Short stories for Kindle self-publishing are great fun to write, and they’re fast. You can write whatever you like, as long as it’s an entertaining read. They’re profitable too, so if you’ve always wanted to write short stories, the time is NOW.
Tip: fiction is entertainment. Be aware of the “entertainment” factor at all times — don’t be boring. Consider too, the kind of emotion you want to arouse in your reader.
- Romance: happiness, the reader falls in love with your characters;
- Mystery: kickstart your reader’s brain – he’s looking for clues, and a slice of life;
- Erotica: you’re titillating the reader (erotica’s HOT on the Kindle, so if you can write it, good for you. I’m rubbish at it myself… ;-));
- Paranormal: titillation, in another form. Anything goes here, you’re aiming for a shiver up the spine. My favorite horror story is M.R. James’s The Casting of the Runes;
- Humor: let yourself go. Humor’s a challenge, because it’s subjective. However, if it’s funny for you, it’s likely to be funny for others;
- Kindle fan fiction (Kindle Worlds): if you’re a new writer, and fan fiction appeals to you, go for it. Established writers beware: you have no real rights in what you’ve written, and as I’ve mentioned:
When you write short projects, on the other hand, you own and retain the rights. This means that you can sell as many copies as you like. If you write one short story a week, within a few months you’ll have many short stories for sale on Amazon, and at $2.99 per sale, it wouldn’t take you long before you had a nice recurring income.
Rights are important – avoid losing the rights in your work. You never know – in three years, you may want to write a novel or five based on a world you created in a short story. If your story was fan fiction, that option’s closed to you.
Here are some quick tips for short stories.
1. Start with a character who’s got a problem
Your character has a problem – by the end of the story, the problem’s been solved. Your character’s goal, and the obstacles to achieving it, comprise the plot of your story.
The great writer and critic E.M. Forster gave this popular example of a story and a plot:
The king died and then the queen died (story).
The king died and then the queen died of grief (plot).
If your main character has no problem, you can end up writing a vignette. Generally speaking, these aren’t satisfying to your reader. You’re aiming for a short story, with a beginning, middle, and ending.
2. Play fair: no dreams
A story in which horrible, or wonderful things happen to your character, but it turns out that your character’s been dreaming, is a cheat. If you’re writing a paranormal story, and your character’s dreams are part of the story, that’s fine.
3. Get to the point, but not too quickly
A common story structure is: setup (introduce your character), introduction of big problem, conflict and obstacles, climax (all is lost), resolution (story ending, ideally coming full circle, and referring to something that happened in the beginning of your story.)
Avoid hitting your reader over the head with your character’s big problem before he gets to know your character.
And then, as I got more practiced, I found the foolproof map to awesome storytelling: introduce whatever it was that was freaking out my characters in the very first sentence of the story! And then the story could be about them dealing with that problem, until they solved it in the very end.
4. Consider the genre
We discussed emotion and genre (romance, mystery etc) and the entertainment factor. Ideally, you’ll write in a genre. This makes it easier for readers to discover your story.
You can choose a genre either before, or after, you write your story.
5. Write short stories/ READ short stories
You write short stories. You need to read them too. Visit your local library, and ask the librarian for some good short story collections. The more stories you read, the more familiar you’ll become with the form. You can read the stories of the masters – de Maupassant, O. Henry and Chekhov for free – download them from Project Gutenberg.
Have fun writing your short stories… 🙂
Updated on May 29, 2015
When I wrote the original version of this almost two years ago, writers were starting to pay more attention to writing and selling fiction. Today, many more writers are writing for entertainment, and making full-time careers out of it. I love writing fiction. When I shine up my crystal ball, I can see exciting developments ahead for fiction, especially short stories.
I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts with you, so that you can get in on the vanguard of these new opportunities.
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