Short stories sell on Amazon, for various reasons. I love writing short stories; you can write a story in an afternoon. All you need is desires and conflict. Your main character wants something, encounters obstacles, and gets what he wants — or not.
In this article, defining a short story, we said:
1. In a short story, someone wants something… a likable character undergoes a transformation, or learns a lesson, or solves a big problem.
2. A short story can be any length up to around 20,000 words.
3. In commercial fiction, a short story fits a genre.
What would you fight for? (Your characters must want something)
Wants, needs and desires equal conflict, if your story character wants what he wants and is prepared to fight for it. (Passive characters are boring; avoid them.)
What would you fight for? Your life, certainly. Check out Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Our primal needs are physiological — food and water, and after that, we need safety. Our next basic need is the need to love, and the need to belong.
Maslow’s pyramid is useful if you find that you’ve got an idea for a story, but it doesn’t fire your imagination. Look at the three sections of the bottom of the pyramid. Threaten your character with losing his life, his home, or someone he loves, and your story will immediately become more powerful.
I recently completed writing a novella, set in Georgian London. I’d managed to get to the 80% mark, 15,000 words, when I realized that my heroine needed something more — I wanted her determined to fight for what she wanted, and it all seemed to come too easily. Conflict, yes, but not enough of it. So I gave her a widowed mother, who was threatened with losing her home — her goal was to save her mother’s come. This added layers to the plot, and gave an additional conflict.
My main character fought for her mother. Not only did this make her more interesting, it also added to her conflict with several other characters.
You need conflict on every page of your story
I lifted the conflict in the novella, by adding a plot layer. However, not only does your plot need to contain conflict, you also need conflict on every page. (Yes, I know that Kindle short stories don’t have pages — metaphorically speaking. :-))
How do you achieve that? That’s easy. You add conflicting emotions. We’re human. We’re conflicted. All of the time. So are your characters. If you can take that insight, and use it, your stories will be much more powerful, and you’ll collect fans.
Think about your own daily conflicts — the alarm goes off, and you hit the snooze button. That’s a conflict. You want to write a short story today, but you’re busy — you’re conflicted about how you spend your time. You go shopping. You see something you want to buy, but you’re conflicted — you shouldn’t spend the money, because you’re saving for a vacation. On, and on. One conflict after another.
Add conflicting emotions to every scene, by thinking about your characters’ goals
When you start a scene, you know what your character wants.
Here’s our graphic to help you to write scenes more easily.
Let’s say that the scene’s in your your main character’s point of view (POV). He’s asking a girl for a date. He’s got several emotions. What are they? Does he have a major conflicting emotion? What is it? Make his emotions evident via his thoughts.
Boost the emotions in your second draft
You can become bogged down in your first draft, if you think too hard. Look on first draft material as a sketch. You can go through later, and fill in insights on emotion. You’ll always need to do some editing, and that’s fine. You’re getting to know your characters, as you write your short stories.
Updated: August 7, 2016
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How to profit from your writing: online store.
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