is one fantastic book, made up of short stories (though it reads like a novel). I wanted to read outside my genre and chose science fiction. This book came to mind; I read it back in high school and didn’t remember a lot about it. I didn’t think I’d enjoy science fiction, but Bradbury’s writing is wonderful. And the stories — I hated to put the book down, it was so, so good.

    • Hi Darla.

      Science fiction has a long history of what A. E. van Vogt called “fix-up” novels (novels made up of linked stories). I won’t write more here as you have given me the inspiration for my next article!

  18. You know, it’s been so long that I can’t remember if I read that or not, the name is very familiar tho – I’ll have to go get it and read to be sure. Here is one you might like, if you like sci-fi:
    http://www.asimovs.com/_issue_0206/thedaysbetween.shtml – it’s an awesome story! A little long, but WELL worth the read.

    I can’t wait to read more of your story, love the idea of the messages swirling down to a trashcan, very vivid image! Your descriptions are just full of excellent imagery too.

  19. Great ideas I can use. Once took a workshop in which we were to pick three or four books, then open them randomly and pick out one word, close the book and repeat four more times. These were the words I would then use for my poetry and short shorts. Enjoy being a limebirder and finding others who reach into the inkwell to amaze and surprise. New at twitter and newer at Limebirding!

    • Your workshop, that sounds like the vein of thought I was in at first, until people started giving me word sets. I would look around and make myself stop on something and write a word describing it…and so on till I had three words.
      Love your imagery, reaching into the inkwell 🙂 – Oh and welcome to Limebirds, we are so glad to have you!

  20. Actually I think there is quite a growing market for short stories. I have one on an app that’s available for iPhone, Android, Kindle Nook etc. And I think that’s just the beginning. Try publishing one on Kindle and see what happens – you could give it away in order to get more readers for the next one. Just saying…

  21. Short stories are a new thing for me; its usually flash I try, but it has been fun building that portfolio. I’ll get a link up later when I’m not feeding babies. 🙂

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