You want to write a short story. You’re new to writing fiction. How do you start? Here’s the easiest strategy ever for writing short stories your readers will love. You’ll also love writing stories this way.
Start With Your Genre
Generally speaking, when you’re sitting down to write, you can start with a plot, or the glimmer of an idea, or a character. With this strategy, you start with a character.
Your story person needs to be relevant to your genre. Here’s what I mean. Let’s say you want to write a New Adult story, because the genre’s hot. By definition, New Adult protagonists are 18 to 25. Your main character couldn’t be a male who’s 35. That said, anything’s possible. I can think of several ways to make that work — but don’t. (Grin.)
Let’s say you want to write a “dog mystery” short story. Dog loving readers love dog mysteries. If you’re not familiar with these stories, in a dog mystery, the sleuth owns a dog, or many of them. The dog may even be the sleuth.
You decide that your sleuth will be a recently widowed 29 year old woman, with a small son, who owns a ___ (insert dog breed of your choice.)
What Matters Most? Threaten To Take It Away
You have a main character. Next, decide what matters most to your character… Let’s call her Pam. Pam’s a mother, so her son matters most to her. Brainstorm ways you could take away Pam’s son.
Perhaps Pam’s late husband’s parents want to adopt the boy, and give him advantages that Pam can’t. Or Pam witnesses a murder, all unknowing, and the murderer threatens Pam’s son.
Play “what if” games. Within a short time, you’ll have enough material to start writing.
Why Does This “What Matters Most” Strategy Work?
It works because you’re creating strong emotion. Your main character cares, and you care, so you know that readers will care. With short stories, as with all fiction, the emotion’s paramount. If you’re not feeling it, neither will readers.
Your readers will forgive you anything, as long as you make them feel.
Practice the Strategy
* A genre;
* A character who fits the genre;
* Something that matters most to the character;
* Various ways to take that something away… choose one.
Open a text file, and without thinking about it too much, create a character, then work out what matters most.
Tip: your character may not even know “what matters most” to him, until someone threatens to take it away.
So, there you have it. Enjoy creating emotion-filled short stories which are satisfying to readers, and which are fun to write. 🙂
Update: May 6, 2016
Looking for short story ideas? Please explore this strategy. In the 12 months since this post was published, it’s proved effective in helping writers of all levels of experience to write short stories for money. And to improve their skills, too.
A couple of my students have not only posted their stories to Kindle, and the other ebook retailers, they’re also writing short stories for magazines. No idea why, but European authors are doing especially well with this strategy.
Write on. 🙂
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